What is a Nano Brewery?
If you’re a fan of beer, you’ve probably heard the terms macrobrewery, craft brewery, and microbrewery. The judge is still out on whether the industry prefers to spell them as one word or two, but these terms help differentiate types of breweries based on the amount of beer they produce and some other criteria they must meet to fit into each category.
Serious beer enthusiasts may also be familiar with the term nano brewery, but not many know exactly what is considered a nano brewery and why this type of brewery exists. Before we discuss where nano breweries fall in the lineup, let’s review some of the most common types of breweries and how the industry defines each.
What is a Brewery?
The simplest definition of a brewery, or brewing company, is a business that makes and sells beer. The term, in actuality, refers to the place where a brewing company’s beer is brewed and packaged for commercial sales.
What is a Macrobrewery?
Most people are familiar with macrobreweries. “Macro” means this is the largest type of brewing company. Macrobreweries typically have an annual production of six million barrels of beer or more each year. There are four companies that control over 50 percent of the beer market: Anheuser-Busch InBev, Heineken, Molson Coors Beverage Company, and Carlsberg. These breweries are so big that they’re able to operate globally and distribute their beers worldwide.
What is a Craft Brewery?
Next, we move from macro to craft. The Brewers Association defines an American craft brewery as a small and independent brewery. To be considered a small and independent brewer, the company must meet the following criteria:
- Small: The brewery must produce six million barrels of beer or less per year. This limit used to be just two million barrels per year but has since changed to allow breweries room for growth while still maintaining their craft status.
- Independent: The brewery must be owned independently, meaning that no more than 25 percent of the brewery is owned or controlled by someone who isn’t identified as a craft brewer. If one of the top four macrobreweries were to purchase more than 25 percent of a craft brewery, it would no longer be considered a craft brewery.
- Brewer: The final distinction of a craft brewery is that it has a brewing permit from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TBB) and, of course, brews beer.
Because craft breweries are small, they have more room to innovate than macrobreweries. They often offer unique takes on traditional brewing methods and beer tastes, using unconventional ingredients and developing recipes and flavor profiles you simply won’t find from a macrobrewery.
What is a Microbrewery?
A microbrewery is yet another type of brewery defined by its level of beer production. To be considered a microbrewery, a company must:
- Produce 15,000 barrels of beer or less per year
- Sell 75 percent of their beer or more offsite
Some microbreweries have tasting or taprooms, but it’s not a necessity in order to sell beer on site. If more than 25 percent of their beer is canned or bottled and sold at the facility, the brewery would then be a taproom brewer. Like craft breweries, microbreweries and taprooms are often known for brewing specialty beers in small batches that allow seasonal and unique ingredients and brewing methods to be the star of the show.
Nano Brewery vs. Microbrewery
So now that we’re familiar with smaller scale brewing, what is the difference between a microbrewery and a nano brewery?
Think about scale and sizing. The prefix “nano” means one billionth, which is even smaller than “micro,” or one millionth. A nano brewery is so small that there’s actually no defined beer quantity that establishes a brewery as a nano brewery. But there is a consensus in the industry on its general meaning: any brewery that produces beer in batches of three barrels or less.
Building a Nano Brewery
Nano breweries are founded for a few reasons. Some of the most popular motivations for exploring brewing at this level include:
- Developing a Proof of Concept: If a brewer has a unique beer idea in mind, they may open a nano brewery to test the market and prove that there is a space in it for their beer. Opening a nano brewery is also much less capital-intensive than investing in other types of breweries, so it’s a good starting point.
- Moving from Hobbyist to Side-Gig: Passionate home brewers who are ready to take it to the next level and start earning income with their beers may open nano breweries, as they offer the ability to make extra money without having to abandon their full-time careers for an uncertain future in the industry.
- Cost-Effective Business Expansion: Restaurants that want to provide a house beer option but don’t want to open a full-scale brewery may build a nano brewery. The small scale gives them an opportunity to benefit from beer sales at a lower cost and generate brand loyalty.
If you’re interested in creating your own three-barrel system to dip your toes into craft brewing, spend some time getting to know the basics of nano brewery setup, including the differences you’ll find between craft and nano in yeast usage, beer packaging, and brewing safety. You can, however, take notes from general craft brewing on the nano brewery equipment needed to produce safe beers with optimal flavors. Look for nano brewery tools that will ensure easy cleaning, protection, and liquid flow.
Learn More About Nano Breweries
When it comes to beer, there’s always more to learn. If you’re ready to start your own brewing adventure, let’s talk taste! The experts at BrewSavor can help you choose the right equipment for both low- and high-temperature applications.