Saturday, May 14, 2011

What's in a name?

What's in a name?  That which we call a brew by any other name would taste as sweet.
Nano brewery, craft brewery, microbrewery: how can you keep them all straight.  For the average beer consumer, the distinction between these "types" of breweries doesn't matter much; as long as they make good beer, right?!  But let's try to get all these terms straight.

The largest term is craft brewery.  A craft brewery puts out annually less than 6 million barrels of beer a year.  Less than 25% of the brewery is owned by an "alcoholic beverage industry member": meaning it's independently owned.  The beers produced are innovative and mostly malt-based.  The term craft brewery is used to distinguish itself from a macro-brewery, like Coors (over 20 million barrels per year).  Sierra Nevada brews 780,000 barrels annually.

A microbrewery is a craft brewery with lower output, producing less than 15,000 barrels a year.  With trends moving to local beers, some say the bar should instead be at producing less than 50,000 barrels a year.  Ninkasi Brewing Company, for example produced 32,000 barrels last year but is considered a microbrewery by most.  Smuttynose Brewing Co is New Hampshire produced 20,000 barrels last year.  Allagash Brewing Co in Portland, ME produces 4,000 barrels a year.  Microbreweries are usually community-oriented and not largely distributed.

A brewpub is a pub or restaurant that brews on-site.  Pizza Port Brewing Co in California is a brewpub. 

A nano-brewery has less than a 4 barrel brew system.  They are also referred to as large-scale homebrewers.  Most micro and craft breweries started as nano-breweries; some stay small with no desire to grow.  Ambacht Brewing Co in Hillsboro, OR and Hess Brewing Co in San Diego, CA are both nano-breweries.


  1. We (Ninkasi) are actually now considered a craft brewery thanks to our up in production to about 60,000 barrels this year!

  2. That's amazing! You guys are doing so well, it must be the great beer!

  3. I love ninkasi! And awesome and informative post!



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