Microbrewing vs. Nanobrewing: What’s The Difference?

In the wide world of brewing, there’s craft brewing, microbrewing, nanobrewing and all sorts of types of brewing. What’s the actual difference?

Well, if you’ve kept up then you might recall an article on here about craft brewing – something that is a bit of a surprise to many, considering that one might expect craft brewing to be small.

But instead of being small, craft can be quite large.

To combat this big beast, we’ve created other terms like micro, nano, pico, micropico, picomicro, etc. Some of those are made up, but you get the point – there are all these little sub-genres of beer. It feels like trying to navigate the frustrating world of electronic dance music and its myriad sub-genrs. Literally impossible.

However, these different brewing designations and how they relate are actually much easier to follow than the differences and similarities between trip hop and witch house.

What Is Microbrewing?

Micro, meaning one-millionth, gives the impression of something being small. Well, microbrewing is small.

According to the big men making the laws, a microbrewery has to produce fewer than 15,000 barrels every year. Wow, that’s not that much beer! Until you realize that one barrel holds 31 gallons of beer.

Crunching those numbers, microbreweries are only allowed to produce 465,000 gallons of beer. A tiny operation, to be sure.

Granted, craft breweries are allowed to produce up to 6 million barrels of beer, so perhaps the moniker “micro” is fitting. I guess it can’t get any smaller than micro!

What Is Nanobrewing?

Nano, meaning one-billionth, is smaller than micro. As logic would follow, nanobrewing is smaller than microbrewing.

There isn’t a set amount of beer that a nanobrewery is allowed to produce until they officially scale up to micro-sized. It’s more of that “I know it when I see it” kind of deal.

As far as I know, there isn’t any particular benefit to being a nanobrewery instead of a microbrewery in legal terms, but there are reasons one might want to start a nanobrewery.

For starters, nanobreweries are generally run by one person – one person who makes the beer, runs the taps, sells the beer, markets the beer, pays the taxes, sweeps the floors, cleans everything, deals with trolls, pays rent, etc. If that’s something you’re interested in, then it might be time to start a nanobrewery!

In short: there’s no set definition for a nanobrewery, but it is noticeably smaller than a microbrewery.

Let’s Get Smaller: What Is Picobrewing?

I’m pretty sure that picobrewing is about as small as it gets before you’re just considered some person in a garage making beer for yourself and your friends.

Pico, meaning one-trillionth, is smaller than nano. A picobrewery is probably going to produce fewer than 500 barrels a year. Yes, that still seems like a lot, but it’s not like picobrewers are striving for that 500-barrel mark (or anything near it).

Picobreweries are just small operations, plain and simple.

Thomas Short
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