The Craft Brewery Brackets: Microbreweries, Nanobreweries, and So On

Friends hanging out at a brewery

Craft Brewery Defined

Craft Brewers are small and independent beer brewing businesses with an annual production of 6 million beer barrels or less and with less than 25% of the brewery being owned and/or controlled by an industry member who is not the craft brewer. Additionally, craft brewers are characterized by innovative flavors and packaging and using both traditional and non-traditional ingredients. Most of the time, craft brewers involve their local communities through donations, sponsorships, hiring, and sourcing.

The Rise of Craft Brewing

According to the Brewers Association, a trade group representing small and independent brewers that promote craft beer brewing and homebrewing, the craft beer industry has produced 25.9 million barrels of beer with a retail sale of $27.6 Billion which is 24.2% of the $114.2 Billion US beer market in 2018. In the same report, the association noted the steady increase of US Operating Craft breweries which started at 3,814 in 2014 and is now up to 7,346 as of 2018. That said, microbrewing is an ever-growing and ever-lucrative business.

Different Types of Craft Breweries

In the 7,346 craft breweries, 4,521 are microbreweries, 2,594 are brewpubs, and 231 are craft breweries. If you’re interested in entering the craft brewery business and take advantage of the rising popularity and demand for craft beer, you’ll need to learn more about the different types of craft breweries. So, before you start ordering your brewing equipment, concocting your craft beer variants, and ordering aseptic mango puree and other natural flavorings for your signature brews, you should decide on which of these you’d want to put up:

Microbrewery (and Nanobreweries)

A microbrewery is a facility that produces less than 15,000 barrels of beer and with at least 75% of the beer produced being served off-site. Due to its small scale, microbreweries have more liberty to craft different flavors and experiment on different mixes and ingredients than larger craft breweries. Most people interchange craft brewing and microbrewery, but it’s important to know that the two are distinct from each other. Nanobreweries are a significantly smaller version of a microbrewery in which it produces significantly less than a microbrewery and is often run by one brewer.


The aptly-named brewpub takes its name from an amalgamation of “brewery” and “pub”, wherein a pub brews and sells 25% of more of the craft beer it brews on-site. Brewpub primarily functions as a restaurant or bar but crafts and dispenses its own beer from their own storage tanks on-site.

friends hanging out at a pub

Taproom Brewery

These breweries sell at least 25% or more of its beer on-site but don’t have their own food services as compared to brewpubs (that serve food and beverages). As the name implies, these types of breweries have taprooms to sell their beer on-site.

Regional Brewery

A regional brewery is a larger-scale brewery that brews between 15,000 and 6 million beer barrels. Any brewery that produces more than 6 million beer barrels is considered as a large brewery such as Budweiser.

Contract Brewery Company

This type of business hires another brewery to produce the beer it sells. It may also refer to a brewery that hires another craft brewery to produce additional beer. That said, the company focuses mainly on retailing, marketing, and distribution of another brewery’s beer products.


The craft brewery business is a steadily growing and lucrative business, and they oftentimes influence and benefit their local communities. As such, it’s important that you’re aware of the different types of craft breweries in order for you to choose which one you’d want to get into or invest in.

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