The increasing popularity of the term nanobrewery is an accepted fact among most brewers, but defining it seems to be a different story.
“We don’t have a definition, but we are aware of them,” said Spencer Powlison, marketing coordinator for the American Homebrewers Association, an organization based in Boulder, Colo., that promotes independent craft brewers.
The American Homebrewers Association clearly defines four kinds of craft beer manufacturers based on annual volume, the smallest of which are microbreweries that make fewer than 15,000 barrels of beer annually.
One barrel of beer yields 31 gallons of beer. A keg is a half barrel of beer.
While nanobreweries are becoming a significant contributor to the domestic craft beer market, Powlison said he would not put a number on what separates a microbrewery from a nanobrewery.
Meanwhile, Mary Martineau, executive director of the Ohio Craft Brewers Association, said the term nanobrewery, which is subject to all the same requirements as a microbrewery, generally is self-applied.
She agreed with Powlison that there is no cut-and-dried definition for a nanobrewery.
But Andy Tveekrem, master brewer and co-owner of Market Garden Brewery and Nano Brew Cleveland, believes there eventually will be a formal and universally accepted definition.
“There isn’t a hard-and-fast definition like there is for a microbrewery,” Tveekrem said. “I think (the American Homebrewers Association) has been avoiding (a definition) because nanobreweries are so rapidly evolving. They want to take a pulse and then work out a definition.”
However, Tveekrem does not hesitate to give a definition.
“In my mind, it’s not overall annual production, but the size of the equipment,” Tveekrem said.
He said a system of three barrels or fewer would be considered a nanobrewery.
Quantity could vary, depending on frequency of brewing, but it would be a challenge to approach the annual threshold of a microbrewery with a three-barrel brewing system, Tveekrem said.
“The appeal of a nanobrewery is the product is fun and creative, like something you can do in your own basement,” Tveekrem said.
John Lane, a brewmaster and partner in Winking Lizard Tavern, which has three central Ohio locations, said a nanobrewery typically produces only enough on-premises beer to provide two tap handles, at most.
Lane also said no nanobreweries use a system greater than three barrels and they are capable of producing a batch of about 90 gallons of beer.