Wait, what is a nanobrewery? In fact, what the heck is a microbrewery? And if a brewery becomes even smaller, will it be called a picobrewery? Well, the whole concept began in the 1970s in England, where very small breweries began producing very small amounts of beer, focusing on quality and flavor. The US followed, and these days, a microbrewery can be defined as a brewery that produces beer in significantly-smaller amounts than standard breweries, and that emphasizes flavorful, special, craft beers. So then, a nanobrewery is even smaller than a microbrewery. In standard parlance, a nanobrewery has an operation of less than four barrels by US standards.
When you think of Sierra Nevada, you usually do not think of a microbrewery. While the company produces very decent beers, they do so on a large scale. Well, in an effort to be continually innovative, Sierra Nevada ha opened a nanobrewery. The equipment consists of a modest 20-gallon home brewing system (!) with six small fermenters. According to Chris Baugh of the Sierra Nevada Research and Development Department, “The Nano Brewery gives us the freedom to be much more experimental.”
I see this experiment as a great thing. I personally do not believe that every small brewery is necessarily good, and that every large brewer is necessarily bad. After all, craft beer can some from some surprising sources. But when a large, successful company like Sierra Nevada makes an effort to get back to its roots and brew experimental beer for the purpose of flavor and quality, it marks a good trend in craft brewing. I hope other brewers will follow suit.