The term microbrewery is defined by the Brewers Association as a brewery producing less than 15,000 barrels a year. That’s about 30,000 kegs a year. Now this may seem like a lot to the untrained eye. But, when compared to the 18.2 million barrels of Coors Light that was brewed last year or even the 583,160 barrels Colorado based New Belgium Brewing produced last year, 15,000 is actually quite small. Then there is an even smaller category of brewer known as the Nanobrewer. A Nanobrewery is a term that currently is defined as a brewery brewing on a small system but doesn’t have any specific parameters attached to it. Let’s attach an output per year to the term and define a Nanobrewery as a very small brewery producing less than 500 barrels of beer per year.
The benefit of starting a Nanobrewery is a much lower start-up cost. Stainless steel tanks, construction, welding, permits and licensing can easily cost $100,000. For those passionate about beer without a giant bank account a Nanobrewery is a much more feasible option to get the doors open. Another benefit of brewing small batches of beer is the ability to adjust recipes. You have to brew a ton of small batches of each beer just to keep up with demand. This gives you the advantage of being able to tweak each recipe with each batch until you reach perfection. You’re able to take more risks because if a batch turns our less than desirable you’re only stuck with 2 kegs of it versus 15 or 30 kegs that a normal brewer would produce. The Nanobrewing trend has been popular in the Pacific Northwest for a handful of years but hasn’t quite hit Colorado until now. Enter Wit’s End Brewery in Denver.
Wit’s End is a one of a kind little place. Owner Scott Witsoe defines his style of brewing as “New American Brewing.” He’s producing top notch beers on his tiny 1 barrel brewing system. Scott’s system is incredibly hands on and much more vulnerable than many other brewers using turnkey systems. That being said, his beers are incredible consistent. When you ask Scott who he worked for professionally it might catch you by surprise that this is his first pro brewer gig. If there is a such thing as a “natural” at making beer, Scott might be about as close as you can get. Some of our favorites were the Green Man IPA, a smooth IPA with a nice malt back bone and the Kitchen Sink Porter which had just a touch of smoke and slight woodiness to it.
Make sure to pay Wit’s End a visit. You’ll find it especially interesting if you’ve ever made your own beer since Scott’s equipment mirrors what many homebrews wish the were brewing on in their garage.
We predict a growing trend in Nanobreweries across the country in 2012. During 2011 it seemed like we were hearing of a new brewery opening every month. The newest brewery to open in Denver is River North Brewery at 24th and Blake, which opened February 18th. We’ll have a full report for you soon. We also just heard from the Daily Camera that there are three new brewers slated to open in Louisville, Colorado.