7 Types of Breweries & What Makes Them Different

Craft beers have taken the world by storm. Today, almost any community in the United States offers delicious artisanal beers made by local enthusiasts.

Portrait of a bearded man working in a brewery

These beers offer clean, intense flavors produced by premium, handpicked ingredients. 

Still, other beer producers take their craft to a new level, maintaining a nano brewery and a farm to support their beer-making operation.

Macro breweries are keeping pace, offering reliable favorites for beer drinkers. Consumers spend about $70 billion on macro brews each year.

Not sure which types of breweries work best for you? Read on to explore these types of breweries to learn the distinctions.

Types Of Breweries 

If you love beer but you’re not sure what the difference is between different kinds of breweries, learn more about them below!

Nano Brewery

Every brewery must start somewhere, and many begin as nano breweries.

No size brewery is too small to be considered a nano brewery. Even if you only occasionally brew something in your garage, your operation could technically be considered a nano brewery.

The rise of craft beer in the 2010s made nano breweries the natural first introduction to the art of making beer.

Many notable breweries in your backyard and in the liquor section of your grocery store came from humble beginnings as a nano brewery.

Once a brewing operation reaches 15,000 barrels of production in one year, the operation graduates past nano brewery status.

Many nano brewery advocates credit these small-scale producers for pushing the envelope of craft beer with innovative flavors and creative brewing techniques.

Craft Brewery

Once a brewery makes more than 15,000 barrels of beer annually, the operation graduates to craft brewery status.

A beer-making operation remains at this level until it produces more than six million barrels of beer each year.

Craft breweries specialize in artisanal, small-scale beer production. While larger beer producers must focus on crowd-pleasing recipes, craft breweries experiment with innovative ingredients and flavors. 

Craft breweries around the world incorporate wild yeasts, smooth nitrogen gasses, juicy fruit flavors, and endless varieties of hops to develop a constantly evolving library of craft beers.

Less whimsically-flavored beers receive special attention at craft breweries too. These types of breweries select premium ingredients for every handcrafted recipe.


A microbrewery and craft brewery are interchangeable names for the same size of beer production operation.

A facility producing between 15,000 and six million barrels of beer annually is considered a microbrewery.

Microbreweries foster tremendous creativity because of their small size. These breweries usually feature beers with intense flavors and much higher alcohol content than macrobreweries. 

Microbreweries specialize in robust types of beer like India Pale Ales (IPAs), double IPAs, porters, and kettle sours.

Those who like more traditionally-flavored beers can find something to love at microbreweries, with pure ingredients and clean tastes in every brew.


A craft brewery becomes a macrobrewery once the facility’s production exceeds six million barrels of beer each year.

Macrobreweries are one of the most recognizable types of breweries. Popular beer brands like Heineken, Anheuser-Busch, and Budweiser are all macro breweries. 

Beers from macrobreweries are reliably found in grocery stores, liquor stores, wholesale retailers, gas stations, and many other places you buy beverages.

Because macrobreweries produce millions of barrels of beer each year for beer drinkers worldwide, the recipes are much more plain.

Innovative flavors and experimental brewing techniques are far too costly to spend a corporation’s resources developing.

Beers from macrobreweries usually lower alcohol by volume and deliver straightforward beer flavors.


A brewpub combines delicious craft beers and the amazing foods that pair with them.

Brewpubs typically house another of the types of breweries on this list: a microbrewery.

How to know if you are in a brewpub? Housemade craft beers from the restaurant’s own microbrewery will be available for sale.

Brewpubs deliver a list of celebrated bar food favorites, like juicy cheeseburgers, deep-fried appetizers, and decadent entrée salads.

Often, brewpubs embrace the microbrewery inside its walls and highlight their beer-making operation with windows for guests to view the brewing areas. 

Some brewpubs opt for upscale food options like daring seafood dishes or space-age techniques called molecular gastronomy. These types of breweries are often called gastropubs.

Contract Brewing Company

A contract brewing company refers to a business arrangement between a beer producer and someone with available beer production facilities.

Most beer drinkers or brewpub visitors would not realize they were interacting with a contract brewing company.

When a beermaker runs out of room at its own facility, it may turn to a contract brewing company.

The contract brewing company lets the beermaker use equipment and facilities even though they do not own the equipment.

The beermaker then pays the contract brewing company for helping out with production. 

This model is often used when a beermaker is not interested in sinking capital into expanding production facilities at that moment. 

Farm Brewery

Nano breweries that make beers when products grow from their own land fall into one of the more niche types of breweries, a farm brewery.

Farm breweries must make less than 1,500 barrels of beer each year to maintain this classification, so these operations are definitely a labor of love.

These types of breweries commonly grow hops, one of the most essential ingredients in beer. This conical-shaped flower imparts the signature bitterness of beers.

Hops are a type of grain, which requires acres of land and specialized machinery to help these types of breweries make their artisanal beers.

Farm breweries may also provide the dairy, fruit, grain, or other important ingredients in the craft beers produced on-site.

Types Of Breweries 

  1. Nano Brewery
  2. Craft Brewery
  3. Microbrewery
  4. Macrobrewery
  5. Brewpub
  6. Contract Brewing Company
  7. Farm Brewery

Final Thoughts

There are several types of breweries to fit every taste and every ambition of the home brewer.

Support the craft beer movement near you by visiting your favorite nano brewery, farm brewery, microbrewery, or brewpub in your community.

Or grab a cold macrobrewery favorite before you sit down to watch the game. 

Learn about different types of beer before you visit so you know what to order, and check out some of America’s best breweries.

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Written by Erin Elizabeth

Erin is an editor and food writer who loves traveling and trying new foods and fun cocktails. Erin has been writing and editing professionally for 5 years since graduating from Temple University, and has been on the Restaurant Clicks team for 3 years. She has a long background working in the restaurant industry, and is an avid home chef and baker. Her favorite restaurants are those with spicy food and outdoor seating so that she can bring along her dog, Miss Piggy.