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Back on January 13th, we submitted our Land Use Application to the Deschutes County Community Development department. The permit is needed so that we can operate a business from a residential property, much like an accountant or a pet groomer. Technically, we’re a Type 1 Home Occupation in an Exclusive Farm Use Zone. Sounds fancy, but just limits what we can do with our brewhouse, the amount of traffic we can contribute to the main road, etc.

The approval process can take up to six months, depending on the backlog. Along the way, the county can ask for clarification with respect to how the operation will be set up. Luckily, so far they have only asked about the dimensions of the grain room/dry storage and the yeast lab, what our expected output will be, and what exactly defines a “nano brewery”. An email from the county:

I’ve started to draft the decision and I’ve noticed the referenced Wikipedia definition for “nano-brewery” has been revised. Can you provide a robust explanation for what a nano-brewery includes, citing your sources will be helpful, and how the proposal falls within this definition.

kobold brewing - steve anderson - source weekly

Steve Anderson of Kobold Brewing, Bend, OR, on his 2bbl system. Photo copyright The Source Weekly

Like with any “definition”, it depends on who you ask. The general consensus is that a nano brewery brews 3bbls (93 gallons) or less. Some even put this maximum at 7bbls (217 gallons), which is seen as the minimum size needed to truly see a profit in brewing. Here are the references I sent the county:

“The most-widely accepted description of nano breweries is a brewery that produces in batches of three barrels or smaller.”

“It’s a loosely defined term, so suffice to say that the designation describes any brewery that 1) makes very, very little beer (say, between one and three barrels, or roughly ninety gallons at a time)…”

“…although nanobrewery production generally doesn’t exceed 100 barrels a year, said Paul Gatza, director of the nonprofit Brewers Association based in Boulder, Colo.”

None of these are truly official sources, most likely because the definition is something coined over a few pints and has been used loosely in marketing over the years. To us it doesn’t mean we are doing things in a better or worse way than larger breweries, but it does say something about our current size. That means we have to work a bit harder to brew each batch, but our risk is lower …since dumping $200 worth of beer is easier to swallow than dumping $20,000 worth of beer.

– Are nanobreweries a good first step …?
No-o to Nanos