5 Up-And-Coming Nano Breweries Making Great Beer

Who says the little brewers can't make some seriously great brews?

Craft beer requires a certain amount of handcrafting. For that reason, there are limits on the amount of beer that a craft brewery can produce each year. The American Brewers Association defines craft breweries as producing less than six million barrels of beer per year. There's other criteria as well but quantity is a big one.

A growing sub category of craft breweries is very limited by the quantity criteria: nano breweries. By definition, these are breweries that use equipment that can produce no more than four barrels of beer at a time. To put this in perspective, Samuel Adams produces about the max for a craft brewery with around six million barrels per year. That's over 16,000 barrels per day, 4,000 times what a nano brewery could even hope to produce daily.

Currently there are around 100 of these in existence around the country. Of course the goal is to start brewing and grow into a larger production craft brewery over time. But many nano breweries are already creating impressive beers. We've picked out the top five up-and-coming nano breweries around the country.

Bridge & Tunnel, Queens, New York

Located in a western corner of Queens, Bridge & Tunnel opened in late 2012. It is a brewery born from the passion of home brewer and Queens native Rich Castagna. Currently working with a one and a half barrel system, Rich brews three beers on a regular basis: Tiger Eyes Hazelnut Brown Ale, a malty English-style brown ale with hints of hazelnut; Ol Gilmartin Milk and Oatmeal Stout, a sweet and roast stout; Angry Amel Dunkelweizen, a wheat beer made in the German style featuring aromas of clove and banana.

Beltane Brewing, Novato, Calif.

Working with a three-barrel system, Alan Atha created Beltane just north of San Francisco. The brewery officially opened in 2012 but the beer was already earning recognition in 2011. The brewery's Luminesce Tripel was brewed as a collaboration with nearby Iron Springs Pub & Brewery and entered as a ProAm submission in the 2011 Great American Beer Festival. These days, the Luminesce, along with 12 other beers, is in regular production at the brewery.

Bat Creek Brewery, Bowling Green, Mo.

Ryan and Heather Daffron and Jeremy Gilbert own this nano brewery that's slowly making a name for itself around the midwest. The single barrel setup is run out of a machine shed but you'd never know it from the five beers the team produces. Their Pike County Pale Ale has received particular recognition as a high quality, full-bodied American pale ale. They also lent the name from their location to their beloved Machine Shed Stout, a roasted chocolate brew and a dark appearance.

Oyster House Brewing, Asheville, N.C.

It should come as no surprise that the brewers at Oyster House put oysters in their beer. What started as a quest to make the perfect oyster stout inspired head brewer Billy Klingel to build his own equipment and spend a year brewing stouts. After having achieved the perfect brew, Klingel opened operations within seafood restaurant Lobster Trap, brewing about half a barrel at a time. Earlier this year, the brewery moved into their own location and have begun serving their beers there. Of course, the beer to try is their Moonstone Oyster Stout.

Wit's End Brewing Co., Denver, Colo.

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Scott Witsoe is the clever founder behind this appropriately named nano brewery. A Seattle native, Witsoe moved to Denver for love (his wife Heather) and realized he also had deep feelings for the tremendous beer scene in Denver. It wasn't long before he was brewing up his own beers.The brewery now makes a single barrel of beer at a time and puts a lot of emphasis into how intimate the team gets with the brewing process. As such, they've cycled through about 16 beers, including the Jean Claude Van Blond.