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Posted on: October 14, 2016

What is a microbrewery?

Craft breweries, microbreweries, brew pubs — what’s the difference?

According to Bart Watson, chief economist at the Brewers Association, there are four categories craft beer brewers: microbreweries, brew pubs, contract brewing companies and regional craft breweries.

» Microbreweries typically brew fewer than 15,000 barrels of beer per year, much of it sold off-site, through wholesalers or direct to retailers, with some of the product sold on-site at their tap rooms.

» Brew pubs are a combination restaurant-brewery, with beer brewed primarily for sale in the restaurant and bar.

» Contract breweries hire another brewery to make its beer, or hires additional breweries to add to the beer it brews.

» Regional craft breweries are independent breweries that can make traditional or innovative beers.

Watson did, however, point out that different states have different regulations and definitions can vary.

“Usually, a microbrewery can only sell the beer it produces,” Watson said. “They are very locally focused … it’s been a dynamic industry with a lot of changes.”

The announcement that a new microbrewery, Ballad Brewing, will be opening on Craghead Street in April brings a second microbrewery to Danville — the first to open here was 2 Witches Winery & Brewing Co. on Trade Street, where they not only brew their own beers but bottle their own wines.

Co-owner Ethan Brown said he considers 2 Witches even smaller than “micro” — it’s more of a nanobrewery, he said.

Brown said 2 Witches has a 3.5-barrel system that lets them produce about 45 different beer styles over the course of a year. Typically, he said, they have eight taps operating with beers rotating through at different times of the year.

“We were Virginia’s first example of a winery and brewery under the same roof,” Brown said, noting that the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control didn’t allow the combination prior to their existence — though other wineries are now looking at adding breweries. “We were persistent.”

For now, Brown said, they are not looking at expanding the system.

“We think staying small is good for us,” Brown said. “You can always expand — the challenge is growing the business.”

Denice Thibodeau is a reporter for the Danville Register & Bee. Contact her at dthibodeau@registerbee.com or (434) 791-7985.

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