Brewery Categories Defined

I was typing a detailed comment to Alan's recent thought-provoker and thought, damn, why I am burnishing his blog with all this great content?  That's the kind of generous guy I am.  Alan was discussing definitions of different categories of breweries and came up with this list: nano, micro, craft, crafty, and macro.  I think those are a good way to describe the way North Americans think about beer (possibly with the substitution of "brewpub" for "micro"), but my travels around the globe the last two years have completely scrambled the way I think about beer.  Here's the list I have taken to using, one that I think is more universal in its application:
  • Brewpub/hausbrauerei: a proper pub that brews its own beer.  
  • Production brewery: a brewery that packages its beer for sale largely off-premise.  May have a tasting room, but this doesn't make it a brewpub. 
  • Nanobrewery: a production brewery with a batch capacity of less than three barrels. 
  • Traditional brewery: a brewery that employs equipment or processes to uphold a certain tradition in brewing.  Decoction breweries, tower breweries, breweries with open fermenters, etc.  Not a precise definition, but I distinguish these from modern breweries that have been optimized to make any type of beer.  A brewery doesn't have to be old or small to be traditional, and traditional breweries don't always make good beer.  
  • Independent brewery: Owned singly by one human or a family.  Nothing to do with beer quality.  
  • Industrial brewery: a highly automated and efficient brewing facility designed to produce beer as inexpensively as possible.  Again, nothing to do with beer quality.  They tend to be large, but not all large breweries are industrial and some smallish ones are. 
  • Large brewery: Any brewery with an annual capacity of 300,000 barrels or more a year.  You want to place it at 100,000 or a million?  I'm mostly cool with that.  Either way, it's worth noting that when you look at the thousands of breweries worldwide, only a small percentage of them make even as much as 100,000 barrels.  And a 300,000-barrel brewery is necessarily a pretty damn big facility.

Dubuisson: a traditional, independent production brewery.
Where I think North Americans get off into the weeds is trying to deal with the ownership structure, size, and configuration of a brewery and somehow try to correlate this with beer quality.  That notion is a uniquely new-(beer)-world view.  It sorta kinda makes sense because by 1980 the US had one category of brewery (industrial), and the beer Americans made ran the spectrum from yellow fizzy to slightly lighter yellow fizzy, from uninteresting to poor.  So anything that came after was "craft."  

That's a culturally-specific definition.  It doesn't work in the places we actually associate with beer, like UK, Germany, Belgium, or the Czech Republic.  If you want to make the tentative argument that large, industrial breweries generally make less interesting beer, I think you're on pretty firm ground.  But once you start talking about traditional, nano, independent breweries and brewpubs and tie these to beer quality, you lose credibility.  Some industrial breweries make superb beer, while lots of traditional breweries make pond water.  Many families use their old breweries as ATMs and ignore quality and I know you've wandered into a brewpub somewhere and been handed a biology experiment that someone mistook for beer. 

Finally: the word "craft" is also culturally-specific and therefore useless.  It means different things in different countries.  In the US, people take it to mean breweries established within the last 30-odd years that are relatively smaller than older macro breweries.  There is a strong (and mistaken) presumption of quality.  In Britain, "craft" means something entirely different.  That could be said about Germany and Belgium as well.  There's really no use for the term and I am going on a personal campaign to eliminate it from my own vocabulary. 

None of this is, I suppose, particularly critical.  But over the coming years as "craft beer" loses its meaning here, we'll be looking for a shared vocabulary, and I think you could do a lot worse than this.  Your thougths?