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What is the difference between a craft brewery and a microbrewery?

Sienna Serrao

9/16/2016
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When discussing craft beer and micro-brewed beer, there are commonalities that exist, but there are also significant differences. The terms are often interchanged because they are so confusing, but we’re here to set them apart for you craft beer lovers!


What is a microbrewery?

A microbrewery is classified by the number of beer barrels it produces in a year, which is a limit of 15,000 barrels of beer per year, and at least 75 percent of that beer must be sold outside of the brewery.

Although 75 percent or more of microbrewery beer must be sold at off-site locations, some microbreweries have beer on site in small tasting rooms or bars for consumers to visit.


What is a craft brewery?

A craft brewery brews no more than 2 million gallons of beer per year, and is owned independently. Unlike a microbrewery, a craft brewery has set limitations on the techniques of their beer production. A craft brewery’s beer must contain at least 50 percent traditional malt, rather than adjuncts such as oats, barley and wheat.

The term “craft” in craft beer pertains to the fact that these small breweries view beer production as more of an art form than their large-scale corporate competitors. Craft brewers are small and independent, and often strive to form a connection with their customers. They care more for their commitment to maximizing flavor and aroma with quality ingredients, both unique and traditional, than they care about profits.

Those in the craft beer industry take pride in their ingredients, equipment, and brewing processes. Because of that, American craft beer is typically brewed in smaller batches with premium quality ingredients rather than mass-produced, large-scale production beers.


So, what’s the difference between a microbrewery and a craft brewery?

The only true difference between a craft brewery and a microbrewery is the volume of beer produced. Many microbreweries produce craft beer, but to be considered a craft brewery they would still have to meet craft brewing standards.

The beer, the people, and the purpose of the brewery itself define a craft brewery, rather than merely a measure of size and distribution; while a microbrewery is defined solely by the quantity of beer it produces each year.

A microbrewery is best compared to a macro brewery, for both the terms differentiate the breweries based on production amount. Craft beer on the other hand is a product, not a measure of size. The misconception occurs when some beer drinkers assume because a microbrewery is small in size they are using craft ingredients, which as we have just shown is not always the case.

To summarize, a craft brewery is not always a microbrewery, and a microbrewery is only a craft brewery if it follows craft brewing standards.


What to expect when ordering a craft beer?

• Craft beers are often left unfiltered and unpasteurized, with no preservatives or chemicals added.

• Craft brewers use real malts because they add greater flavor, texture and dimension to the beer.

• When making craft beer, old-fashioned brewing techniques are blended with the exploration of new beer styles and experimental flavors.

• Craft beers are often served at a slightly warmer temperature than most beers to get the best flavors, because the colder something is the lower the rate of aromatic compounds are released.

• The darker the craft beer, the less it should be chilled when served.


Which state has the most craft breweries?

In the United States, the craft brewing movement started to gain momentum in the 1970s. California has since been noticed for having the most craft breweries in the United States, followed by Washington, Colorado, and Oregon. At the end of 2013, there were 330 craft breweries in California, and 2,822 craft breweries in the United States.


How many beer styles are recognized by the Brewer’s Association?

There are currently 152 beer styles recognized by the Brewer’s Association, so it’s time to start trying them!

To try a wide range of microbreweries and craft breweries throughout the country, join our Craft Beer Subscription or give the gift of awesome craft beers delivered!