Casks and kegs (mostly 9-gallon casks called firkins) outside the Castle Rock microbrewery in Nottingham, England

A microbrewery or craft brewery is a brewery that produces small amounts of beer (or sometimes root beer), typically much smaller than large-scale corporate breweries, and is independently owned. Such breweries are generally characterized by their emphasis on quality, flavor and brewing technique.[1][2]

The microbrewing movement began in the United Kingdom in the 1970s although traditional artisanal brewing existed in Europe for centuries and subsequently spread to other countries[citation needed]. As the movement grew and some breweries expanded their production and distribution, the more encompassing concept of craft brewing emerged. A brewpub is a pub that brews its own beer for sale on the premises.[3]



Although the term "microbrewery" was originally used in relation to the size of breweries, it gradually came to reflect an alternative attitude and approach to brewing flexibility, adaptability, experimentation and customer service. The term and trend spread to the US in the 1980s and was eventually used as a designation of breweries that produce fewer than 15,000 U.S. beer barrels (1,800,000 liters; 460,000 U.S. gallons) annually.[4]

Microbreweries have adopted a marketing strategy that differs from those of the large, mass-market breweries, offering products that compete on the basis of quality and diversity instead of low price and advertising. Their influence has been much greater than their market share, which amounts to only 2% in the UK,[5] indicated by the introduction by large commercial breweries of new brands for the craft beer market. However, when the strategy failed, the corporate breweries invested in microbreweries or, in many cases, acquired them outright.[citation needed]

Microbreweries gradually appeared in other countries, such as New Zealand and Craft beer and microbreweries were cited as the reason for a 15 million L (4.0 million US gal) drop in alcohol sales in New Zealand over 2012, with New Zealanders preferring higher-priced premium beers over cheaper brands.[6]


The website The Food Section defines a "nanobrewery" as "a scaled-down microbrewery, often run by a solo entrepreneur, that produces beer in small batches."[7] The US Department of the Treasury defines nanobreweries as "very small brewery operations" that produce beer for sale.[8]

Farm brewery

The term "farm brewery" or "farmhouse brewery" has been around for centuries. Several beer styles are considered "farmhouse", originally stemming from farmers brewing low ABV beer as an incentive for field workers. Farm breweries were not large scale; they had smaller, more unique, methods of brewing and fermenting in comparison to the larger breweries of the time.[9] This had different effects on the overall product, creating unconventional beer flavors.

The term "farm brewery" has more recently found its way into several local and state laws,[10][11] in order to give farm breweries certain, often agriculturally related, privileges not normally found under standard brewery laws. These privileges usually come at a price: some portion of the ingredients (such as grains, hops, or fruit) used in the beer must be grown on the given licensed farm brewery.

Craft brewery

A craft brewery

"Craft brewing" is a more encompassing term for developments in the industry succeeding the microbrewing movement of the late 20th century. The definition is not entirely consistent but typically applies to relatively small, independently-owned commercial breweries that employ traditional brewing methods and emphasize flavor and quality. The term is usually reserved for breweries established since the 1970s but may be used for older breweries with a similar focus.[3] A United States trade group, the Brewers Association, interested in brand transparency, offers a definition of craft breweries as "small, independent and traditional". The craft brewing process takes time and can be considered an art by the brewmasters. [12][13]

The use of cans by craft brewers in the US has doubled since 2012, with over 500 companies using cans to package their beverages. Previously associated with the major brewing corporations, cans are now favored by craft brewers for numerous reasons: cans are impervious to oxygen, beer-degrading light does not affect canned beer, canned beer is more portable since less room is required for storage or transportation, canned beer cools more quickly, and cans have a greater surface area for wraparound designs and decorations.[14]

The perception that bottles lead to a taste that is superior to canned beer is outdated, as most aluminum cans are lined with a polymer coating that protects the beer from the problematic metal. However, since drinking directly from a can may still result in a metallic taste, most craft brewers recommend pouring beer into a glass prior to consumption. In June 2014, the BA estimated 3% of craft beer is sold in cans, 60% is sold in bottles, and kegs represent the remainder of the market.[14]


Brewpub is an abbreviated term combining the ideas of a brewery and a pub or public-house. A brewpub can be a pub or restaurant that brews beer on the premises.

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