A microbrewery produces less than 15,000 barrels of beer per year with a quarter or more of its beer sold off site. Microbreweries sell to the public by one or more of the following methods: the traditional three-tier system (brewer to wholesaler to retailer to consumer); the two-tier system (brewer acting as wholesaler to retailer to consumer); and, directly to the consumer through carryouts and/or on-site tap-room or restaurant sales.
Micro or craft breweries have adopted a different marketing strategy than 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 indicated by the fact that large commercial breweries have introduced new brands intended to compete in the same market as microbrewery. When this strategy failed, they invested in microbreweries; or in many cases bought them outright.
In the early twentieth century, Prohibition drove many breweries in the US into bankruptcy because they could not rely on selling "sacramental wine" as wineries of that era did. After several decades of consolidation of breweries, most American commercial beer was produced by a few very large corporations, resulting in a very uniform, mild-tasting lager, of which Budweiser and Miller are well-known examples. Consequently, some beer drinkers craving variety turned to homebrewing and eventually a few started doing so on a slightly larger scale. For inspiration, they turned to Britain, Germany, and Belgium, where a centuries-old tradition of artisan beer and cask ale production had never died out. American microbreweries typically distribute through a wholesaler in a traditional three-tier system, others act as their own distributor (wholesaler) and sell to retailers and/or directly to the consumer through a tap room, attached restaurant, or off-premise sales. Because alcohol control is left up to the states, there are many state-to-state differences in the laws.
Popular North American Microbreweries
Anchor Brewing Company San Francisco, CA
- The first Anchor Steam beer was produced in 1896. The company now brews beers for varied palates, including a dark malt porter, a barley-wine style ale and a summer wheat beer. Because of this, each brew is "virtually handmade," a quality that beer lovers are sure to appreciate. Their most famous beer is Anchor Steam, which has a uniquely rich flavor. Free tours of the brewery, which is located near San Francisco's Embarcadero, must be reserved in advance. The two-hour tour ends with a complimentary tasting session.
Full Sail Brewing Company Hood River, OR
- Full Sail Brewing Company is a craft brewery in Hood River, Oregon, United States. Founded in 1987, Full Sail was the first commercially successful craft brewery to bottle beer in the Pacific Northwest for retail sale, and one of Oregon's early microbreweries. The first beer packaged was Full Sail Golden Ale, followed in 1988 by Full Sail Imperial Porter, Full Sail Amber Ale, and Wassail Winter Ale. The Full Sail brewery has earned many honors for its beers, some of which include: twelve gold medals for Amber Ale at the World Beer Championships, six silver medals for Pale Ale at the World Beer Championships and five gold medals for India Pale Ale at the World Beer Championships.
Real Ale Brewing Company Blanco, TX
- Located in the Texas Hill Country, Real Ale is a nice place to stop by if you’re on a scenic drive. They use the nearby Blanco river for brewing water, which Owner Brad Farbstein touts as "some of the best brewing water for the styles of beer that we make." Their tours and tasting hours are on Friday afternoons, making a stop by the brewery a great way to kick off your weekend with a good quality beer.
Standing Stone Brewing Co Ashland, OR
- Ashland's only full service brewpub is housed in an historic building with a light industrial character. We offer our own freshly brewed handcrafted ales and lagers, including seasonal and other specialty brews. All Standing Stone Ales are made here at the brewery in ten barrel batches using over 80% organic malts.
Saint Arnold Brewing Company
- The Saint Arnold Brewing Company is a craft brewery located in Houston, Texas, named for a patron saint of brewing, Saint Arnold of Metz. It was founded in 1994 by Brock Wagner and Kevin Bartol, graduates of Rice University. The brewery offers tours every Saturday afternoon which have attracted a large following. Saint Arnold has won numerous national and international awards. The brewery offers an uncommon recycling program through which usable bottle carriers may be redeemed for promotional merchandise.
Avery Brewing Company Boulder, CO
- Since 1993 our brewery has been committed to producing eccentric ales and lagers that defy styles or categories. Our products are thoroughly American at heart: blending Old World tradition and expertise with ingenuity, creativity and boldness. We are dedicated to making beer from the inside out: we brew what we like to drink--with utter disregard for what the market demands-- and search out fans with equally eccentric palates (We learned long ago that expressing your true self is much more fulfilling than giving in to outside pressures. Don't you agree?) If you think your taste buds can keep up with our brews, we invite you to check out our entire lineup of more than twenty different beers.
Blue Point Brewing Company Patchogue, NY
- Blue Point Brewing Company is a microbrewery located on Long Island, in Patchogue, New York. The brewery offers a variety of beers, including seasonal brews, as well as a 'tasting room' which is open to the public on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Currently, they do not bottle their beer on the premises, but rather use a bottling plant located in Maryland.
Flying Dog Brewery Denver, CO
- Flying Dog Brewery is a beer brewery now located in Frederick, Maryland. Originally opening in 1990 as a brewpub, it became the first brewery to open in Aspen in over 100 years, and one of the first brewpubs in the Rocky Mountain region. In 1991, Flying Dog’s “Doggie Style” was bottled and won the “The Best Pale Ale in America” award at the Great American Beer Festival. The reputation of Flying Dog beers grew quickly, and demand soon exceeded the brewpub’s capacity. So, in 1994 Flying Dog opened a 50-barrel brewery in Denver, Colorado from which its ales were distributed to more than 45 states of the United States. Flying Dog Brewery is noted for using the unusual art of Ralph Steadman, best known as the illustrator of the works of Hunter S. Thompson, on its labels.
Left Hand Brewing Company Longmont, CO
- Left Hand Brewing Company’s seasonal Warrior IPA disregards your notions about what an IPA should be. Bold, vibrant and beautifully aromatic, Warrior IPA is brewed only once a year using fresh flower Colorado-grown Cascade hops flown in from Rising Sun Farms in Paonia, as well as varieties from the brewery’s own hop fields. True to the brewery’s philosophy, a strong malt foundation complements the bright floral hoppiness, allowing for a well-balanced assault on your palate.
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery Milton, DE
- This brewery tries to make the long trip worth your while by offering not only a free tour and sampling, but also spring and summer weekend packages that include a morning dolphin kayak tour, gift certificate to the brewpub and two nights in the Brewmaster's Suite at a nearby hotel. The company is known for its India Pale Ales and also has an ale known as the Midas Touch Golden Elixir, which uses ingredients like barley, honey and white Muscat grapes.
Great Divide Brewing Company Denver, CO
- Great Divide Brewing Company was founded by Brian Dunn in 1994 in Denver, Colorado, USA. When he opened his microbrewery, it was one of only four in Denver; by 2007, there were over 90 microbreweries in the state, second only to California. Due to a 45% increase in sales in 2007, the brewery was forced to expand. In September 2008, Great Divide opened a new brewery that tripled its production. At the same time, they changed the art on all of their labels. Great Divide Brewing Company was founded with the notion of brewing strong beers, which are defined as having an alcohol content greater than 7%. Six of the thirteen beers made by Great Divide in 2006 exceeded this threshold, and one, Old Ruffian, has over 10.2% alcohol content, which is twice that of America's top selling beer Budweiser.
Founders Brewing Company Grand Rapids, MI
- Founders has built its brewery on the exploration of recipe development and brewing techniques. The philosophy is simple. We are not the standard micro-brewery, rather we have traveled a path that breaks from the “standard” craft-brewer. Carving a niche out of the craft industry, Founders Brewing Company has built its reputation on producing very unique beer. Our focus is to offer a product that stands alone on the shelf and offers a true drinking experience to our friends, you.
Rahr and Sons Brewing Company Fort Worth, TX
- Rahr and Sons Brewing Company is a microbrewery in Fort Worth, Texas, owned by Fritz and Erin Rahr. Since opening in 2004, Rahr has introduced nine beers, eight of which have been bottled. Currently, Rahr beers are distributed throughout much of North Texas (including the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex), as well as in Abilene, Austin, Corpus Christi, Houston, Longview, and San Antonio. Since the summer of 2004, the Rahr and Sons Brewery has been the location of the annual Iron Mash Competition, a homebrewing competition based on the premise of the television show Iron Chef (that is, to brew a beer from provided ingredients) and hosted by the Cap and Hare Homebrewing Club of Fort Worth, TX.
Erie Brewing Co Erie, PA
- Erie Brewing Company was founded in October of 1993, it became operational in November 1994. Its original location was Union Station/Hoppers Brew Pub. In 1999 the company transition from Brewpub to regional brewery. The company also moved to a new location on Veshecco Drive. Thanks to the move, manufacturing capacity grew 6,000 barrels, or 12,000 1/2 kegs, or the equivalent of 84,000 cases.
Lost Abbey Brewing San Marcos, CA
- In the beginning there was Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. They were told not to eat the fruit from the apple tree.They were tempted by the serpent and made a "choice" to eat from the tree. Their actions were not preordained but rather the actions of beings with free will. At every fork in the road, there are signs marking the struggle of Good vs. Evil. The Lost Abbey was imagined as part of a crusade in this ongoing story of Good vs. Evil beer. Everywhere we turn these days, there is a battle being waged between those who make good beer and those who make evil beer.
Russian River Brewing Company Santa Rosa, CA
- Russian River Brewing Company is a brewery and brewpub located in downtown Santa Rosa, California. Russian River Brewing Company was created in 1997 when Korbel Champagne Cellars of Guerneville, California decided to try their hand at brewing beer. Brewer Vinnie Cilurzo was hired as brewmaster. Korbel quit the brewing business, and sold the brewery to Cilurzo and his wife Natalie in 2002. Vinnie's Blind Pig brewery changed names to Russian River, remodeled and expanded in 2004, eventually moving to Santa Rosa, at their current 4th Street location.
Lagunitas Brewing Company Petaluma, CA
- The Lagunitas Brewing Company is a brewery founded in 1993 in Petaluma, California, USA. They are known for iconoclastic interpretations of traditional beer styles, and irreverent descriptive text and stories on their packaging. Lagunitas Brewing's flagship, IPA, is consistently the best-selling IPA in the state of California according to IRI, the widely cited consumer product reporting company. In 2006, Lagunitas began releasing a series of limited edition beers marking the 40th anniversary of each album by Frank Zappa.
Allagash Brewing Company Portland, ME
- Allagash Brewing Company is an American brewery located in Portland, Maine. Allagash is currently distributed in over 20 states in the US. Though it no longer brews the Summer Ale it has expanded its portfolio to include a barrel aged series of beers and a tribute series of beers. The barrel aged beers include: Curieux, Odyssey and Musette. Allagash's tribute series of beers, through which they donate $1 from each bottle of beer sold to a Maine organization, includes: Victor, Victoria, Hugh Malone and Fluxus. Allagash also has a beer, Interlude, that is brewed with their own proprietary yeast strain.
Big Sky Brewing Company Missoula, MT
- Big Sky Brewing Company is a brewery located in Missoula, Montana. It brews six different styles of beer: Moose Drool (a brown ale), Scape Goat (Pale Ale), Big Sky (India Pale ale), Powder Hound (Winter Ale), Summer Honey (Seasonal Ale), and Trout Slayer Ale. Moose Drool is a brown ale brewed with whole black, chocolate, caramel, pale malts and Willamette, Liberty, and Golding hops. Moose Drool is the most popular craft beer in Montana and is sold throughout 14 western and midwestern states. It has a dark profile, a sweet entrance to the palate, and a slightly bitter coffee finish.
Independence Brewing Co. Austin, TX
- Independence Brewing Company brews smooth, deliciously easy-drinking beers for the people of Texas. Discover the handcrafted beer with a laid-back finish brewed fresh in South Austin. Austin Amber Beer, A special blend of malted barley - lightly to darkly roasted - creates layers of toasty sweetness, balanced by the citrusy notes of Cascade hops. Burnt orange with a laid back finish, this is the beer of Austin.
Bear Republic Brewing Co. Healdsburg, CA
- Bear Republic Brewing Company (Bear Republic) was founded by third and fourth generation Sonoma County residents. From the humble beginning of home brewing to the demanding process of commercial brewing, came the realization that to produce the distinctive flavors and aroma we found appealing required the founding of our own Brew Pub.
Pizza Port Brewing Company Carlsbad, CA
- Pizza Port was established in March of 1987 when we started making pizzas in our present location in Solana Beach! We started brewing beer as a hobby and as we began brewing more than we could leisurely drink, we really wanted to share some of the incredible brews that we created for fun with our customers too. We installed a 7 barrel brewery and served our first handcrafted beer brewed on the premises in October of 1992. Pizza Port is devoted to total customer satisfaction by providing the highest quality and the best service humanly possible while having too much fun. We take ultimate pride in our standards by offering a completely unique dining and drinking experience.
Bell's Brewery Kalamazoo, MI
- Bell's Brewery, Inc. is a brewery located in Kalamazoo, Michigan and currently brewed in Comstock, Michigan. Bell's Brewery produces the Bell's brand of beers. The brewery today consists of two separate brewing facilities, the original Kalamazoo Avenue facility, and the state-of-the-art Krum Avenue Plant, in Comstock Township, Michigan, which opened in 2002. As of 2005, Kalamazoo Brewing Company changed their name to Bell's Brewery, Inc., reflecting the name by which most people refer to the brewery. While the Pale Ale, Porter, Kalamazoo Stout, Third Coast Beer, Amber Ale and Two Hearted Ale are available year round, the majority of Bell's beers are seasonal. Bell's beer is currently distributed through a thirteen state region.
The Free State Brewing Company Lawrence, KS
- The Free State Brewing Company opened in 1989 as the first legal brewery in Kansas in over 100 years. Filling two floors of an attractive old building in a bustling part of the college town of Lawrence, this Brew Pub always feels like something is happening. The are several dinning areas, tucked into interesting spaces on two levels. Free State appeals to a wide range of customers by providing an exciting menu, excellent food and superior service. Expect to have a hard time making a selection. I always find several items that I really want to try. The menu isn't that large, but the selections are varied and the dishes are described in ways that make each item sound wonderful. Plus there are several specials each day.
Abita Brewing Company Abita Springs, LA
- The Abita Brewing Company is a craft brewery located in Abita Springs, Louisiana, 30 miles north of New Orleans. They first began brewing beer in 1986. That year, the company produced 1,500 barrels of beer. Today, they brew over 80,000 barrels of beer annually and 5,000 barrels of root beer annually. Abita Golden, Abita Amber and Abita Turbodog are sold in various markets across the United States and Puerto Rico. Abita Brewing Company is the 17th largest Craft Brewery. The company also runs a brewpub in Abita Springs.
Lucky Labrador Brewing Company Portland, OR
- Lucky Labrador Brew Pub (915 SE Hawthorne Blvd) is located in an old roofing and sheetmetal warehouse. With high wood trussed ceilings, the Lab's warm rustic ambiance is a great place for a neighborhood pub. Founded in October, 1994, the Lab produces some of the tastiest brews in the northwest and serves up some simple, yet excellent, pub fare. Outside on the back covered patio is a great place to relax and converse with friends or hang out with your canine. We are proud to be a casual brew pub where people can enjoy quality products in an unpretentious atmosphere.
New Glarus Brewing Company New Glarus, WI
- The New Glarus Brewing Company is an American brewery founded in 1993. Located in New Glarus, Wisconsin, a small town south of Madison, Wisconsin, the New Glarus Brewing Company is by definition a small independently owned craft brewery. They have been rated the 21st largest craft brewer and 32nd largest overall brewing company in the country, according to the Brewers Association in Boulder, CO, and over the years it has received numerous awards for its many different beers. By far the company's most popular label is Spotted Cow, a cask conditioned farm house ale, sweetened with a hint of corn. The Wisconsin Belgian Red is also very well-received and has won a variety of awards world wide. It is a fruity Belgian lambic-style ale brewed with Montmorency cherries from Door County, Wisconsin. This beer has won numerous awards in beer competitions around the world, and consistently ranks in the 100th percentile (highest possible average rating) among the critical beer drinkers at RateBeer.com. The Uff-da Bock is also popular, being a bit stronger than most bocks.
Barrio Brewing Company
- We are proudly located at the corner of Toole and 16th St. Come on down and try any or all of our fresh microbrews, we have up to 12 on tap for all of your drinking pleasure. Combine the beer with our food and you'll have the recipe for a great night. With 10 standard tap beers and 12 taps, sometimes we have room for a little extra, a little something special.
Kettlehouse Brewing Company Missoula, MT
- Known lovingly as the “K-hole” by Missoulians, this tiny brewery features an even smaller taproom where you’ll find locals of all stripes downing Cold Smoke Scotch Ale. Our mission is to strive for better, cooler times in the quality of our beer and our lives. By handcrafting the highest quality premium beers that convey our passion for an active Montana outdoor lifestyle, and producing and packaging them in environmentally sensitive ways, we expect to grow a community of beer drinkers and thinkers that can help cool our warming world.
North Coast Brewing Company Fort Bragg, CA
- The North Coast Brewing Company is a microbrewery and pub located in Fort Bragg, California. Their best known beers are Red Seal Ale, Scrimshaw Pilsner, PranQster (Belgian-style Golden Ale), and Old Rasputin (Russian-style Imperial Stout). Several of their beers have won awards and they usually score very well in beer tastings.
Varying Definitions of Microbrewery
"In common-sense terms, a microbrewery is a small craft brewery which seeks the support of informed beer consumers." / "A beer maker with limited capacity whose products are typically distributed within a restricted geographic region."
"By definition, a microbrewery was originally considered to be a brewery with a capacity of less than 3000 barrels (3500 hectoliters), but by the end of the 1980s this threshold increased to 15,000 barrels as the demand for microbrewed beer doubled and then tripled."
"A small brewery; consumption of the product is mainly elsewhere." More: "A small brewery, generally producing fewer than 10,000 barrels of beer and ale a year and frequently selling its products on the premises"
"There is also the whole issue of the definition of microbreweries. In the United States, a microbrewery is a brewery producing less than 1 million hectolitres per year. In Canada, a microbrewery is defined as a brewery producing 300,000 hectolitres of beer. Therefore, in the United States a brewery producing less than 1 million hectolitres is by definition a microbrewery and, as such, is entitled to a more preferential tax rate, 9 cents, whereas in Canada, the threshold and the definition are, to a certain extent, a disadvantage for microbreweries."
"A microbrewery is a small brewery with a limited production capacity which, of necessity, produces labour intensive hand-crafted beers."