/Mi-cro-brew-er-y/: noun: a limited production brewery, typically producing specialty beers and often selling its products only locally.
The Birth of the Microbrewery
Craft beer production and family run breweries have recently taken the nation by storm. According to the Brewer's Association website, the switch in beer production from traditional standards to homebrewing has only just begun to emerge within the past 30 years. "The history of craft brewing saw America's brewing landscape start to change by the late 1970's." (BrewersAssociation.com/HistoryofCraftBrewing)
"The 1980's marked the decade of the microbrewing pioneers." (Brewer's Association)
As imported beers became less popular, American's resorted to homebrewing in order to produce their own beers in the traditional styles of other countries. Thus introducing a new style of production to the beer industry: Craft Brewing.
"Craft brewers have succeeded in establishing high levels of quality, consistency and innovation, expanding the minds of beer consumers and creating the most diverse brewing culture in the world." (Brewer's Association)
As beer production increased, the pioneering minds behind the concept of craft brewing struggled to be recognized as a legitimate player in the industry. It was not until the 1990's that sales began to increase and the revolutionary change in beer production took place. "Annual volume growth increased from 35 percent in 1991, to a high of 58 percent in 1995. Then 2004, saw an acceleration of craft brewer sales." (Brewer's Association)
Craft beers land on the small end of the production scale. Microbreweries produce only 3% of the national totals/sales annually. Domestic and imported beers make up the rest of the majority in production and sales. However, craft beer production has seen a 16% growth in retail dollar value and 15% increase in operating breweries since 2014.
/Craft/ - /brew-er/: noun: the Brewer's Association defines "craft-brewer" as "small, independent and traditional." (Brewer's Association)
Small: Producing only 6 million barrels of beer or less, annually.
Independent: Not controlled or owned by an alcohol industry member.
Traditional: "A brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation." (Brewer's Association)
The craft brewing industry is made up of four different sections. The four segments that constitute the craft brewing market are: Microbreweries, Brewpubs, Contract Brewing Companies and Regional Craft Breweries.
Microbreweries produces less than 15,000 barrels annually and sell their products locally. "Microbreweries sell to the public by either: brewer to wholesaler to retailer to consumer, the brewer acting as the wholesaler to the retailer, or directly to the consumer." (Brewer's Association)
However, Bart Watson, (Brewer's Association Economist) says that, "You need to separate production growth (which is already slowing), from brewery growth. There are clearly more opportunities for the number of breweries to grow -- driven by smaller, locally focused breweries, than there are for overall production."
"Throughout the year, there were 620 new brewery openings and only 68 closings." (Brewer's Association, 2015)
Watson says, "In regards to production growth, there is increased competition and decreased distribution opportunities, as well as some markets that may be nearing saturation (in share terms)."
"While more regional brewers will emerge, I think the days of growing to be a large production brewery are diminishing." - Bart Watson, Economist, Brewer's Association