In the UK, the term has become synonymous with small scale breweries operating under the UK Progressive Beer Duty threshold of 5,000 hls. The most common product is cask conditioned bitter. Breweries are often described by their production capacity or brew length, mostly ranging from 2 to 20 bbls (a brewer's barrel or bbl is 36 imperial gallons).
In the US, the American Brewers Association defines a "craft brewery" as "small, independent and traditional", and gives a production size of less than 6,000,000 US beer barrels (700,000,000 L) a year and can not be more than 24% owned by another alcoholic beverage company that is not itself a craft brewery (This means Goose Island and other breweries like it are no longer craft breweries due to ownership by MillerCoors or AB InBev). A brewpub may also be known as a microbrewery if production has a significant distribution beyond the premises - the American Brewers Association use a fixed 75% of production to determine if a company is a microbrewery.; regional craft brewery: at least 50% of its volume is all malt beers. A regional brewery has annual production between 15,000 US beer barrels (1,800,000 L) and 2,000,000 US beer barrels (230,000,000 L) per year. In order to be classified as a "regional craft brewery" by the brewers association, a brewery must possess "either an all-malt flagship or [have] at least 50% of its volume in either all-malt beers or in beers which use adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten flavor." Of the 2,126 breweries in America, only 43 are not defined as craft brewers, and 100 not defined as either a micro or brewpub.
Origins and philosophy 
The term originated in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s to describe the new generation of small breweries which focused on producing traditional cask ale. The first successful example of this approach was Litchborough Brewery founded by Bill Urquhart in 1975 in the Northamptonshire village of the same name. Urquhart had been the final head brewer at the large Phipps Northampton brewery when it was closed by owners Watney Mann 1974 to make way for Carlsberg Group's new UK lager brewery on the site. Alongside commercial beer brewing, training courses and apprenticeships were offered. Many of the movement's early pioneers passed through Litchborough's courses prior to setting up their own breweries.
Although originally "microbrewery" was 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 United States in the 1980s where it eventually was used as a designation of breweries that produce fewer than 15,000 US beer barrels (1,800,000 L) (475000 US gal) annually.
Micro or craft breweries have adopted a marketing strategy different from that of 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), 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.
Microbreweries in the United States 
In the early twentieth century, Prohibition drove many breweries in the US into bankruptcy because they could not all rely on selling near beer, nor "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.
The popularity of these products was such that the trend quickly spread, and hundreds of small breweries sprang up, often attached to a bar (known as a "brewpub") where the product could be sold directly. As microbrews proliferated, some became more than microbrews, necessitating the definition of the broader category of craft beer. The largest American craft brewery is the Boston Beer Company, makers of Samuel Adams.
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.
The Brewers Association reports that as of March, 2013 there were a total of 2,416 U.S. breweries, with 2,360 considered craft breweries (98 percent). (1,124 Brewpubs, 1,139 Microbreweries, and 97 Regional Craft Breweries) in the United States.
Microbreweries in other countries 
Microbreweries are gradually appearing in other countries (such as New Zealand and Australia) where a similar market concentration exists. For example, microbreweries are flourishing in Canada, mostly on the West Coast, in Québec and Ontario, which has a large domestic market dominated by a few large companies. Many of Ontario's microbreweries have joined together to form the Ontario Craft Brewers association. Britain also has a large number of small commercial breweries making cask ale, the smallest of which are known as microbreweries and can be found in spaces as restricted as a single domestic garage. There is less of a divide between these and the giant companies, however, as breweries of all sizes exist to fill the gap. In Japan, microbrews are known as Ji Bīru (地ビール), or "local beer." In 1994, Japan's strict tax laws were relaxed allowing smaller breweries producing 60,000 litres (13,000 imp gal; 16,000 US gal) per year. Before this change, breweries could not get a license without producing at least 2,000,000 litres (440,000 imp gal; 530,000 US gal) per year. As a result, a number of smaller breweries have been established throughout the country.
In Germany, there were 901 small breweries in 2010. The Federal Statistical Office defines a small brewery as a brewery with a production of less than 5.000 hectolitres beer p.a. Small breweries pay a reduced beer tax. The total market share of the small breweries is less than 1%. 638 of them have a production even less than 1.000 hl p.a. and can be considered as microbreweries in a narrow sense. The figures apply to commercial breweries only and do not include hobby brewing. About one third of the small breweries have tradition going back up to 500 years, most of them in Franconia. About two thirds were founded in the last 25 years. The vast majority of small breweries operate in combination with a brewpub.
A brewpub is a pub or restaurant that brews beer on the premises. Some brewpubs, such as those in Germany, have been brewing traditionally on the premises for hundreds of years. Others are modern restaurants.
Before the development of large commercial breweries in Britain, beer would have been brewed on the premises from which it was sold. Alewives would put out a sign — a hop pole or ale-wand — to show when their beer was ready. The medieval authorities were more interested in ensuring adequate quality and strength of the beer than discouraging drinking. Gradually men became involved in brewing and organised themselves into guilds such as the Brewers Guild in London of 1342 and the Edinburgh Society of Brewers in 1598; as brewing became more organised and reliable many inns and taverns ceased brewing for themselves and bought beer from these early commercial breweries.
However, there were some brewpubs which continued to brew their own beer, such as the Blue Anchor in Helston, Cornwall, England, which was established in 1400 and is regarded as the oldest brewpub in Britain. In Britain during the 20th century, most of the traditional pubs which brewed their own beer in the brewhouse round the back of the pub, were bought out by larger breweries and ceased brewing on the premises. By the mid-1970s, only four remained: All Nations, The Old Swan, the Three Tuns and the Blue Anchor.
The trend toward larger brewing companies started to change during the 1970s when the popularity of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA)'s campaign for traditional brewing methods, and the success of Michael Jackson's World Guide to Beer, encouraged brewers in the UK such as Peter Austin to form their own small breweries or brewpubs. In 1979, a chain of UK brewpubs, known as the "Firkin" pubs, started, running to over one hundred at peak. However, that chain was sold and eventually its pubs ceased brewing their own beer. The resulting decline in brewpubs was something of a boon to other forms of microbrewing, as it led to an availability of trained craft brewers and brewing equipment.
British brewpubs are not required to double up as restaurants, as is the case under some legislatures. Some specialise in ale, whilst others brew continental lagers and wheatbeers. Current examples small independent brewpubs such as The Ministry of Ale, Burnley, The Masons Arms in Headington, Oxford, The Brunswick Inn, Derby, The Watermill pub, Ings, Cumbria and The Old Cannon Brewery, Bury St Edmunds.
United States 
Interest spread to the US, and in 1982, Grant's Brewery Pub in Yakima, Washington was opened, reviving the US "brewery taverns" of well-known early Americans as William Penn, Samuel Adams and Patrick Henry. Growth was initially slow – the fifth US brewpub opened in 1986, but the growth since then has been considerable: the Brewers Association reports that in 2012 there were 2,075 regional craft breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs in the United States.
In France, a chain of American style brewpubs operate under the name Les 3 Brasseurs. There is also a chain of about 7 brewpubs called Frog and Rosbif, which blend British and French traditions. ('Frog' is the English nickname for the French, and 'Rosbif' or roast beef the French nickname for the English). The pubs are decorated in a broadly British style, and serve a selection of ales, stouts and wheat beer.
In Canada, changes in outdated liquor control laws finally allowed "Spinnakers" to open in Victoria, British Columbia in 1984. Legislative changes followed in other provinces and brewpubs quickly sprouted up across the country in the 1980s and 1990s.
Whereas in other countries, microbreweries and brewpubs have risen in reaction to the mass production and marketing of beer, in Germany, the traditional brewpub or Brauhaus remains a major source of beer.
Craft brewing 
Craft brewing is a more encompassing concept succeeding the microbrewing movement of the later 20th century. The definition of "craft brewing" is not entirely consistent, but it 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.
Craft brewing is most established United States, where it accounted for 7.6% of beer sales and over 90% of breweries in 2011. The Brewers Association defined American craft brewers as "small, independent and traditional": small defined as an "annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less", independent defined as at least 75% owned or controlled by a craft brewer, and traditional defined as at least 50% of its volume being all malt beer. This definition includes older microbreweries, which traditionally produce small quantities of beer, as well as other breweries of various sizes and specialties. The Brewers Association defines four markets within American craft brewing: microbreweries, with an annual production less than 15,000 US beer barrels (1,800,000 L); brewpubs, which sell 25% or more of their beer on site; regional craft breweries, which make between 15,000 US beer barrels (1,800,000 L) and 6,000,000 US beer barrels (700,000,000 L), of which at least 50% is all malt or uses adjuncts only to enhance flavor; and contract brewering companies, which hire other breweries to make their beer.
Craft brewing expanded greatly in the United States in 1979 during the Jimmy Carter administration when the brewing of beer became deregulated.
A nanobrewery is type of very small brewery operation, often culturally defined by a less than 4 US beer barrels (470 L) brew system. They are acknowledged by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), and are fully licensed and regulated breweries. Nanobreweries are often on task to grow into microbreweries or brewpubs. There are quite a few breweries and brewpubs that could have been described at one point in their history as nanobreweries, had the term been invented. One example is Dogfish Head, from Milton, Delaware. Sam Calagione started the company as a brewpub on a 10-US-gallon (38 L) Sabco brew system in 1995. As of 2010, it produced 75,000 US beer barrels (8,800,000 L) annually.
A list of nanobreweries is kept current by Hess Brewing Co., a nanobrewery from San Diego, California. As of December 2012, it lists 93 nano breweries operating in the United States and 51 in the planning stage. 
See also 
- Alison Boteler (2009). The Gourmet's Guide to Cooking with Beer. Quarry Books. p. 15. ISBN 978-1-59253-486-9. Retrieved 21 July 2011.
- "CraftBeer.com | Craft Brewers are Small, Independent, Traditional". www.craftbeer.com. Retrieved 2010-07-15.
- "Market Segments". Brewersassociation.org. Retrieved 2012-03-16.
- "Brewers Association | Market Segments". brewersassociation.org. 2011 [last update]. Retrieved 21 July 2011.
- "Brewers Association | Number of Breweries". brewersassociation.org. 2011 [last update]. Retrieved 28 January 2013.
- "Brewed In Northants" by Mike Brown with Brian Willmott. Brewery History Society (2010) ISBN 1-873966-03-2
- "Welcome to the Brewers Association". Brewersassociation.org. Retrieved 2012-03-16.
- Jonathan Duffy (November 28, 2001). "The plight of the micro-brewers". BBC News.
- "Craft Brewing Industry Statistics". Brewersassociation.org. Retrieved 2012-03-16.
- Stack, Martin H. (July 2003). "A Concise History of America's Brewing Industry". Economic History (EH.net) Encyclopedia.
- "Beer Madness: 32 beers compete for the top seat". The Washington Post. 2007.
- "Brewers Association". brewersassociation.org. Retrieved 2013-05-19.
-  Destatis Fachserie 14 Reihe 9.2.2.
- "Craft beer sales increase by 20 million litres". 3 News NZ. February 26, 2013.
- Martyn Cornell. Beer: the Story of the Pint
- "Blue Anchor". Spingoales.com. Retrieved 2012-03-16.
- www.quaffale.org.uk (2012-02-23). "Blue Anchor". Quaffale.org.uk. Retrieved 2012-03-16.
- Neil Hanson (ed), Good Beer Guide 1985, CAMRA, 1984. ISBN 0-9509584-0-9.
- Firkin Brewery[dead link]
- Triple Rock – About our Pub[dead link]
- "3 BRASSEURS". Les3brasseurs.com. Retrieved 2012-03-16.
- "Frog Pubs". Frog Pubs. Retrieved 2012-03-16.
- Oliver, Garrett (2011). "Craft brewing". In Oliver, Garrett. The Oxford Companion to Beer. Oxford University Press. pp. 270–271. ISBN 0195367138.
- Oliver, Garrett (2011). "Craft brewing". In Oliver, Garrett. The Oxford Companion to Beer. Oxford University Press. p. 271. ISBN 0195367138.
- "Craft Brewer Defined". Brewersassociation.org. Retrieved 2012-03-16.
- "The Hess Brewing Odyssey: The Great Nanobrewery List: From CA to MA.". Retrieved 2013-05-19.