In 2015, the United States was home to more than 3,400 breweries actively producing beer. Although the top nine breweries produce 90 percent of the beer sold in the U.S., there is an ever-increasing microbrewery presence. Of the 3,400 breweries, 1,900 are microbreweries and 1,400 are brew pubs. Microbreweries have been going strong since their introduction over 20 years ago, and the brewpub continues to gather momentum with the American population. Some wonder what the difference is between the two. Though similar in concept, there are a few distinct differences.
Both microbreweries and brewpubs are open to the public, but microbreweries generally are open for limited hours, several days a week. Many microbreweries allow food to be ordered by and delivered to their patrons from neighboring restaurants. Another concept that is widely popular is having food trucks parked nearby, a creative food option for customers. By not running kitchens, microbreweries keep their costs down and can concentrate on brewing, their core business, instead of the liability and responsibility of running food operations.
A brewpub is a restaurant that brews beer on site. Since brewpubs offer food, they have a wider span in operating hours and usually are open more days a week than microbreweries. Both brewpubs and microbreweries often extend their weekend hours to accommodate increased customer volume. Brewpubs have been known to partner with local food vendors, providing a truly local food and beverage experience.
Volume and sales
A microbrewery produces less than 15,000 barrels of beer annually. Over 75 percent of its beer is sold off site. To reach this number of outside sales they sell on both a wholesale and retail level. They also participate in direct sales to patrons who visit their microbrewery and buy to-go packs of beer. Many microbreweries partner with neighborhood restaurants to promote their products.
With the brewpub, 25 percent or more of their sale of beer is on site. Should the brewpub exceed more than 75 percent of their beer sales off site, the Brewer's Association will re-categorize them as a microbrewery. This is done through their restaurant or bar sales. To assist the growth of their beer sales, brewpubs also offer different options for their patrons to experience their beer at home. Whether it is through to-go packs or growlers, patrons can experience drafts that may not be available elsewhere.
Can a small, independent and traditional craft brewer have a microbrewery or be a brewpub? The answer is no, due to pure sales volume. According the Brewer's Association, a craft brewer operates and produces two to six million barrels of beer annually. Should a microbrewery or brewpub produce more than 2 million barrels of beer annually, it would be re-categorized as a craft brewer.
Prior to visiting, check to see if there are any limitations if you're hoping to bring the brewer's beer home with you. There are some limits to what certain states allow for to-go beer options at brewpubs. Check with your desired location ahead of time.