Brewery, Microbrewery, Brewpub. What’s the Difference?

Brewery examples

As a bar or restaurant owner, knowing what’s in your craft beer, and where it comes from, are two essentials to being an expert on your product. We all know a brewery is the place where the beer is crafted, but there are a few different types of breweries, that yield many diverse styles of beer and experience.

Market Segments

The craft beer industry has market segments of breweries partially due to state law. Most breweries go through a three-tiered selling process (brewer to wholesaler, to retailer, to consumer). That’s because by law, they are not allowed to sell directly to the consumer.

States that are more lenient on laws, however, have allowed some breweries to act as a wholesaler, and in some cases, as a retailer directly to the consumer. This has created different types of establishments throughout the market.

  • Nanobrewery
  • Microbrewery
  • Brewpub
  • Regional Craft Brewery
  • Regional Brewery
  • Large Brewery

Although some of these are delineated by state laws, they are also categorized by the amount of annual beer production, and percentage of beer sold on site.


Officially, a microbrewery is any facility that produces less than 15,000 barrels of beer annually, with 75% or more of it’s beer served off-site. Unofficially, it’s what most people refer to when they are speaking about craft beer. Since they are much smaller than a regular brewery, microbreweries have ample time to “craft” flavors of beer, that a larger facility might pass on for production value.

A Nanobrewery is a downsized version of a microbrewery. The numbers of production on these types are unknown, but they are typically run by one brewer. Depending on the state, nano and microbreweries can sell in a traditional three-tier system, two-tier (wholesaler to retailer), or directly to the customer, through on-site taprooms, carry-outs, or what is known as a “brewpub.”


If a brewery is located in a state that allows them to sell directly to a consumer, than they can open what is known as a “brewpub.” A brewpub is essentially a bar or restaurant that is owned by the brewery, and serves their product directly to the people. By law, it can only be called a brewpub if it sells at least 25% or more of it’s beer on-site.

The appeal for many people is the fact that brewpubs often dispense their beer directly from the brewery’s storage tanks. Not only does this give aesthetic value to the establishment, but it creates a express line of sourcing your customer can see. In other words, they know exactly where their craft beer is coming from.

Depending on the law in the state, some brewpubs can even sell their products “to-go,” and/or distribute to smaller off-site locations. There are several brewpubs throughout the country, and you can easily check to see which ones are closest to you.


There are a variety of ways to classify what most of us know as a “regular” brewery. A regional brewery (or a regional craft brewery) is defined by producing 15,000 to 6,000,000 barrels per year. Anything over that (like Budweiser, etc…) is considered a “large” brewery, and is classified as such.

As if the beer industry wasn’t confusing enough, you could also be dealing with a contract brewing company. When a brewer has a recipe or excessive volume they need help with, they may hire a different brewery to craft their beer. The contract brewery actually handles all of the marketing and sales for the original recipe, and leaves the brewing and packaging to the producer.

Once you feel you’ve grasped this knowledge, and are ready to start serving some new brews, Taphunter is a great application to help you get the word out. Through their easy one-step dashboard, you can program a digital drink menu or send a social media blast to your customers.

Understanding the type of facility your craft beer was produced in, is important for sales. In the craft beer industry, knowledge holds more power, than any other product in the food and beverage industry. Craft beer is not only about selling the taste, it’s about selling the story.

Bars and Restaurants – Want to save hours daily, drive thirsty patrons through your door and create an engaging experience for your customers? Learn more about how TapHunter can help your business today!


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