Microbreweries sell craft beers to consumers looking for something more than a traditional mass-marketed brew. These craft beers tend to cost more than big-name beers such as Budweiser or Coors, and they often have complex or even challenging flavors. The target audience for a microbrewery is usually upscale, well-educated and more interested in flavor than quantity.
The Brewers Association defines a microbrewery as any brewery that makes fewer than 15,000 barrels of beer each year and sells more than 75 percent of that beer off-premises. Many businesses commonly referred to as microbreweries would be classified by the Brewers Association as brewpubs because they sell more than 25 percent of their beer in their own pub or restaurant. Stores that carry craft and specialty beers typically make no distinction between microbrews and brewpub beers -- both are craft beers, and many brewpubs sell their beers both on- and off-site.
The craft beer business is characterized by small-scale, independent ownership and traditional brewing methods emphasizing craftsmanship, high quality and experimentation with unique ingredients and flavors. Microbreweries and other craft breweries were responsible for approximately 13,235,917 of the 200,028,520 barrels of beer sold in the United States in 2012, according to the Brewers Association. Despite accounting for only 6.5 percent of the beer sold by volume, craft brewers earned 10.2 percent of the beer sales dollars in the U.S. in 2012, the Brewers Association reported. Customers of craft beers are willing to pay more for different and interesting high-quality beers.
According to a 2012 article in Medialife Magazine, microbrewery and brewpub customers tend to be more affluent and well-educated than the average beer drinker -- 40 percent of microbrew drinkers earn $100,000 a year or more. These customers favor beers with distinctive character and flavor, and they are interested in trying beers not readily available outside of a small local market. They value the independence, creativity and craftsmanship associated with microbrews, and they often see themselves as connoisseurs of specialty beers.
Unlike traditional beer drinkers. microbrew drinkers rarely are loyal to just one brand of beer. Instead, they are always looking for the next new thing. A microbrew customer might sample a new brand of imperial Russian stout one week, pick up a favorite Pilsner the next week and eat a meal with a pale ale the week after that. Because microbrew drinkers seek out new and interesting brews, it is essential to use a striking name, logo and distinctive flavor to attract their attention.