Beer ads have gotten nasty these days. Much of the focus has been around the pretentious nature of the little guy vs the cool, fun, readily available Goliaths of the industry. The terms Macro and Micro are used to make the divide between what brewers are small and persnickety or just your frat buddy that’s ready to party at a moment’s notice. This begs the question, what is the real difference between a macro and microbrewery?
There are a few currently accepted definitions of what is a microbrewery. Fans like us would say things like there’s the good stuff, and the popular stuff. While this could in theory be used to define what a craft beer is, the true definition of microbrewery is based much more on numbers than taste.
The microbrewery movement can be traced back to the 1970s in the United Kingdom. One of the earliest noted microbreweries was the Litchborough Brewery founded by Bill Urquhart in 1974 in the Northamptonshire village of the same name. From there, the term spread across the UK, and eventually into the U.S. starting in the 1980s.
Today, according to the Brewer's Association, breweries that produce fewer than 15,000 U.S. beer barrels (1,800,000 liters; 460,000 U.S. gallons) annually are considered microbreweries. While there is no specific definition for a “macro brewery”, the term falls into the same category as Large Brewery. These are defined as breweries with annual beer production over 6,000,000 barrels. Macro breweries have also been defined as breweries too large or economically diversified to be a microbrewery.
In short, as the naming would imply, the macro vs microbrewery battle is a classic David and Goliath scenario. Macro brews are readily available, simple, and mass produced. Micro brews, while perhaps more fussy at times, are more diverse and specialized. Now when ordering a cold draft beer at your local bar, you’ll know a bit more precisely which side of the battlefield you’re on.