What Is a Micro Beer?

barman at a pub pouring beer into a glass

What is a micro beer? If you’re curious, you’re in for a treat! Today, we’ll explore the diverse and exciting world of microbrews and microbreweries—small-scale breweries known for their meticulous craft and unique flavors. 

From the rolling hills of rural Pennsylvania to the busy streets of Philadelphia, microbreweries are a pivotal part of the state’s vibrant beer scene. Cheers to the rich diversity of beer in PA!

Key Takeaways

  • Microbreweries captivate with unique flavors and local production, emphasizing quality over quantity. 
  • A craft brewer, like New Trail, commits to innovation and community to enhance experiences with each brew.
  • It’s possible to be craft brewers and microbrewers, but not all microbrewers are craft brewers and vice versa.

What Exactly Are Microbreweries?

To learn about microbeers, let’s first take a look at what microbreweries are. According to the Brewers Association, these breweries produce fewer than 15,000 barrels of beer annually. 

Here’s a closer look at what defines a microbrewery and sets it apart in the vast brewing landscape.

Characteristics of microbreweries

  • Size and production limits: The hallmark of a microbrewery is its modest production scale. The limited output allows brewers to maintain a hands-on approach throughout the brewing process, ensuring each batch can be adjusted for the best results.

The small scale enables microbreweries to experiment with diverse beer styles, from stouts to IPAs, each crafted with precision and a personal touch.

  • Ownership and independence: Most microbreweries are independently owned, providing them the flexibility to innovate without the constraints often imposed by larger corporate entities. This independence is crucial for maintaining the integrity of their brews and allows them to adapt quickly to craft beer enthusiasts’ evolving tastes.
  • Craftsmanship and community impact: Using traditional brewing methods, often enhanced by modern twists, microbreweries place a significant emphasis on craftsmanship. Ingredients are carefully selected and frequently sourced from local suppliers to support the regional economy. 
  • Innovation and customer experience: Microbreweries often serve as trendsetters in the craft beer industry, pioneering unique flavors and brewing techniques that distinguish their offerings from mass-produced beers. 

The direct sales model — selling beer on-site or through local outlets — allows them to receive immediate feedback from consumers, which continually informs the brewing process.

Micro Beers vs. Macro Beers

large vats from a macro brewer

Now that we’ve peeked into the charming world of microbreweries let’s widen the lens and compare these crafty concoctions to their big brothers, the macro beers. Both brew styles fill our glasses and fuel our brewery tours, but they do so in very different ways.

What’s a macro beer?

Think of the beer giants, the household names that dominate commercials during the big game. Macro beers come from major breweries that produce millions of barrels each year. These are the beers you find in every supermarket and bar across the country — and sometimes around the world.

Scale and scope

Microbreweries are the corner bakeries of the beer world, crafting small-batch delights that locals savor and seek out. In contrast, macro breweries are more like industrial bread factories, churning out vast quantities to feed a national appetite. 

While microbreweries focus on depth and complexity, macro breweries aim for consistency and accessibility.


Where micro beers might play with flavors, adding a dash of local hops or a pinch of seasonal spice, macro beers stick to a tried-and-true recipe. The goal? A taste that’s as familiar in Florida as it is in Montana.

Getting the beer to you

Microbrews often travel from the brewery to your glass without venturing far, favoring local bars and stores. Macro beers, on the other hand, are the jet-setters of the beer world, traveling far and wide to quench global thirst.

What this means for you

Whether you lean towards the artisanal, experimental batches that microbreweries excel in or the reliable, sessionable brews of the macro giants, there’s a beer out there with your name on it. The beauty of the beer world is its variety — from the small, bubbly batches brewed down the street to the sleek cans stacked in store coolers across the country.

Micro Beers and Craft Beers

craft beers in a row

As we continue our exploration into the world of beers, it’s crucial to distinguish between micro beers and craft beers — a common mix-up but one worth clarifying. While both celebrate the art of brewing, they follow different paths within the beer landscape.

The differences

  • Microbreweries: The term “micro” primarily refers to the scale of production. Microbreweries produce fewer than 15,000 barrels a year and often focus on local or regional distribution. 

Being a microbrewery doesn’t automatically place a brewery within the craft beer category, as their production methods and ingredient choices can vary widely.

  • Craft breweries: Craft beer is defined not just by the size but by the ethos behind the brewing. The Brewers Association specifies that craft breweries produce fewer than six million barrels annually but also emphasizes attributes like independence and traditional brewing methods. 

Craft breweries often use classic methods and innovative techniques to create new, bold flavors, focusing on quality and complexity.

  • Craft vs. micro: It’s possible for a brewery to be both craft and micro, but not all microbreweries meet the craft criteria, and not all craft breweries are small enough to be considered micro. 

Craft beer is about how the beer is made — using traditional ingredients and methods — while micro refers to the amount of beer produced.

The Appeal of Craft Beers

Craft beers have carved out a niche in the beer world that continues to grow, driven by a dedicated following that appreciates more than just a refreshing drink. These enthusiasts treasure the distinct qualities that craft breweries bring to the table, from their hands-on brewing methods to their commitment to flavor and community.

Unique flavors and local influence

One of the primary reasons micro and craft beers have garnered such a dedicated following is their unique flavor profiles. 

Craft breweries often have the flexibility to experiment with a range of styles and ingredients, including local hops, seasonal botanicals, and specialty grains. This results in a diverse array of products that can’t be found in larger, more standardized macro beer brewing operations.

The personal touch of the brewers is evident in each batch, with recipes that are fine-tuned over time to perfect a distinctive taste.

Variety of styles

Craft breweries are celebrated for their wide variety of beer styles, offering everything from robust stouts and porters to crisp ales and lagers. This diversity appeals to a broad audience, from those who enjoy a bitter IPA to those who prefer a smooth, subtle pilsner. 

Exploring less common styles, such as sour beers or barrel-aged brews, further broadens the appeal, attracting connoisseurs and casual drinkers alike who are eager to explore new tastes and experiences.

Connection to the community

Another significant aspect of the appeal of craft beers is their local production. Craft breweries often embody the spirit of their surroundings, drawing on local traditions and tastes and contributing to the local economy. 

The local focus builds a strong community of supporters who take pride in knowing their favorite beers are crafted close to home, often by people they might meet at a town event or market. This connection fosters a sense of ownership and loyalty among consumers, which enhances their enjoyment of the beers.

Crafting more than just beer

Craft breweries do more than produce beer; they create experiences. Many host events, offer tours and operate taprooms where patrons can gather to enjoy fresh brews straight from the source. These experiences help build a vibrant, engaged community around the brewery, turning occasional visitors into regulars and advocates.

Embracing the Trail: The Unique Path of New Trail Brewing Co.

As we conclude our journey through the rich landscape of micro and craft beers, it’s clear that these brews are more than just beverages; they are a celebration of local craftsmanship, community, and the pioneering spirit that defines the microbrewing world. 

Micro and craft beers captivate with their unique flavors and styles, reflect local heritage, and bring together those who share a passion for finely crafted brews.

New Trail

New Trail Brewing Co. is a regional craft brewery, and we take pride in being a key part of this vibrant craft beer culture. Founded on the principles of quality and creativity, New Trail is not just about making exceptional beers — we’re about creating experiences that enhance life’s outdoor adventures. 

Our beers are companions on the trails, by the campfires, and on those long hikes through the Pennsylvania wilderness, where every sip complements the natural beauty around us.

Our commitment to craft and community

  • Quality and innovation: Each batch of our craft beers is brewed with meticulous attention to detail, using only the finest ingredients, many sourced from local farmers. This commitment to quality ensures every New Trail beer not only tastes great but also supports the local economy and sustains our natural surroundings.
  • A brewery born from passion: Our journey through craft brewing, marked by numerous accolades and groundbreaking creations, underpins New Trail’s mission. 

Our passion for craft beer and deep-rooted connection to Pennsylvania’s outdoor life is infused in every brew, from our Hazy IPAs to our crisp Pilsners.

  • Sustainability and outdoor advocacy: We believe in preserving the great outdoors and enhancing the experience of exploring it. New Trail actively partners with local organizations to maintain trails and support conservation efforts, ensuring that our natural playgrounds continue to thrive for generations.
  • A taste of adventure: Our diverse beer portfolio invites all to find a favorite brew that perfectly matches their adventure spirit.

New Trail Brewing Co. is more than a brewery; it’s a celebration of the adventurous spirit that drives all of us. As we encourage our friends, neighbors, and fellow beer lovers to explore the great outdoors, we invite them to take a New Trail brew along for the journey. 

Come join us, and let’s keep discovering, exploring, and savoring the great outdoors — one beer at a time.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is considered a micro beer?

A micro beer is typically produced by a microbrewery, which is defined as a brewery producing fewer than 15,000 barrels of beer annually, focusing on quality, variety, and local distribution.

What is the difference between a brewery and a microbrewery?

The main difference lies in the scale of production. Microbreweries produce on a smaller scale (under 15,000 barrels per year) and often have a stronger focus on artisanal practices and local markets compared to larger breweries.

What makes a microbrew?

Microbrews are distinguished by their production in microbreweries with a limited output, which allows for greater experimentation and a focus on unique flavor profiles and traditional brewing techniques.

Why is it called microbrew?

The term “microbrew” reflects the smaller scale of production and the more focused, artisanal approach to brewing beer, as opposed to the mass production typical of larger breweries.

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