Even though it sounds like a miniature beer, a microbrew is actually a beer brewed in a small commercial brewery. In the U.S., it is a beer produced at a microbrewery that brews no more than 15,000 barrels of beer per year. Brewed and distributed on a regional basis, some of these beverages are also known as craft beers.
The emphasis of a craft beer is the quality of the product rather than its mass production. These beers are also known as real ale or cask ale. Similarly, a microbrew pub is one that sells beer that is produced in limited quantities on the premises. Some pubs allow sampling, or tasting, of their products.
Although the term microbrewery originated in the United Kingdom in the 1970s, many of the beers they made became so successful that they outgrew their statistical category. Because these small breweries pay particular attention to ingredients and monitor the entire brewing process, the term craft beer is descriptive. Using the traditional brewing process, the beer starts with the sugars from a form of malted grain, either barley or wheat, added to hop flowers and water. The mixture is aged and generally not pasteurized. The difference in the process occurs after the initial fermentation.
Instead of filtering and heating, the process used for mass market bottled beer, cask ale is placed directly into a cask where it continues to develop. Some craft beers are filtered, however. The beer is often carbonated by live yeast that ferments in the container. Darker beers age longer, and light ales must be used more quickly.
Due to the inclusion of specialty malt and hop ingredients, a microbrew varies in aroma and flavor from commercially brewed beer. Aficionados believe that these beers have a more complex flavor than typical American light lagers. The hop flower can cause the beer to have a flowery, fruity, or sweet-smelling aroma. Craft beers are often sold in individual bottles and created for those who appreciate the aromas and flavors that the special attention produces. They might contain natural ingredients as varied as coriander and lavender, and most likely do not contain artificial flavorings, fillers, or thickeners.