The term originated in the UK in the late 1970s to describe the new generation of small breweries that focused on producing traditional cask ale. The first successful example of this approach was the Litchborough Brewery founded by Bill Urquhart in 1975 in the Northamptonshire village of the same name. Urquhart had been the final head brewer at the large Phipps Northampton brewery, when it was closed by owners Watney Mann in 1974 to make way for Carlsberg Group's new UK lager brewery on the site. Alongside commercial beer brewing, training courses and apprenticeships were offered.
Many of the movement's early pioneers passed through Litchborough's courses prior to setting up their own breweries. However, award-winning home brewer K. Florian Klemp wrote in 2008 that the craft beer movement was revived in 1965-subsequent to an earlier American era-when Fritz Maytag acquired the Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco, United States (U.S.), thereby saving it from closure.
Although the term "microbrewery" was originally used in relation to the size of breweries, it gradually came to reflect an alternative attitude and approach to brewing flexibility, adaptability, experimentation and customer service. The term and trend spread to the U.S. in the 1980s, where it eventually was used as a designation of breweries that produce fewer than 15,000 US beer barrels (1,800,000 L) (475000 US gal) annually. In a June 2014 interview, the owner of an Oregon, U.S.-based microbrewery explained: "You've got to do more than just make great beer. It's really about innovation, creativity-stepping outside the box of traditional beer marketing", while an employee explained that "heart and soul" is the essence of the operation.
Furthermore, microbreweries have adopted a marketing strategy that differs from those of the large, mass-market breweries, offering products that compete on the basis of quality and diversity, instead of low price and advertising. Their influence has been much greater than their market share, which amounts to only 2% in the UK,indicated by the introduction by large commercial breweries of new brands for the craft beer market. However, when this strategy failed, the corporate breweries invested in microbreweries; or, in many cases, acquired them outright.