Patience can be a problem, however. Even big craft brewers acknowledge there's often a small window for success. The Craft Brewers Alliance and its Red Hook, Widmer and Kona breweries came about largely because of a distribution deal that gave Anheuser-Busch InBev part ownership. As Goose Island discovered, the price of that big distribution can be a buyout of the brewery. Seattle Pyramid Breweries, meanwhile, was bought by Vermont-based Magic Hat, which was then bought by private equity firm North American Breweries -- which also owns Rochester, N.Y.-based Gennessee and Dundee brewing companies and rights to U.S. production of Labatt's. Former executives of Campari Group's Skyy spirits, meanwhile, bought San Francisco steam beer mainstay Anchor Brewing last year with promises to boost production and increase distribution. Koch cautions that such moves can increase sales, but change the spirit of the brewer until "it becomes just a business." "There are two ways to get that kind of distribution range: One is to earn it year by year, which can take decades, and another is to sell out and get it automatically," Koch says. "Sometimes it can be very attractive to sell out and get millions of dollars." For those who remain independent, however, the pint of craft brew is more than half full. Along with increased U.S. sales, craft beers are seeing a change that a precious few American industries can boast of -- increasing exports. The amount of American craft beer sold overseas increased 28% by volume, according to the Brewers Association, with demand in some regions increasing 90%. While that may draw even more players into the craft mix, veterans such as Casinelli cautions that not every brewer's strategy will work for someone else. When he started at Yuengling "there were a lot of people who thought everything we did was wrong." Even within the craft brewing community it seems accepted that if a colleague can offer ingredients, equipment or a hand with formulation or brewing, it doesn't mean they'll necessarily offer great advice. "Maybe we've built the ivory tower strong enough, but people don't show up on our doorstep asking questions unless they're in the industry," says Victory's Covaleski. "Business success attracts people who think you know something -- boy are they fooled." -- Written by Jason Notte in Boston. >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Jason Notte. >To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/notteham. >To submit a news tip, send an email to: email@example.com.