Column by Dave Hoops: Beer Trends, Brewing for 2023 – Duluth News Tribune

At the start of each new year I think about what’s next in the beer world. I do this to stay ahead of trends, think of new ideas I like, and plan what to focus on.

Dave Tyre

Here are some thoughts and predictions for 2023 in the post-COVID beer world. Interestingly and unsurprisingly, according to the Brewers Association, 83% of drinking-age Americans now live within 10 miles of a brewery, so it won’t be hard to study these trends.

This year’s edition is bittersweet, according to the Brewers Association, our professional organization for brewers, as 32% to 34% of breweries in this country have closed permanently during COVID.

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Thirty taps line one wall of the Duluth Beer Exchange in 2019.

Steve Kuchera/Files/Duluth News Tribune

There is optimism as there have been new openings and many of our supply chain struggles have slowed significantly. Unfortunately, speaking for my own Canal Park beer hall, we have yet to achieve pre-COVID patronage. However, we remain optimistic for many reasons.
I found these Minnesota-centric numbers on the University of Minnesota Extension website; It conducted a study from 2019 to 2020.

  • Based on Extension assumptions and the Craft Brewer Survey, the Minnesota economy lost $186.6 million in brewery economic activity due to COVID-19; 1,050 jobs were affected.
  • Craft breweries rely heavily on on-site sales, with survey respondents reporting that 73% of sales are made through their physical location.
  • The survey results show an 18% drop in sales across all breweries and a 10% drop in employment due to COVID-19 restrictions.
  • More than a third (37%) of breweries had no capital expenditures in 2020. The few breweries that did make investments focused on responding to COVID-19.
  • Many breweries changed their operating model in the face of declining on-site sales and increased demand for off-site sales. These changes came at a cost that many breweries included in their profit margin.

This is very accurate and the cost of materials went north and many breweries had to pass some of that cost on to customers.

So let’s start with the educated guesses:

Non-alcoholic offerings have progressed. The NA beer market has grown nearly 2% during COVID, from 0.025% to 2.5%. Brewers have stepped up their NA game by beginning to make beer that tastes like beer, with one-third or fewer calories and carbs, and no alcohol. In the US, breweries are opening up that make only NA beer and have designed their recipes and breweries to specialize in this growing market.

Session and easy-drinking beers on the rise

There is a real benefit to enjoying lower-alcohol beers that can be consumed in larger quantities during your favorite activities. I think as people look at health issues, moderation in drinking will continue to increase in some parts of the country. These beers are tasty and filling without having to hail a cab or skip dinner because you ate 800 calories with two glasses of Imperial Stout.

Taverns and beer halls are recovering

Visiting a brewery had become a go-to destination. Taprooms are great places to enjoy what I call the three C’s: Community, Casual, Convivial. The good beer movement is eminently local and the taprooms with their events, games and talks offer generations of beer drinkers a very bright future to come back and enjoy a great atmosphere with great food.

Classic beer styles are celebrating their comeback

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Bent Paddle employee Craig Faast checking that a 12-pack of Kanu Session Pale Ale does not contain leaking cans in February 2020.

Steve Kuchera/Files/Duluth News Tribune

With the influx of new styles and the IPA explosion, some older styles have slipped somewhat from the public eye. Styles like Extra Special Bitter, Porter, German Wheat, Scotch Ale, Brown, Mild Ale, Stout and Old-School Pale Ale are making a comeback this year as more beer drinkers seek a return to these easy-to-drink classics. The slowdown in brewing has meant that some of the very trendy new beers have lost some of their attention. As a traditional brewer, I wholeheartedly support styles that have been around for hundreds of years.

Watch out for single malt/hoppy beers

Much like brewing a good lager, these require more time and skill. The combination of a malt and a hop variety is the art of brewing. Single hop beers are common; we brew 10 or so. The perfect balance of a malt like Maris Otter paired with the grassy lavender and mild pepper notes of a hop like East Kent Golden would be an example. There are literally hundreds of fun pairings out there. Watch out for these beers.

Afterwards grows for pepper beers

Chili beers are a passion of mine, I’ve been brewing one full-time for the last 25 years. These beers seem to have a cult following with a segment of beer lovers – a larger group than I expected. That’s surprising. Pepper beers don’t have to be hot and spicy; However, they must have the aroma and taste of the chili. They can range from green pepper notes to hints of ghost pepper. They are among the most fun beers as each chili has its own character. Great for eating and fun as a marinade on the grill.

Happy New Year everyone and may 2023 be very good for you all.

Dave Hoops lives and works in Duluth and is a veteran brewer and beer judge. Write to him

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