BY BREWMASTER ED HEETHUIS
With 2022 quickly fading in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to take a peek at what your fearless beer scribe believed the beery landscape held for this tumultuous year. With the crystal ball in the shop last January, we shall see how my seat-of-the-pants guesses played out. Let’s get into it!
#1 – IPA’s Will Continue to Dominate
Verdict: Mostly Right
The Prediction: Brut, Dry, and Cold IPA’s are out while Milkshake IPA’s will (much to my chagrin) continue to gather momentum and popularity. In a time when fewer and fewer brewers are making beer flavored beer, this does not bode well for traditionalists. I also see an even greater resurgence of West Coast IPA’s and lower volume for the Hazy’s.
The Outcome: West Coast IPA’s are as strong as ever, but Hazy volume not only didn’t decrease…momentum is higher than ever in my estimation. In addition, Brut and Dry IPA’s all but disappeared, but Cold IPA’s are on another uptick.
#2 – Seltzer Sales Flatten Amid New Flavor Trends
Verdict: Spot On
Prediction: While White Claw and Truly easily led the pack, the real innovation in the segment will come from craft brewers in the for of upscale flavorings. Through 2021, the best-selling seltzers were simple fruit variations such as Black Cherry, Peach, and Mango. Look for the inventive side of crafty brewers to innovate with new flavor combinations that the big boys would never dare to try. In addition, also look for these brewers to escalate the average alcohol content of these neutral offerings from the industry standard 5.0% alcohol by volume (ABV) to 7, 8, 10% and beyond. Higher alcohol concentrations will offset the higher price charged by the crafties and will allow them to experiment with seltzers named after cocktails.
Outcome: Craft beer producers definitely stepped up their efforts in this category and I’ll admit that even I was surprised to see Regional Brewers like Stone and Coronado Brewing join the spritzy-water fray. In addition, small (but mighty) players like Brewery X out of Anaheim are bringing their A-Game with their “HardEST Seltzer” 10% ABV offerings such as Jungle Juice, Blackberry Mojito, and others.
#3 – Non-Alcohol Beers Sales Soar
Verdict: Incredibly misguided
Prediction: NA sales will continue to grow, what remains to be seen is just who will hit the magic formula first. Current craft brewers focused on NA beer simply haven’t hit the mark in terms of profile.
Outcome: While Athletic Brewing is easily leading the pack on the Left Coast, Bravus, Dogfish Head, and Partake Brewing should head back to the drawing board post-haste as there is a lot more homework to be done in this category. Please (everyone) start by picking up a bottle of Erdinger NA from the Bayern region of Germany.
#4 – Prices Will Rise
Verdict: On the $$$
Prediction: Brewers are used to seeing price increases for raw materials each and every year, but product shortages in 2022 are going to exacerbate the situation greatly. Major malt suppliers are already experiencing shortages from the effects of drought on the 2021 barley crop. Aluminum cans spiraled in cost in 2021 and manufacturers tripled and quadrupled the minimum order for many smaller brewers. Toss in record-high fuel prices and the cost of getting those goods delivered to a brewery skyrocketed as well.
Outcome: Ugh. Malt prices have been raised on three separate occasions this year and some cleaning chemicals have increased tenfold. Supply chain issues continue to plague the industry and there is very little relief in sight for the coming year.
#5 – Beer Flavored Beer Makes a Comeback
Verdict: Not even close
Prediction: Craft brewers are producing some amazing Czech Pilsners and German Helles and I firmly believe that the category will receive a healthy push upward in the coming year. As an added bonus, I wouldn’t be unhappy to see more American Style Pale Ale available either.
Outcome: The Lager category has gotten a bad rap over the past 50 years because of the Big Guys, and in my opinion, it simply isn’t warranted. Maybe it’s my roots talking, but I’m a firm believer that there is a time and a place for every beer on the shelf with the possible exception of (I kid, I kid) Milkshake IPA’s and Pastry Stouts. Unfortunately, this is simply still not the case.
#6 – It’s Hip to be Small
Prediction: With industry consolidation still on the rise, we will undoubtedly see more of our favorite breweries gobbled up by the mega-brewers.
Outcome: I see more and more good folks discovering their neighborhood tap room where, if you play your cards right…everybody will soon know your name. Purchasing local makes a lot of sense in terms of freshness and the money spent on your neighborhood brewer stays local. Money spent at your local taproom pays for a little girl’s dance lessons, helps by supporting local charities and maybe they even be the sponsor your child’s sports team. It’s time to become a regular customer!
#7 – Attrition May Take its Toll
Prediction: We managed to add more breweries than we lost in 2021, but that trend may reverse itself this year into a net loss.
Outcome: A lot of small brewers were able to stay afloat through 2020 and 2021 with a healthy combination of Federal and State loans as well as some rent forgiveness by understanding landlords. As funding has run out, life became cruel for a lot of brewers who had been living on the edge. Covid taught many to pivot…and those who did so correctly are healthy and growing.
(When Ed Heethuis isn’t brewing at Spotlight 29 Casino for 29 Brews, you will find the Certified Cicerone / Brewmaster out on his road bike, maybe sampling the latest Holiday brews, or talking beer with the patrons at Taproom 29. He may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or wherever beer may be found in the wild.)