We will continue to see expansive growth in rural communities and the suburbs. One thing that will never change in craft beer is “localism.” Consumers love the idea of supporting breweries in their own towns and neighborhoods. Expect to see more small local breweries follow the likes of South Fork (Delano), Goat Ridge (New London), Spilled Grain (Annandale), Big Axe (Nisswa), Fox Hole (Willmar), and Bad Habit (St. Joseph).
We will see breweries entering the market with a stronger focus on particular styles and genres of beer. We will see fewer breweries open with a debut lineup of the standard five to seven styles. Instead, we predict we will see more breweries hone in on a specific style or technique. One example would be the upcoming Oude Oak, which will be Minnesota’s first sour-only brewery when it opens in 2016.
As the other alcohol-producing industries in the state continue to grow alongside craft beer, we suspect there will be increased cooperation and collaboration among the industries of beer, wine and spirits. There are already vineyards in the state that have begun to dabble in beer (Schram Vineyards for one) and there is infinite potential for these producers to continue to get creative with barrel sharing, recipe creation, and even raw ingredient sharing.
Minnesota has one of the fastest growing craft beer markets in the nation. By the end of 2015 we will have more than 100 licensed beer makers in the state. As this impressive growth continues, so too will the maturation of the industries that support our local brewers. Beer is a very real business and like any other industry, it needs support from other businesses, the government, and an expanding consumer base. Look to see more industry focus on education — for both consumers and producers — as the business of beer matures. We also expect the craft beverage makers in the state to continue to have a louder voice and stronger organic influence on how their industries are regulated.
Locally produced beer ingredients is one example of a supporting industry that is starting to catch up. Because of our position in the heart of the Grain Belt (the geographical region, not the beer), Minnesota is already home to a robust agricultural industry and one of the largest malting facilities in the world (Rahr Malting in Shakopee). The University of Minnesota has spent a good deal of energy in the past few years working with brewers and farmers to strengthen the industries of local hops, malt and other beer, wine and spirits ingredients. Minnesota now has approximately 25 acres of commercial hops growing in the state, but with the support of the University and groups like the Minnesota Hop Growers Association, we expect significant growth on the agricultural side of beer in 2016 and beyond.
Bold prediction: One mid-sized Minnesota brewery will sell to one of the big guys in 2016.