2023 Craft Beer Predictions That We Can All Comfortably Ignore
Every December or January we all get inundated with industry watchers, commentators, pundits, investment bankers, morons and geniuses who share their predictions for what’s going to happen in the coming year. For anyone who has been paying attention to anything over the past three years, it is painfully obvious that no one has the slightest clue what is going to happen in 2023. That said, there are a small collection of predictions that I think are particularly worthy of being ignored, and I have collected them for you here.
Any Prediction That 2023 Will Be The Year Of Craft Lager
It’s been a gazillion years since this prediction first started and it gets paraded out every December/January by folks who want craft breweries to focus on making full-flavored but lighter beer-flavored beers—which is practically everyone, really. And in general, craft breweries have been responding. The real reason to ignore this prediction is that we are actually in the age of craft lagers and probably have been for some time.
There are probably more craft breweries making lagers today than at any other point since the original craft beer explosion. The disconnect really has less to do with quality and consumer appreciation and more to do with perception and how you measure Year-of-the-Lager metrics. Most of the people who are trying to measure whether we are in a craft lager era are primarily referencing purchasing data that comes from large, off-premise retail stores. This is a problem because most of the folks who are making the best craft lagers aren’t making them in quantities sufficient enough or paced to provide reliable enough quantities to get them a meaningful presence in those retailers.
Because of this, the purchase scan data doesn’t show that craft lagers are doing anything meaningful in the market—despite an abundance of non-quantified and anecdotal evidence that lagers are having a lovely time these days in tap rooms and non-reporting sales channels like bars and restaurants (you know, where most craft beer is sold and consumed). We are never going to see a huge spike in data showing craft lagers taking over the market because the data isn’t measuring where the craft lagers are being sold. Guaranteed that if you go to some of your favorite craft breweries and start ordering beer that they’re pouring on-site, you’ll quickly find some very high-quality lagers.
Any Prediction That Mentions Hard Mountain Dew
No one cares. Hard Mountain Dew is (actually at this point it’s probably a “was”) a project some marketing folks came up with likely on a dare. The initial load in sold through because people wanted to see the train wreck. Predictably, it tasted terrible, and once consumers “got the T-shirt” from the initial purchase, no one wants it anymore. As a product, it’s really only relevant as a cautionary example. We should all stop talking about it now. Ignore any prediction that mentions Hard Mountain Dew because you will never get the time you spend reading that prediction back. Momento Mori. Don’t go there.
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Any Prediction That Hard Seltzer Is Dying
This one is a recent favorite of industry analysts who are mostly focused on evaluating and reevaluating stock performance. For the most part, they are drawing data from large chain grocery store sales and publicly traded beverage manufacturers’ investor guidance and making conclusions that are oftentimes colored by where their investment positions stand or where they hope they will one day stand. The truth is that as a category, hard seltzer is fine and will be around for a long time, if not forever. This is because hard seltzer is, at its core, a minimal flavor impact alcohol delivery vehicle and there will always be people and occasions that call for such a thing. Previously, this crown was held by the industrial-light-lager cabal of Bud Light, Miller Light and Coors Light and it is a beverage segment that has a long history and extraordinary durability.
In recent years, hard seltzer upended the category by taking the approach of being a convenient, ersatz, ready-to-drink vodka-soda cocktail rather than an industrial light lager. Hard seltzer is now dealing with the next iteration of the category as some of its consumers are (gasp) looking for flavor. These consumers discovered that with a slight substitution of using spirit instead of malt-based alcohol, the beverage actually tastes better. The same goes for using real fruit instead of extracts or flavorings. The bigger problem is simply that the explosive growth that hard seltzer had experienced in recent years is tapering off because it is simply becoming a mature product category. It’s not dying; it simply grew up and has accepted its natural place in the cold box. Each individual hard seltzer brand may have to deal with its own challenges, but as a category, the market for minimal flavor impact alcohol delivery vehicles is simply never going to go away; and therefore, hard seltzer will always have its place.
Any Prediction That Mentions A Recession
First of all, the brightest economic minds of this (and every other) generation don’t have a strong agreement on what a recession actually is. Sure there’s a generic definition that you can find on Dictionary.com, but it’s so general that it’s not useful; and even if there was an agreement on what a recession actually is, any economist worth their degree can easily nitpick the data to make the case that we either are or are not in a recession.
More importantly, the world being in or not in a recession is irrelevant to craft beer. Beer is 10,000 years older than Jesus. It has seen recessions. It has seen non-recessions. Beer will continue to be beer long after everyone who is reading this is gone. And this isn’t just my opinion; there is a wealth of commentary and data showing that if beer isn’t actually recession-proof, then it is at least more recession-resistant than everything else.