The Beer Ticker: Industry News & Notes, IPA Is Dead Edition

From retail woes to baby cans of grownup beer, here are some recent news and announcements from around the industry.

Brewing Industry Guide Staff Jan 19, 2023 - 8 min read

The Beer Ticker: Industry News & Notes, IPA Is Dead Edition Primary Image

Photo: Courtesy Westbound & Down

Bright Spots Are Few in Year-End Craft Retail Data

In the latest monthly data from IRI, the Chicago-based market research firm, there was not a lot for craft beer to celebrate in retail scans at the end of 2022. Looking at the total U.S. convenience stores and multi-outlets (which includes grocery stores), dollar sales in the IRI-defined “Craft” category were down 4.7 percent over the calendar year ending January 1, with volume down 8.6 percent. Among the top Craft styles, the only gains in dollar sales over that time were for variety packs (+5.7 percent) and wheat beer (+3.7 percent); the biggest drops were for ESB (-24.9 percent) and saison/farmhouse ales (-22.6 percent). Looking only at the last 12 weeks of the year, however, gainers included variety packs (+10 percent), wheat beer (+5.5 percent), and pilsner (+4.8 percent).

Retail Beer Prices Rose Faster than Inflation

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the consumer price index (CPI) for retail beer (“beer, ale, and other malt beverages at home”) was up 8.6 percent in December 2022 over the previous year; the index for beer away from home (i.e., in bars and restaurants) was up 6.1 percent over the previous year. The overall CPI, as a measure of inflation, was up 6.5 percent over the previous year.

Mallett Resigns from Bell’s

One of the most respected brewers in the industry has stepped down from his role at Bell’s Brewery. John Mallett, VP of Brewing and Quality at Bell’s—and at New Belgium, since the two companies joined in late 2021—plans to step down in late February, Bell’s announced. Mallett brewed and led brewers at Bell’s for 21 years; his previous roles included head brewer at Commonwealth Brewing in Boston and brewmaster at Old Dominion in Ashburn, Virginia. Along the way, he became one of the most respected minds in the industry and wrote the book on malt—Brewers Publications’ Malt: A Practical Guide from Field to Brewhouse, published in 2014. “John has dedicated decades to operations, quality, and safety at Bell’s and recently, across the broader organization,” New Belgium CEO Steve Fechheimer says in the announcement. “He has been an invaluable leader, teacher, friend, and coworker to all of us, and he will be greatly missed.”

Free Help Could Be Costly

Sometimes people love to help out, but it’s wise to think at least twice before making use of volunteers at your brewery. The Brewers Association recently published guidance on allowing volunteers to pitch in, including the potential for labor violations, legal risks, and safety issues. There are also several things to consider about accepting unpaid interns or trainees for educational purposes. The bottom line: Know the laws and think it through before accepting eager help on canning day or at that festival. Meanwhile: The BA says its members are eligible for discounted services from myHRcounsel, which offers HR services and HR-related legal support, including employment law advice and state-specific employee handbooks. More info is available on the BA website.


For CBC ’23, Early Bird Prices Until March 1

Brewers have until March 1 to get discounted early pricing when registering for the next Craft Brewers Conference, scheduled for May 7 to 10 in Nashville, Tennessee. Early prices for BA members are tiered according to brewery size, ranging from $399 to $649, and they include a $499 tier for breweries-in-planning. The early registration fee for non-members is $1,209. The schedule also includes the BrewExpo America trade show and World Beer Cup award ceremony. The conference this year also includes a special seminar track called THRIVE, dedicated to human resources, mental health, and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). To register, visit the CBC website.

Westbound & Down-Sized Cans

In what could be another blip or—just maybe—the harbinger of a long-predicted trend, Colorado’s Westbound & Down is releasing an unusually big beer in small, eight-ounce cans. School Night, at 14.5 percent ABV, is a blend of imperial stout and barleywine aged in various bourbon barrels for 14 to 18 months. “Coming from personal experience, we came to the realization that despite being fans of bigger, boozier, barrel-aged beers, sometimes there’s an apprehension about enjoying those styles during the work week [because of] the norm of packaging those beers in larger formats,” Eric Schmidt, the brewery’s creative director, says in the announcement. “By releasing beers like School Night in smaller formats, fans will now be able to responsibly enjoy these types of higher gravity beers in moderation throughout the work week.” The brewery plans to release the beer at its Lafayette taproom on January 21.

Fermentation Data Offer Insights on Popular Brews

Precision Fermentation analyzed the aggregated 2022 data gathered by its BrewIQ systems, used by breweries in 24 countries and 39 American states and territories. Among the findings: The top five styles fermented by those customers were (in descending order) American IPA, hazy IPA, American pale ale, German pilsner, and Munich helles. Style-wise, the biggest movers in percentage growth of fermentations over 2021 were strong bitter, Vienna lager, cream ale, Munich helles, and hazy IPA. The most popular day to start fermentation was Wednesday, while the least popular was Sunday; the most popular day to end fermentation was Monday, while the least popular was Saturday. The most common yeast strain used in fermentations was Fermentis Safale US-05, while the runner up was SafLager W-34/70. The average OG was 13.24°P (1.054), while the average FG was 3.46°P (1.014). (Hitting those averages would get you a typical 5.25 percent ABV.) Precision Fermentation also recently released the latest generation of its BrewIQ system (formerly known as BrewMonitor) for managing fermentation and tracking it in real time. For more info, see the Precision Fermentation website.

Rogue Releases Dead Guy IPA

Declaring that “IPAs Are Dead,” Rogue Ales & Spirits is expanding the brand family of its flagship beer, Rogue Dead Guy Ale. “Tropical and citrus hop aromas synchronize flawlessly with a piney and enjoyable bitter bite,” the brewery says in its announcement. “This West Coast IPA has a crisp finish thanks to Rogue’s proprietary Pacman yeast also used in Dead Guy Ale.” Released in mid-January, Dead Guy IPA will be a core, year-round offering. At 7 percent ABV and 69 IBUs, the beer is hopped with Citra, Mosaic, and Belma, and is available in 12-ounce cans and bottles and on draft.

A&E Conveyor Merges with Italy’s BIEFFECO

Two globally active makers of packaging equipment have announced a merger. A&E Conveyor Systems, based in Canton, Georgia, says it is merging with Italy-based BIEFFECO. While the move offers A&E more opportunities for “global reach,” the announcement says, BIEFFECO can strengthen its engineering, manufacturing, and support presence in the United States while looking to expand there. The move brings together A&E’s expertise in conveyor and accumulator systems with BIEFFECO design and manufacture of packaging solutions for a wide range of industries. “Overall, it creates a great synergy between organizations regarding the unique equipment and service solutions they can now offer their clients in the craft-brewing business category,” the announcement says.