Trends That Could Impact Your Brewery

Be it technology shifts or consumers’ palates​, a brewery has to seemingly stay on its toes constantly in looking for innovation.

Lift Bridge​, for an example, tells Brewer that the Stillwater, Minnesota brewery has implemented what ​they call the Innovation Team​.

“That includes representatives from production, sales, and marketing so that we can work together to stay in front of trends and map out the entire year for new pilot and experimentation batches​,” said co-founder Brad Glynn​. ​“​This also allows our distributors to be aware of what’s coming down the pipeline and assure that one-off brands are being put out thoughtfully.​“​

Across the country, breweries are creating their own niches, capitalizing on current trends or finding ways to refreshwhat was once passe.​

Better for You

Going into 2021, ​Great Lakes saw a huge opportunity to jump into the “better-for-you” space, which is something ​Brand Marketing Manager Marissa DeSantis said ​the Cleveland-based facility was beginning to dabble with ​at the​ brewpub.

​“​We saw a lot of craft breweries exploring low-calorie ​Lagers and IPAs —​ ​both locally and nationally —​ ​in response to trends around local and health-conscious consumption​,” she said. “​Rather than jump into what was becoming a bit of a crowded space, we began developing a low​-​calorie ​Wheat which would eventually become Crushworthy Lo-Cal Citrus Wheat.​“​

​DeSantis said that ​Crushworthy ​has been able to carve its own space in the “better for you” category, and incorporating real fruit puree and peel while still keeping it at just 105 calories​, ​helped differentiate Crushworthy even further.

​“​We continue to hear feedback from drinkers who appreciate the flavor and body of Crushworthy and consider its nutritional content more of a ​‘​nice to have,’​​ along with the consumers we hoped to earn who are expressly seeking out Crushworthy because it’s lower calorie,” she said. “Since Crushworthy’s incredibly successful debut in 2021, we have begun to see other craft breweries in our markets putting their spin on this style.​“

In May of 2022, ​Great Lakes is releasing ​a limited seasonal Crushworthy Collection Variety Pack, a new pack that includes the original Crushworthy along with Lemon Lime, Grapefruit, and Watermelon variants.

​“​We’re excited to continue growing this innovative brand and build upon its early success.​“​


The industry-wide trend of non-alcoholic beer offerings is what Summit sees, said Brandon Bland, Director of Sales.

“Not a day goes by where we don’t see another brewery announcing an NA beer at this point,” he said. Although there are breweries debuting across North America dedicated solely to producing NA beer, breweries are diving into making it a part of their portfolio as well.

Bauhaus Brew Labs leaped at the opportunity to innovate and explore new markets with its NA brands under the ‘Nah’ brand name. ABV Technology — also located in the Twin Cities — initially approached Bauhaus in September of 2018 about doing a test run of NA beer, explained co-founder and Head Brewer, Matt Schwandt.

”We decided that our Homeguys Helles was a really good base beer to use for NA testing because of its relatively mild profile,” he said. ”It turned out really amazing on the first go around, and we haven’t really changed the base recipe at all since that first run of “Nah” Helles.”

Bauhaus hasn’t actually written a recipe for the sole purpose of creating an NA beer end-product.

“Instead, we evaluate which of our base beers might translate well to an NA beer, and we have ABV run a small test volume through their machine for sensory evaluation,” Schwandt said. ”What we’ve observed in the past year is that mid-to-low ABV beer that is more on the malty side tends to result in a better NA beer than higher ABV or hoppy beers.”

As far as determining whether NA was a category worth pursuing, there were two factors involved:

  • ABV being located in the Twin Cities made it possible for Bauhaus to not have to make a huge capital expenditure in dealcoholizing equipment. “Our brand is one based on a spirit of innovation and celebration,” Schwandt said. “There are some really exciting innovations happening in NA in craft beer right now, and we wanted to be among the first movers in this space (in our region) as a craft brewery.”
  • The margins on NA are really tight for Bauhaus because Schwandt explained that they have to brew a full-strength base beer (Helles and Bock at the moment) and then pay for ABV for the dealcoholization processing on top of the ordinary production costs. So Bauhaus had to determine how to sell the NA product and be profitable. That meant finding a good volume of sales in the taproom, where margins are much more favorable than distribution. And it has opened a new direct-to-customer product via the brewery’s new online ordering system.

Alternatives to Hard Seltzer

Surly decided early on that the Minneapolis brewery wasn’t going to go down the road of making a hard seltzer

“For us, making seltzers didn’t fit into the standards we set for both the company and the brand,” explained VP of Marketing / Brand, Bill Manley. “That said, we absolutely understand from the consumer’s perspective why seltzers are so satisfying.”

So the Surly team went into it with a thought: “How can we deliver on the promise of seltzer — light, crisp, easy-drinking, with bright fruit-forward flavors that are easy to enjoy by beer fans and those who are skeptical of craft beer?”

The result was the Supreme family of beers, which in essence, has a traditional Berliner Weisse-style base with intense fruit character added on top.

“The resulting beers were light, crisp, refreshing, and unlike any beer that most have ever come across before,” Manley said. “We’re finding a middle ground with our fans. People who want something more robust and flavor-forward than a seltzer, but still very drinkable. Additionally, as a brand that has largely traveled in big, bold, and aggressive beers, we’re introducing Surly to an all-new consumer who assumed that Surly didn’t make anything for them.

“We still stay true to our brand mission and ethos, while staying on-pace with where consumer tastes have traveled. We get to have fun and swagger and add a little bit of attitude to a segment that mostly traffic in light vapid drinks without a lot of substance.”

IPA Innovation

Three Creeks owner Wade Underwood feels that the IPA category seems to be trending towards less intense hop bitterness in conjunction with the hazy movement, even in clear IPAs.

“We’re always developing new beers at our pub, so this lets our brew crew have fun and get creative,” he said.

DeSantis said that Great Lakes is noticing a trend towards tropical fruit-forward IPAs.

“While fruited IPAs have been around, there’s an emerging IPA profile that hits those big, fruity aromatic notes without adding actual fruit,” she said. “These ‘Tropical IPAs’ rely solely on expressive hop character to deliver aroma and flavor.”

So Great Lakes debuted TropiCoastal Tropical IPA in the late summer of 2021, with the goal to add another go-to IPA to its portfolio that promises the big tropical fruit aromas that modern IPA drinkers seek, while also offering more of a classic clear-drinking (non-hazy) American IPA profile with a more pronounced but clean bitterness.

“We see Tropical IPAs as more of an emerging style, and we’re already seeing breweries in our markets and beyond releasing ‘tropical’ versions of flagship IPA brands in their portfolio, or introducing new IPAs that deliver that characteristic fruity profile with balancing bitterness,” she said. “For us, it’s important to keep innovating in the key IPA category to offer a variety for every drinker and occasion.”

One beer style that Rogue Ale & Spirits sees on the rise is the Cold IPA.

“The Cold IPA is described as a cross between a pilsner and an IPA,” pointed out Rogue Communications Director Amanda Zessin. “Cold IPAs are a new twist on the IPA that yields a crisper IPA without dipping too far into being a Lager-style.

“Cold IPAs are hoppy and have a higher ABV but with a crystal-clear clarity.”

Rogue just launched Knuckle Buster Cold IPA in partnership with Revival Cycles in Austin, Texas. The beer opens with a delightful floral hop aroma that is followed by more hops, crackers, bread, and a soft sweetness across a very light body. The finish, they said, is crisp and refreshing with a nice bitter bite.

What’s Old is New

Another prevailing trend Bland said that Summit sees right now is that beer drinkers are returning to established brands known for producing high-quality and consistent offerings, and within these brands, they are also often seeing them start to return to easier drinking styles as well.

“For many years the trends have suggested that beer drinkers were continuing to seek out the extra-rare, extremely unique, many times most hoppy or ‘biggest’ beers they could find,” Bland said, “but there are more and more things leading us to believe this has begun to level off at a minimum.”

Bland said this all bodes well for Summit’s own portfolio as it has always been a focus to create highly drinkable, highly consistent beers and beer styles steeped in tradition.

“With that said, we look forward to introducing many of our beers to new customers and regaining some old customers along the way,” he said.

QR codes are back

​When a Rohrbach Brewing staff member first brought up the idea of using a QR code for contactless menus​ during the height of the pandemic in 2020​, Marketing Director Brittany Statt laughed to herself and immediately thought ‘no one uses those anymore.’

“I was certainly proved wrong,” she ​said​.

The Rochester, New York brewery has continued to use table tents with QR codes as a supplemental option to single-use paper menus since the idea was sprung. Many breweries across the country have taken hold of the idea and see it as a benefit to additional paper usage. Along with being contactless, it’s also more sustainable for the environment.

“It’s helped us not have to print menus and beer lists,” Statt pointed out. “Lower costs, better for the environment.”

With the public becoming more comfortable using QR codes (most smartphones don’t need an app anymore and the photo function will capture the code), Rohrbach has started to think about where else the QR codes could be used​, including putting QR codes on their label​​ to direct ​consumers ​to a web page with information about the beer — specs, video, and other fun details to experience while drinking the beer.

Along with those usable aspects, QR codes could be used for quick FAQs, such as enhanced sanitation and safety measures to promote your establishment, via online ads, on packaging, and more.


​A veteran that has been through many bottles of beer, Rogue is undergoing a major packaging update​ as it has committed to​ ​switching from plastic 6-pack rings ​for its cans ​to 100% recyclable cardboard wrap boxes in an effort to use less plastic and reduce waste.

“Cardboard wrap packs provide a more sustainable solution while also protecting the product and showcasing our award-winning graphic designs​,” said Rogue President, Dharma Tamm​. ​“​This was a huge commitment from our entire team, and we can’t wait to see this packaging on shelves in the new year.”

Made of 100% recyclable materials, Rogue’s new wrap packs will reduce over 100,000 pounds of plastic waste to landfills annually. In addition to reducing plastic waste, the wrap pack substrate is responsibly sourced through sustainable forestry practices.

​The brewery also recently upgraded ​its can line and can now run at 235 cans per minute or 14,100 cans an hour.

​“​The majority of our products are now sold in cans due to consumer demand so this upgrade was essential​,” Zessin said.​

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