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Brews News: This year’s predictions from the craft beer crystal ball

what was, what will be It’s the end of another year and time for my craft beer crystal ball.

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what was, what will be It’s the end of another year and time for my craft beer crystal ball.

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Buy, buy breweries: The past year has been an incredibly busy one for mergers and acquisitions teams. A new company, SymBev, bought three properties: Railway City in St. Thomas; Crank, a brand founded by Ivey Business School students and fraternity brothers; and Locker Room, a cheap lager. Among others, Collingwood’s Side Launch (bought by London’s Equals Brewing), Toronto’s Amsterdam (bought by Denmark’s Royal Unibrew) and Waterloo Brewing (Carlsberg) switched. Toronto’s Steam Whistle brought in Beau’s of Vankleek Hill. Expect more of the same in 2023, but keep an eye out for sluggish breweries pouncing on booming deals while large, international breweries chill on the fringes

Ready like dinner: Many brewery taprooms have struggled to avoid becoming pubs, meaning no big-screen TVs showing sports channels and decent food. We can do without the TV, but the hunger hurts us. Sure, there’s often snacking, underwhelming pre-made sandwiches, and a willingness for customers to order pizza for delivery. But going forward, craft breweries need a cool food game during peak hours. Praise be to those who can wield a kitchen on site, because when it comes to slinging beer, food is no enemy.

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Imagine it: There is only so much one newspaper columnist can do to boost brewing, aka the world’s favorite business. Images posted for free by Beer Nuts must be accommodated and styled for a striking photographic impact. That means pouring beers with nice and thick foam heads and setting up flights cleverly. Instagram-worthy tablets. Sure, flights are a hassle to water and clean, but aren’t you in the service industry?

Plugged in: Free electricity for everyone! There’s nothing quite like having outlets along the bar for charging phones, rather than taking the leap of faith to plug in a floor level outlet. If beer nuts stay and keep ordering until their phones are fully charged, isn’t that a win?

Where’s the remote control? No, not for TV, for the brewery. Road trips, adventure and discovery are the new cool for consumers. Sure, few can rival remote Ursa Minor Brewing on the Little Bear cattle station, somewhere near Burns Lake, BC. It’s a brewery destination challenge that should be on everyone’s bucket list, and if you’re arriving by seaplane, as myself and a group of writers did this year, so much better. For those who don’t have access to a de Havilland Beaver, try the easier-to-find River Road Brewery down a country lane near Bayfield. Just don’t let the Texas Longhorns nudge you.

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Flight owners can be inventive, like this tribute to the Peace Bridge at Gene McCarthy's Old First Ward Brewing in Buffalo, NY (Wayne Newton/Special to Postmedia Network)
Flight owners can be inventive, like this tribute to the Peace Bridge at Gene McCarthy’s Old First Ward Brewing in Buffalo, NY (Wayne Newton/Special to Postmedia Network)

Pour yourself: We pour our own pop at fast food restaurants and scan our own groceries at Walmart. Why can’t we pour our own beer? Pour-your-own beer walls exist in many US states, including Michigan. Would they work well at beer festivals? I think so.

Convenience, no: I’ve been craving beers at grocery stores (it’s been so long in Ontario now that it feels like it’s been a thing, not an outrageous controversy, forever). But beer in food areas of convenience stores like 7-11 seems out of place. Thumbs down for this idea. I bet most people stick to a Slurpee with their hot dogs and taquitos.

Mixed: Beer mixes have been brewed at home for ages, why not at the pub brewery too? I was shocked when a pub in Toronto’s Liberty Village was stunned by my request for Beermosa at brunch (orange juice and wheat beer, let’s go) because I thought it was well known. It’s also the tip of the iceberg of possibilities. The hot idea this past Christmas was eggnog and stout, as promoted by the Beer Store’s excellent recipe section. Let’s look at brewpubs using beer as a cocktail ingredient.

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Warm beer: No, the British don’t plug in here. We think since mulled wine and warm cider are winter things, why not heated or mulled beer? It seems to hit the spot during seasonal markets at places like Toronto’s Stackt or Distillery District, London’s 100 Kellogg, or even an outdoor winter beer festival like Steam Whistle’s Roundhouse event. A little flame on the fruit beer, please.

European beer is best: Ah, those European styles, the pinnacle of beer. You know the quality of these styles in restaurants like London’s Marienbad. But who would have expected a German-inspired, locally brewed beer to make its way into the pub alongside the big boys? London’s 4est warehouse is at 122 Carling Street. This should inspire other craft brewers to reconsider their European styles because they truly are the best.

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Scurvy Fighter: Since we can’t seem to get enough of fruit-flavored seltzer, keep an eye out for brewers making it big at the retort of beer: Fruity IPAs brewed with real tropical fruit and fruit-flavored hops. Hopefully the hop gardens have lots of Citra, Mosaic and Simcoe.

Water You Know: Breweries that are good environmentalists will score with their customers. Bike lockers and vehicle charging stations are two options. But water is key, and a great example of good water practices is Bench Brewing in Beamsville, Niagara. Since opening in 2018, 100 percent of the treated brewery wastewater is recycled to irrigate an adjacent hop garden and nearby orchards. Beer that you can drink with a good feeling is good marketing and good citizenship. let’s see more

Wayne Newton is a freelance journalist based in London.

[email protected]


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