Brewing in 2020 feat. Modist Brewing, Steel Toe Brewing, Hammerheart Brewing, Mighty Axe Hops

Austin Lunn of Lino Lakes-based Hammerheart Brewing speaks at the Brewing in 2020 brewers panel at Top Ten Liquors in Blaine, Minnesota.

Austin Lunn of Lino Lakes-based Hammerheart Brewing

While not technically a podcast episode, this panel was recorded March 25 at Top Ten Liquors in Blaine.

I was joined by Michael Wagner of Steel Toe Brewing; Keigan Knee of Modist Brewing; Austin Lunn of Hammerheart Brewing; and Ben Boo of Mighty Axe Hops. The panel zoomed in on some factors that could affect the brewing industry over the next three years. The main discussion points looked at international relations, climate change, water usage, brewing innovations, and market trends.

I hope the good time we had comes through in the recording, despite the unevenness of the audio quality at times (we had a lot of mics going in a lot of different directions). We had a great mix of visitors, from a group who is on the cusp of launching a commercial operation to folks new to craft beer. The panelists did a fantastic job, and I’d like to think I did okay, of offering points that could be understood by everyone in attendance.

This was only my second time hosting a panel, and it was exactly as I hoped it would be. I cannot thank the panelists, guests, and Top Ten Liquors enough. Look for more of these in the future.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • A significant tax increase on imported goods, should it come to pass, could hit brewers hard (6:38). The biggest potential struggles could come with everything from obtaining malts, and brewing equipment, to the merchandise you see in the taprooms. While there is a formidable effort to localize, domestic providers as a whole haven’t yet caught up to brewery needs. The process of adjustment to purely domestic sourcing would take time; but, in many cases, could be done. I could have asked this question better, but our panelists provided great information here.
  • Mighty Axe Hops has grown significantly over the past few years, and more growth is expected (19:17) both for them and Minnesota’s hop industry. Ben Boo said it’s far too early to look ahead to that. In the now, Boo is looking at last year’s weather events – specifically, three “hundred-year” weather events in the span of August – as a potential cause for concern.
  • Small changes in weather, besides the expected seasonality, don’t significantly impact the brewing process (24:40). Instead, the very present threat of water shortage is the primary climate concern among brewers. In response, brewers are looking at all aspects of their operations to reduce water use.
  • We had a halftime break (33:47) and talked about the biggest brewing disasters our panelists have ever had. Some were small. Others were … a bit bigger.
  • We left the “craft beer bubble” alone for the most part, but we did discuss how the rising number of breweries affects their ability to buy the ingredients they need to make beer (48:15).
  • Breweries are planning into the future, long beyond 2020 in some cases. In Ben’s case, the rise of breweries is bringing up Midwest hop growers with it (54:45) but there’s a long way to go because this region’s production scratches the surface of areas like the Pacific Northwest.
  • While the brewing process itself hasn’t changed in the past three years, success has afforded brewers the opportunity to take more chances and risk failure (57:00).
  • If you’re wondering how Modist Brewing’s new system works, Keigan Knee broke it down in detail (1:03:15). We also discussed how information is shared between brewers in this marketplace.

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