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Alumni in Action

The Business of Beer: Business Badger Brewers Tap In To Trends, Tradition, and Innovation

By Alumni Relations

March 3, 2022

With a market projected to grow to more than $146 billion by 2025, the beer industry continues to captivate consumers and brew masters alike. The same was true for viewers who tuned in to The Business of Beer hosted by the Wisconsin School of Business on Tuesday, March 1. 

The live virtual discussion featured Badgers Dan Abel (BBA ’10), co-founder and chief executive officer of Pilot Project Brewing in Chicago, and Steve Holle (MS ’88), founder of Kansas City Bier Company. The conversation covered trending topics in the malted brew industry including beer types and flavors, sustainable production and packaging practices, and best tips to break into the industry.

Coming from two different business models—one steeped in the tradition of German-style beer production, and one helping brewers innovate to creatively break into the industry—Holle and Abel regaled guests with their vast insights into the U.S. beer market.

The beer industry was not immune to the economic fallout of the pandemic. With microbrewers struggling to keep taps open over the last two years and the rising inflation costs for every aspect of production and distribution, consumers should be prepared to see their favorite microbrew prices go up this year.

“I think there was some level of hope that it would return to some level of normalcy, but the reality is that it won’t,” says Abel. “This is the new norm.”

Despite the effects on the pocketbook, Holle and Abel said microbrewing isn’t going anywhere.

“I believe the microbrew industry will continue to grow, but it will be in small tasting room focused breweries,” said Holle. “And that mostly has to do with the fact that most people who work in this industry love beer and work in it because they love it.”