Let’s face it, most New Year’s resolutions are meant to be broken. Or maybe most just end up that way. You know the ones – losing weight, being a better person, a better husband or wife, going to the gym more, eating better, and so on and so forth. But what about New Year’s resolutions for the craft beer industry? Well, in order to find that out I asked 10 Buffalo beer luminaries, a group consisting brewery owners and presidents, head brewers, beer bar owners and the like, what their resolutions for the local craft beer scene in the New Year were.

Matt Kahn, president, Big Ditch Brewing – “Our resolution is to continue to innovate as much as we can, while continuing to stay true and consistent to who we are. That means we want to make all sorts of new products this year without losing sight of what we’re already doing well.”

Scott Shuler, head brewer, Hofbrauhaus Buffalo – “Let’s face it, 2023 was hard for small businesses and the craft beer industry. What used to work for having a brewery is experiencing a shift. Brewing great beer and winning awards used to bring in customers, but that appears to not be enough now. It is hard for me to pinpoint the reasons and shifts as I brew old school German beers, but I see my peers struggling or having to adapt to the shifting tides. As I’ve had time to reflect and ponder during the down time with the January snowstorms, a few patterns have emerged. One is that the focus on local is big and two, the need to be creative is huge. As I brew only German beers, the creativity part is traded for consistency and tenacity. I want to see my peers have a laser focus and seek that balance we all strive for in life. For Hofbrauhaus, I want to see us grow into the Buffalo German destination of choice. I take pride in the beers we brew and the traditions we uphold and love sharing both of those with everyone.”

BriarBrothers Brewing Company – “2023 was a crazy year for BriarBrothers. It was our first full year of operating and it was a whirlwind week in a week out. We learned a lot in 2023 and are looking forward to making our lives a little easier now that we’ve found our sea legs a bit more. That’s why we set about making our New Year’s resolution to take a breath and have fun. We don’t want to take for granted that we’re able to operate a business in an amazing industry and a fun-loving city.

We’re so fortunate that the community has embraced us as much as they have and we don’t want to miss a moment of that. Whether it’s a regular cracking a joke at the bar, a new pup visiting the taproom for the first time, or grabbing a 4-pack and hitting a round at South Park, the laughs are what make it easier to continue to grind. That’s not to say we will be slowing down at all and we have a lot of exciting things planned for 2024; but hopefully you see a big smile on the Betti boys’ faces while we’re at it.”

Dan Syracuse, owner, Pizza Plant – “The aspect that would be great for craft beer would be to regain the excitement. Not long ago I could have a tasting of five Stone [Brewing] beers and maybe only one was somewhat hard to get, and half the beer community would show up. We’ve come far with quality and varieties since (say the late 90’s), but beer is spread really thin – much going on, too many combinations to keep track of – I mean, some nice beers out there, but how many combinations can we digest?! Hard to see the excitement return, but maybe it has, just in a form that is expected, and taken for granted, a product like the old days where you go to the corner bar and just ask for…a beer.”

Jeff Pitts, owner, Steel Leaf Brewing – “I’ve always been a huge fan of exploring new styles, and experimenting with unique ingredients. As a brewer I often look for these brews at other local breweries and gravitate toward them. I love trying different styles that I haven’t experienced before and try to bring those ideas back to Steel Leaf to incorporate them into our style for others to experience too. You can almost always find something special, or unique at our brewery, but I’d like to dive into less popular brews like open fermentations, cold IPA’s and some barrel-aged stuff to broaden our horizons collectively expanding our local beer knowledge and capability.

I also see 2024 as a really great opportunity to dedicate ourselves to supporting local breweries by frequenting their taprooms, purchasing beer and participating in brewery events. I hope that the beer festivals and special events make a huge comeback after losing a little steam during COVID. These events are not only super fun but offer opportunities to taste a wide range of beers and to learn from industry experts. My resolution is to attend, support and help these types of events grow.”

Erik Greiner, head brewer, Belt Line Brewing – “My hope for craft beer in 2024 is the return of consumer craft beer education. The industry has been dominated by hazy IPAs and fruited sours for a couple of years now. I dream of a tap list that can showcase the complexity of what water, hops, barley and yeast can provide with the process to create a wonderful liquid. Variety is the spice of life and the time is now, bring back Saisons and Belgian Dubbels followed by a nice Robust Porter. Learning the history of beer is a wonderful journey and I feel like that is being lost, there are a lot of talented brewers in this town being bottlenecked by consumerism which is a double edged sword … as the lights need to stay on. It is a two way street with an attainable goal, we as brewery’s can educate the consumer on fun new brews, and the consumer could get curious and buy that bottle or can of something they have always wondered about. That is my hope for craft beer in 2024 and I hope everyone has a great time navigating the wild world of craft beer with good company.”

Jeff Ware, president, Resurgence Brewing – “In 2024, we would like to put some focus into our core packages for Resurgence and BlackBird Cider Works. Both brands have a lot to offer and we want to make sure consumers have a chance to enjoy the products that have built the company. While we all have enjoyed the variety of new beers that have been hitting the shelves since COVID, we have found many have never even had a Green Heart or Citmo IPA … which are really great beers! The addition of Blackbird to the portfolio also gives us some very well-crafted ciders to work with, something we are very excited about. Innovation will always be at the heart of Resurgence and that will certainly continue. This year we just want to do a little better job showcasing some of our best innovations!”

Adam Burnett, head brewer, Eli Fish Brewing – “I know at Eli Fish we are in a unique spot. I made a lot of shifts in 2023 based on moving trends, and 2024 will just be doubling down on them. Expensive beer is a necessary marketing showpiece, but the market on them is tanking. I’ll continue to brew some unique and creative barrel aged beers, and outside the box heavily fruited sours, but they are not the money maker for the standard brewery, nor us. Lagers and light beers are dominating, and while I used to have 3-4 at a time, I’m shifting to 4-6 at a time for 2024. I made some edits to how I make NEIPAs, and they are booming now. I never thought I’d brew so many, but I think in 2024, we’ll have 3-4 NEIPAs on all the time. The demand is still there. Most fascinating is the drive for dark, but light bodied, beer.  Dark lagers, English porters, and other easy-to-drink dark beers have been moving well, and I hope this continues to pick up.

From the outside looking in … I hope for 2024, the chase and hype continues to slow down, not that there is much left at this point. We’re still seeing new breweries open every month, but now we’re also seeing a closing about as frequently. If beer sales are the lowest we’ve seen in a generation, chasing the high from what beer looked like in 2015 isn’t going to slow down that decline. I hope all breweries can take a step back this year and focus on what makes their brands great, remembering that we have to begin with a great liquid, atmosphere, and for most of us – food. There is a reset of the industry happening, and this winter and spring could feel even bleaker.

2024 can be a great year for local breweries, who have realistic expectations, and are able to shift with the demands of a hurting industry.”

Chris Smith, owner, Community Beer Works – “Here are the top three CBW resolutions for 2024: Build a CBW taproom dedicated to the art of what we do best; brewing world-class beer, and building community, Chris Smith and Ryan Demler resolve to eat wings from a different weekly location to find the perfect wing pairing for Single Order Hazy IPA, and continue building a company that reflects our values and looks like our community.”

Matt Matuszewski, head brewer, 42 North Brewing – “My resolution for the new year is to finally sign up for Untappd and to 5 star every Buffalo beer I can manage. There’s enough negativity in the world, we don’t need that in beer.”

Brian Campbell is co-founder and Brand Manager of the Buffalo Beer League, and writes the weekly Buffalo Beer Buzz column. If you have beer news that should be included in the Beer Buzz, Brian can be reached at brian@buffalobeerleague.com, on Twitter (@buffbeerleague), Instagram (@buffalobeerleague), and Facebook (@thebuffalobeerleague).