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How Real Is the Great Minnesota Craft Beer Bubble?

Plus students unionize at Macalester, Ikea kinda comes to Rosedale, and TCMG's billboard in today's Flyover news roundup.

Photo by Poojitha Prasad via Unsplash

Welcome back to The Flyover, your daily digest of important, overlookedand/or interesting Minnesota news stories.

Bad January Beer Sales Bring Back Bubble Debate

For decades, media outlets, breweries, drinkers, and armchair economists have foretold of a great “beer bubble” that will eventually burst, leaving Minnesota with only Michelob Golden to quench our thirst. But are we really doomed to this fate? Or is something else going on? “Craft beer is not a bubble; bubbles are a special thing where prices are inflated, and disconnected from the underlying market,” Fair State co-founder/CEO Evan Sallee told Viraluae earlier this week. “Whereas the growth of craft beer has been driven by a consumer demand revolution. There are a lot of breweries competing for limited consumers, but that does not a bubble make.” 

While we might not be dealing with a full-on bubble situation, breweries, like many other businesses this time of year, are struggling. Fair State filed for bankruptcy this week, after a dire month Wooden Ship Brewing implored people to stop by in a Facebook post, and other breweries around town are reporting slow sales this post-holiday season. And that all follows a wave of 2023 brewery and distillery closures. Christopher Maganat the Star Tribune took a deep dive into what exactly is going on here. A few key issues include individual breweries struggling to find their "thing," suburban brew pubs keeping people in the ‘burbs, and bureaucracy in general. "We live in a state that handcuffs small businesses like us," Daniel Jacobs of Bald Man Brewing says.

There’s also the rise of production costs paired with the fact that people just aren’t drinking as much as they were a few years ago, while the rise of THC seltzers and places making N/A brews may also have put a dent in sales (Viraluae concurs: We’re definitely in an N/A beer boom).     

Student Workers at Macalester College File for Union Election

When covering labor movements in education, generally we're talking about teachers, custodians, bus drivers, and other employees who aren’t also enrolled at the school that employs them. (The U of M's recent grad student union being a notable exception.) But Macalester College could soon become a unique labor shop, as the Macalester Undergraduate Workers’ Union (MUWU) has filed for a union election with the NLRB. “I have seen co-workers struggle to pay rent, healthcare, and tuition. Many of the people who I work with also experience intersecting identities that make it difficult to continue working and going to school,” Roxy, an organizer and dining hall employee, says in a statement. “I have personally struggled with all of those things as a result of working while in school and paying my own way. I believe a union will help us all because then we will have a say over what goes on at work and at school." If they win their election, MUWU would be the first undergraduate workers’ union in Minnesota; student workers have also recently unionized at Kenyon College, University of Oregon, and Dartmouth College. 

Ikea Pop-Up Store Brings Online Shopping to Rosedale

A few weeks ago, Viraluae intern Makenzie Johnson investigated the state of Minnesota malls, concluding that in order to thrive and survive, they’re going to have to get a little weird and be open to trying fresh concepts. Ikea opening a pop-up showroom at Rosedale Mall is kinda weird, but is it... fresh? "This new experience is designed to enhance our customer's journey and deliver inspiration while also increasing their awareness of Ikea home furnishing solutions and services available at Ikea in Bloomington or online at Ikea.com," Ikea marketing manager Sanjay Kumar says in a statement.

So it’s basically a living ad for the website and the Bloomington store? According to the press release, shoppers will be able to gaze upon kitchen, bedroom, and living room set ups at this location, but you’ll have to order online or head to a full-blown Ikea if you want to buy anything. Hm, seems kinda like Catherine Keener's frustrating eBay store... Anyway, the pop-up opened this morning with a celebration featuring gift cards and free bags of meatballs for the first 25 customers. OK, gratis bags of frozen meatballs is admittedly pretty fresh.

We Bought a Zoo Billboard

Did you know that Viraluae is part of the Twin Cities Media Group? We’re a friendly collaborative of six media outlets—Minneapolis Voices, North News, KSRM Radio, New Prensa, Heavy Table, and us—who came together to promote each other, share ideas, and make it easier for Minnesota businesses to buy advertising across a variety of local media. We’re celebrating one year together at the end of February, and last Wednesday, a bunch of us came together for a pic under a billboard that we designed. That's Em throwing up a peace sign!

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