Over the last couple weeks I’ve started to see it creep into social media messages and show up on local liquor store shelves. A number of breweries have released their pumpkin and Fall seasonal beers already. In July. The middle of the summer by pretty much any definition, yet these brewers and distributors think it’s time for Fall beer. I know there have been plenty of complaints about this in the craft beer community (and it seems to happen with every season), but I need to rant about it for a few minutes. Because who the hell wants to drink a Fall beer on a 90 degree day? This “seasonal creep” has become all too common and it really needs to stop.
I love living in New England. I’ve lived here my whole life (ME, MA, and CT), and I have no intention of leaving. One of the main reasons I love New England is the seasons. Sure it can suck when there is two feet of snow in the Winter or 100 degree/100% humidity days in the Summer, but the extremes make you truly appreciate the weather on the oft occasions that it’s agreeable. Southern California can keep its 80 degrees and sunny every day of the year, I’ll keep my seasons. The fall is probably my favorite season, cooler temperatures, more hearty food, football Sundays and malty beer. That being said, I am enjoying the warm summer days filled with BBQs and light bodied beers, and I am not ready to give them up yet.
The seasons in New England are one of the reasons I got into craft beer. In college I discovered seasonal beers, specifically those by Sam Adams, and I was amazed how well the flavors of each beer matched the weather and feel of a particular season. One of my favorites was always the Octoberfest, the rich malty Marzen was ideal for a crisp Fall, New England evening. I would look forward to the Octoberfest release every year, realizing that I had just a short window from early September to mid-November when the beer would be available. This anticipation was a good thing, but it’s ruined when the fall seasonal brews get released in July and by October the shelves are full of Winter releases.
Seasonal creep needs to stop. The breweries claim that the consumers want the beers early, but I call BS. I think this is being driven by the enormous selection available to craft beer consumers now. There are so many pumpkin beers, so by being one of the first breweries to release the beer you encourage consumers to give your selection a try. I see a few potential solutions. The first is obvious, you have the power as a consumer. Don’t drink these beers out of season, and if you have a friend who orders one feel free to give them such a hard time that they have no choice but to change their mind. If the beers don’t sell it puts pressure on the bars and stores to stock something else until the weather turns. No bar wants to occupy a tap line with a beer no one is drinking. The second is a little harder, and maybe unrealistic, but I’ll throw it out there anyways. We could boycott the seasonal releases of the brewers who are driving this, and use social media to let them know. We have plenty of options, and plenty of brewers who will wait until September to release their Fall beers. Beer is best when it’s fresh, who knows how long that Fall beer has been sitting around by the time it’s actually appropriate weather to enjoy it. Any other ideas? I am open to suggestions, I just know this annoys the hell out of me and seems to be getting worse.
I tend to enjoy pumpkin beer best in the early winter or very late fall. This style more than most has suffered from seasonal creep leaving nothing fresh on the shelves around Thanksgiving and Christmas, two times of the year I most associate with pumpkin. This also makes me really wonder where the brewers are getting pumpkin in late Spring? http://mrhopsbeertalk.wordpress.com/2013/10/20/i-think-its-still-just-a-bit-early-for-pumpkin-beer/
Many breweries don’t even use real pumpkin in their beers, it’s “pumpkin spices”. I agree that the fall is the worst season for seasonal creep, it’s also the biggest difference in beer style (summer beers to fall beers). I look towards the more local breweries that still focus on releasing fresh season-appropriate beers.
I’m with you on the problem of seasonals coming in so far ahead but disagree with the notion of slagging one’s friends over what they drink so as to make them order something else. I wouldn’t want someone seriously attempting to talk me out of a beer because they don’t like when it’s sold. We can all talk about it and debate the points but at the end of the day I can’t make another person’s beer choices, nor can they make mine.
Thanks for your comment! My friends and I give each other a hard time all the time, especially when we’re out for beers. I agree, if someone really wants the beer there is nothing I can do and I would let it go, but I would at least mention it if a friend is ordering a fall seasonal on a 90 degree day.