(Easton, PA) – Summertime ales and lagers just don’t stand a chance.
It’s a theme I’ve discussed before . . . the helter skelter arrangement at many breweries by which beers associated with a season are generally released well in advance of the season. The obvious example of this is the introduction of pumpkin ales around the last week of July. What’s the reason for this?
Well, there could be a number of them.
The hot, summer months cause an uptick in beer sales which, for craft breweries in particular, is helped by light-drinking styles that tend to be easier to approach for mainstream drinkers. This would mean that breweries need to ship out those fall seasonals ahead of schedule in order to keep otherwise empty shelves stocked, right? Along those lines, a seasonal might sell so well (or the seasonal before it sells so poorly) that the brewery needs to expand its availability timeframe.
Meanwhile, the cynic may argue that there is competition to see who can get out the beers from a particular season first. If Brewery A gets their product out first, every day that goes by is an opportunity to take market share away from Brewery B.
Then there are those autumn Harvest Ales and fresh hop beers that are becoming increasingly popular and, along with Oktoberfest beers, breweries are faced with a bevy of options with which to release once the calendar hits September.
Perhaps those late July pumpkin ales are the result of some combination of the above . . .
So should it come as a surprise that now we’ve officially turned the calendar to July, there is already news of a pumpkin ale release?
Weyerbacher Brewing has possibly added a wrinkle to this year’s schedule. President Dan Weyerbacher, announced that Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin went on sale at the brewery this past Saturday and will ship to wholesalers this week due to “space constraints.” Considering that 80% of the pumpkin supply in the U.S. isn’t available until October, that arguably puts this beer’s release at one full season ahead of schedule. Is this the same batch that rolled off the bottling line during the last week of May? If so, the brewing of this beer is more like five months ahead of its season. Where are the pumpkins used in this beer being grown? Are there places in the U.S. that plant pumpkins, which generally grow for a few months, in mid-late winter? [Ed. Note: questions posed to the brewery for this article were not immediately returned.]
Now, it begs the question as to whether other breweries will follow suit or keep to their schedules. In observing the competitive landscape for the style, the popular examples are all brewed along the upper East Coast: Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin, Southern Tier Pumking, Dogfish Head Punkin, Brooklyn Post Road Pumpkin, Shipyard Pumpkinhead and Smuttynose Pumpkin. It will be interesting to see whether any of them reach shelves before the last week of July this year.
One thing to keep in mind, as brought up in this BA thread, is that stores sometimes bring out unsold seasonals and mix them in with new ones as they roll out. Buyer beware of the early pumpkins.