Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Seasonal Creeps

Ahhhh the leaves are changing colors, there's a chill in the air, football is in full-swing, and Halloween plans are afoot... Wait what? None of this is going on, yet here we are in early August and pumpkin beers have been sitting on the shelf for weeks, not to mention Oktoberfest beers... OKTOBERfest (yes I know the traditional German event starts in late September, but at least that's 6ish weeks away).

Look I'm a fan of pumpkin beers and some Oktoberfest beers, but jumping the gun by 3 months is a bit much for me, to the point where I'm blogging about it- BLOGGING!! Is this really hurting anyone? Probably not. Do I want to drink a cloying, heavily spiced beer, while the heat index is still in the 80s and 90s? Certainly not. This is about the sanctity of the seasons and what's appropriate. 

I understand why this seasonal creep keeps shifting farther and farther away from calendar appropriate dates- money. First to market  gives you a perceived advantage and the "limited edition seasonal" buzz drives a lot of sales; Sam Adam's Oktoberfest is their best selling beer after all. The earlier you can get it out, the earlier you're raking in that seasonal money. 

My biggest beef is with the holiday seasonals, I'm looking at you Christmas and pumpkin beers, because they have a distinctive profile (spiced and/or fruits/vegetables added) and are directly tied to calendar holidays. Summer, Spring, and to a certain degree Winter beers get a pass, because they don't always meet the criteria mentioned above. There's something that feels cheery about having a Christmas or pumpkin beer in the couple weeks leading up to those holidays... not couple months. Most of you have probably walked into your favorite one-stop-big-box-shop and seen holiday decorations up for sale months in advance and sighed "already??" This is how I feel about the inappropriatly early seasonal beers. 

There has to be a cutoff though, right? When is early too early? I personally will not buy or drink a fall beer until October. I have grown weary of the creep, and I know I'm not alone, but there's still enough people out there that will grab a seasonal at initial release for the creep to continue. Will fatigue set in as creep keeps creeping and more seasonal options show up every year? Breweries bank on that "Oh! [insert favorite seasonal] is out! I have to get me some of that" reaction, but at some point early is going to be too early and that "Already??" reaction is going to become more common. The one thing that will combat that is...

Availability or perceived availability... that phrase "limited edition" has a lot of power. When people (meaning me) do want to drink seasonals in-season, will they be able to find their beer of choice? In some cases the more popular seasonals arrive early and in actual limited supply, so you're left buying into the creep and sitting on the beers until you want to drink them (or drinking them early) or missing them altogether. Personally I'm gambling this year; there's enough options, I don't really care that much (just ask my 2013 imperial pumpkin beers in my cellar), and I have principles dammit. 

I'm never going to demand someone stop drinking pumpkin beers 3 months early, but just think about what feels better. Would you rather be drinking a pumpkin beer poolside with NFL training camp going on or while carving a pumpkin and football in full swing? Right now is the time to enjoy the wheats, IPAs, or whatever reminds you of summer... you know, the "limited edition" beers that hit the shelf in February. 

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