It’s always a nice feeling when data backs up your anecdotal observations, especially about beer. I recently read this post from Bart Watson, the Brewers Association’s chief economist, who often writes on the subject of beer statistics. He crunched some numbers to explain an interesting phenomenon that I’ll dub “the November beer gap.”
That gap is the lack of strong consumer interest in a seasonal style between pumpkin beers and spiced Christmas beers. It’s a lag I notice when I’m out at a bar and even in our office. Pumpkin beers begin arriving (“Too early!” you scream) in July and August, when it’s still well over 100°F in some parts of the country. We drink them, appropriately, in September, but mostly in October. Then once November hits, Americans are done with them. Watson cites sales data for seasonals (like pumpkin beers) and Oktoberfest lagers, which drop off in November, as well as Google search numbers for pumpkin beers, which nosedive as soon as we flip the calendar to November.
So it’s November, and we’re over pumpkin beers and Oktoberfests, but data and my own experience show we’re not quite in the holiday beer mindset yet. While we’ve certainly seen Christmas and other holiday spiced beers arrive in the office already, I’m not sure consumers are quite … ready for those. Watson’s data show that seasonal beer sales remain low throughout most of November until Christmas beers cause an uptick in purchases after Thanksgiving. Again, makes sense. You’re putting the tree up after Thanksgiving, maybe stringing some holiday lights around, and all right, maybe you’d pick up some Anchor Christmas or Shmaltz Hanukkah, Chanukah: Pass The Beer.
But what to drink between Halloween and Thanksgiving? It’s a whole month without clear seasonal beer mooring. Watson notes increased interest in stouts and porters around this time, which I see echoed on draft lines and shelves. This is also when breweries tend to release specialty one-offs, which see a marked increase in November and December. But what else could fill the seasonal gap? I’d cast a vote for wet- and fresh-hop beers, which hit around the same time and offer a change of pace between the pumpkin spice and winter’s dark malts, peppermint and cinnamon. Take a look over the data Watson rounded up, and let me know what you’re drinking during the November gap. Together, I’m sure we can find beer to fill these long, murky November weeks.