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Fashionably early

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This last week DRAFT’s offices have come under assault by the legions of FedEx, UPS and the USPS. In other words, we’ve had a ton of beer shipped to us for sampling. Yes, it is quite rad.

Beers ranging from Berliner weisses to IPAs to the experimental variety (one made with peanuts from Throwback Brewery) have been unpacked, tagged and are ready for tasting. But, while unpacking all these boxes, I couldn’t help but notice a few oddities in the seasonal department: Pumpkin beers and winter ales have already arrived. Specifically, four pumpkin beers and two winter beers. Today in Phoenix—where our editorial department is based—we’re scheduled to hit 103 degrees.

As a magazine that works pretty far in advance, DRAFT gets lots of seasonal samples ahead of their scheduled release. But each year, I hear more and more people noting (some lamenting) the fact that those early arrivals are popping up on shelves, too.

As the number of breweries continues to grow (as well as the number that package) it makes sense from a business perspective to be the first out of the gate when it comes to seasonal releases, pumpkin ales being an example often cited. Personally, I’m not too bothered by pumpkin beer in early September—maybe that’s because I live in Phoenix, where it always feels like summer. On the other hand, I can’t argue with those who point out the ridiculousness of prematurely releasing beers ahead of their traditionally scheduled drinking time. We’re trying to keep a schedule here, man.

Have you noticed seasonal releases arriving way before you think they should? Do you buy them or wait until the weather finally turns?

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Chris Staten is DRAFT’s beer editor. Follow him on Twitter at @DRAFTbeereditor and email him at chris.staten@draftmag.com.


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  • Dave says:

    Actually Total Wine and a few other local stores already have the fall/pumpkin ale aisle already set up and filled. It’s great to get these ales a little early here in North Carolina as anything under 90 this time of year feels like fall has begun.

    But at the same time this also means the more popular ones disappear before October even gets here. One prime example is Saranac Pumpkin ale which is limited release and rather popular. Starting today it has hit shelves in local stores. My wife and I will both stop on the way home from work to stock up as it will sell out before end of September and we want to take some to the mountains for our anniversary trip mid-October.

    That in and of itself is a shame.

  • Janet Hall says:

    We tapped a keg of Southern Tier Pumking last Friday and it was gone in a few days. Consumers don’t want to wait a year for a beer to hit the market again. I’ve talked to a few people that are still hanging on to a bottle from last year. In addition, I’ve heard of several people getting a keg of it for their kegorater. Consumers will burn themselves out by October and the supply for some will not last into the season.

  • Brandon says:

    I really have to stock up in order to drink beers during the appropriate time of year because of the same reason as Dave. I would rather see stores like Total Wine hold onto inventory until they are supposed to be released if it is a limited supply beer. If its available in large enough quantity then I love the ability to get a good Oktoberfest year round!

  • Aaron Butzen says:

    The major issue I have with premature seasonal releases is one of freshness — many of these beers are presumably designed to be consumed when they are released, or soon after. This means that if you buy the beer when it’s available but hold on to it to drink it at the appropriate time, you may not be drinking the best (or the intended) beer when you get to it. Releasing “seasonals” out of season is a huge pain for beer consumers that care about what they’re drinking.

  • DunBeer says:

    Breweries should be able to make and sell beer whenever they please. Yes there are styles that are more “appropriate” for certain times of the year, but at the end of the day what someone decides to brew and drink is purely decided by personal preference.

    Okay, all that being said…I actually do have an issue. Pumpkin beer is a great place to start. It is my experience that pumpkin beers have been marketed as a fall and early-winter ale coinciding with when pumpkins are ripe, hence the reference of a “seasonal” brew. If you are releasing pumpkin beers in July or August, that is fine, but I would be hesitant to market it as a “seasonal brew”. Sure call it a limited release, or rotated offering, but I feel the term “seasonal” comes loaded with the assumption that beer is actually somehow coinciding or connected with the season. Whether it is because it is refreshing in the summer or a warm in the winter, utilizes ingredients that are harvested around that time of year, or is traditionally enjoyed during a certain season, there appears to be a reasoning for using the name “seasonal.”

    I am sure I will get some backlash because pumpkins among other produce are actually growing and ripening now, which maybe, beer aside, it is time to shift the dates of seasons because of the warming of the globe. But like I said, at the end of the day what a brewery brews and what a patron drinks is all based on personal preferences. But try and refrain from telling me your “seasonal” pumpkin ale is coming out in July…

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