Labor Day is the great diving line between summer and the rest of the year. It's also when the fashion inclined will will ban the wearing of white until next spring. There should be another bullet to that list: don't drink pumpkin beer before Labor Day.
Wouldn't that be a great new rule?
Since today is the day to celebrate the achievements that workers in this country have provided for the nation and call to end the frivolity of summer, it's now OK to partake in the beginnings of the festive fall season. Yes, we're still in for another month (or more) of high heat and humidity, at least it's not July, when we've been seeing the pumpkin and octoberfest beer creep end up a full two months before the fall equinox.
"We won't be brewing our pumpkin beer for a few weeks," said The Mack House's head brewer Justin Miles at a recent beer event. They're looking towards traditionalism and true seasonality with their fall releases, slated to hit taps no sooner than October. Hopefully more breweries will follow suit, but it's doubtful.
It's a tough market, as many beer makers and consumers have seen in the past few years, with more breweries delving into the pumpkin beer market. Some begin brewing in May for an early July release, leaving shelves either empty by the time the weather changes, or stocked with almost three month old beer.
For now, at least September seems like the perfect beginning month to the fall seasonals... season. Everyone has their favorites, and it would be impossible to mention all of the breweries that are doing these beers, but there are a few standouts that deserve mentioning.
For the Octoberfest/Oktoberfest beer style that is popular around this time, nothing beats the years of perfection the Germans have put into beers like Spaten Oktoberfestbier or Ayinger Oktober Fest-Marzen -- but try out some solid American entries like Harpoon's Octoberfest (packed with Munich and some Chocolate malts) or Penn Brewery's Oktoberfest Bier.
As for pumpkin beers, calling out Weyerbacher Brewing Co.'s Imperial Pumpkin Ale is a necessity, with its balanced cinnamon and pie crust flavors, as well as Southern Tier's Pumking. Locally, Due South Brewing Company produces their yearly (and recently released in cans) Isle of Magourdo spiced pumpkin brew, and slightly further away Cigar City Brewing puts out the Good Gourd Imperial Pumpkin Ale full of malty body and pie spices.
Feel free to begin your indulgence in pumpkin beer mania, if you haven't already. It's about time.
Doug Fairall is a craft beer blogger who focuses on Florida beers and has been a homebrewer since 2010. For beer things in your Twitter feed, follow him @DougFairall and find the latest beer pics on Instagram.