July. The middle of summer. What better time to sit back and relax with a nice cold... pumpkin beer?
That's right, the staple fall seasonal style, a beer brewed with fresh (or, perhaps, flavorings of) pumpkin, has begun its slow creep earlier and earlier in the year, encroaching on territory normally reserved for wheat beers, radlers, and other traditionally summer-type styles.
Starting on July 12th, local craft beer bar Tap 42 was already glasses of Southern Tier's Pumking, the highly rated seasonal from the New York brewery. We weren't the only one's intrigued by the relative soonness of the emergence of a pumpkin beer this early in the season.
"I was really surprised that the Southern Tier Pumking truck came this early," Tap 42's craft beer manager Lauren Bowen told me. "Usually the first pumpkin beer to hit South Florida is Harpoon UFO Pumpkin, and it usually hits around mid July." And people don't shy away from the brew either. "South Florida love them some pumpkin beer, so when they finally come in season there is a huge craze... When Pumking arrived last week we sold a case each day for three days straight."
Southern Tier doesn't have the only July pumpkin release. Smuttynose started distributing its pumpkin beer, Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale on July 15th.
At a recent summer beer festival in Pennsylvania, festival-goers were heard being vocal about the inclusion of Penn Brewery's Pumpkin Roll Ale to the summer-themed event.
"We don't believe in rules," Drew Pfafflin, Penn Brewery wholesale representative, told Penn Live's Abbey Zelko. "We believe in beer people drink all year long. So when we make a pumpkin beer, people love it on a 90 degree day."
Pumpkin isn't the only fall seasonal that is being released earlier. The popular Octoberfest style is also making itself known to consumers before the middle of summer is even over.
German giants Paulaner are starting the celebrations early, offering up their Limited Edition Oktoberfest Wiesn, according to a press release, at "the end of June so the revelry of Oktoberfest can officially begin." The official festival, held in Munich every year since 1810, doesn't even begin until September 21st this year, a full three months later.
Even Samuel Adams, who has been expanding its seasonal offerings with unique cases and a broader spring and summer spread, is distributing its Octoberfest beer a week earlier than last year, citing that they've depleted their stock of the popular Summer Ale.
What does this mean for seasonal releases? For one, pumpkin beer lovers (of which I know quite a few) go completely nuts over this style, so on a business and economical sense, putting out this product for as long as you can makes complete sense. Then the question follows, should it then become a beer to be produced year-round?
On the other hand, having seasonal releases helps to make the beer experience a little more timely and nuanced, with a definitive change of seasons that help to bring a mildly forced roller-coaster of flavors across your tongue throughout the year. What then, when a fall beer is released during the summer, or a spring one during winter? What does it mean to be 'seasonal' anyways?
What are your thoughts on seasonal beer creep, and what fall beers have you seen in stores already? Tweet it or comment below.
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