Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Time of the Season

There's been a little growing debate these days... so I decided to jump into the fray.

I've noticed a consistent theme year after year the older I get. No, its not that I haven't grown since 8th grade... this is a beer blog, FOCUS! We're talking booze here.

Drink Craft Beer (@DrinkCraftBeer) brought this topic to the forefront yesterday:

Seasonal Offerings.

In their post yesterday, they said:

"All the brewers want to be first to market. The first beer of the season you try is the one you’re going to stick with most likely and has switched your taste-season to the next season."

(To read the entire post, click here: Why Seasonal Craft Beer Comes Out So Early

They bring up a lot of valid points... but it really depends on where you stand. The impression that they got from the breweries that they've talked to is that its a race to get to the market first. Get in the face of the consumer and you'll stick with them for the remainder of the season. Yeah, I guess that COULD be true... but certainly not in my world. I remember back in the beginning of August, I was VERY excited for the upcoming Pumpkin beer season. (Definitely one of my favorites along with the Holiday/Winter season.) So there I was the day before my buddy's wedding... August 5th. At the local packy... And would you believe it? UFO Pumpkin Ale. Shelved and stocked. Pumpkin Ales?? On August 5th?!? Really???

As much as people say that being the first to the market has a lasting impression on the consumer, I felt it had the reverse effect on me. Here we are in the final month of the Fall/Pumpkin beer season, and I have YET to have the UFO Pumpkin. Regardless of the REAL story, I felt like they rushed the brewing process just to get it on the shelves. So every time I've seen it, I look right past it.

That being said, I've actually heard a lot of good things about the UFO Pumpkin Ale. So no offense to the brewers at the Harpoon Brewery. And I usually dig most of the stuff Harpoon puts out, but I just avoided it BECAUSE it was first. The breweries that took their time, Smuttynose, Heavy Seas, Shipyard (Smashed Pumpkin), Brooklyn Post Road..., those are the beers that I grabbed off the shelves when they arrived.

Switch gears for a second... Let's go into the Sporting World... This situation is similar to how I view where we are with Yankees/Sox games today (bare with me, I'm making a point). When I was growing up, the Yanks would play the Sox maybe 9 times a year... maybe a few more. Every game was important. Now, in today's day and age, due to their high demand, the Yanks and Sox play each other over 20 times a year. Bottomline, people will pay good $$$ to see them play each other. TV stations will get great rating every time they're on TV. Everyone makes money... but the beauty of it, has lost a bit of its luster. But is that REALLY bad? And looking at UConn sports, we are on the brink of potentially leaving the Big East to join the ACC. If that is the case, of course it will be sad to see us leave the conference. But, being a positive thinker, let's focus on the good parts. Joining the ACC would mean more Duke/UConn games. I loathe Duke. I respect them, but when I see a Duke jersey, I get that "did you just kill a kitten" kinda feeling. Sorry, its how I was raised. So needless to say, I bleed for UConn/Duke games. '90, '99, '04 - Those are a part of UConn HISTORY!! And if we do join the ACC, there will be more and more Duke/UConn showdowns. Still very cool... but not as "magical" as they were in the past.

So where does that leave us in our quest for maintaining all that is sacred in terms of Seasonal beer? Have we lost the "magic" ? Is August too early for Pumpkin Beers? Yes, August is too early... but I think we have to find other ways to keep the magic going. There are new breweries that pop up all the time, and ESPECIALLY for Pumpkin beers, recipes are CONSTANTLY changing. More spice, less spice, more malt, more boozy, more pumpkin taste... And you have to admit, the increasing demand for Pumpkin beers is much higher than its been in the past... I can remember the pumpkin season lasting about 3 weeks in September. If you didn't jump on board until October, it was SLIM PICKINS. Now, while it IS starting much earlier, at least its lasting until October. So technically we're getting almost 4 more weeks!!

My advice to you, TAKE CONTROL OF THE SEASON!! If you see those beers that you have been waiting for, but AREN'T QUITE in the mood to crack it open yet (Pumpkin, Holiday, Spring, Summer), then find a good place to cellar your purchase at home and open it when YOU are ready, rather when the brewery wants you to be ready.


Jeff from said...

Glad you liked our article. Good sports analogy there! The one thing I want to mention is regarding your remark about "1st to market rules the season" and that that's not how it works for you.

I think the one thing many beer enthusiasts overlook (and the more enthusiast, the more we bloggers are especially prone to this) is that we are not indicative of the normal craft beer consumer. We make up a small niche of a niche market. About 95% of those who drink craft beer are casual drinkers. The "1st to market 1st in mind" theory is not an absolute for everyone but, rather, a general thing that holds true for much of the market (which is mostly comprised of casual beer drinkers).

Nice article, though! And, like I said, great sports analogy! That's really one of the reasons I don't like the season creep, but moving too far out of season, it makes these beers less exciting and special.


toenee said...

Thanks for the kind words, Jeff! I definitely enjoy checking out DrinkCraftBeer on a regular basis.

You bring up a good point, I guess we really aren't normal people. You mean, normal people don't buy beer like its a chess game and store rare finds in their cellar only to be enjoyed at a later date? People actually just buy beer and drink it? (Sigh... Yeah, tou chez)

My friends and I are doing a Pumpkin Tasting in the next few weeks with 16 different varieties. Hopefully its not too late in the "season" to snag our Pumpkin Ales this weekend!


Toby said...

I definitely enjoy the seasonal beers during the appropriate season. My only thing is, instead of purchasing the beers and enjoying them when YOU want to enjoy them, purchase when you're ready. That may send a stronger message to the brewers by letting their beers sit on the shelves longer. The only down side is, as Jeff mentioned the "casual beer drinker", may have already scooped those up and now you're SOL. It's a tough call. But, by blogging and bringing awareness to the issue, you are potentially changing consumers minds. Keep up the good work. Cheers!

JoeV said...

Regarding Season Creep......there's varying opinions on when beer seasons 'should start'; you'll find the entire spectrum of perspectives.

I'm interested in what your readers think about this article (I found intriguing), which attempts to analyze fall beer interest and consumption patterns: