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A Shift of Seasons

13 September 2011

As many people have pointed out so far this year after seeing Oktoberfest beers and pumpkin ales hit store shelves in early/mid-August, it seems seasonal releases are coming out sooner and sooner. September used to be the earliest you could find these fall-themed beers, but people began spotting the Sam Adams Oktoberfest in August, and one of my friends even bought a 4-pack of Weyerbacher’s Imperial Pumpkin—this year’s release—in July.

A lot of people are upset about the earlier releases.  As fellow beer blog Drink Craft Beer notes, “when it’s 90+ and humid as hell, the last thing we want is anything involving pumpkin!”  The blog has even gone so far as to start the Campaign for Seasonal Beer, a grassroots effort to get craft beer drinkers to ignore the seasonals on the shelf until the time is appropriate.  This is where the two of us differ, as well as where my hypocrisy begins.

Last month—a sweltering August in Philadelphia—I found myself more and more drawn to the darker beers that comfort me throughout the fall and winter.  I’ve been drinking more stouts and eying up any tap list for early releases of my favorite seasonal beers.  My body has seemingly started to crave the autumnal beers I love so much.  But, I think, this is only because these are my favorite beers.  I’ve long held to the opinion that fall/winter is the best time of the year for beer, and is when the best beers come out.  I love pumpkin ales, I love Oktoberfests, and I’ll take anything dark, warming and spicy you can throw at me when the temperature falls below 50. And though they are available year-round, there is nothing better than a light jacket on a cool fall day accompanied by a smoky rauchbier.

But, here is where the aforementioned hypocrisy comes in: if the same thing were to happen in February, if springtime brews and summer ales started to infiltrate my beloved cold-weather comfort beer, I would have the exact opposite reaction which, I suppose, brings the whole argument boiling down to personal preference.  If it were up to me, I would certainly be eating deliciously ripe heirloom tomatoes all year round, but as it stands when they are out of season, they’re crap.  With fruit and vegetables, though, quality plays a much larger part than in beer.  Most of the seasonal additives are spices and extracts.

However, I do wonder, going back to my tomato example, if I would love heirlooms as much as I do if I could get them year-round.  It seems that during the summer we stock up every week and 1/3 of all our food is nothing but tomatoes or includes them in some form—but would that still be true if we had unlimited access to them at their peak flavors?

Like it or not, the great thing about seasonals is it’s hard to get tired of them since they are only around for a limited time. Whether that would be the case if you could get them year-round remains to be seen, but I will say this: in the middle of July, if you turned your air conditioning down low enough, put on a sweater and got under a blanket, a nice warm and toasty stout would taste pretty damn good.

Pictures are courtesy of Jason Morovich.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 13 September 2011 8:40 pm

    Mmm… intriguing. Any recommendations from this batch. I’m curious if you have a pumpkin beer to recommend.

    • Ryan permalink
      14 September 2011 7:19 am

      Of course I do–I look forward to pumpkin beers all year! Devious by Fegley’s Brew Works is excellent, as is Weyerbacher’s Imperial Pumpkin. I’m also a fan of Brooklyn Brewery’s Post Road, and Dogfish Head’s Punkin is a standard. But I would start with the first two if you want to stay local (and delicious).

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