Seasonal creep is the phenomenon of seasonal beers coming out earlier and earlier. This past year we saw Samuel Adams' and Harpoon's new spring offerings on store shelves Jan 2! Ironic that it was one of the coldest winters in memory.Breweries come out with their seasonal beers earlier and earlier to get a jump on the competition. Samuel Adams thinks if you have their Oktoberfest first, even if it is in August, you are more likely to stay with it the rest of the season. To fight the madness, I came out the definitive guide for the proper time for beer drinkers to buy and/or drink seasonal brews:
- Spring: When pitchers & catchers report for Spring Training, this past year it was Feb 15. By then I think everybody is sick of overly spiced, boozy, heavy winter beer. If that's when baseball says it's spring that's good enough for me.
- Summer: Mother's Day might seem a touch early, but stores need to have time to gear up for Memorial Day weekend, one of the definitive beer drinking weekends of the year.
- Fall: The Wednesday after Labor Day. The last thing I want to drink at an end of summer cookout is a pumpkin beer. This is also the traditional day kids go back to school, unless you live in a red state where kids go back to school in August just so the football team can start practicing earlier.
- Winter: Black Friday because Thanksgiving is still fall, heavy winter beer and a turkey coma don't go well together, and it's just wrong not to enjoy pumpkin pie without a pumpkin beer. Let's not follow the lead of big box retailers or lunatics who listen to Christmas music in November, and let the insanity of Christmas ruin Thanksgiving.
What that means to the homebrewer is that now is the time to start planning for the fall so your fall beer is ready at the appropriate time. Last year we didn't brew our pumpkin beer until the middle of October. It was ready by Thanksgiving, but we had a lot leftover come winter. Unlike most commercial pumpkin beers who canned pumpkin or even no pumpkin and just pumpkin spices, we use fresh pumpkin. As soon as locally-grown fresh pumpkin is available we will pick one up and brew as soon as possible. Beyond that I think I might do an American Brown Ale. It was the first type of beer we ever brewed, we brewed it in the fall, and despite Sierra Nevada's lamentable decision to pull the plug on Tumbler last year, I think it's a great fall beer. If I do that I may as well make a run of American ales.
My plan is starting to come together to have my fall beers ready for September and not a moment sooner. Marzen is the German word for March, which is when Octoberfests are typically brewed before they are laggered during the summer. One of these years I will brew an Octoberfest in March and be able to lager it propperly. Until then I look forward to enjoying some delicious ales this fall.
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