Sunday, February 27, 2022

Revisiting seasonal beer

One of my favorite posts was my definitive guide to seasonal beer. Going by that schedule, I would be stocking up on spring seasonals if there was an actual spring training this year. It is hard to believe that I wrote that post eight years ago. At that time seasonal beers were a big deal and seasonal creep really annoyed me.  Seasonal beers were coming out so early that they were gone while being still "in season". I remember one year when I couldn't find Celebration in early December.

Many of the seasonal beers I used to look for were distributed by regional and national breweries. Yard Sale by Uinta was a sessionable dark lager released in the winter, a perfect antidote to full-bodied and boozy winter seasonals. Uinta is no longer distributed in Massachusetts. Even brewers like Sierra Nevada struggled to maintain traction with their seasonal lineup. I couldn't find Summerfest the last couple of summers. This year the beer will be retired and replaced with an IPA. As more local options emerged in the late 2010s, it became harder and harder for out-of-state brewers to keep shelf space at retail, and consciousness among consumers. 

In 2022 the notion of a brewery having a set lineup of four seasonal beers is as quaint. Sure, Sam Adams is still doing it, but that feels more like inertia than anything else. Breweries will release certain beers or styles seasonally, but you don't see as much of a set seasonal lineup. 

The main reason for the decline in seasonal beer is that instead of looking for a familiar seasonal with the change of ever season, drinkers want to try new beers and visit new breweries all of the time. The risk for brands is alienating people who love the old brands, and new beers not finding an audience. Samuel Adams has tried to keep a few of their venerable brands fresh by changing recipes for Summer Ale and Winter Lager.

As much as drinkers were trained to drink seasonally in the 1990s and 2000s, too many seasonal beers were similar. How many American Wheat ales with or without citrus do people want to drink? Fall was a deluge of cloying oktoberfests with too much caramel malt, and then it was pumpkin ales loaded with cinnamon. Winter was the domain of boozy stouts and overly-spiced winter warmers. Spring never quite had the same homogeneity, but people generally drink less from January to March anyway. 

This sameness over most of the beer year was probably always going to dampen enthusiasm for seasonal beer. Ironically, you could argue that the sameness of seasonal beer has been replaced by the sameness of New England IPA.  

Friday, February 18, 2022

Homebrew Happy Hour ep. 268 Storing grains, American vs Continental malt, Expired LME

I realize it has been quiet in these parts. Sadly I haven't brewed in six months; the longest I have gone without brewing since I started. I am going to fire up my kettle again soon. I need Irish ales on tap for St. Patrick's Day. 

Anyway, It is always fun to be a guest on the Homebrew Happy Hour podcast. We talked about what I have been working on with Muntons as of late, and what Josh and Todd have been up to. I certainly appreciated answering some malt-related questions. 

Check out the episode here: