Seasonal Creep, and Why it Happens...Every Year

Every year, around the middle of July, just when the very first pumpkin beers start hitting the shelves and Starbucks re-releases the pumpkin spiced latte, I, without fail, receive at least one or two email notifications.

These notifications are because I commented, and subscribed to future comments, on a post by Erik Lars Myers on his Top Fermented blog a few years ago.

The blog post was about seasonal creep, and it was written in 2012 (and Erik still hasn't fixed his math that says 130 days is over 6 months...guess he must have been a drama major or something silly that didn't require math).

One thing that gives me a chuckle each year is, come mid-July, there is always someone saying "man, these fall beers come out earlier and earlier every year!" when in reality, they've been coming out in mid-July since at least 2012 when this article was written.

But why is that?

If we're all like Erik (withholding another Erik joke, because I actually like the guy most of the time), then we don't want to drink pumpkin beers in July or Christmas beers in September. But for some reason, each year, without fail, there they are on the shelf. 

Why is it that breweries would keep producing a product like this if the consumer is going to revolt and not buy any until it's already becoming old and stale on the shelf?

It's because they're not.

While it is becoming a bandwagon trend for craft beer "geeks" and enthusiasts and purists to boycott, bitch and moan about seasonal creep and about how pumpkin beers aren't even any good anyway, there are enough people out there who get excited when that first fall seasonal hits the shelf. It reminds them of football, and cooler days, and crisp nights. Even if the weather says otherwise, they're ready to pick one of these beers up.

Taste, and particularly aroma, are so intrinsically tied to memory, taking a sip of a fall beer can transport you into your favorite fall memories, even on a sweltering July day.

Does this mean that I agree, and I'm drinking fall beers in July. No, I don't pick one up until around now. In fact, I cracked into my first Märzen (Oktoberfest) beer recently and it reminded me how much I love this style, and I've been on quite a Märzen kick for the past week or so (locally, Highland and Duck Rabbit both make excellent versions).

But, I do start putting a few on the shelves at The Glass Jug in late July and early August because who am I to not stock beer that people want to buy?

But this isn't the only reason why the pumpkin beers start showing up so early.

Come September and October, every brewery is pumping out their fall lineup and the competition for which pumpkin beer to buy is intense. The result is that each brewery gets a shrinking piece of the (pumpkin) pie. So, what some breweries have decided to do is to beat the others to market. That way, they catch that first wave of people who *do* want to drink pumpkin beer in July, and hopefully create some loyalty, so that they will continue buying their beer throughout the season.

It's easier to stand out on a shelf if you're one of 3 pumpkin beers than when you're one of 30.

Again, am I saying this is the *right* thing to do? No. Erik article makes some great points about how these breweries aren't actually brewing "seasonal" beers because they aren't using ingredients that are in season when the beer is brewed. And I definitely support breweries that are buying local seasonal ingredients throughout the year, as opposed to those trying to import out of season ingredients so they can be the first to market.

But I didn't ever claim that this article was going to be me telling you what the right thing to do was. Instead, hopefully it's helped you understand *why* we see seasonal creep and why it's not going anywhere. Unless, that is, everyone listens to Erik and consumers all boycott pumpkin beer before September. Then, the breweries would have to respond!

If you have any thoughts or comments to share, feel free post them in the comments below.

Happy Labor Day weekend, y'all! As always, if you know anyone else who might be interested in these rambling articles I send out each week, just forward this link along and have them sign up.