The Great Pumpkin Beer Debate: When’s the Right Time For Pumpkin Brews?

Linus and The Great PumpkinThose familiar with Peanuts lore know that every Halloween, while the rest of the gang was out gathering candy from the adults with awkward distorted voices, Linus was staked out in a patch of gourds in anxious anticipation of the arrival of The Great Pumpkin. He alienated his relationship with Sally, who thought he was crazy (yet found him irresistible despite the blanket) and was willing to forgo all that sugary goodness in hopes of catching a glimpse of that elusive, oversized fruit.

In similar fashion, craft beer enthusiasts used to wait with bated breath for that cool, crisp bite in the air and the leaves to change various shades of red, orange, and yellow. That meant, the year-long wait had reached its end…and it was time for the Great Pumpkin Beers to rear their sweet, frothy heads!

As craft beer has boomed, pumpkin beer has served as a tremendous catalyst in that boom. And while I know many people who don’t care for pumpkin brews, I know many more (not all personally) who not only consume it in mass quantities when it hits the market, but also attribute its unique flavor and overall goodness to their kinship with craft beer as a whole. Their gateway beer, if you will.

Over the past couple years, that anxious wait for Fall has become a thing of the past. Due to the popularity and demand of pumpkin beers, their release dates have crept into the summer months. In 2013, I remember having my first Southern Tier Pumking (the Imperial Pumpkin Ale that truly lives up to its name) at a music festival at the Southern Tier Brewery in Lakewood, NY at the beginning of August. And while part of me thought maaaaaybe it was a bit too early in the year for pumpkin brew, the Pumking-loving part of me filled three growlers to go without batting an eye.

Shipyard Brewing Smashed PumpkinThis year, I poured my first pumpkin beer, a Shipyard Brewing Smashed Pumpkin (pictured right), in the middle of June. When I posted the pic to Instagram, my caption simply read “Too soon?” The feedback I got was “of course not,” so I sat and happily downed another example of a beer style no longer relegated to one of the four seasons.

Earlier this week, beerpulse.com released an article entitled “Southern Tier Pumking Kicks Off 2014 Summer Pumpkin Beer Season.” The article got plenty of circulation through my circle of friends and beer constituents, with several opinions arising regarding, as the article reveals, the fact that Southern Tier had rolled out their first release of Pumking on June 30th. Some were overjoyed, some were perplexed, some felt it was too soon, and one friend (Brooke) simply stated “Summer pumpkin beer season is not a thing.”

Personally, I saw the early release coming. On Fathers Day Weekend, my Dad and I toured Southern Tier and were told by our tour guide that A) they were at maximum brewing capacity and B) many of the tanks were filled with a certain seasonal beer who had to remain nameless. But we knew.

What else can Southern Tier do? They’re available in 32 states and the demand is so high, they have to get Pumking out in order to make room in the tanks for other offerings in their lineup.

Last year, the time I normally started getting geared up to start drinking pumpkin beer was the time I winded it all down. I really didn’t have a problem with it, just simply had my fill. It was time to move on to the heavier beers of winter. Personally, I’m OK with the early release because I’m comfortable with grabbing some to stash, I know I’ll be able to get more, and I’m happy to see anything that signifies a growth in craft beer demand.

Undoubtedly, this spike in popularity has blurred the once consistent-as-gravity timeline for the release of pumpkin beer. For those who can’t wait, it appears your lucky day is upon you. For those who like to savor pumpkin-y libations when the summer months are in the history books, the early releases of Pumking, and more than likely others in the near future, may force you to exercise some restraint as you purchase your favorites and store them for a couple months.

Who knows…the way things are going, it looks like we are on the fast track to “Summer Pumpkin Beer Season” truly being a thing after all.

What’s your take on pumpkin beer in the summer? Weigh in in the Comments Section below!

 

 

 

Jason Cercone

 

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Jason Cercone

5 Comments

  1. As a consumer, I must’ve had three dozen different pumpkin beers last year; it’s easily my favorite seasonal. Hell, I made pumpkin beer for my wedding, which was on Halloween. But that’s just it; I like it because it’s a seasonal. Pumpkin beers “feel right” when the weather cools and the leaves turn. I’m not ready to drink pumpkin beers in June.

    That being said, the demand for pumpkin beers is growing, so
    I can understand that market forces are driving the release dates early. I suspect that this will be a fad that will wear itself out; supply will eventually eclipse demand and breweries will move back to a later release cycle. Just a guess, though. I have no data to back it up.

    • I can see that too. Breweries will most likely push extra amounts out in hopes of keeping up with or exceeding demand and, eventually, it will all balance out. Thanks for commenting!

  2. I think it’s too soon! I’ve had great beers that can stand alone but sometimes a good beer coupled with a good experience or served at the right time is exactly what it takes to push that beer to the next level. That’s what seasonals are for! Most pumpkin beers fall in this category in my opinion. Plus – pumpkins are harvested in the fall! Just my two cents though. I’d love to hear more opinions and see if there was some market data or logistical reasons for the early releases!

    • Most likely logistical. Gotta make room in the tanks for other beers of the season. I think the early release isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We just have to restrain ourselves and wait if we want to truly enjoy these brews in the Fall. Thanks for reading and commenting Adam!

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