A Word About Season Creep

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I snapped the picture above at my trip to the local supermarket today. This isn’t a slam at Sam Adams (Sierra Nevada’s autumn seasonal, Tumbler, was already on the shelf just a few feet down) but a slam on seasonal beer in general.

It’s getting ridiculous. Octoberfest and pumpkin beers are already showing up at bottle shops, and at some places, on draft. I was very disappointed when I found out that my local brewery, Foothills (Winston-Salem, NC) was also participating in this nonsense, having already brewed batches of their Pumpkin Ale and Octoberfest. I thought season creep was only something the big boys were playing to get to the drinkers palate first — but perhaps the biggest boy of seasonal beer, Blue Moon — they aren’t even playing this game! Their summer beer is still available, with the pumpkin beer nowhere to be found. Yet.

I’m all for enjoying a good beer no matter what time of year. But by the time I would want to traditionally drink an Octoberfest or pumpkin beer, they’ve already been sitting on the shelf for months. It’s silly and the first thing I think of when I see a fresh Octoberfest bottle in the middle of July is the absolute worst thing that could happen to craft beer (or for that matter, just about anything): turning it into a commodity instead of an art form. We’ve already got Bud, Miller, and Coors for that.

A big part of craft beer is that ingredients used tend to be fresh and of high quality. The majority of good craft brew is made without additives or adjuncts and nearly all of these breweries participating in the seasonal creep mentality use the quality of ingredients as a marketing tool to sell the beer. Notice that I’m avoiding the word organic here. The point I’m driving home is that your average beer made by a major corporation contains a bunch of crap like corn syrup or rice or any variety of chemicals whereas craft beer specifically markets itself as wholly against additives. But how can you make a pumpkin beer when the pumpkins aren’t even there to harvest yet? It makes you wonder…

Season creep really reminds me of the whole “drink local” mantra that is so completely absurd that it makes smoke blow out my ears when I hear people advocate it. Yeah, it’s cool to have a brewery in your town and you should, by all means, drink as much of it as you’d like, but if you think you are doing your local community or the environment a huge favor by drinking a beer with hops from across the country and grains from another continent, you’re wrong. (And yes, I do realize that some breweries DO actually use 100% local ingredients, but the overwhelming majority don’t.)

Each year, the season creep seems to get earlier and earlier. The first pumpkin beer hit the shelves here on July 15. When will it stop? It won’t until you vote with your wallet. If you think drinking Octoberfest beers in July is as absurd as it sounds, don’t buy them. I do not review beer that is out of season unless it is a style that doesn’t have a season, like an Imperial Stout or IPA, etc. Last year, I reviewed five pumpkin beers, and I reviewed them all in the month of October, but I had to purchase them in August or I wouldn’t have gotten them. And by the time October rolled around and the air finally turned cooler and the beer was actually in season and appealing, there really wasn’t any to be found.

STOP SEASON CREEP!

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