31 Aug 2009 @ 11:37 AM 

Oh, man. Is it rant time, already?

I went beer shopping this weekend; I watch a lot of tap lists in my local area. It’s clear. Fall seasonals are out, the best and worst time of the year, but also: rant time. I’m sure that at this point my friends will expect me to go on my usual Reinheitsgebot rant, but I’m not going to (no, I’m saving that for the beginning of Oktoberfest). No, this is reserved especially for fall seasonals. Why?

I think I’m the only person in the world that really -and I mean intensely – dislikes pumpkin beer. It’s an aberration. For one thing, I believe that I correctly assume that many pumpkin beers don’t actually include pumpkin, but pumpkin pie spices. In my world, pumpkin pie spices belong in one place: pumpkin pie. The flavor of solo pumpkin isn’t all that great. That’s why they load it with spices.

Not to say I don’t like pumpkin pie – I do – but I really like beer, and frankly I’d like my beer to taste like beer, not like allspice and cinnamon. The only thing I can think about is how, in the world-before-refrigeration, they used to spice the crap out of their meat so that they couldn’t taste the fact that it was rotting. Maybe it’s my over-active imagination, but you give me allspice, cinammon, and nutmeg in something that’s not pumpkin pie and I think rotting meat. So thank you, the overactive marketing machine of America, you’ve given me two months full of rotten-meat flavored beer. Awesome. That’s so great. I especially love that it’s on the shelves now, well before pumpkins are in season 90% of the country. You know that pumpkin’s got to be fresh.

Thank god there’s Oktoberfest to offset it.

Oktoberfest! That crisp, malty, lovely lager! It evokes cool fall days, the smell of fallen leaves, and chapped lederhosen! Oktoberfest! What are you doing on the shelves of my store in mid-August, a full month before Oktoberfest even begins? (Sept. 19th – Oct 4th this year. Note: it starts three days before the first day of fall, which is about when I’d expect my seasonals.) This is like how you can go into Wal-Mart on October 30th to buy Christmas decorations.

Come on, guys. Let’s not fall (a-har-har) into this trap. I know you want to be the first seasonal on the market and all, but this is a little ridiculous. When did you make this stuff? And how long is it going to sit around before being consumed by customers? How fresh can it be if it’s been sitting in my retailer for a month and a half? When did it get to the wholesaler? Yikes!

I know that seasonals, and especially fall and winter seasonals are big sellers, but bringing them out earlier and earlier really defeats the purpose of it being a seasonal. They’re working their way to being out-of-seasonals.

Here’s a challenge: Instead of pulling out the fall seasonals in the summer so that you’re the first one on the market and can have your beer sitting around on the shelves forever and ever, why not make a Late Summer Seasonal? Nobody ever said that your seasonals had to correspond exactly with The Four Seasons, but having them match the season (like a beer-food pairing) would, I think, be preferable.

Maybe I’m just a relentless advocate for small-batch brewing, but it seems to me that agility in the marketplace, to more accurately respond to consumer demand – especially when we’re talking about something like a seasonal purchase – is going to be much more important than “I got my beer there first.” It might be first out, but if I buy an Oktoberfest that’s been sitting in a retailer’s hot warehouse for 2 months and it tastes like ass, you can sure bet that I won’t be buying that one again.

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Categories: distribution, marketing
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 31 Aug 2009 @ 11 37 AM

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