Trick-or-treating the liquor store

How important has Halloween become to the beer industry? Important enough that Jack-O-Lantern-clad, pumpkin-based seasonal beers such as Southern Tier Pumking, Midnight Sun T.R.E.A.T. and New Belgium Pumpkick can be seen on shelves before Labor Day.

According to market research group Symphony IRI, seasonal beer sales have jumped between 15% and 26% since 2009, even as overall shipments declined. Big brewers Anheuser-Busch InBev ( BUD) and MolsonCoors ( TAP)/SABMiller joint venture MillerCoors have started offering pumpkin selections as part of their Michelob and Blue Moon lines, while Boston Beer ( SAM) offers a couple of pumpkin beers under its Samuel Adams brand.

Meanwhile, the overall wine, beer and spirits industry views Halloween as second only to New Year's Day or the Super Bowl -- depending on which company representative you ask. Diageo ( DEO), maker of Captain Morgan rum, has had no problem pairing its pirate pitchman with Halloween promotions. Captain Morgan costumes are in high supply on eBay ( EBAY), while fans of Dos Equis' "Most Interesting Man In The World" are left to their own devices to make their booze-soaked Halloween costume wish come true.

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