NEW YORK (MainStreet) – If you're routinely dismayed by the sight of pumpkin ale in August, just wait until you see what's waiting in the beer aisle and on tap at the end of October.
In the rest of the retail world, lawn reindeer have long since replaced patio sets in garden stores, Christmas ornaments have elbowed Halloween costumes out of the local Sam's Club or Costco and Halloween candy is just one weekend shift away from being replaced by candy canes at the nearest supermarket.
Holiday beers are nudging in on shelf space that should rightfully be occupied by Oktoberfest, pumpkin beers, harvest ales and the occasional fresh hop offering – you know, beers people want to drink around this time of year. But we also realize that brewers have to get these varieties out so there aren't a bunch of spicy ales and reindeer labels hanging around in January when nobody's interested. We're also know that beer shipments that exceed 15 million barrels during peak summer months slowly trickle to about 12 million barrels in December and slightly less during the Thanksgiving holiday season in November, according to the Treasury Department's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
That said, brewers playing it close to the margins want to be ahead of changing tastes as much as possible. About 92% of U.S. holiday consumers added food and beverages onto their holiday shopping in 2012, but spending on that holiday party cheer rose from $86 per person in 2008 to more than $110 last year. That's a difference of almost a full case per person, and a whole lot of cash on the table for breweries weathering a slow season.
Though lots of the bigger breweries including Boston Beer (SAM) and its Samuel Adams brand typically hold off until November before releasing winter favorites, here are 10 examples of holiday cheer available now: