NEW YORK (Maintreet) –- We don't know why you're complaining that pumpkin beer is being released in August: brewers aren't.
Last year Tom Rotunno at CNBC reported on July 1 that Southern Tier Brewing Company in Lakewood, N.Y., would release its Pumking imperial pumpkin ale by mid-July. This year, Tampa, Fla.-based Cigar City released its Seasonal Creep Chocolate Pumpkin Ale in June seemingly just to mess with people who fly into a rage whenever a pumpkin beer is released during a month when New England's leaves aren't changing and regular season football isn't being played.
It isn't that brewers don't care about your cries of anguish: They just know you're lying. Southern Tier says sales have increased 50% to 80% since Pumking's debut. The Saint Louis Brewery, which brews Schlafly, told customers that increased production made Pumpkin Ale 10% of all the beer Schlafly brews. That beer's 8% alcohol by volume diminishes the brewery's yeast supply and eats into its production capacity so greatly that Saint Louis Brewery founder Dan Kopman says his brewers have to start producing Schlafly in June just to get it out by August 1.
But why not release it in August, when it's almost fall and there's a chance of having fresh pumpkin around? Because brewers know two things about you:
1. You're not going to drink pumpkin beers in any great amount after October 31.
2. You absolutely don't care if there's fresh pumpkin in your beer and actually prefer that it tastes like pumpkin pie spices.
Consider the case of Shipyard Brewing in Portland, Maine. Its Pumpkinhead ale not only doesn't taste much like gourd, but it tastes so much like pumpkin pie that some bartenders in New England coat the rims of pint glasses with cinnamon and sugar when serving it. Meanwhile, Pumpkinhead production increased from 2,100 barrels in 2002 to 30,000 barrels a decade later and extended Pumpkinhead season from August-through-October to late July-through-Thanksgiving to deal with peak demand around the fall holidays.
It's also reached the point where just about every major brewer has one. Boston Beer company's Samuel Adams brand has brewed its own Pumpkin Ale and released its 8.5% alcohol by volume Fat Jack imperial pumpkin ale in 2011. The Blue Moon brand from MolsonCoors has been brewing its pumpkin ale for roughly two decades, while Anheuser-Busch InBev jumped on board with Michelob Jack's Pumpkin Spice Ale in 2005. When A-B InBev purchased Seattle-based Elysian Brewing earlier this year, it not only got the brewery's multiple pumpkin beers, but also the Seattle pumpkin beer festival that's been showcasing them for more than a decade.
And you people can't get enough of it. Seasonal beer makes up 15% to 25% of the more than $19.6 billion in annual craft beer sales, according to market research firm IRI. Though the Brewers Association craft beer industry group says that India Pale Ale makes up 23% of all craft beer sales and is craft's best-selling style by far, the association noted that IPA takes a backseat once pumpkin beer hits shelves.
With the number of U.S. breweries growing from 1,600 back in 2009 to more than 3,700 today, there are now hundreds of pumpkin beers being sold on a regular basis outside of prime fall. The following are just eleven examples of what's out there: