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Citizen Cider's Unified Press [Beer of the Week]

Author // Jeff Wharton

We were first introduced to Vermont's Citizen Cider leading up to Fall to Winter Fest 2013, where they brought their Ginger cider, Dirty Mayor, and a small bit of their hopped cider as well as Unified Press, their plain cider. Since then, we've been impressed by single apple varietal, single farm, blueberry, and Nelson Sauvin hopped ciders among others. But, sometimes, you just want a tallboy of plain old cider, and today was that day.

It was almost 90 degrees in Boston today so this crystal clear, light straw colored liquid looks like just the thing to beat the heat. You might be thrown by the lack of head, but remember this is cider and not beer: no head here.

It smells slightly of apple, but not that strongly cloying artificial apple aroma you get from the bigger cider makers...this is just enough so you know it's made from fresh apples. With a bit of tartness and tannin, its got some cool stuff going on.

It's dry, but not thin, with a good body that comes from a proper blend of apples to hot just the right balance. Its really drinkable, but you're not going to think you're drinking water, haha. Every sip brings the subtle sweetness of a fresh, crisp apple...skin and all! If you're sick of ciders that feel like their rotting your teeth, but don't want the European super-dry style, then this is one you've got to try.

Note: If you want to try this cider, as well as a few others from Citizen Cider and ciders from 7 other cider makers, then you'll want to join us for Drink Craft Beer Fall to Winter Fest 2014 in Boston, MA on November 14 & 15!

Win 2 Tickets to the Mass Brewers Guild Fest This Weekend: August 29

Author // Jeff Wharton

"Come mix and mingle with Massachusetts brewery owners, reps and 2,000 of your friends at the 5th Annual Mass Brewers Guild Fest!" That's the message about the MA Brewers Fest, put on by the MA Brewers Guild this weekend (Friday, August 29th), and that just about sums it up.

The Guild has graciously given Drink Craft Beer a pair of tickets, and we're more than happy to give them away to our awesome readers! So, how do you win?

Prizes

1 Grand Prize:  2 tickets to the festival, 6-9:30pm on Friday, Aug. 29 at Boston's World Trade Center Head House Concourse

How to Enter

Entering is an easy TWO STEP process! Just sign up for our email list then send a tweet to your friends.

1) Sign up for the Drink Craft Beer Newsletter here.

AND THEN:

2a) Click here to enter (will automatically send a tweet)

OR

2b) Just tweet the following: "I want to win 2 tix to the @MABrewersGuild Fest this weekend from @DrinkCraftBeer: http://bit.ly/1zFpt0I"

The Fine Print: 

  • Contest closes at 10am EDT Thursday, August 28th 2014.
  • You must be 21+ to enter.
  • Winner will be chosen at random.

Why Is Pumpkin Beer Released in August?

Author // Jeff Wharton

Pumpkins are not harvested until September and October...with maybe a few early ones harvested in late August. So why are pumpkin beers being released in early August and even July?

In 2011 I wrote "Why Seasonal Craft Beer Comes Out So Early: The Campaign for Seasonal Beer." This article covered what is known as "seasonal creep," and why it's happening. Pumpkin beer has lately been the most egregious violator of the beer seasons, and it's only getting worse. When I wrote the article back in 2011, you'd maybe see a few pumpkin beers in August. Now they're everywhere, even some in July like I mentioned, and it seems pumpkin beer season begins before September. What makes this particularly disconcerting is the fact that pumpkins in July may be the most seasonally discordant combination of all of the seasonal creeping beer styles.

all of the pumpkin beers

So why is this happening?! Well...it turns out the answers is us. We, the craft beer drinkers, are to blame. The brewers are merely responding to consumer demand.

To get better insight into what's going on I used Google Trends, a tool that allows you to see relative search volume (meaning max search volume over the chosen time period is marked as 100) over time. My thought is that this is a good gauge for consumer interest, as it marks when people are organically searching for pumpkin beer on the internet. I looked at 2008 to present, August 2014. What I found was pretty interesting.

Monthly Search Volume of Pumpkin Beer

It turns out that interest in pumpkin beer by drinkers has moved significantly earlier over the past few years. Up through 2011, relative interest in pumpkin beer in August (17) was much less than in November (25). In 2012, though, pumpkin beer searches in August doubled (yes, doubled!) to 33 while November stayed fairly stead at 27. This is very much in line with what retailers have been saying, that once you start to really get into November, pumpkin beer season is on the wane drastically and you've got to get rid of remaining inventory. So pumpkin beer is showing up more and more in August because that's when we want it.

Beyond that, since 2010, interest in pumpkin beer has exploded during the months of September and October, seemingly prime pumpkin beer drinking time. With this in mind, brewers need to start preparing for the season by getting beer onto shelves in anticipation of demand, and to be the brand that drinkers look to when they're ready to sip on that pumpkiny, spicey goodness. If interest spikes in September, that's another reason to be on shelves for August.

Finally, if you look at October versus November, you'll see a massive drop. In 2013 in went from 100 to 30...that's a 70% drop in interest in one month. Then December is almost off the map, with a 9 in 2013 (a 91% drop in two months). Breweries are a business...a very expensive business with high overhead and low margins. Pumpkin beer can be a great way to help pay for your investment. But, if you want to hit the market at prime, that means you pretty much have to be done with pumpkin beers before November rolls around, or you're late to the game and yesterday's news.

Looking at it a different way, I also normalized the traffic to "Drink Craft Beer's Great Pumpkin Beer Taste Off."

I normalized this data for each year, so the peak of each year is 100. As you can see, it always happens in September or October, with an even harsher drop in to November and December.

So, when you wonder why pumpkin beer is coming out earlier and earlier, there are two reasons and they seem complementary:

  1. Probably the biggest, is that more people want to drink it earlier and earlier. If more of us are demanding pumpkin beer in August, brewers are going to comply.
  2. Pumpkin beer is a huge money maker for brewers, and they'd like to extend the season. If interest drops off in November, that's not where they can extend...going earlier allows brewers to get more time in market for pumpkin beers, often their best seasonal sellers.
So there you have it. There's no cabal of brewers seeking to push pumpkin beer earlier each year. There's no conspiracy to change the beer seasons. It's just a perfect blend of consumers wanting it earlier and brewers wanting more time to sell pumpkin beers.

Now, what do you think about all of this? Let us know in the comments, on Twitter at @DrinkCraftBeer, or on Facebook. Use hashtag #AugustPumpkins to be part of the conversation.

Note: If you want to try a variety of pumpkin beers, as well as other beers and ciders from 25 New England brewers and cider makers, then you'll want to join us for Drink Craft Beer Fall to Winter Fest 2014 in Boston, MA on November 14 & 15!

Otter Creek Overgrown Pale Ale [Beer of the Week]

Author // Jeff Wharton

Last year, Otter Creek in Vermont changed direction and started featuring their brewer, Mime Gerhart. At that same time, they started on a tear, rebranding the company and turning out great beer after great beer. Overgrown Pale Ale is their latest seasonal offering.

Ready to pop the top, I'm greeted by the image of Brewmaster Mike hanging in his van, dog at his side, something green wafting from his hand...Moving on to the beer, it's a hazy orange while it flows into my glass, crowned by a 1/2 inch of pale head. Enticing!

As I'm pouring, I can't help but notice a citrusy sweet blast, like overripe orange...it's sweet, but not cloying malt...just sweet and a bit oily, like an orange when you tear the peel. Stick your nose in and the experience is finished with clean malt and citrusy, dank hops.

Finally, the first sip reveals this beer to be delicious! A mild bitterness sticks in the mouth for a quite a while, even after you swallow. More noticeable, though, is the flavor: a dominating hoppy tangerine. This is a great, drinkable, citrusy, and hoppy pale ale that I'll definitely have a couple of. At 5.5% abv it's definitely meant to be consumed a couple at a time.