Let me tell you a story of a very different time. It's not long ago, nor is it far away. Boston, MA 2006. In this world, beers like Stone Imperial Russian Stout and Smuttynose Big A Double IPA last less than a day on shelves, and are released only once per year. These are the best that you can get (just like now, they were fantastic then). Portsmouth Brewery's relatively unknown Kate the Great Imperial Stout goes on tap without fanfare and lasts for weeks, if not months. Founders Brewing only sends a few beers to our state. Sixpoint is a rare draft-only treat that motivates those "in the know" people out to the bar for rare tappings that seem to come in waves and then disappear. It's a different world, with a lot less great beer.
The concept of local beer is something that almost nobody thinks of. Not because local isn't important (which to most it isn't), but because we have few notable local brewers. Notch, Backlash, Pretty Things, Night Shift, Idle Hands, Maine Beer Co., Trillium, Mystic Brewery, Mayflower, Blatant, High Horse, Rising Tide, Clown Shoes, Enlightenment Ales, Jack's Abby, and Wormtown, among many others, aren't even a glimmer in their founders' eyes yet. Allagash, Wachusett, Berkshire Brewing, and Harpoon are a fraction of their current sizes. Publick House and Sunset Grill are the only places to get "one of those fancy beers" that most people know about...even craft beer lovers. And they serve mostly beers from the West Coast or a few from the MidWest.
Why do I tell this story? Well, sometimes it's easy to forget how far we've come and how quickly it's happened. World class beer used to be something hard to get. You had to make friends with "the beer guy" at your local store to get most anything of note, and then come in on delivery day. You heard stories of far flung places, like Indiana, where you could go to wait in line for some Imperial Stout...but to most they were just stories.
The world has changed, and I'm loving 2014. You can still wait in line and put holds with the local beer store to get world class beer, if that's your thing. But you don't have to. I can go to many "average liquor stores" and find a better selection of beer than I used to get at my go-to craft beer store. You can easily select several beers that years ago, based on quality, would have sold through their allotment in a day and been nationally renowned. And that's any day of the year, more options than you could possibly purchase in one go. Beers like Stone IRS and Smuttynose Big A are easy to get seasonals. Here at Drink Craft Beer we run three beer fests per year featuring only New England breweries, and we have a wait list to pour at every fest. In 2014 there is more world class beer being made in New England alone than used to get shipped here from all over the world in 2006.
And it's not that all the older, now easier to get beers have gotten worse. Far from it. The quality of craft beer we all have access to has just gotten SO. MUCH. BETTER. It's just caused many to go blind to the huge number of amazing beers staring them in the face that are just quietly world class. The number of new breweries that have opened, and old ones that have stepped up their games, is staggering.
It used to be getting world class beer required a hunt...now it just takes a trip to the store. So, next time you're at the bar or the beer store, stop and just look for a moment. Think about just how much awesome beer there is there and how easy it is to get it. We've come a long way, and there's still a lot of work to be done. But I might just pause and enjoy a local beer because world class beer just isn't that hard to get anymore, and I'm loving it.
Want a chance to try much of the world class beer being made in New England? Join us on November 14 and 15, 2014 for Drink Craft Beer Fall to Winter Fest. Featuring 25 New England craft brewers and cider makers with 90+ beers and ciders! Everyone is bringing a beer/cider made with a seasonal fall or winter ingredient.
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!
"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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
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!