Seasonal creep happens for many products in the retail industry. Back-to-school sales start in July, Christmas decorations go on shelves in October, and summer styles go on sale in February. Craft beer is no exception. As I write this, it is August 1st, and we are already starting to see Sam Adams Octoberfest on the shelves. The name Octoberfest, of course, refers to the festival in Munich, Germany which runs from September 17th to October 3rd. So, August 1st is a bit early, right? Well, of course it is. As soon as the images started to trickle into my social media feeds, the side comments were full of outrage and disbelief. How are we expected to accept these fall beers when we’re still in the trenches of summer? Blasphemy!! Heresy!! Although my first inclination was to agree with the masses, as I thought more about it, I began to calm down and I convinced myself that seasonal creep can and should be enjoyed. Here are a few reasons why.
1. Many seasonal beers are really good
I like Sam Adams Octoberfest (and Winter Ale for that matter). I also like Pumpking, Founders Harvest Ale, and many of the local fall beers such as Crooked Run’s Smoked Pumpkin Porter that they brewed last fall. At face value, it’s hard for me to get upset when beers that I enjoy become available.
2. “Early releases” are usually coveted
In many situations, getting your hands on a special release earlier than you may anticipate is a good thing. I realize the shine is not as bright when pallets of the fall beers are landing in grocery stores, and EVERYONE has early release access, but nonetheless I think it’s pretty cool to be just ahead of what’s coming.
3. Seasonal beers can get better as the season progresses
You don’t HAVE TO drink these beers right now. You can cellar them for a few months and then emerge in November with an excellent beer. Yes, some of these products should be consumed fresh, when all the flavors are popping. Some other products could benefit from maturation time. Maybe you don’t like how powerful the spices are when the beer first hits the shelves. Some spices will fade over time, which may make the product more suited to your palate.
4. Retail is all about the allure of “what’s next”
The reason that these and other products in the retail industry are released early is because anticipation sells. I think it sells especially well in Virginia where we have all four seasons. We have 100 degree heat in the summer, 3 feet of snow in the winter, and everything in between. Just when you’re getting sick of the heat and humidity, here comes the fall beer line-up, reminding us that mild days and cool nights are approaching. I can appreciate this reminder, especially when it’s in the form of a delicious craft beverage. Cheers!