LKN Connect

Seasons start earlier and earlier each year, but we’re grateful fall begins as early as July with seasonal brews! Photo: Wendy Raymond

Tis’ the season for fall beers, such as pumpkin ales and Oktoberfest lagers. The confusion of how soon seasonal beers show up on the shelf is the same as saying that retail is putting out Christmas decorations earlier and earlier every year. Now don’t shoot the messenger, but you will continue to see fall beers hit the shelves as early as July; this will never change since there is such robust competition in the market.


Let me explain how seasonal creep—a race to the starting line rather than the finishing line—occurs in the beer industry. As a brewery’s summer beer starts to sell out, it needs a new seasonal to fill its shelf space. If one brewery’s fall beer isn’t on the shelf as early as possible, you will buy the brand of fall beer that is available to you as a customer. It’s a race to be among the first fall beers on the shelf so that customers develop an early taste and an early brand loyalty. However, not all folks are as giddy to see a pumpkin spiced beer in their face in July, and often they take their complaints to social media.


Jeremy Danner, ambassador brewer for Boulevard Brewing Co. in Kansas City, had an interesting Twitter conversation after someone tweeted him, upset that pumpkin beers hit the shelves too soon and why couldn’t they wait. After a slew of comments, back and forth, Danner was left to explain how seasonal creep works.


Danner laments, “Going back at least 10 years, Bob’s ’47 Oktoberfest and our other later summer/early fall beers had been released slightly before the second week of August. Around that time our summer beers had sold out on retail shelves and our distributors’ inventories had been depleted. The challenge is that most breweries our size brew to order based on production numbers requested from distributors. So while the previous seasonal is on shelves, it’s time to begin brewing the next seasonal so that we have our fall beer ready once the summer beer has sold out.”


So buy those seasonal beers when you see them on the shelves because a month later they most likely will be gone. And wouldn’t you rather buy a little early than miss your favorite pumpkin ale?