Food & Dining

Early pumpkin beers brew dismay among drinkers

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - It's bad enough that back-to-school comes in June, and Halloween arrives in July. And of course we all know Christmas begins in September. But now even the craft beer industry is caving to seasonal creep. For this year, the beer drinker's harbinger of autumn - pumpkin ales - apparently couldn't hold off until the pumpkins actually ripened.

Labor Day may be considered the unofficial end of summer, but some craft brewers couldn't even wait until then to roll out their pumpkin and other fall seasonal beers. Many already have been in stores and on taps for a month. And not all beer drinkers are saying, 'Cheers!'

'Everyone likes pumpkin beer, but you don't want it to come too soon. I definitely like to drink it in the appropriate season,' says Nate Marsden, 23, of Boston, who nonetheless recently gave in to the temptation of his favorite seasonal brew, Pumking, an imperial pumpkin ale from Southern Tier Brewing Co.

He's got company. Beer connoisseurs who wanted to savor summer a bit longer have been airing their gripes on social media. Taking to Twitter with hashtags such as #HolidayFail and #SummersNotOver, people like Andrew Hickey let it be known they weren't impressed with the early start.

Forget being irritated about back-toschool ads, the 33-year-old tweeted - complete with a photo of the offending brew - back on Aug. 16. 'Why is there pumpkin ale already on shelves?!?'

'I think it's just a rushing the season kind of thing,' said Hickey, of East Brunswick, N.J. 'I'm guilty of drinking them but it seems like it's getting earlier and earlier each year.'

Brewers were quick to explain that they didn't have much choice. They said increased demand and the size of their breweries meant they needed to start making the beer earlier. And that means it gets to consumers earlier, too.

'If you think it's too early for Pumpkin Ale . don't go get some,' Schlafly Beer in St. Louis posted on its website in August. 'It will still be on shelves for the next couple months (hopefully) and you can pick some up down the road.'

Dan Kopman, the brewery's co-founder, said that in a perfect world they'd have their summer offerings available through the end of summer, then start selling their fall beers soon after. 'When something changes that has been very traditional, you're always going to get a comment,' he says. 'It's a great problem to have and is simply reflecting what's going on in the market.'

Bars across the country also have weighed in on the availability of pumpkin beers when temperatures are still hovering in the high 80s.

'We will not be tapping pumpkin beers until the fall, when the season is appropriate,' says An Bui, the self-proclaimed chief beer officer at Mekong, a Vietnamese restaurant in Richmond that offers 50 revolving taps and more than 200 varieties of bottled beer. 'Seasonal beers are where you taste the fruit or the flower of that period,' Bui says. 'It's so early. What's going on?'

Those who follow the retail trade also noted a possible reason for the premature arrival, aside from needing to start production earlier: capturing early demand.

'When you're selling seasonal merchandise, there's only a certain profit pool available to be had from that,' says Craig R. Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, a retail consultancy. 'If you're objective is to capture the maximum share of the profit pool, you want to have your goods out their early because you'll be first in the marketplace.'

And Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst with The NPD Group, says brands and businesses trying to get that top-of-mind business are 'willing to risk the absurd - even earlier than expected.'

(Michael Felberbaum can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/MLFelberbaum .)



More Close Up

Stanley Tate on Birds

All birds aren’t created equal

Flying is what makes a bird a bird. Except for the lowly bat mammals haven’t mastered the art of flying – unless they buy a tick ... Read More


Focus on the Family

Boy’s fascination with ‘bad guys’ nothing to worry about

Q: How should I respond to my child's fascination with evil characters? He's only 3 years old, but whenever he plays make-believe, he always ... Read More


Weekender

Classic country coming to Newnan

When people from Coweta County want to see big country music stars perform, they almost always have to go to Atlanta. Matt Collins is workin ... Read More


Taste of Newnan Oct. 2

Main Street brings Fall Art Walk tonight

The annual Fall Art Walk hosted by Main Street Newnan and downtown businesses is 5-9 p.m. tonight, Sept. 19. During the free event, visitors ... Read More


Food & Dining

Steak cook-off returning to County Fair

The annual Coweta County Fair opens tonight, and the Coweta Cattlemen’s Association is gearing up for another steak cook-off contest o ... Read More

Movie Review

‘Tombstones’ takes Neeson darker

By Jonathan W. Hickman Special to Times-Herald There will be a time when Liam “I’m-going-to-punch-you-in-the-face” Neeson ... Read More