Certainly, with the increasing popularity of craft beer, brewers are eager to gobble up shelf space and get a jump start on the fall season, but have the many brewers that released their pumpkin ales near Labor Day weekend really gone too far?
Writer Michael Felberbaum at Fosters.com, a service of Foster’s Daily Democrat, dug into the issue and found that not all craft beer consumers are happy about the early arrival of fall beers. From Fosters.com:
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 (hash)HolidayFail and (hash)SummersNotOver, people like Andrew Hickey let it be known they weren’t impressed with the early start.
While there may be some cranky craft fans out there, brewers were quick to defend the move, arguing that they aren’t forcing drinkers to consume the pumpkin ales, merely attempting to capitalize on early demand. Be sure to check out the full story.
Our take: In Northeast Ohio, the Craft Brewing Business crew noticed pumpkin ales sprouting up in local beer stores even before Labor Day weekend. (We’re looking at you Pumpking!) The fact of the matter is that craft beer competition is increasing and shelf space isn’t. There’s limited space in stores and craft brewers are having to compete with other local, regional and national brewers. Practically, not a day goes by that we don’t post a distribution expansion story. (Seriously, check out this coverage.) Now add in the fact that the number of craft breweries have increased to more than 2,500. In fact, the murmur of a “craft beer bubble” is already making its industry rounds.
Anecdotally: The next time you’re at the store picking up your favorite six pack, take an objective look at the shelf space. See any new breweries there? How many of them are from out of state? How many new pumpkin beers can you count?
There is also the supply/demand issue for that seasonal sweet spot. Boston Beer Co. was a notable example this year. The company said its Sam Adams summer seasonal sold out quicker than anticipated, putting its production in an awkward position: Do we push out more summer beers when the calendar is so close to fall? The company chose to forge ahead and fill that seasonal shelf space with Oktoberfest instead of risking lagging behind.
While the business of craft brewing is infused with creativity and the entrepreneurial spirit, it’s still a business. Craft brewers still have to compete to capture the craft beer drinker market share. It’s not as if craft brewers pulled a Kmart and put Christmas/winter ales on the shelves Labor Day weekend. (We’ll turn a blind eye to Christmas in July.) Personally, we’re not going to complain about more awesome craft beer being available, but, as craft beer drinkers, we can appreciate the sentiment. Time to crack open a cold Oktoberfest.