Shipyard Brewing Co. released its Pumpkinhead fall seasonal to U.S. retailers over the last two weeks. Launched in 2002 and one of American craft beer’s biggest-selling seasonals, Pumpkinhead is a malty U.K.-meets-USA amber ale enhanced with pumpkin pie flavors. The beer is made with a dash of malted wheat, U.S. and European hops and an English ale yeast. At just 4.5 percent ABV, Pumpkinhead is a super-sessionable pumpkin beer with ample body, subtle pumpkin-pie spice notes and a gentle bite of hops on its refreshing finish.
With the September 1 release of the beer, Shipyard founder Fred Forsley is also beginning an effort to end the “seasonal creep” of beers that has riled consumers and retailers alike.
“Enough is enough,” Forsley said. “Over the past few years craft brewers — Shipyard included — have steadily pushed up the release dates of seasonal beers to the point that these beers are now out of season. This push has stripped these beers of their context and fun and angered our customers. So we’re going to put our seasonal beers back in season and try to end this foolishness.”
Consumer backlash to seasonal creep reached its peak this summer with consumers angry about the early departure of summer beers and fall beers arriving in July and August. Forsley has seen that frustration firsthand, despite releasing Pumpkinhead about two weeks later than last year.
“I was at the beach in Maine last week,” Forsley said, “with one of my best and longtime on-premise customers, and he really let me have it. ‘It’s still summer. It’s 90 degrees outside, but your Summer Ale is off-the-shelf. And now you want me to drink a pumpkin beer? This is crazy, Fred’ He’s right. It’s time for some seasonal correctness here.”
“Seasonal creep is screwing up seasonal beers for everybody,” said Bruce Forsley, Fred’s cousin and Shipyard’s sales director. “If these beers come out at the right time and stay through their intended time slot, we think consumers and retailers will be happier and the beers will sell better.”
Bart Watson, chief economist for the Brewers Association, noted a shift to seasonal correctness comes with positives and negatives.
“The biggest risk,” Watson said, “is that people have already stocked up on pumpkin, and you miss out on purchase opportunities. That’s why seasonal creep started in the first place, but I think that there is room for a few breweries to buck the trend and get an advantage. Overall, I think this would be a good thing for the industry, but I think there’s the risk that a brewery that shifts back will get crowded out.”
Marty Jones is longtime evangelist, publicist and status quo smasher for craft beer. His creative ideas, promo efforts and questionable jokes have played a key role in the success of some of the top beer endeavors in Colorado and the United States. Follow him on Twitter @martyjonesinc.