Upcycling is taking waste material or useless stuff and turning it into something useful or better. While some seem to think this is a relatively new concept, back in 1963 the idea was envisioned by beer brewer Alfred Heineken and designed by Dutch architect John Habraken with the Heineken WOBO (world bottle). Not only were they bottles of beer, they were also building blocks for the drinker to create walls or whatever they’d like and prevent the bottles from just becoming landfill. Pretty cool idea but sadly it never caught on. Would you live in a house of bottles like this guy?
While everyone loves beers that are available all year round, we seem to go crazy for certain seasonal beers that are available only for a short time each year. Don’t get them while they’re out and you have to wait patiently (or impatiently) until they come around again next year. With the change if the seasons, comes a change in the styles of beers that hit the market. Summer ales, hefeweizens, and other highly drinkable styles in the summer. Oktoberfests, pumpkin ales, harvest ales and wet hopped brews in the fall. Winter ales, stouts, barleywines, and others in the winter. And maibocks, Biere de Mars, and more come spring time. We all have the ones we look forward to each season. But it seems each year, breweries are releasing these seasonal brews well before their proper season has begun.
As I’m sure most craft beer fans have noticed, we continue to see brewers releasing their pumpkin beers in July, long before the fall that we typically associate this style with. We see Oktoberfest come out around the same time too. Each time around there is a wave of complaints from the seasonal faithful. Crying that these beers have come out way too soon and brewers need to wait until the proper time to release them or they will refuse to drink them. In the perfect world, these beers would come out at those more seasonally aligned times but there is a very good reason for their early release and it’s part of the reason some of these beers can exist at all. After speaking to a number of professional brewers and distributors, there are many reasons for the seasonal release schedules.
The trend to start releasing seasonal beers before the actual season’s start likely started with Sam Adams and their Oktoberfest. Sam started selling their Oktoberfest early and other brewers followed suit. They did this largely because after October ends, consumers will not buy Oktoberfest. I’m not saying that you, yourself, won’t. Just that the general consumer will not buy a Oktoberfest beer after October and the distributors and liquor stores are left sitting on product they can’t sell. Most consumers won’t buy a Winter Ale when the snow is melting outside or a hefeweizen when the leaves are falling from the trees. By starting to sell these beers earlier, they can increase the time in which people will purchase them which increases profits from these brews.
So why can’t these guys just settle for a shorter selling season and less profits? Well for some brewers, this is the deciding factor for if it’s even worth releasing their seasonal at all. While big guys like Sam Adams could continue to produce Oktoberfest along with others, with a shorter seasonal release time small brewers may not be able to. A good amount of tank space at these breweries needs to be devoted to these special brews. That space takes away space that could be used for their year-round brews so they have to be able to sell enough of it to make up for any loss from taking away from their normal brewing.
Ingredient costs for many of these brews are more than your typical brew including pumpkins, spices, wet hops, and more. To get a decent discount on these ingredients, a brewer may have to purchase a significant quantity. That means they must also brew and sell a significant quantity of the beer to make even brewing it in the first place viable. A longer season in which they can sell the beer may be required to move all of it.
In addition to increased cost of ingredients, breweries also have to purchase packaging for this seasonal craft beer. Why waste the expense in having the packaging printed if you aren’t going to be able to order enough to get a decent price on it. Additional consideration has to be given for brewers that can as unlike bottling breweries which can just get a small run of labels made, can printers typically require an order of 200k cans or more per run. Brewers don’t want to have to store those unused cans around the brewery for a whole year until the season returns again.
Many of the bigger beers like many winter ales and bocks, require longer aging time. This additional time takes up tank space for longer. Brewers may not be able to justify taking up this space from their normal brews when they could likely move several batches of higher profitable beer through them in the same time unless they have a long enough period of time in which to sell the seasonal beer.
There are many reasons brewers are releasing seasonal beers earlier. Just some of them are explained above. We hear many people claim they won’t buy a seasonal beer until the proper season has begun. While you may not want to drink your pumpkin ale until the leaves are changing color, understand that the brewers do have reasons for releasing these beers when they do. They aren’t just doing it out of spite or because they don’t understand when the season begins. You may choose to wait until the time you find acceptable but why not consume the beer when it’s fresh and at it’s best. And be aware that you are risking getting none should you wait until you’re ready. While some seasonals are around for several months, others are snatched up quickly each year. Don’t miss out.
In the end, you choose what you drink and when you drink it. Still, please lighten up on these brewers and their seasonal release schedules. They’re just trying to make great beer for all of us to enjoy and earn an honest wage for themselves at the same time. Enjoy these brews while you can because we all regret not drinking enough of them during the short time they are around, even if that amount of time has grown for many of them.
197 years ago today, view the London Beer Flood place. A vat of beer containing about 162, pharm 128 gallons at the Meux and Company Brewery burst causing a chain reaction that ultimately spilled around 387,906 gallons of brew. The beer then flooded out onto the streets of London. In the end, 7 people were dead and 2 homes were destroyed along with other damages. Raise a pint to those lost souls today. You can read more about the London Beer Flood here on Wikipedia.
While I hope most of us don’t think of ourselves of snobs, I know that many do come across as one when attempting to talk to others about the merits of craft beer and why they believe it is far better than your typical American macro beer. The infographic above outlines some of the basics for learning the language of the craft beer drinker and is a nice reference for those that are just getting into the wonderful world of craft brew and it’s culture. Send it to your friends and help educated them in our ways.
This infographic from the Pat Moore Foundation, a drug and alcohol treatment center, is pretty one-sided. I understand that they’re trying to support their mission but they choose to overlook some obvious reasons for their facts.
#1-3 – All are true. We love beer. Beer is awesome.
#4 – Yes beer may be the beverage most commonly consumed by people stopped for driving impaired or alcohol-related crashes but it’s also the most popular alcoholic beverage. That’s like saying that Fords were the most common vehicle to be in an accident in 1915 when they were by far the most popular vehicle on the road.
#5 – Sure beer producers show more advertisements during college sports events than pro events. That’s because they know who their market is. Young drinkers of legal age consume more beer than the older audience of pro sports. It’s the same deal with McDonalds advertising more on children’s programming than on primetime television. They know when their advertising is most effective and they market to it. Every well marketed business does the same. It’s also easier for advertisers to get commercial space during college games compared the the crowded market filled with other products also bidding on commercial space during Monday Night Football, the Super Bowl, and the World Series.
#6 – 8th and 12th graders think they can acquire beer fairly easily. And? In school you could also acquire drugs easily but it doesn’t mean they all became drug addicts or even tried drugs. I think active parenting and a good relationship with your children goes much farther towards their choices involving drinking than the general ability to acquire alcohol. Anyone can walk into a drug store and load up on pain pills but that doesn’t automatically mean we’re all doing it.
#7 – A lobbyist group spending money on political contributions? No way! University of California has contributed $1.6 million to the Obama campaign, Goldman Sachs $1 million and Harvard, Google and Microsoft have all thrown him $800K. That doesn’t automatically make a company or group evil. It means they’re looking out for their best interests which all large companies and groups do. Why should this be a surprise?
#8 – This one is basically the same as #4.
#9 – Students find beer commercials more visually appealing than public service announcements?! Seriously? I’m pretty sure anyone, no matter the age group, would agree that beer commercials are more visually appealing than boring PSAs. That’s like asking someone which is more visually appealing, Katy Perry or a corpse. Theres nothing appealing about PSAs. They all come across like they’re scolding you for being a bad dog.
#10 – So companies spent money to market their product and in-turn created profits for their shareholders as they’re suppose to do and this is wrong in some way?
Look at where the data for the infographic comes from. The first site listed is BeerSoaksAmerica.org, a site that claims to be “a response to beer industry propaganda”. Sounds like a fair an impartial source for information. Looking at the site more, it’s a front for ads for online pharmacies and Cuban cigars. Seriously, look at it. They’ve peppered it with keywords and links to online pharmacies. Quite the credible spot for accurate information.