How early is too early for pumpkin ale? Not the start of August, apparently. Last night at the the Logan Circle Whole Foods, I spotted a six-pack of Schlafly Pumpkin Ale. Then I turned the corner to behold an entire mountain of the "fall" beverage.
The seasonal creep seems to come earlier and earlier every year. In fact, August is pumpkin beer season now: Looking to be among the first on the market, most breweries that make the stuff have resorted to summer release dates. (Read a Y&H column about the subject from last August here.)
There's nothing inherently seasonal about most pumpkin beers: they're typically made with canned or frozen pumpkin, or no pumpkin at all (just "pumpkin spices"). Not that it even matters much from a taste perspective. Pumpkin doesn't lend much flavor to beer. It's pie spices like clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg that characterize the style.
But the real disappointment of pumpkin beer is that it's released so early that by the time it's seasonally appropriate to drink, it's not as easy to find. The most popular brands sell out almost immediately. Big grocery stores like Whole Foods may have plenty of storage to hold some for fall, but small bars that are tight on space are often out of luck if they want to serve pumpkin beer in, say, October.
So if you're a pumpkin beer fan, stock up while you're still wearing tank tops and flip-flops. By the time you've moved on to scarves and socks, we will already be well into Christmas beer season.
Photo by Jessica Sidman