The End of Summer (Beers at Least)

It’s early August. I enjoyed time on my patio yesterday in 85 degree weather with nothing but beautiful blue skies. But yesterday was a sad day – it was the last day of summer.

How is it possible that, despite being more than 45 days from the official start of autumn, summer has come to an early and abrupt end? There was no severe weather shift, time machine or anything else used to speed up summer. It’s a simple reason, actually – all the summer beer is gone.

It’s that time again for craft beer fans. Right now is one of the four awkward periods of the year that the seasonal beer you drink differs significantly from the season you’re drinking in. The craft beer community is currently experiencing seasonal beer creep.

Just the Latest Creep

Creep is nothing new. Christmas decorations and music fill malls across the country well before Thanksgiving. The “summer” sections of major department stores – the one housing patio furniture, grills, etc. – are usually dismantled and replaced by back to school displays before the Fourth of July. While craft beer is growing by leaps and bounds, the industry that was founded by people bucking popular conventions has fallen in line with everyone else.

The last summer beer...

The last summer beer…

It’s been written that the big players in the industry – Boston Beer Company, Sierra Nevada, etc. – dominate the release schedule of seasonal beers. I imagine it somewhat like the U.S. airlines trying to undercut each other price-wise – Sam Adams Octoberfest comes out the first week of August (or late-July in Boston), so Sierra Nevada feels pressure to bring its Tumbler to market to compete with Sam Adams. This “first to market” attitude isn’t limited to the big boys of craft beer.

The actions reverberate down the food chain as smaller regional breweries feel the pressure. Sixpoint, based in Brooklyn, N.Y., and famous around these parts for its naming squabble with Renegade Brewing Company, has pushed out its Autumnation, and Colorado’s own Tommyknocker Brewery has replaced it’s Tundrabeary seasonal with the Small Batch Pumpkin Harvest Ale.

It’s not that I have an issue with any fall seasonal beers. Sam Adams’ Octoberfest was one of the first craft beers I tried, and Upslope Brewing Pumpkin Ale is one of my favorite parts of fall. But there is a time and place for these beers. The time is during the real fall – when leaves are changing colors and football games aren’t meaningless preseason contests. The place is inside watching the first snowfall of the year, or bundled up trying to get one last day on your favorite patio before it closes for the year.

Hope Springs (or Summers) Eternal

But there’s hope for those of us who like to enjoy summer seasonals throughout the entire summer. We’ve got the ability to hoard all remaining summer offerings from local retailers (something I’ve already done). We also have a thriving beer culture in Colorado that props up all kinds of small, local breweries where the owner knows his or her customers’ names.

We as beer lovers can turn to those establishments – the small, local breweries – in hopes that they brew one or two more batches of seasonals to hold us through until the calendar officially hits fall.

I implore any brewery owners reading this to fight the popular trends, brew an extra batch or two of your summer seasonal, and help beer lovers around Colorado enjoy the remainder of summer the right way.

About Peter MacKellar

A native Coloradan who thinks our fine state offers the best beer and snow anywhere in the U.S., Peter recently moved back to Denver after spending a few years in New York City.