The seasons of our beers.

Chris Lohring of Notch Brewing posted this lament the other day about the way that the whole concept of releasing seasonal beers has been perverted in recent years with their releases coming well before the actual “season” for which they were originally intended so that they often disappear before they would even be “in season.”

Who among us has not heard the lament from some poor misguided fool when went out to buy an Oktoberfest in, you know, October?

Dude, that’s when you buy your winter beers. Have you not been paying attention?

The post has gotten a lot of attention and I, who share his dismay (although I understand that there are some underlying factors involving distribution and transportation and the like which complicate the issue), loved his closing paragraph:

What to do as a consumer? It is really quite simple. Stop buying beer out of season, and stop encouraging the trend. You may start to see more beers that make sense in the season. Or during today’s snow storm, sit back and enjoy that Summer Beer that was released just last week.

There are a couple of ways to look at this, none of them entirely satisfactory: either we live with it or abandon the idea of “seasonal” altogether in terms of beers keyed so specifically time and place that they become silly in context.  Goodbye Oktoberfest, Maibock et al, you can no longer function within a culture that moves too fast for logic (think of them as newspapers and it all makes sense).

Meanwhile, beers which have a broader time span can still be considered to fit the concept. My friends at Sly Fox, for example, release only three packaged “seasonals.” The Oktoberfest suffers the same absence of time and place that do most of these, but the Fall/Winter Dunkel Lager faces no such issues and neither does the Spring/Summer Royal Weisse. My friends at Victory have similarly  made their Festbier  and Mad King’s Weiss year-round offerings from the start.There are many similar examples.

In a story I wrote about how new brewers are attempting to break into the market which appeared in the most recent issue of American Brewer, I discovered how one North Carolina start-up has chosen another way of  dealing with the whole seasonal problem..

Erik Lars Myers of North Carolina’s Mystery Brewing Co.: “I create beers with seasonally appropriate flavors to match the foods of the season but not the ones which are commonly done. I have a Foreign Extra Stout with a lot of citrus I want to do in the summer when everybody else is releasing Hefeweizens, for example, and I really want to do an Oktoberfest that I brew in October and release in March, a true Marzen if you will.”

For those of you who just want the next over-hopped, high alcohol, unbalanced mutation of a real IPA, none of this matters, of course. You gave up on beer a long time ago.

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