As we transition into fall here in the U.S., a funny thing starts to happen at our liquor and grocery stores. Like the changing of the leaves from lush green to crispy orange, our beer aisles also change to shades of autumnal colors. Most major breweries would have us believe that the only brew we should be drinking from now until December is pumpkin beers and Octoberfests. So this week we ask the Fervent Few (Join us, won't you?) if they keep to strict seasonal drinking guidelines. But we also had to ask the big question: What do you think of pumpkin beers?
Brandon Morreale: “Living in the midwest obviously defines ‘seasonal’ a little more rigidly, and I’m a pretty rigid seasonal drinker when it comes to reaching off the shelf. I’m in full Märzen mode right now, soon it’ll be Founders Porter season. Breweries around Wisconsin were releasing a lot of big boy Stouts and BA Stouts all summer and I couldn’t bring myself to buy them, even if they were confirmed to be delicious, because I could definitely not see a scenario where I would put away a 13% cinnamon, vanilla, chili imperial Stout on an 80 degree summer eve.”
Brad: “What I drink is very dependent on what's released by the breweries I visit, particularly because I try to drink as fresh as possible when it comes to IPAs and very frequently Stouts as well (unless I have a history of beers aging well from that brewery). With that said, I've seen a lot breweries that I've visited this year, release pastry and BA Stouts regardless of the time of year. They have to release them when they are ready to drink and in accordance with their aging schedule, so I understand why they are coming out in the middle of July. But with that said, I don't necessarily love a boozy/complex Stout on a 85 or 90 degree day, so I will frequently hold off a month or two with those if I can get away with it.”
Zack Rothman: “I drink seasonally to an extent, as I intend to purchase seasonal beers when they're available. My favorite seasonals are Märzen/Oktoberfest beers, but I wouldn't say they take up a large portion of my fridge. I drink mostly IPAs throughout the year, as I'm sure many others do. I will often let Stouts age and drink most of them during the colder months, but I'd definitely drink one during the summer with some BBQ.”
Rob Parkin: “Seasonality provides a nudge to switch up drinking habits and a little bit of change from the norm. That being said, I also don't object to getting stuck into a Porter/Stout if the time is right in the summer. Ultimately, I change the food I eat quite a lot throughout the year and that's more to do with heightening the enjoyment when a new season comes in. Beer gives an opportunity to stretch those rituals further. I'm looking forward to my first pub roast and I know my local brewery release their seasonal Brown Ale soon. If I can combine the two, then all the better.”
Brad Redick: “This time of year is Founders season for me. Between Harvest Ale, Breakfast Stout, and Porter, dear sweet precious life affirming Porter, they own my fridge in fall/winter. I love when Celebration from Sierra Nevada hits shelves. And I can't forget always reliable standbys like Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro and Deschutes Obsidian. More than pumpkin and holiday spice, I check for the wet hop or fresh hop beers. Those are easy to incorporate into the rotation because I never stray too far from IPAs. Coffee beers get much more spin for me in the 4th quarter. They pair so well with the crisp bite in the air and the smell of a small fire in the distance. Did I mention Founders? December is the perfect time to break out some KBS vintages and be gregarious. And don't forget Founders Porter or Breakfast Stout. Maybe mix in a Founders imperial Stout if you got one kicking around. Can you believe one brewery is responsible for all those beers? In conclusion, Founders is special. Happy Holidays!” [Editor's note: We're pretty sure Brad isn't on Founders' payroll, but only pretty sure.]
Kyle Andrus: “I find I tend to drink seasonally a bit, but it's mostly due to availability of styles. In Eastern Canada, there really aren't any Berliner Weisse or ISAs in the fall/winter, and aren't many Porters or Stouts in the spring/summer. I think I would drink the occasional Stout in the summer?”
WIlliam Kuttruff: “I do drink seasonally, and many of my choices have to do with temperature and food. Right now, I am enjoying the malty celebration of Märzen beer and Porter. Living in the Philadelphia area, it is currently moderate in temperature, but the nights can be brisk and the maltier beers can be soothing—especially with a good cigar. Winter will bring heavier meals which call for heavier beer. Same with spring and summer. I tend to reach for IPAs (most all of the time), but specifically in spring and summer with some Hefeweizens and Lager/Pils sprinkled in. The breweries and bottle shops in the area tend to produce their product in the same vein—based on seasons.”
Caldwell Bishop: “I drink Stouts year-round, as they tend to be my favorite style. I might drink other styles depending on the context of when I'm drinking it, but if I'm at a bar that has a Stout I've yet to try on tap, I almost always get that.”
Aleksi Friman: “Living in Finland, our weather changes quite a lot in every two months. For me, the main influence for preferable style is the amount of sunlight. Right now, in September, the nights are getting shorter, and in couple of months we will have only 4 hours of daylight. In those circumstances, it is really hard to grab a light and refreshing style like APA, Saison, or fruity Berliner Weisse. Barley Wine is one of my favorite styles and I enjoy it also in summer. But during the dark months there is a genuine need to have it on a weekly basis. I believe it creates a protective membrane in your brain to keep it safe from the evil spirits lurking in the shadows.”
Ian Davis: “Drinking out of season has become more difficult. I can't remember the last time I grabbed a year-round six pack from a brewery. It's just one seasonal release after another. I do tend to drink on season because the flavors and the experience from whatever beer might be in play is pleasing to me. A nice crispy Pils or single IPA in the summer or perhaps a really great Gose to quench my thirst.
However, come fall, I want to drink dark Lager, Porter, and Stout. Something about that heavy, higher ABV beer helps cut the chill from the Ohio wind. Back to the initial point I had, is it really that simple to drink out of season like it once was? The marketing behind breweries is so dependent on that in-season branding and the drinkers who will follow. I'd challenge everyone to consider your favorite year-round release from any brewery, and ask yourself when do you typically grab it? Is it a Double IPA, or a heavy Quad, or maybe that favorite kettle sour Berliner? Also ask yourself when was the last time you opened some massive Barley Wine at 15% ABV during a heat wave, air conditioning or not. Not saying I don't occasionally indulge off-season brews during a share, because great beer is great beer and the time to consume great beer is always!”
Rick Owens: “I don’t drink a lot of Stouts, Quads, etc. to begin with. Oftentimes, those beers overwhelm my palate and leave me craving something lighter. I don’t like drinking beers that are difficult to drink, whatever time of year it is. Having said that, if I’m cooking outside this fall, I adore a crisp, cold Pilsner/Lager-style or a Porter when it gets later in the evening.”
Eric Portelance: “In Toronto, we have fairly cold winters and relatively hot/humid summers with long shoulder seasons. So people are generally excited for summer and looking for more sessionable, tart/sour, fruited beers. I’ll rarely be in the mood for something high alcohol and malty during the summer, but will drink more as the weather cools. Bars have the opposite problem because there are still people who want a stout in the summer, but most breweries won’t make them because it won’t move a lot of volume. In the winter, every brewery is trying to sell their stout or porter, but bar owners are still trying to keep a balanced tap list.”
Mike Sardina: “Contextual drinking can be seasonal, but often it isn't. I'm more interested in combining moments in time with great beers that fit that moment. Seasonality will play a role in that, for sure—weather, daylight, and darkness all included.
I'm reaching for very different beers when I'm outside and it's 80 degrees, sunny, and light at 6pm after work versus when it is 20 degrees, snowy, and dark, and I'm hunkered in for the evening. Sure, I might go for a stereotypical 'summer' beer in the first scenario, a Pilsner or Pale Ale/Session IPA. But that doesn't necessarily mean I'm drinking a Stout or a Barley Wine or spiced/pumpkin beer in the second scenario. Most likely, I'm drinking a Pilsner or Pale Ale/Session IPA.
I really just like to drink Pilsners and Pale Ale/Session IPAs…”
Caldwell Bishop: “On pumpkin beers, most I've had taste to me like a relative bland ale that's had pumpkin spice dumped into it. TBH, I can do that myself and achieve a similar effect. Four Peaks' pumpkin beer is hands down my favorite, and Southern Tier's is the only other one I've had that I like and will buy.”
Rob Parkin: “Living in the UK, pumpkin beers aren't such a thing and usually just part of the October displays in Whole Foods. Tried some, don't like them, not going to rush to get my hands on one anytime soon.”
Zack Rothman: “I'll reach for a pumpkin beer as long as it's balanced with a subtle pumpkin flavor and not loaded with spices.”
Brad: “Regarding the pumpkin question... I don't really enjoy that flavor in any context, so I will not be reaching for one of those any time soon.”
Brandon Morreale: “Avery Rumpkyn and Pumpkyn are the only pumpkin beers worth a lick. If you can even define them as ‘pumpkin beers’ and not ‘basically liqueur.”