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The Summer of Pumpkin

Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale….A Summer Beer?

It started with a simple tweet from Honeygo Wines (@honeygowines) that Shipyard Pumpkinhead hit the shelves on June 22. It took a double take for me to realize what that tweet actually said. Then, on June 27, a Facebook photo from my local distributor Westy’s indicated that Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale just arrived. At this point, I had to take a step back and think about what was going on.

It is June. Days after the summer solstice. It is hot. And we have fall-inspired pumpkin beers on the shelves.

The facts that I have gathered are as follows:

  • Weyerbacher struggles to keep up with the demand of the Imperial Pumpkin Ale every year. With their current capacity constraints, they have to brew the pumpkin beer in several batches and start early enough so that they can meet the demand at the distributors.
  • As far as I can tell, Shipyard brews Pumpkinhead earlier simply because it is a customer favorite and not because of capacity constraints. They see the beer as popular and there is opportunity to make money off of it because the demand is there.

I truly sympathize with Weyerbacher. I’m 100% positive that they would love to release the beer in season rather than earlier, but they have nowhere to store the bottled beer and can’t produce it later if they want to meet demand. I also completely understand  Shipyard’s position that they make a beer that many people buy, so why wouldn’t they make it more available to consumers so they can make more money? However, in both instances, this has to stop!

On a hot summer day, I am not reaching for a pumpkin beer. I want something either light and refreshing like a Kolsch or Pilsner, or I want something hoppy like an IPA or Pale Ale. Certainly there are exceptions to that rule, as I enjoys stouts and other beers in the summer, but not enough to seek out a beer or even buy a case of it. Remember, I am in Pennsylvania so if I am not at a take-out restaurant, I have to buy a  case of beer at a distributor. 

So what are the solutions? Well, Weyerbacher is currently in the process of expanding their brewing facilities. Certainly a solution would be to store the beer somewhere at an expense to them or limit the supply, something I have no problem with. We have seen breweries back out of markets because they can’t meet the demand, so I would be fine with seeing this beer in fewer places until the expansion is complete. I hope that this expansion “takes care of the glitch,” so to speak. If Weyerbacher is able to produce more beer at one time, I hope that they will push back the Imperial Pumpkin Ale brewing schedule and be able to release the beer in late August or September.

As for the Shipyard release, the only solution I see is in YOUR hands: STOP BUYING THIS BEER IN JUNE AND JULY! We, as the consumer, have all of the power over this beer. The release of this beer is no different than the Christmas holiday season creeping on other holidays such as Thanksgiving and October. It is all about economics and to Shipyard, Pumpkinhead is their Christmas. In the end, both Weyerbacher and Shipyard are trying to make money from this popular style, and we have the power to make it a fall seasonal again.

 

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Written by Jeff Kupko

Jeff is a traffic engineer that loves his beer, and especially loves trying new beer. As a student at the University of Pittsburgh, Yuengling was a staple and the beginnings of liking something better than fizzy yellow water. This has evolved into an entire hobby, with Jeff keeping a blog of all of the beers he tries. Vacations most certainly involve at least one brewery or bottle shop visit to gather a region’s coveted fruits. Now, Jeff has ventured into homebrewing, and there is probably no saving him from being engulfed entirely by beer. While Imperial Stouts and IPAs rank highest in Jeff’s eyes, sours are sneaking up on those styles, and Jeff loves to try all different styles. Find Jeff Kupko on Google Plus

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