Autumnal flavors such as pumpkin spice are starting to appear on restaurant menus before the summer heat has subsided, and seasonal beers are no exception. “Just like Christmas decorations at Wal-Mart after Halloween, beers are moving in the same direction,” says Robbie Connell of Dallas-based Humperdinks Restaurant & Brewpubs.
Connell met with Humperdinks’ brewmasters in early autumn to plan for the production of the restaurants’ winter ales. Those seasonals went on draft right after Thanksgiving to run through New Year’s Day, or longer, depending upon the supply. By then the next round of seasonals, fermented back in December, are ready to tap.
But next winter, he may release seasonals early, Connell says, perhaps mid-November or even before, because commercial brewers are releasing their beers for the season earlier.
“They keep pushing the timing, that’s my bitch about seasonals,” says Justin Henrichsen, proprietor of the Independent Ale House in Rapid City, SD. He refuses to bring in Oktoberfest beers before the official start in September, or winter ales before the frost hits.
“Seasonals have a time and should match the weather,” he says. That said, the proprietor has to plan ahead and pre-order seasonal brews because some beers are highly allocated.
For more, see In Step With Seasonal Brews.
Thomas Henry Strenk is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer who brews his own seasonal beers