Wednesday, September 2, 2015

beer column

my notes from yesterday's beer column on cbc radio's on the coast with gloria macarenko in for stephen quinn:

It may look like Fall out there right now, but I absolutely refuse to talk about pumpkin beers yet!

Pumpkin beers are already on store shelves, like Central City’s popular red racer pumpkin ale and their brand new Patrick O’ Pumpkin! barrel-aged imperial pumpkin ale which launch at their Beatty Street location this evening, I am fighting seasonal creep for as long as I can!

Oh, but look.  Now I'm going to talk about seasonal creep and that's going to lead me into talking about pumpkin beers.  Dagnabbit!

Seasonal creep in the case of beer occurs when a seasonal beer, like a pumpkin ale, hits the market while it is still another season.  So while you are still enjoying those radlers and wits on a sunny patio, the store shelves are starting to fill up with pumpkin ales and barrel-aged goodies.
 
There are several theories about why we have seasonal creep in the beer world.  Some blame brewers, some blame marketers and some blame consumers.  But I think everyone agrees that seasonal creep is the way to get seasonal products on the shelf for as long as possible before an event.  No one wants to receive a large shipment of pumpkin beers the week before Hallowe’en and still be trying to sell them in December.  Earlier is better for selling volume when you’re talking seasonals.

It breaks my heart a little when I am reminded that summer is ending, but it certainly isn’t just the arrival of pumpkin beers that does that to me – back to school ads in July annoy me even more!

It’s pretty simple really.  If you don’t want to drink beer before its season, don’t buy it.  However, if it is your favourite, you might want to buy it when it hits the shelves but not drink it until you’re ready for it, as lots of seasonals do sell out before their actual season arrives.  Marketing-wise, if they sell out fast enough, there may be time for a brewery to make more, but it’s more likely that they’ll use that shelf space for their next seasonal, potentially making it’s creep even bigger, but, importantly for their bottom line, avoiding being stuck with product at the end of a season.  I feel I need to point out that we may complain a lot about seasonal creep, but sales of seasonal beers have proven to be much brisker well in advance of the season than they are during the end of it, and any product left after a season might as well be poison for the odds it has of being sold.

Cigar Brewing brewed a chocolate pumpkin beer  they call “Seasonal Creep”, with a zombie-fied pumpkin in a Christmas wreath on the label.  Oh, and it was released in June...  This was made as a joke, but it’s not that far-fetched to think that in a year or two we may have so much seasonal creep that pumpkin beers are hitting shelves at the end of June.  And so long as consumers are buying them early, stores will continue to carry them early and brewers to brew them early.  So, its pretty much our fault that seasonal creep exists.

And now I’m going to stop talking about the pumpkin beers I said I wasn’t going to talk about and move on to tasting some lovely summer beers while I'm still fooling myself that it's summer.  I mean it's before Labour Day - that makes it totally summer still!

Both of these beers are dry-hopped.  Dry-hopping refers to adding hops, dried ones, after the wort has cooled.  Doing so doesn’t change the bitterness level of the beer, but it does add a lot of aroma to the beer as the oils that give aroma and flavour to the beer break down quickly in boiling – so by adding them after the boil those oils can survive.

Often dry-hopping is done to IPAs, but I’ve got two samples of other styles that have been dry-hopped – so you should get a citrusy, florally ipa nose on a much less bitter beer than you might expect.

Awesome Session Ale:

A collaboration brew between Vancouver is Awesome and Postmark Brewing.  4.2%.  Dry-hopped it features Bravo, Chinook, Centennial and Cascade hops, and Pilsner and Vienna malts for a nice light body.  It’s available in 650 ml bombers.  This one is a hoppier version of a blonde ale.

Session ales, those at 4.5% or less alcohol by volume, are perfect any-time beers as they won’t knock you on your keister, and they’re particularly great for hot weather enjoyment when you’re kicking back to enjoy a couple of cold ones.

Old Abbey Ales dry hop Saison:

This one isn’t a session ale, but it will probably come across as one! 6.5%, available in 650 ml bombers.  Spicy black pepper notes and orange zest, typical for a saison, is joined by Magnum, Saphir and Ahtunum hops, and then dry-hopped with Saphir (for a sweet citrus nose) and Ahtanum (for a florally, citrusy and peppery nose).  This one has a whole lot going on.  So complex you'll have finished the whole 650 before you get a handle on it!

This is a part of the Innovation Series at Old Abbey – a new beer every batch, so you won’t see this one come around again.  Get it while you can at private liquor stores.


Beer Picks:

Let’s keep on pushing the summery beer envelope here:

Strange Fellows: Framboise Noir – their incredibly delicious black raspberry sour is available on tap at the brewery and it is a modest 4.5% session beer.

Parallel 49 – Jerkface 9000 wheat ale – a citrusy and delicious wheat ale available in bottles and at the brewery, this one is a mere 5%.

Big Rock Citradelic – this one is a heavier hitter at 6.5%, but it is a single-hopped ipa of very refreshing proportions!  Available in bottles and at the brewery.  I got to try this one at Folkfest, and now its available in bottles, in BC only as part of the brewing locally that the Big Rock Vancouver brewery is following.


more on seasonal creep:

from craftbeer.com:  only you can stop seasonal creep

from top fermented: stopping seasonal creep

from ithinkof beer: seasonal creep - the tide of terror

from antihero brewing:  warning this one is full of four-letter words

from craft beer cellar: respectful seasonal creep

from craft beer culture: video

from american craft beer:  seasonal creep and other buzz-kills

from nola beer blog:  seasonal creep - why gods, why?

from matt's beer adventure: seasonal creep and social media

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