How do you deal with having to make pumpkin beers when the market for pumpkin beers is shrinking? Brewers in Texas as well as others across the country are faced with this.
Brewers cut their production of pumpkin beer this year yet it still sits on shelves gathering dust. Anecdotally, draft sales of the style are still going OK, but bottles not so much.
I never really ate pumpkin pie. I was raised on sweet potato pie instead. There were really on three uses for pumpkins for us: jack-o-lanterns, where you got pumpkin seeds to roast, and as something to be shot or blown up.
Anyway, back to beer. This isn’t about pumpkin beers per se as much as it is about something that is happening all across the craft beer world all across styles. What do you do when a beer that has been successful for you stops being successful?
This is a symptom of why I find craft beer so interesting at the moment and it is something I’ve mentioned before. As an aside, it is the same reason as a soccer fan I find Major League Soccer so interesting. We are watching craft beer grow and mature before our eyes. It is an industry, much like the tech industry where change and innovation are not just buzzwords, but important to the overall survival of individual breweries.
This discussion of pumpkin beers leads me to wonder how do you navigate tapping into something that is popular without pandering? Are you brewing a pumpkin beer because you have an interesting take on the style that you want people to try or are you making a pumpkin beer just to have one in your portfolio?
One of the things that amazes me is how every year brewers collectively decide to make a certain style. Sometimes brewers seem like the kids on the U8 soccer team I coached for a couple of years. They all just follow the ball around like bees. One year its goses, then its kolsches, then its barrel aged anything. This year it seemed everyone had to try putting mango in IPAs with varying degrees of success.
When it’s a brewer going, “Oh, that sounds interesting, I wonder what I can do with that,” it turns out OK. The beer may not be good, but at least it is interesting. When it’s a brewer (or more likely the sales and money people) saying, “We need one of those. Let’s go make one,” it usually doesn’t work out so well because the beer sucks and it isn’t interesting.
Remember, at its core craft beer is at least in part a creative enterprise in which chasing trends and popularity doesn’t work over the long haul. I agree with Lance Higdon at the end of the article, “…it’s only those breweries that can keep delivering artful brews with a real commitment to craft’s DIY roots that will make the cut…”