We are all pretty pessimistic right now. There’s just about a 50/50 chance the next president of the United States is going to be Donald Trump. That’s beyond frightening. But perhaps that’s entirely mitigated by Americans beginning to turn their backs on the horror of pumpkin beer.
As I chronicled in a February 2016 article, brewers were caught completely off-guard late last year when sales of the once cultish style rotted away like a jack-o-lantern on a tropical Christmas afternoon. The problem: overproduction, oversaturation, underwhelming craft growth and overly hot autumn temperatures. Those woes were caused, in turn, by increased volume at established breweries, new breweries trying to cash in on the craze, fewer drinkers entering the market, and, well, climate change. For the first time, mass quantities of pumpkin beer sat on the shelves months past their sell-by date and a lot of breweries, wholesalers and retailers lost money. Many declared sudsy pumpkins a dying trend and decided to cut production this year.
Now it’s mid-September. Most craft brewers have finished their 2016 pumpkin run and trucked it out to their distributors.
Did they cut production? Yes — many of them drastically. That is, if they produced any pumpkin at all.
“Ithaca [Brewing] has discontinued its pumpkin, as has Shock Top (an Anheuser-Busch InBev product),” says the owner of an East Coast AB InBev distributor who didn’t want to use his name. “We knew the market had kind of hit the wall last year.”
Samuel Adams produced one instead of two pumpkins this year. Pumpkin powerhouses Harpoon Brewery, Southern Tier Brewing and Shipyard Brewing all produced less volume, as did four Philadelphia-area breweries contacted at random.
Maybe some of these breweries like Southern Tier, who once made their name on very solid beer in a variety of styles only to plunge whole hog into super sweet holiday beers based on the success of their terrible Pumpking, will start focusing on good quality beers again.
As for Trump and the decline of pumpkin beer, well, you win some, you lose some.