Pumpkin belongs in pies, not beer!

DSCN3814It astonishes me that so many of you love pumpkin beer. Fred Forsley, President of Shipyard, will produce 45,000 barrels of pumpkin spiced beer this year – down from the 54,000 barrels he made in each of the last two years.

Articles in Mainebiz and Forbes reported that brewers throughout the United States have cut back on pumpkin beer production this year, due to an oversaturated market, with both distributors and customers buying less of what has become Shipyard’s best selling brew.

Forsley told Mainebiz that he’s pushed back his pumpkinhead from late July to the end of August, and next year will wait to release it until mid-September. That’s turned out to be a controversial move, and Forsley concedes that “It’s a big risk in strategy to make Halloween and Thanksgiving the primary holidays for the beer.” He’s not sure he’ll recapture the lost sales of August, because competitors are pumping out pumpkin beers earlier than Shipyard.

In a message he emailed to me, Forsley reported, “We’re willing to risk those pre-season sales to help right an industry wrong. The risk is especially big for us. About 30% of our annual sales come from Pumpkinhead. Our campaign to combat seasonal creep has already generated a dose of skepticism from our distributors.  And pumpkin beer backlash is at its peak this year.”

Forsley also sent me a couple of articles that reported on this issue in more detail. A column by Kirk Miller published by Inside Hook trumpeted the headline: Rejoice! Pumpkin Beer Sales Are Plummeting.

“Our long national pumpkin-everything nightmare is almost over” wrote Miller. “According to Forbes, pumpkin beer sales are ‘rotting away like a jack-o-lantern on a tropical Christmas afternoon.’  Besides oversaturation and overproduction, hot fall temps are also to blame – with pumpkin beers actually getting more traction in early spring — yes, you can blame climate change.” reported Miller

“Seasonal creep also plays into the lack of fall sales: some breweries, like Weyerbacher, are releasing pumpkin beers as early as July,” he noted. “In response, the company said it was cutting its pumpkin beer production in half this year. Breweries such as Ithaca, Shock Top and Samuel Adams, meanwhile, have either stopped or halved production on pumpkin brews.”

Now, I want you to know that Shipyard is a sponsor of my website, www.georgesmithmaine.com, and I’ve been a fan of their beers for many years. Some of my favorites are seasonal brews: Longfellow and Prelude, while others are available year-round including Export, Old Thumper, Monkey Fist IPA, and a new brew this year, Island Time IPA. My wife Linda prefers their Summer Ale.

Apparently we are out of step with all of you pumpkin brew lovers! But I do think Fred Forsley is on the right track. As he told me, despite the push-back,“We’re forging on with our effort. By defying the creeping status quo, responding to our customers’ concerns, and putting this beer and our others back in their seasonally correct spots, we think our pumpkin beer sales can grow while everyone else’s are shrinking.”

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.