Tag Archives: Southern Tier

The Seasonal Beer Creep

You may have noticed that there are some pumpkin beers and oktoberfests already out on the shelves of your favorite liquor store or place to buy beer. Southern Tier released their Pumking in July. I don’t know about you, but even though I’m not one to care about what kind of beer I drink in certain seasons, pumpkin beers aren’t something I want in the summer. The spices and flavors just don’t go well with 90 degree weather. I imagine I’m not the only one that feels this way. Victory just announced via Twitter that they’re Festbier will be released in a week or so. Naturally, I asked them why they’re releasing it so early. Their response was that it’s refreshing and easy drinking and this will allow it to reach more markets in time for the season. That’s a valid response. In fact, it’s pretty hard to argue with that. Victory and Southern Tier aren’t the only culprits with the seasonal creep. Boston Beer Co., brewers of the Samuel Adams line of beers, is one of the worst (though they’re hardly as bad as Southern Tier this year, maybe they’ve learned their lesson). I’ve seen their Summer Ale released in March/April. I don’t know who they’re going after, but March in New England still brings quite a bit of snow. April isn’t necessarily a whole lot warmer

What about freshness? If they’re brewing these seasonal beers early to get them to market early, what happens with the freshness of these beers? People don’t want to drink pumpkin beers and oktoberfests in the summer. At the same time, people don’t want to drink beer that’s been sitting around for 2 months either. I know the real reason these breweries are releasing their seasonals early is to make as much money off them as possible. After all, what doesn’t sell hurts their bottom line. I can’t argue with that either. I mean, breweries need to make money to stay in business. I have no problem with that. My problem is using old beer (now 2 months is hardly old, but there’s nothing like fresh beer) to do this. It creates an artificial demand for the limited seasonals. People see them on the shelves and need to buy them. The problem is, it’s August. It’s 90 degrees outside. Humidity is high. People want to go to the beach. They’re not going to be drinking a 9% ABV pumpkin beer. Most people want something lighter, something more refreshing. Granted, Victory’s Festbier fits that bill. Oktoberfests traditionally aren’t strong and don’t have big bold flavors. It’s the little nuances that give a good oktoberfest its flavor. They can be consider refreshing, and it’s a little understandable why Victory is doing this (though it’s mainly for their bottom line).

I get disappointed when some of the better summer beers are sold out long before summer’s end. I also get disappointed when October hits and all the good oktoberfests are gone (granted, Oktoberfest in Germany starts in late September). I like these types of beers to last through Thanksgiving. They make for great beers to pair with a New England Thanksgiving dinner. Summer doesn’t end until late September and Winter doesn’t start until late December. I can understand using the “Polish seasons” (as a teacher in high school used to call them) with fall starting September 1, winter starting December 1, spring starting March 1, and summer starting June 1. That’s fine with me. But hold onto those seasonals until the seasons (Polish or actual) truly start.

So what can we do to put an end to the seasonal creep? For starters, don’t fall for the hype of the seasonals hitting the shelves. Wait until you really want to be drinking that type of beer to buy them. This will cause your local liquor stores (or places that sell beer) to keep them off the shelves, or better yet, not order them from the distributor, until the season actually hits. When the distributors start seeing a buildup of the seasonals because no one wants them out of season, they’ll stop buying them from the breweries until the time is right. And you know what happens next… the breweries will stop brewing the seasonals so early.

Another thing you can do is to write to your favorite breweries. Explain to them that you want their summer beers to last through the end of summer. Tell them you want to see them on the shelves in late August so you can stock up on them for your Labor Day BBQ. Brewers tend to listen to their customers. It’s a tough business and if they lose sales, they’ll have to change their ways to keep going. I’m not telling you to threaten them with a boycott. That’s going too far. We still want them to exist. After all, we love their beer. We just want them to release their seasonal beer in a sane manner and keep it in season.

I understand that oktoberfests are a tough one. They have the shortest season. People tend not to want to buy oktoberfests after Halloween. Pumpkin beers have a little longer season, assuming breweries don’t name them after holidays (I know Gritty’s Halloween Ale is an ESB, not a pumpkin beer, but it’s tied to a single holiday) or use holiday-specific artwork (I’m looking at you Shipyard Pumpkinhead). If they changed the way they market these beers or even the branding of them, the beers will sell through November. Pumpkin pie is a staple dessert for Thanksgiving. It’s funny because pumpkin beers tend to taste like pumpkin pie.

So to all your brewers out there… Please stop releasing your seasonals earlier and earlier. I don’t want to start seeing summer beer released in February or pumpkin beers released in May.

Nikki’s Liquors Beer Dinner

In mid-November, I went to the Nikki’s Liquors beer dinner at Julian’s on Broadway in Providence.  The beers were chosen by Mike from Nikki’s.  I just wanted to write a little review of it, mainly because there were some interesting beers served.

First, in general, the beer dinner was a huge success.  The pairings with the food were spot on (thanks to Mike the chef from Julian’s), the delivery of the courses and the beers were quicker than the last beer dinner I attended there (the Dogfish Head one over the summer).  Finally, the pairings were better than those at the DFH dinner.  They’ve done several since the DFH dinner.  I imagine they got used to pairing with beer and were fixed any mistakes to streamline the process.

Now, the beers.  The first beer was Traquair Jacobite.  This was an excellent Scotch Ale with some nice dark fruit flavors that paired nicely with the cheese and raspberry starter plate.  The second beer was Tripel Karmeliet, an awesome Belgian Tripel that went perfectly with the salad.  The third pairing was a bit odd, but the beer is worth mentioning.  It was Baron’s Black Wattle Superior Wattle Seed Ale.  This beer is like nothing I’ve had before.  It’s almost like a Brown Ale, but it’s not.  The wattle seed comes from a tree in Australia.  It gives the beer a nutty chocolate flavor.  The beer is lighter in body, but big in flavor.  If you see it, it’s a must try.  It was paired with samosas, which were fantastic.  The fourth dish was a choice as it was the entree.  I got the Old Rasputin with the steak.  The beer was on nitro-tap, giving it an awesome creamy mouthfeel that enhanced the beer a bit.  The other option was Southern Tier Unearthly IPA with escolar.  Dessert was my favorite part.  We also had a choice.  I got the De Dolle Oerbier Special Reserva 2006, which came with an orange cream tartlette.  The beer was easily one of my favorite beers.  It was funky and slightly sour with a nice fruity flavor.  The other option was Oude Beersel’s Oude Kriek Vieille with a chocolate covered vanilla bean cheesecake.  Finally, there was a finishing dish, which was a truffle paired with Xyauyù, a strong English style barleywine from an Italian brewery.

It was an excellent night of beer and food.  The pours were small enough so no one got too drunk, unless they were ordering other beers in between courses, which some were.  Julian’s is doing a stouts and porters beer dinner on Sunday, which I will be attending.  I’ll write a review shortly after, rather than waiting a month.

Smoke and More Cherry

Tonight I decided to try one of the beers from, new to RI, Fort Collins Brewing.  I tried their Z Lager, which is a rauchbier.  It pours a darker reddish amber color with almost no head.  It smells of caramel and other malts with a hint of smoke.  The taste isn’t quite as smoky as I would have liked, but it is nicely smoked.  It’s an easy drinking beer and worth a try as it’s one of those styles you don’t see very often.  Fort Collins is likely a welcome addition to RI.

On Wednesday, I had Southern Tier’s Cherry Saison from their imperial beer series.  I’ll start off by saying that I wasn’t crazy.  It was a little dark for a saison.  It had a cloudy orangy yellow hue to it.  It smelled of spices and a slight hint of cherry.  The flavor lacked the cherry, which wasn’t too bad, but it had too much of something and not enough of something else.  I can’t put my finger on it, but something about this beer seemed off.  I didn’t finish the bottle.  It wasn’t overly drinkable and it is definitely not worth another try.  In fact, if you have to drink the whole bottle yourself, it’s not worth the price.  It’s worth trying if you’re going to split the bottle with 2-4 other people.

Cream Crème Cherry

I have a few beers to write about (it seems as though I will always have a beer to write about, there are so many different beers out there).  I’ll go in reverse (based on the title).

Tonight, I had Haverhill/The Tap’s Haver Ale, a cream ale.  It pours a pale amber color with a small head and ample carbonation.  It smells light with a little grassiness to it.  The taste is light, but somewhat creamy, even with all the carbonation.  It has a slight grassy bitter hops aftertaste, but it’s just for balance.  The mouthfeel is pretty creamy as well, but light.  This is a great warm weather beer and a style you don’t normally see very often.  It was very tasty and definitely worth a try.

Last night for dessert, Susan and I split a bottle of Southern Tier’s hot new imperial beer, Crème Brulée.  They call it an Imperial Milk Stout.  I would call it an imperial vanilla stout.  Either way, this is one very different beer.  It pours a very dark mahogany brown with no real head.  Upon popping open the bottle, the smell is strong.  It’s very a very sweet vanilla and heavy cream scent.  It’s nothing I would have ever expected from a beer this dark.  Upon first sip, you can tell this is a sipping beer.  It’s very strong in flavor.  To be honest, it tastes just like creme brulee.  It’s creamy, it’s sweet, and there’s a lot of vanilla and cream flavors in it.  It has an aftertaste of roasted malts that don’t necessarily fit in, but also don’t ruin it.  The only issue is that it is slightly boozy (no shock there at 10% ABV).  This is not a beer to drink on your own.  I split the bottle with Susan and even then it was tough for us to finish (in fact, we ended up pouring a little down the drain not because we didn’t like it, but because it was tough to finish).  This is a beer to be split between 2-4 people and have as dessert.  It would pair well with anything chocolate, vanilla, or creamy.  I have a second bottle that I plan on aging for a year to see if the alcohol will mellow and the roasted bitterness will lighten up a bit.  This would be one awesome beer if the sweeter side was more prominent throughout.

Finally, last night with dinner, I had Smuttynose Hanami Ale.  The label says it’s an ale brewed with cherry juice and other natural flavors.  From what I could tell, it’s an amber ale brewed with cherries.  For a fruit beer, it’s a good one.  It pours a nice amber color with a small head.  It immediately smells like cherries, but not overwhelmingly so.  It has a nice cherry flavor, but it tastes like there are some spices mixed in as well.  I imagine that’s the “natural flavors”.  It’s a very easy drinknig beer, though not overly light.  It’s worth a try.  I’d buy it again.