Seasonal beer isn’t a new development. Beer has been brewed with available ingredients for a long time, and early fall has long been associated with crisp, vibrant brews made from fermenting freshly harvested whole-cone hops. The limited, seasonal availability of certain types of beers likely goes back nearly as far as the beverage itself, but this generally isn’t what the term “seasonal” means to most people these days.
When we think of seasonal beer now, it’s not the fresh hop flavor of an autumnal beer that comes to mind. Most of us would likely think of seasonally “themed” beers, like the ubiquitous array of pumpkin ales that seem to appear earlier and earlier every year.
Too Much of a Good Thing
Like Christmas decorations appearing in stores shortly after Labor Day, the advent of pumpkin ales hitting store shelves is no longer strictly tied to the season it’s meant to evoke. The warm golden ales were a novelty when first introduced to the beer market, and they caught on quickly with customers looking for something other than their usual pilsner or lager.
Pumpkin ales sold exceptionally well, and more and more brewers began producing them to capitalize on the growing demand. Within a few years, the market was glutted with seasonal pumpkin brews produced by everyone from large national brewers to small, local craft breweries.
Beer production intended to meet growing consumer interest in these novel seasonal brews outstripped actual demand. More and more bottles of “seasonal” pumpkin ales began hitting the shelves as early as mid-summer, and you could routinely find six-packs and even cases of the stuff well past Christmas, gathering dust and heavily discounted.
Saturated Markets, Fatigued Consumers
Quality beer production is a demanding, painstaking process, and it can be difficult to time it correctly to meet seasonal consumer demand—which fluctuates constantly. While well-crafted IPAs may always have a certain appeal, the seasonal beer market is more fickle.
Among the seasonal varieties are fan favorites with something of a cult following, and certain seasonal beers will sell out quickly and be sought long after the season has passed. These are the exceptions. Consumers faced with a seemingly never-ending variation of winter ales and “festive” seasonal offerings quickly grow tired of the novelty, which is especially true of seasonal beers that linger on shelves.
Shifting Demand Brings Production Challenges
The beer market is arguably saturated with seasonal offerings to the point where many consumers experience decision fatigue and return to more familiar brands. Some breweries have tried to position seasonal beers with broader—and less time restrictive—appeal by creative rebranding, with mixed success.
Seasonal no longer strictly means winter, as spring and summer brews are now commonplace and compete for market share alongside ciders, hard seltzers, and other non-traditional offerings. Where previously a brewer might have to tailor specialty beer production to meet best-guess seasonal demand once a year, it’s now a year-round concern.
This leaves many breweries and their brewmasters in an awkward position. Gauging demand for seasonal products is difficult. Producing the optimal volume of a seasonal brew during the period when it can go to market at peak freshness is even more of a challenge.
Ensuring Fermentation Quality
The pressure of tight beer production deadlines and uncertain demand means that every batch has to go off without a hitch. Even a single failed fermentation means lost time, money, and added complication to an already complex schedule. It’s always important to get the most out of a brewery’s production capabilities, but even more so when working with smaller, seasonal batch sizes.
Brewers need to ensure consistent quality at every stage of the brewing process to produce top-quality seasonal beverages with the best possible market appeal. Precision Fermentation’s BrewMonitor® System gives brewers greater fermentation-process control than ever by providing real-time fermentation data from currently working tanks.
Greater Quality Control Year-Round
Ensuring that each batch meets high-quality demands means brewers need to monitor and make adjustments at various stages during the brewing process. Preventing even a single wasted batch can significantly affect a brewery’s bottom line, especially during high-demand times of the year.
Immediate, end-to-end monitoring and analysis of the exact conditions inside an active tank gives the brewer the precise information needed to ensure superior quality control, ultimately providing more flexible production options.
Seasonal beers are not likely to fade away any time soon, though the competition is much fiercer than it once was, and it’s a more challenging niche market to draw profit from. The BrewMonitor® System gives breweries the added advantage they need to ensure each batch is a success, whether a seasonal brew or during any time of the year.
Interested in setting up a BrewMonitor® System to track your brew’s data? Set up a demo today.
Learn more about how to leverage data to optimize your fermentation process.
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