By: James Walsh

 

On Saturday, June 20, 2015 summer officially arrives, but summer seasonal beers will have heralded it for almost three months. Since about early April, your local liquor store has been subtly hawking Summer Shandy, Brooklyn’s Summer Ale, and plenty of crisp or citrusy beers (alongside unsold bottles of Pumking or the full potpourri of Christmas ales). Some will even remain stocked until early autumn.

Are summer seasonals that much better to be in circulation for almost half the year?

 

Summer Seasonal Beers Are a Cash Cow

Seasonal beers are the second most purchased craft beer category. These diverse craft styles make up 16.8% of total dollar sales and 9.8% of the volume sold. Which season sells the most? Looking at sales makes it seem pretty clear.

A third of all beer sales (craft and otherwise) are rung up in the sultry months between Memorial Day and Labor Day. In fact, the apogee of beer sales happens around the Fourth of July as our patriotic fervor and love of watching the sky explode in technicolor work up a mighty thirst.

At that moment, crisp, light, and often citrusy summer seasonal beers hit the spot (it’s not nearly as satisfying to chug a thick beer brewed with molasses as temperatures hit triple digits).

 

Winter Seasonal Beers Are More Complex

Okay, so all those backyard barbeques help make summer seasonal beers the buyer’s choice. But is the flavor that superior to what winter brews have to offer? It doesn’t seem that way.

According to RateBeer, the winter styles earn better overall reviews. The mean rating for the top 10 winter seasonal beers is 4.17 while the top 10 summer seasonal beers only get a mean of 4.0. Though not huge, the disparity makes sense.

Winter seasonal beers offer a complex mélange of flavors. Spices like cinnamon and peppermint mix with cocoa and molasses, amplifying the taste of darker, thicker beers. A good summer seasonal is like a minimalist work of art, taking only one or two elements and playing with their subtleties. Pulling off complexity is just more impressive. Yet it seems that a good beer is still basically a good beer.

Why pick between savoring a spicy brew on a cold day, or sipping a lawnmower off the cold with a spicy brew, or play bags with a lawnmower beer while playing bags? Both are just right in their own time.