08 September 2016
Launched in 2002 and one of American craft beer’s biggest-selling seasonals, Pumpkinhead is a
malty UK-meets- USA amber ale enhanced with pumpkin pie flavors.
The beer is made with a dash of malted wheat, US and European hops, and an English ale yeast. At
just 4.5% ABV, Pumpkinhead is a super-sessionable pumpkin beer with ample body, subtle pumpkin-
pie spice notes and a gentle bite of hops on its refreshing finish.
With the September 1 release of the beer, Shipyard founder Fred Forsley is also beginning an effort
to end the “seasonal creep” of beers that has riled consumers and retailers alike.
“Enough is enough,” Forsley says. “Over the past few years craft brewers – Shipyard included -- have
steadily pushed up the release dates of seasonal beers to the point that these beers are now out of
season. This push has stripped these beers of their context & fun and angered our customers. So
we’re going to put our seasonal beers back in season and try to end this foolishness.”
“Our hope,” Forsley says, “is that if we take steps to stop our out-of- season beers, other brewers will
follow and we can all return to some sanity with these annual releases.”
“Pumpkinhead,” Forsley notes, “is a holiday beer that was designed to be enjoyed from early fall
through Thanksgiving and into the Christmas holidays. And if you wanted it with Christmas, you
stocked up in late November before it left the store shelves. That’s our focus this year.”
Consumer backlash to seasonal creep reached its peak this summer with consumers angry about the
early departure of summer beers and fall beers arriving in July and August. Forsley has seen that
frustration first hand this year, despite releasing Pumpkinhead about two weeks later than last year.
“I was at the beach in Maine last week,” Forsley says, “with one of my best and longtime on-premise
customers, and he really let me have it. ‘It’s still summer, it’s 90 degrees outside. But your Summer
Ale is off-the- shelf. And now you want me to drink a pumpkin beer? This is crazy, Fred’”
“He’s right,” Forsley says. “It’s time for some seasonal correctness here.”
“Seasonal creep is screwing up seasonal beers for everybody,” says Bruce Forsley, Fred’s cousin
and Shipyard’s sales director. “If these beers come out at the right time and stay through their
intended time slot, we think consumers and retailers will be happier and the beers will sell better.”
Bart Watson, Chief Economist for the Brewers Association, says a shift to seasonal correctness
comes with positives and negatives.
“The biggest risk,” Watson says, “is that people have already stocked up on pumpkin and you miss
out on purchase opportunities. That’s why seasonal creep started in the first place. But I think that
there is room for a few breweries to buck the trend and get an advantage. Overall,” Watson says, “I
think this would be a good thing for the industry, but I think there’s the risk that a brewery that shifts
back will get crowded out.”