The turn of each season brings changes in wardrobe, home decor, even attitude. Now there is also welcome change for suds enthusiasts: seasonal beer. While Oktoberfest was typically once the only seasonal that came to mind, today's craft brewers are rolling out barrels of temporal brews around the calendar.
Often used interchangeably with "microbrew," a craft beer is "made by a brewer using skill and creativity to put forth a beer that he knows will taste really good," says Matt Simpson, aka The Beer Sommelier and founder of
thebeerexpert.com. While craft beer tends to come from smaller breweries, there are larger craft producers like Sierra Nevada and Sam Adams. "Craft brewers produce superior quality brews across their entire lines, and they do it consistently year after year, which is one of the hardest things to do in brewing," says Simpson.
Why the surge in seasonal offerings? The short answer: It makes good marketing sense. Breweries gain steady income from year-round varieties while also wowing regular customers with limited releases and hopefully attracting curious newcomers, too."Going back in history, there were no refrigerators, so there was no way to lager a beer in summertime," says Simpson. In Germany, lagers were fermented in naturally cooler caves, but Belgians made ales instead of lagers, which are fermented differently, and those fermentations were made to follow the seasons. Today, brewers can make any type of beer any time they wish, good news for ardent fans of hops and barley. Brewers can produce a traditional winter beer like an Imperial stout in summertime or a lager in winter.
Even better news: You can now buy seasonal craft beer just about anywhere, including your local grocery store. There are also specialty beverage stores like
Binny's Beverage Depot that usually carry a good variety of interesting seasonals. If you can't find a decent selection locally, consider a "Beer of the Month" club like MicroBeerClub.com or The Connoisseur's Beer Club, where a selection of some of the finest craft brews available lands on your doorstep each month. (Check first to see if your state allows shipment of alcoholic beverages.)