Last year, I took to Facebook to ask my friends their opinion of the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte that people get so excited over. I tried one for the first time and did not like it at all. Most of the responders said they weren’t crazy about the drink either. I read that this year, Starbucks is bringing the latte back earlier than ever. On August 25, the seasonal drink will officially be available.
August 25? That's not seasonal. There will still be a week until Labor Day. About the same time I read about the latte, I also heard a radio interview with a brewer who said he had already brought his pumpkin ale out because of demand. I wondered, “Who is who is demanding these drinks in summer?”
I took to Facebook again, this time asked my friends if it’s too soon for pumpkin ales and coffees. What was the response from my totally unscientific, unofficial survey?
Yes, it’s too soon; it’s still summer. The general consensus is that these drinks shouldn’t come out until at least after Labor Day, after all the kids have gone back to school and the weather gets a little cooler. Before that, most of my friends see the release of pumpkin-flavored beverages as an unwelcome and cruel harbinger that summer is just about over.
I loved some of the responses.
- As long as it is still acceptable to wear white, I’ll wait on my pumpkin spiced latte.
- Anything pumpkin seems a bit of sacrilege before Labor Day.
- It signifies the start of fall to drink those things and I don't want to let go of summer just yet!
- I want pumpkin when the air is crisp, the leaves are colorful and I am apple & pumpkin picking, sitting by a bonfire, or trick or treating and celebrating Thanksgiving. I do not want pumpkin flavored anything while I am enjoying summer laying on the beach, walking the boardwalk, or laying by the pool.
- I was out to dinner on Monday and the seasonal beer was Oktoberfest. It's still summer; I want light, crisp beer right now. Save the heavier stuff (and pumpkin) for cooler weather.
Turns out, despite my survey, there is a demand. A quick search for “pumpkin spice latte” on Twitter will reveal just how many people are excited for the drink to arrive before summer is done. But, what about pumpkin ales? Is there really a demand before September?
I asked beer expert Tara Nurin her opinion on why craft breweries release their pumpkin beers in the summer. “People say they don’t want it,” she told me, “but, if it’s out, they’ll buy it.”
To meet that demand and to not be the last on the market, many breweries are releasing their pumpkin brews earlier each year. The earlier they get it out there, the more likely their pumpkin beer will be the one people buy before interest wanes.
Not that interest waning is really a problem. Most pumpkin ales sell out.
“Two years ago,” says Nurin, “breweries wouldn’t necessarily brew pumpkin ales a second time in one season.” Now some of them do it to meet the demand for the popular brew.
There’s also the chance that many people buy pumpkin ale as soon as it’s available knowing it might not be on the shelves come October. Nurin says that many people say they’ll buy it and hold it till later.
It seems despite the claims of “it’s too soon,” it’s not. It’s simple supply and demand economics. There’s a consumer demand for pumpkin-flavored drinks in August, whether it’s because consumers want to drink them now or want to assure they have a supply when the weather gets cooler.
Where do you fall on the pumpkin-flavored-beverages-before-summer-is-over issue? Are you pro or con pumpkin in August?
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