What is a Seasonal

It seems more and more that the seasonal lineup is no longer consisting of a fixed set of beers. For example spring used to be dominated by Mai Bocks and beers generally of a lighter nature. Not as thick and alcoholic as winter beers, but not as thin as a good lawnmower beer. Something slightly hoppy but loaded with some bright floral and herbal/pine notes. Now though you get IPA’s, stouts, imperials beers, and hefeweizens year around. With brewers releasing non typical seasonals seasonally how does one begin to define what a seasonal beer is?

Take winter seasonals. over the past 40ish years you’ve had a fairly standard roll out from brewers. Barlywines, spiced beers, winter warmers, milk stouts, and some herbals were the standard into the 90’s. An occasional brewers would release Russian stouts (Imperial stouts) nutty beers or chocolate porters. These last 10 years though the traditional winter beers are becoming rarer. More and more in the Northwest overhopped imperial reds and IPA’s are becoming a common winter release. These winter beers have a sweeter heavier malt base and loads of hops. Especially the more piney flavored hops. Much more in your face then their other seasonal cousins.

So the question becomes how do we determine the difference between a seasonal and a limited release now? Is the idea of seasonals outdated? If seasonals are an outdated idea then how do we define what makes a good winter/spring/summer/fall beer? Are we no longer looking for a gullet warming thick malty brew for those cold January evenings? What about a nice hoppy low alcohol beer for those hot August nights?

One Response to “What is a Seasonal”

  1. Beermented says:

    I’m with ya on this thought! Seasonal beers don’t seem to stick to traditional standards. If there ever was a traditional standard, which I think there was… with a capital “W” on was. Maybe it depends on how beer educated the drinker is?

    Answering your questions:

    *So the question becomes how do we determine the difference between a seasonal and a limited release now?

    They might as well be the same thing….?

    *Is the idea of seasonals outdated?

    No….. just has become more commercialized by the smell of profits?

    *If seasonals are an outdated idea then how do we define what makes a good winter/spring/summer/fall beer?

    I don’t think they’re outdated, I think seasonal beers have been taken advantage of, more for the sake of making a buck on any style beer and calling it a seasonal.

    *Are we no longer looking for a gullet warming thick malty brew for those cold January evenings? What about a nice hoppy low alcohol beer for those hot August nights?

    Just lost sight of tradition.

    Lets be honest. It’s America, we love to take OLD WORLD traditions and bastardize them into something we call our own. Beer is no exception! Old World and even New World Winter Warmers ( aka Wassails) have been totally bastardized from the origin of big, strong malty and/or spicy beers. Look at the worlds traditions for a WInter Beer and then look at what we’re doing. While some breweries stick to tradition, many are just going for the seasonal buck.

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