Boston Beer Co Inc (SAM), Anheuser-Busch InBev NV (ADR) (BUD): Are Brewers Out of Their Gourds With Early Pumpkin Ales?

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We know retailers love “Christmas in July” promotions, but they push the boundaries of propriety when we start seeing decorations actually appearing in the stores before the kids go back to school. And as much I love Halloween, seeing skeletons in late summer is too much even for me. But is pumpkin beer appearing on store shelves in August or September too early?

Some drinkers seem to think so. A recent Associated Press story highlighted the shock and dismay drinkers felt upon seeing fall seasonal beers taking up shelf space alongside summer ales. Considering the official beer-drinking bacchanal that’s been held in Munich every year since 1810 doesn’t even begin for another week or so this year — Sept. 21, when the lord mayor of Munich taps the first keg of Oktoberfest beer — there may be something to this..

The AP story, though, said brewers are simply trying to capture early demand. Since such beers tend to sell out before the end of September let alone become scare by October, it suggests that we’ll soon be seeing the appearance of winter seasonals even if we’re basking in some Indian summer weather.

Boston Beer Co Inc (NYSE:SAM)Yet one brewer has said its Oktoberfest seasonals are out early because it ran out of its summer beers. Samuel Adams brewer Boston Beer Co Inc (NYSE:SAM) has seen its stock carried aloft on the strength of its seasonal beers that to a certain extent have replaced its traditional lager as the drinker’s preferred palette cleanser. In fact, its second-quarter results surprised Wall Street when it also recorded rising volumes on Samuel Adams along with its seasonals and its hard cider and teas, the first time its flagship beer has recorded an increase in sales in almost two years.

Typically, Boston Beer Co Inc (NYSE:SAM) tries to run out of its Summer Ale by the end of July, as most brewers do, but it ran out earlier than anticipated due to accelerated growth trends it hadn’t anticipated and capacity bottlenecks that are only now being addressed. With nothing else to replace the summer seasonal brews, it shipped its Oktoberfest beer instead.

Even so, it was only a week ahead of schedule. Other smaller brewers are trying to be a pumpkin thief and get ahead of the demand curve by beating the mass brewers to the punch. The popularity of pumpkin ale caused many of the big-name brewers to brew their own fall-season flavors. Anheuser-Busch InBev NV (ADR) (NYSE:BUD) introduced its Michelob Jack’s Pumpkin Spice Ale in 2005, Molson Coors Brewing Company (NYSE:TAP)‘  Blue Moon Brewing’s has its Harvest Pumpkin Ale, and even C&C Group‘s  Woodchuck brand of hard cider added a pumpkin flavor.

That’s another trend we may also see grow, as cider already has a kinship with fall and likely accounts for Boston Beer Co Inc (NYSE:SAM) releasing a variant of its Angry Orchard cider for the season. Since they also ran out of summer flavors early last year too, it may be more of a planned shortage disguised as a fortuitous chance occurrence.

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