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Seasonal and Specialty beverages are relatively new to the spotlight when compared to the traditional, old fashioned brews. Though, as the everyday dependable lager still sits close to the consumer’s heart, beer drinkers have taken a fondness to these new, adventurous, seasonal beverages. 

The segment’s rapidly growing popularity has become increasingly evident over the past several years. Amidst a rise in competition, year-over-year seasonal beer sales have expanded in a range of 15%-25% across the board. Ultimately, seasonal/specialty beverage production has apparently been the main driver behind the industry’s recent success, more than offsetting the year-over-year decline in shipments within the overall industry.  Seasonal brewing is undoubtedly gaining attention from beer makers. Stemming from the noticeable spike in demand on both the domestic and international fronts, alcoholic beverage companies have been prompt in ramping up production, sometimes releasing seasonal products several weeks prior to the official start of the season. 

The Boston Beer Company (SAM) is both the largest craft brewer and independently-owned brewer in the United States. Most recognized for its original Samuel Adams Boston Lager brand, the company has since diversified its offerings to include seasonal brews, malt beverages, and hard ciders.  At this point in time, SAM has been selling its world renowned Samuel Adams Octoberfest and is starting to transition to its Winter Lager.

Previously mentioned, the company offers a plethora of seasonal beverages, including a Winter Lager, Summer Ale, Spring Ale and Fall Lager, each designed for their respective time of year. As the weather changes, so does the beer of choice, crafted to match the emotions of the surrounding landscape.  Beers are often lighter in color and flavor for the spring and summer, with darker, heavier brews for the winter and fall. The intrigue of a beer developed solely for seasonal consumption has translated into a rise in demand for such products. Consumers tend to look forward to a specialty beverage that is only available for purchase within a limited timeframe, essentially capturing the anticipation of change. 

SAM is not the only player in the game.  Molson Coors Brewing Company (TAP) was formed by the merger of the Coors Brewing Company and the Molson Company in 2005. It is the fifth largest brewer in the world by production volume, selling over 40 different types of beer. In 2008, SABMiller and MolsonCoors joined forces within the U.S market to form the joint venture MillerCoors.

Blue Moon, a division of Chicago-based MillerCoors, offers beer drinkers a wide variety of seasonal beverages. Mirroring the aforementioned Samuel Adams lineup, Blue Moon delivers customers a standard year-round Belgian white craft beer, along with a Harvest Pumpkin (fall), Spring Blonde Wheat, Summer Honey Wheat, and Winter Abbey Ale. The pumpkin brew, in particular, has been one of the more popular seasonal flavors across the board. Likewise, these seasonal selections are only available for a limited three- to four-month span.  

Going one step further than just seasonal beers, companies are embarking on new specialty combination beers to bolster their customer base. MolsonCoors has recently developed a hybrid Coors Light, which will contain iced tea. At present, the new product is available for purchase only in Canada. Next to water, tea and beer have the second highest consumption rates in the world. Indeed, MolsonCoors will look to exploit the popularity of the two beverages by combining them into a single summertime refreshment. Certainly, the company will look to put an identifiable seasonal spin on this product as well. Additionally, Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD), best known for the world’s two best selling beers, Budweiser and Bud Light, have added their own twist within the past few years. The company’s famous Bud Light brew was optimistically transformed into a Bud Light Lime. In line with the addition of iced tea to Coors Light, the spice of lime will hopefully emit a distinct summertime flavor. Ultimately, these fruit and tea blended beers will likely have a greater appeal to consumers who do not particularly enjoy the taste of originally flavored beer.

However, total sales growth within the industry has been somewhat dampened of late, partly due to a slowdown in consumer spending and higher-than-normal unemployment.  Yet, the seasonal/specialty segment has prospered nonetheless. Seasonal beverages, which are generally more expensive than traditional beers, continue to gain favor amongst the beer drinking community. All told, as competition strengthens and variety and selection continue to expand, the seasonal/specialty beer segment ought to remain a sustainable growth avenue for alcoholic beverage companies over the long haul.  

At the time of this article’s writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.