Oktoberfest Before October?

At Saint Arnold, our classic Seasonal lineup of Spring Bock, Summer Pils, Oktoberfest, Christmas Ale, and Texas Winter IPA is near and dear to many of our customers’ hearts. When we begin the transition to a new Seasonal beer, it is met with equal parts excitement and protest. We love that our beers evoke passionate responses, and we share the excitement and sadness you experience with the arrival and departure of our Seasonal beers (the first packaging run of Summer Pils is practically a holiday at 2000 Lyons Ave).

One of the most hotly contested transitions is from Summer Pils to Oktoberfest. Whether it’s Summer Pils fans mourning the loss of their favorite beer or folks pointing out the cognitive dissonance of releasing a beer with the word Oktober in its name in August, we’ve heard it all. And we understand both of those points. For that reason, we figured it might be a good idea to offer some insight as to why this particular Seasonal transition happens the way it does.

In a nutshell, Seasonal sales trends are hard to predict. At Saint Arnold, the production run of two large-volume lagers back-to-back (Spring Bock and Summer Pils) leaves our sales, logistics, and brewing teams throwing darts at a target with one-eye covered. Sales trends can vary widely in the six weeks it takes to produce Summer Pils. Hence the reason you’ve seen Oktoberfest in July (Summer Pils went nuts that year – we didn’t make enough to keep up with the trends and didn’t have the tank space to lager more) or you’ve seen it run until mid-August (we made enough Summer Pils to keep up with sales trends and you crazy people were drinking a bunch of Art Car IPA as well).

Additionally, Summer Pils is our longest running Seasonal, and we have to keep Seasonal up with retail merchandising trends. Summer Pils is usually released in mid-to-late March or early April and runs all the way to August. While a strong contingent of the Saint Arnold Army clamors for year round Summer Pils, when the broader market starts to see the next seasonal run come out from our fellow brewers, they tend to view the prior Seasonal on the shelf as old. In other words, if everyone else is selling Oktoberfest beers, and we’re selling Summer Pils, many would see our beer as old on the shelf even if it’s well within our 90-day freshness code.

Lastly, and this was inferred above, but we simply don’t have the tank capacity to continue brewing a high-volume lager like Summer Pils for much longer than we already do. Our logistics and brewing teams are moving chess pieces to make Summer Pils happen when everyone is enjoying their Spring Bock amongst the bluebonnets.

This post wouldn’t be complete without saying that Oktoberfest in Munich is primarily celebrated in September. And yes, we also think Christmas music on the speakers in October is a bit much (why not the Ghostbusters theme on repeat?). The only Seasonal transition that is completely natural is the one Mother Nature decides to make, and good luck predicting that. This being the case, grab your favorite Seasonal beer no matter what the label says because at the end of the day, it’s the beer inside the package that you love.

Published August 28, 2020