Seasons With Sam

Michael Donato, July 03, 2014

It's long been clear that beer seasons do not mimic the real seasons, despite the name of beers like Summer Ale. Since Sam Adams is fairly large, has a lot of check-ins, and brews a beer for just about any season you can imagine, I took a look at the most popular Boston Beer Company beers over the past year.  

For this dataset I included only the check-ins for days that the beer was in the top three for total Sam Adams check-ins in a day, and only charted the ones that spent time at #1. I ignored Boston Lager because it's obviously not a seasonal and the volume of it would completely destroy my chart anyway. You'll notice that I included Rebel IPA, which is a new release that will be a year-round beer. I wanted to include every beer that was the top Sam Adams beer for even one day over the last year, and Rebel IPA had a couple of days with the title in April. It also helps highlight a lull in seasons that is worth noting. 

The first thing that jumps out to me is that clearly the favorite season is Oktoberfest. Oktoberfest isn't so much a season though, as a party and the ultimate beerfest. It represents the anniversary of a wedding, and in 2013 that celebration started on September 21st. The six Munich breweries do not serve their Festbier until noon of the first day when the Mayor taps the first keg with a cry of "O'zapft is!". Sam Adams Oktoberfest took over the number one spot on August 7th last year, a good six weeks prior to Oktoberfest. It lasted three months, until November 6th, when Oktoberfest itself is long over but the weather in Boston is decidedly more Autumn than Winter even though Winter Lager dominates. 

A lot of this is caused by supply and demand and Sam Adams having a dedicated seasonal tap in many places, such as Houlihans. When Summer Ale runs out they replace it with the next one in the rotation, which in this case is Oktoberfest. Clearly it's better to run out of a beer too fast than have extra Summer Ale sitting around you can't sell, but with six-weeks of leadway and reports that they actually finished up Summer Ale faster than expected last year, they can probably adjust this timetable somewhat. Or they could bridge that gap by providing a new seasonal, or even just a keg of one of their other many beers. Sure, most places would end up serving that beer as 'Sam Seasonal', have no idea what it is, and completely confuse anyone ordering it, but that's a different discussion about bars, restaurants, and beer menus.

A similar thing happens at the end of the winter season. Winter Lager gives way to Cold Snap, and the newly released Rebel IPA, on January 14th which is barely three weeks after the beginning of winter. Cold Snap is billed as a spring seasonal as is Escape Route, a beer that shows up at the same time but never reaches the top spot. Cold Snap is gone in a flash, giving way to Summer Ale on March 28th. That's right, merely one week into spring.

This is where Rebel IPA fills a void. The spring seasonals are weak and summer trickles out. Even the volume is lower here, with check-ins being spread out over many beers. Cold Snap actually lingers in the top-3 until May 7th. Perhaps with a stronger, and later, spring season one beer could dominate.

Summer is the longest season, and along with the Summer Ale, Porch Rocker makes a rather steady appearance in the top-3. Personally I happened to really like the Porch Rocker, more so than the Summer Ale even, as it's a nice crisp and refreshing lager. Lemonade is one of the few juices I really like and I'm a big supporter of radlers and shandys, so that's probably no surprise. 

March 28th-August 7th


August 8th-November 6th


November 7th-January 14th


January 15th-March 28th


So there we have it, your seasons as defined by Sam Adams. 

Thanks to user John P. on Untappd for the header image. 

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