Harpoon Suggests Three Years the Lifeblood of a Craft Seasonal

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Citing downward sales and acknowledging that perhaps three years is about the length of a seasonal, Harpoon Brewery is saying goodbye to its current spring offering while welcoming a new summer beer for the second quarter of 2016.

Harpoon president Charlie Storey said that “The Long Thaw” White IPA is his favorite beer, but he didn’t let personal feelings get in the way of good business sense. After slow sales last spring, Harpoon produced 10-15 percent less of the beer for this year. After its release, projections showed that it was time to find a new seasonal for the first quarter of 2017.

“No one has said they don’t like the beer or it’s unsatisfactory,” he said. “The seasonal segment has changed over the years. It was a way, five years ago and beyond, where craft brewers were able to provide variety by the season. It was a chance for the drinker to have something different than the year-round lineup. It served a great purpose.

“But now there are so many beers that people can find newness in so many different ways, now, all the time.”

The same process happened for last summer’s Harpoon seasonal “Summer Beer” Kolsh-style. It is being replaced by “Camp Wanamango” Pale Ale for the second quarter of 2016.

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“It’s important for us to exercise our brewing expertise and a love for innovation and craft lovers need for something new,” Storey said. “Seasonal as a segment is just one of a handful of ways to get newness. We still believe in seasonals but we have to continue newness and innovation for our drinkers.

“Three years is probably a life cycle of a beer in the craft beer world.”

The Long Thaw debuted as a seasonal in January of 2014, replacing Harpoon’s “Celtic Red Ale” from the lineup after originally being a part of the brewery’s “100 Barrel” series. It then showed up in a 12-pack variety box with other IPAs.

Storey agreed that a shakeup is good for a craft brewery. In a world of non-loyal brand drinkers, a new variety is a way to win back some consumers that may have felt that the lineup was stale. Even more so if they had tried all the styles a brewery like Harpoon had offered.

“It’s why we love craft beer,” he said. “It’s a sense of discovery, something new and something you may not have had in the past. It’s huge fun. It’s important that we provide that for our consumers. We want to have them have a great beer drinking experience.”

Although The Long Thaw being “put on the bench,” as Storey used a sports cliche, he expects the beer to stick around. The Long Thaw will most likely still be made occasionally as a taproom favorite for the Boston and Windsor, Vermont facilities.

Harpoon has narrowed down next spring’s seasonal to two or three recipes as well.

2 Comments

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