Pumpkin Ale: ‘Gourd Riddance’ or ‘Beer to Stay’?

Every autumn, there’s a pumpkin spice arms race that even our pets are not immune from. One of the most-anticipated, or loathed depending on who you ask, is the pumpkin beer. I did a highly unscientific search on Untappd (the social media channel for beer) for “yam OR pumpkin” and was served 15,760 beer results. I wanted to execute a quick analysis and see if pumpkin beer has jumped the shark. Is it waning in popularity? How early in the season are people talking about pumpkin beer? In this post, I’m going to take a quick peek at conversation trends surrounding this fall beverage to see if it’s a fad or if it’s permanently carved into Autumn tradition.

Last year taps were heavily saturated with pumpkin flavors and I recall seeing pumpkin beer on the shelves much earlier than usual. Several other beer enthusiasts in the office noted the having similar observations, mentioning a local bottle shop did not buy new inventory for this year because last year was so saturated and didn’t sell out. With those observations informing my hypothesis, let’s take a look at Twitter mentions over time!

Note: this data includes original content only, not comments or shares.

2014 was a massive year for pumpkin beer conversations in September and October. Every year, mentions peaked in October; though 2017 has potential to be an exception. 2017 October data collected only extends to 10/11, but as the data stands, I expect conversation volume will certainly be lower than 2016.

What I am unofficially dubbing “pumpkin beer season” (July through November) had a stronger November finish in 2015, though 2016 had a stronger July start. 2017 was the first August to experience a decrease year-over-year, suggesting that consumers might not be as excited about pumpkin beer as they were in the past.

Since October is typically the month with the most conversations, I wanted to see if there were any trends within the month. Turns out there are! Below is a graph of each daily mention count represented as a percentage of the monthly total. We can see in every year except for 2014 – oddly, the year with the most overall mentions comparatively – mentions spiked on Halloween. There’s another spike that occurred in 2016 and 2013 on 10/26 – also known as National Pumpkin Day.

What can we expect this year? People might or might not be talking about #NationalPumpkinDay, but there will likely be a surge in pumpkin beer chatter on All Hallows’ Eve.

What about the off-season? We see similar trends in the year-over-year changes with 2016 often receiving the most mentions each month.

May is the month that typically sees the fewest pumpkin beer mentions, followed by an uptick in June. Mentions were high in February and March in 2016 because of mentions surrounding an article by Forbes “Pumpkin Beer Sales Go Flat, With Leftovers Lingering On Shelves Through Winter.

In the interest of lining up trends, one final piece of data I examined was the Google Search trend over time. As expected, it shows peaks around pumpkin time. It also shows a slowing of search this year and last year.

Carving Out A Prediction:

Is pumpkin beer fading out of favor, or is the decrease in mentions reflective of the slowed increase in craft beer sales? Are consumers just over the constantly building hype? Across several tasting events, beer reps stressed to me that the beer they were pouring wasn’t a pumpkin beer, instead it was beer that contains autumn spices. This description is true to the flavor of “pumpkin” beer, though the clarification implies to me that brewers are almost ashamed of the pumpkin beer trend and wish it would disappear. Struggles with selling product at bottle shops mirrored with decreased search and fewer conversations on social media seem to indicate that we hit peak pumpkin in 2016. Though mentions weren’t entirely squashed this year, I expect there will be a continued decrease in mentions through the remainder of this season and into 2018.

Now, pardon me while I walk over to the closest pub and do some additional qualitative research on beer trends.

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