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The Beer World’s “One-Off” Seasonal Releases

on 23/01/11 at 10:11 pm


I never tire of pointing out the virtues of beer vis-à-vis other alcoholic beverages. More ingredients and wider spectrum of flavor than wine? Check. No refined sugars or artificial sweeteners that you’ll find in mixed drinks? Check (there are some exceptions to that one). Lower alcohol content and thus more suitable than distilled spirits for consuming multiple drinks in one session? Check. The list goes on.

Another check mark goes in the beer column for seasonals. Wineries just keep releasing the same wines year after year after year, with slight variations in quality due to the nature of the grape harvest in a given year. Distilleries only produce a handful of products intended to be consistent throughout the year, although the nascent craft distilling movement may be shaking things up on that front.

But beer isn’t set apart merely by the production of seasonals that get released once a year, every year, like winter warmers. Craft breweries are increasingly turning to “one-off” releases to excite their devoted fans. A one-off is a beer that is brewed one time and one time only. You have to snag your share of that one batch or you’ll forever miss your chance to taste it. I know of nothing like this in the world of wine, and not much that compares in the world of spirits.

One-off releases are a critical outlet for craft brewers’ creativity. Nearly every craft brewer begins life as a home brewer who rarely makes the same beer twice. There are over a hundred different styles of beer in the world, with countless variations on each style. It would be boring to brew just a handful of recipes over and over again when there are so many possibilities for that pile of hops, malts, and yeast.

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