It’s September, which means the kids are back in school, the days start to get shorter and cooler, and you’re confronted with pumpkin-flavored everything. There’s Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte, of course, which started the whole craze, along with pumpkin cookies, donuts, cereal, candy, beer and more.

It’s that last one that really gets a Virginia microbrewery’s goat. So much so, that it’s announced a “Pumpkin Beer Amnesty”, in which it will give away coupons for free beer to anyone who commits to dumping a pumpkin-flavored competitor’s product down the drain.

They feel just that strongly about keeping pumpkins out of your beer glass and in the pumpkin patch where they belong.

“We know people are being led down a dark path with pumpkin flavored everything, and we just want to help create a world where our children are free of pumpkin beers,” Coelacanth Brewing announced to fans. So beginning next week until supplies run out, anyone who visits the Norfolk brewery and brings a “commercially produced pumpkin beer” will get a coupon for a free non-pumpkin flavored replacement.

“One of our founding principles was that we would never do a pumpkin beer. This mass slaughter of pumpkins – it’s really unfortunate,” the tongue-in-cheek announcement went on.

These days, the backlash against pumpkin-flavored everything is as predictable as the very onslaught of pumpkin-flavored everything itself. Starbucks is credited, or blamed, with starting it all with its pumpkin spice latte back in 2003. Others soon joined in with their own pumpkin-themed products, and now it seems the trend has long since jumped the shark, with everything from pumpkin spice Oreos and M&M’s, to pumpkin spice deodorant and cat litter.

That’s prompted haters to scoff at anyone who actually likes this stuff, and pumpkin-flavor foes like Coelacanth Brewing to say enough already. But no one would be jumping aboard the pumpkin spice bandwagon if these pumpkin products didn’t actually sell.

According to Nielsen research, pumpkin spice is big business. Pumpkin products accounted for $414 million in sales last year, with more than a third of all American consumers saying they had purchased a pumpkin-flavored product.


“While pumpkin bread, pies and baked goods are flying off shelves, pumpkin flavor is also making its way into products that are captivating consumers’ curiosity,” Nielsen wrote in a 2015 report. “Pumpkin-flavored dog food, oral hygiene and gum products not only exist but are selling well.”

Pumpkin-flavored dog food was actually sixth on a Nielsen list of the top ten best-selling pumpkin products, behind bread, baking mixes, coffee, creamer and the more traditional pumpkin pie filling.

Beer wasn’t on that list, and Coelacanth Brewing hopes to keep it that way. “What do we plan to do with all of this (pumpkin) beer?” their announcement concluded. “We will be offering it up to the Great Pumpkin on Saturday, September 16th – by dumping it.”

Some analysts are beginning to question whether there’s much life left in the pumpkin-flavored craze anyway. Sales of pumpkin products are still on the rise year over year, but Nielsen figures show they’re starting to level off. “It seems like it might be beating a dead horse a little bit,” brand consultant Liz Dunn told the New York Times.

The one pumpkin product that doesn’t seem to be selling so well these days? Actual pumpkins. “Even though pumpkin-flavored products are on the rise, fresh pumpkin is not benefiting from the same acceptance,” Nielsen found. Sales of fresh pumpkins have been declining in recent years, with consumers buying nearly 9 million fewer pumpkins in 2015 than they bought in 2011.

Who needs the real thing, when you can get stuff that sort of tastes like it instead?

So if you happen to live near Norfolk, grab a pumpkin beer and go trade it in for something more unique, like Coelacanth’s “Coelia Rosemary Lemon Wheat”, “Enefkay India Pale Lager” or “Passion Fruit Gose”.

Otherwise, might as well give in and go get yourself a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks. After all, it seems everyone else is.

Photo by I, DL.

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