Some time ago, a friend of mine took me to John Harvard’s in Smithtown. She was excited because it was time for their special brew, a pumpkin spice beer, which would only be available for a few weeks each fall. Once the calendar turned to December, it would be gone until next year.
Full disclosure: I don’t like anything in my beer. I don’t like fruity beer, I’m not a fan of seasonal or dark beer and I certainly wasn’t going to like spicy beer of any kind. Everyone fawns over IPAs, and micro-breweries are springing up like Starbucks, but it’s just not my thing.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll tolerate those types of beer when out with friends and I’ll try just about anything once, but it’s just not for me on a regular basis. Kind of like my relationship with vegetables: I know I must eat them, but I reserve the right to not enjoy them.
So, it was with much trepidation that I acquiesced for my friend’s sake and gave pumpkin spice beer a try. It came in a tall, frosty mug, rimmed with cinnamon sugar. I knew it was going to be a problem as it was being poured because it was much darker than the light, amber color I preferred. But my friend was so excited about it and I knew she would be disappointed if I didn’t like it. I resigned myself to make sure, no matter how disgusting it was, I would put on a brave face. I’d channel my best Juan Valdez (El Exigente) approval and give it a thumb’s up. The last thing I needed was to spit it out like a scene from The Three Stooges.
But I loved it. It was tasty, smooth, and most of all, the cinnamon sugar was fantastic. Previously, there wasn’t anything with the word “pumpkin” in the title that I liked. To me, pumpkins had always been relegated to Halloween decorations and Thanksgiving dessert tables.
At the time, John Harvard’s was the only brewery crafting a pumpkin spice beer. People would come from miles around to grab a growler and take it home. It became a tradition for me to procure the odd concoction every Thanksgiving.
Before you knew it, other local breweries were preparing a pumpkin spice variety and soon, major breweries had picked up on the trend. Today, virtually every beer company offers a version of pumpkin spice beer, making it easily available.
Somehow, beer spiced with a flavor nobody seemed to care about started a trend. As companies scrambled to jump on the bandwagon, pumpkin spice suddenly began to creep into other products like a virus. Seemingly overnight, manufacturers began modifying their products with a pumpkin spice variety: coffee, tea, potato chips, gum, yogurt, cookies, milk, candy corn, pasta, vitamins, applesauce, cereal and peanut butter.
I’d like to know who was clamoring for infusing pumpkin spice into these products? Has the market stalled to the point that the public is demanding a pumpkin spice Oreo cookie? Are people no longer eating Cheerios in October unless they are flavored with pumpkin spice? Did the Boy Scouts plead with Kraft to create a pumpkin spice marshmallow for s’mores? When will this insanity end?
There could be light at the end of the pumpkin spice tunnel, my friends. Once again, manufacturers oversaturated the market while trying to capitalize on a hot trend. Apparently, the demand for pumpkin spice products is starting to wane, causing companies to scramble for a new fall flavor.
This September, Starbucks unveiled a new flavored latté, maple pecan. Our friends from the north know all too well the power of maple flavoring. Combine it with pecans and how long before it infiltrates M&M’s and Chobani Yogurt, creating a Game of Thrones type situation on store shelves? Will you align with “House Pumpkin” or “House Maple Pecan?”
Sadly, John Harvard’s closed its doors for good earlier this year. Although I can now get pumpkin spiced beer from virtually anywhere, I’m going to miss the anticipation and excitement in knowing the day was approaching when pumpkin spiced beer would be available.
Sorry, gotta go now. My pumpkin spices Pop-Tarts are ready.