Bud Light rolls out pumpkin spice hard seltzer

It has become increasingly clear that anything pumpkin spice is now a treasured staple of the American diet during the fall months, and Bud Light is feeling festive. 

Anheuser-Busch has rolled out new flavors for its Bud Light Seltzer: pumpkin spice, toasted marshmallow, maple pear and apple crisp.

The limited-edition flavors will be marketed as "Bud Light Seltzer Fall Flannel Variety Pack" and will be available starting Sept. 6 through the end of October. The drinks will be packaged in 12 oz. slim cans.

"Since launching Bud Light Seltzer, we have continued to disrupt the seltzer category by expanding our portfolio with unexpected and delicious flavors," Andy Goeler, vice president of marketing for Bud Light, said. "We’re excited to bring our limited-edition Fall Flannel variety pack to the market, giving consumers a new innovation that is inspired by the season and perfect for all autumn occasions."

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It’s not the first time Anheuser-Busch has tinkered with Bud Light Seltzer flavors. In August 2020, people were able to try grapefruit, cranberry and pineapple flavors as part of its "remix variety pack" backed by the star power of spokesperson DJ Khaled. 

And Bud Light’s use of pumpkin spice is not without precedent. The ubiquity of the fall flavor in modern drinks can be linked to the introduction of the seasonal pumpkin spice latte — or PSL, as it has come to be known — at Starbucks.

Pumpkin spice seltzer may seem novel, but the peculiar flavor combination itself is not new. Once upon a time, pumpkin spice lived pretty much only in pies. That was a long time ago.

The first reference to what we now know as "pumpkin spice" can be traced back to 1796. That’s the year Amelia Simmons published "American Cookery," regarded as the nation’s first cookbook. In it, she includes a recipe for "pompkin pudding," a pie made with stewed pumpkin and spiced with ginger and nutmeg.

As Americans moved to urban areas during the Industrial Revolution and sought to maintain a connection with agrarian life, pumpkin pie — and the spices used in it — became an essential slice of Americana.

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Pumpkin-flavored items went from reaching 6 to 14.5 percent of U.S. restaurant menus from 2005 to 2015, according to Datassentials. National chains and fine dining restaurants are the biggest proponents of pumpkin, and when it comes to geography, the northeast tops every other region: 19 percent of restaurant menus there featured at least one item.

Regardless of the current attention, pumpkin spice blends have been a mainstay of spice cabinets for decades. McCormick & Company introduced a pumpkin pie spice blend in 1934. It contained cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice — the same spices used to make pumpkin pie. Through the years it became known more simply as "pumpkin spice" and it remains one of the company’s strongest sellers. McCormick sold nearly 4 million bottles of the spice in 2014 — enough to make nearly 8 million pies stretching from Boston to Chicago.

In the early 1990s, pumpkin spice began trending as a flavoring in coffee, introduced in the fall alongside other seasonal coffee specialties, such as cinnamon-hazelnut and eggnog.

"Americans root themselves in this tradition," Cindy Ott, a scholar and author of "Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon," said. 

"When times feel uncertain that they can turn to these things for a sense of comfort and goodness," she added. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.