As you may remember, panic swept the pumpkin-loving nation last year when it was revealed that pumpkin crops were down by about half. We were told the shortage could affect things through the next year, and the fate of our beloved pumpkin foods and drinks hung in the balance.
Now, here we are in fall 2016. Things aren’t looking so bad, at least for our pumpkin beers.
“It has not been an issue for us this year,” said Matt Cutter, founder of Upslope Brewing Co., whose Pumpkin Ale was a gold medal winner at the Great American Beer Festival in 2011. “We actually ended up with an excess of pumpkin puree that we’ve been storing since last year’s harvest, frozen.”
Denver Beer Co. found itself in the same situation. Brewer Jason Buehler says there is no shortage of their Hey! Pumpkin because they happened to over-buy the pumpkin puree from their supplier last year.
It’s lucky that they did, because Buehler said that when they called their supplier this year to talk about costs, they found out that last year’s crop shortage meant they didn’t have enough product this year.
“We were told there was definitely some available, but it was in a very small package size, and in the quantities we’re using, it just wasn’t feasible. We’re talking little grocery store cans instead of a 42-pound bag,” he said.
Over at Epic Brewing Co., they’re on track for a standard pumpkin beer season.
“We contract our pumpkin puree and we were able to fullfill our contract, but we weren’t able to get any excess,” communications director Matthew Allred said. “While we are meeting what we projected for this year, we weren’t able to go above and beyond.”
Breckenridge, too, says their pumpkin beer supply is doing just fine.
Both Buehler and Cutter both mentioned having heard about some breweries having problems, but we haven’t found them yet.
How your pumpkin beer gets made
Jason Buehler, brewer for Denver Beer Co., on Hey! Pumpkin: “I would say [we made] right around 500 barrels.
“Our process — to me it’s a typical American pumpkin beer. We started with kind of an amber ale base beer. We use a lot of biscuit malt to bring a crust backbone. We do add that prepared pumpkin into the mash. Once fermentation is complete, we add spices — pretty typical pumpkin pie spices.”
Matt Cutter, founder of Upslope Brewing Co., on the Pumpkin Ale: “We source our pumpkins from Munson Farms in Boulder. We have the pumpkins processed at a commercial kitchen into a puree and we just use that. It goes back to Mike Munson is a friend of mine and he approached me one day … and suggested that we do a pumpkin beer. We went through probably a dozen or 15 different pumpkins that he grew. I really liked the aroma and flavor of the baby bear pumpkins.
“I think we brewed it first in 2010. We didn’t need too many cases of pumpkin at that point. Dany [Pages, Upslope’s head brewer] is from Argentina and he thought that was ridiculous. He had never heard of anyone brewing a beer with pumpkins.
“Our pumpkin ale is definitely beer-first. That’s something we pride ourselves on with any beer we put additives into. There are seven different spices that we put in there that we get from a local spice shop, Savory Spice. It was actually Dan Hayward from Savory Spice in Boulder that put together the spices.
“We try to locally source whenever we can … We want to source locally, we want fresh ingredients whenever we can. Using real pumpkin — a lot of challenges — but we’e pushed through those challenges over the years.”
Matthew Allred, communications director for Epic Brewing Co., on the Imperial Pumpkin Porter: “We have a somewhat unique approach. The puree that we get is simply smashed up pumpkin. It’s skinned and there’s no spices or anything like that added to it. It’s very squashy or gourd-like. It’s earthy and very genuine, where I think a lot of people use spiced puree — a larger contribution of cinnamon and nutmeg.
“We add the pumpkin puree during fermentation. Some other brewers might add it to the boil, but we treat it like a dry hop.
“We use some spice — Madagascar vanilla beans and we do do cinnamon and allspice. The beer is very vanilla-forward. It’s a porter, so there’s really strong chocolate and roasted notes. The inspiration is closer to chocolate chip pumpkin bread than it is pumpkin pie.”
Breckenridge Brewery’s Nitro Pumpkin Spice Latte: It’s made with coffee beans from Cabin Coffee Company, which does a special roast for the beer that won’t be too bitter. It goes into the mix at the conditioning tank, when the beer has finished fermentation and it’s being cold conditioned. They add nitrogen at the end, which adds creamy bubbles similar to the foamy milk on a latte.
They’re not the only gourd-beer purveyors in town.
There are dozens of breweries in Denver. Go out and go pumpkin-beer crazy. And if you hear of any pumpkin beer shortages, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.