Pumpkin Beer? In July?
That’s right. I’ve noticed some complaints about seeing pumpkin beer out so early. As your consumer reporter (and fellow beer lover) I decided to go to the source: Weyerbacher Brewing.
Weyerbacher is known for their Imperial Pumpkin Ale, so why not just go to the brewery and investigate? I wanted to see (a) how they brew the stuff and (b) why they release it so early. I found the answers to those questions and oh so much more. Let’s go.
You may be wondering where Weyerbacher is. Well, it’s in a small warehouse building in Easton, PA—so small you may miss it once (or twice) driving by like I did. CEO Dan Weirback discovered his love for suds through homebrewing and was moved to produce his product in more than one 5-gallon batch at a time. Though he first thought he would be crafting pale ales and ESBs, he found himself brewing his first big batch of Raspberry Imperial Stout—and he liked it. Since then, the company got rid of its brewpub and now focuses all of its efforts on brewing quality, unique, and creative products.
If you’ve ever toured a brewery, you know that the establishments are often much smaller than you would think. The small building that I visited was actually an upgrade to what they used to have. For me, this is one of the reasons to drink craft—they run efficiently and focus on making quality beer before they focus on quantity. Anyway, I digress—onto my consumer
Question number one: “how do you make this beer so pumpkiny?” Answer: TONS and TONS of pumpkin. Really. ONE keg contains five pounds of pumpkin. Let’s put that into further perspective – 40 barrels (about 80 kegs) equals 397 pounds of pumpkin. Real pumpkin. Not so much flavoring that it tastes like fake gross pumpkin syrup. Literal, pour out of the can, mashed up pumpkin. Then they add the cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and clove spices to the mix. After the lengthy boil, sifting out the grains, clarifying, carbonating, and bottling (all in their ONE brewery), they load up the palates and send it off for you and I to enjoy.
Next question: “why are all of the pumpkin beers and Oktoberfest brews sold out by late September, and why are we seeing them on the shelves in July?!” The answer is actually pretty simple: to keep up with demand and competition. Just like Christmas season always seems to be getting earlier, so does pumpkin beer season. OR, as bathing suit season creeps up in FEBRUARY for the ladies, pumpkin brew season creeps up in August. Do you get it yet? They get the beer on the shelves to compete with the others, plus, by October, they are now competing for the winter beers.
So what do you do? Get a case (or two) right away and put it in your basement. Maybe even for a YEAR. Bill Bragg, the tour guide at Weyerbacher suggests aging the Imperial Pumpkin. The maltier the beer, the better it is aged. Unfortunately, we can’t do that with the IPA’s – the hops will ruin the beer in a matter of months. Get your case, label it with the date, and take out a bottle to try about once a month. Save the rest for next year to enjoy even more of the malty flavor, along with the pumpkin flavor. If you like the spice flavor more – have it this October rather than next. Pretty much, get one case for now, and another to cellar.
BONUS: At the end the tour, endless beer samples are drunk and guests are permitted to purchase “build your own” cases at a discounted price. Win.
Take it all in. Come September, I’m going to SHOCK you with some more learning from Weyerbacher involving a stout and imperial pumpkin brew. Be teased.