Q&A with Cape Ann Brewing Company

This is the Bumpin’ Pumpkin Beer Q&A sessions. In this first Q&A of 2016, I speak with Jeremy Goldberg of Cape Ann Brewing Company. Enjoy!

It’s 2016 and the shelves seem to be saturated. What differentiates your pumpkin beer option from the others this year?

Here at Cape Ann Brewing, we were among the first, if not THE first, brewery to do something more than just make a light ale with Pumpkin. Released in 2006, our Fisherman’s Pumpkin Stout was a unique take on the style where the beer really came first, and the ingredient was used as an accentuating flavor. At 7% the rich roasted, coffee and chocolate flavors of the stout take center stage while the flavors of autumn enhance and compliment the beer.

It’s no secret America has driven a fairly strong craft beer revolution around the world at this point. What role, if any, do you feel pumpkin beer has played in the craft beer revolution?

I think pumpkin beers are the first of the fruit” beers in the US craft beer revolution to be taken seriously while also being a style that helped introduce more of the general public to the craft beer industry.

Many of the breweries I’ve contacted this year are surprisingly not making pumpkin beer. Why do you think this is? Is it because of the labor, the market, a fall in demand, or otherwise?

Personally, I think it’s a bummer that this season’s pumpkin beer market is smaller. Over the last couple of years, we saw the rest of the world take a page from the craft beer community and cash in on the growing pumpkin beer demand. Suddenly you saw pumpkin Oreos, pumpkin latte’s, pumpkin pop tarts…you name it. You also saw more and more brewers release pumpkin beers, and some even released multiple pumpkin beers(guilty as charged, although our Imperial Pumpkin Stout has been available since 2007 in limited supply). We just saw a backlash, poor sales pretty much across the board. Demand has fallen and as a result distribution is less available. We have distributors that have significantly lowered their pumpkin beer inventories this year. It’s a real shame because our Fisherman’s Pumpkin Stout is a real treat for many this time of year. and we are still proud to offer it.

Many have remarked that the past spring saw the first really noticeable overflow of pumpkin beer inventory. It’s not uncommon to find pumpkin beers on shelves well into the spring. However, Greg Avola of Untappd did a research for Forbes that found a 50% increase in spring time check-ins of pumpkin beers in 2015. I too have seen everything from Pumpking to Roadsmary’s Baby on shelves still and we’re almost a year later. In your opinion, just how badly was distribution overestimated this past year, if at all? Did you guys see growth or have you found your numbers have stagnated?

It was hugely over-estimated.

What methods do you employ in making sure that you obtain the pumpkin ingredients needed to sustain a good pumpkin beer year after year? Over the past year many have reported a shortage of pumpkin puree. Have you guys experienced any struggle in terms of ingredients and if so, where has it made you reassess your strategy for the fall season?

We have great relationships with local suppliers. We work with a local farm to source all of our pumpkins. We slice them and then roast them right here in our kitchen at the Pub at Cape Ann Brewing. We store them at local freezers for use the following year. We also use a local spice supplier. We’re happy to be support local vendors and have not had any supply issues.

Can you give us general insight into the process you’re following in order to create your pumpkin beer this year?

We use a pound of Roasted Pumpkin/10 gallons of beer. The pumpkin goes in the mash while we use a proprietary spice mixture in the whirlpool just after the boil is completed. Lots of love is sprinkled in throughout.

If not pumpkin spices, what seasonal ingredient(s) do you believe could make a meteoric rise in the beer industry in the coming five years?

Garlic…take note other brewers…Start making Garlic beer. I’m sure it’ll be delicious.

Have you tasted any other pumpkin beer options on the shelves this year? If so, which ones other than your own have you been impressed with?

Not yet. Will Meyers over at Cambridge Brewing always makes a great selection though.

Well, it’s another year in the books! Jeremy, it’s always a pleasure. I want to thank you guys for consistently supporting Bumpin’ Pumpkin Beer and wish you continued success. I look forward to tasting your beer this season!