This is the Bumpin’ Pumpkin Beer Q&A sessions. This week I speak with Danny Seeton, lead brewer at Parallel 49 Brewing. With both Lost Souls and Schadenfreude on the shelves, the folks at Parallel 49 seem to know a thing or two about pumpkin beer. Enjoy!
It’s 2016 and the shelves seem to be saturated. What differentiates your pumpkin beer option from the others this year?
Our pumpkin beer is quite a bit different from other breweries as it is based on an Oktoberfest, where as most breweries use and English or American style as the base. We also try to not overdue to spicing of our beer to keep the drinkability high.
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 clearly remember pumpkin beers being quite exciting when I was getting into craft beer. Highlighting the seasonality that craft brewing is capable of catering to is a really important part of the aforementioned revolution. The unexpected spices and ingredients combined with a variety of base beer styles is also a perfect example of what makes the craft brewing industry so interesting.
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?
Pumpkin beers are just one of the crazy things the industry makes now. 10 years ago there wasn’t the menagery of IIPAs, sour beers, barrel aged vintage beers, etc. that we have now so production space is an issue. I still think the demand is there, but there are just so many choices for beer in general now that making a pumpkin beer isn’t mandatory.
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 Pumking 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?
Over producing the volume of any beer will cause issues. It happens with regular beers, but they just aren’t as noticeable unless you are constantly reading date codes. Add in a strong seasonality aspect and you can easily get some bottles stuck on the shelf for quite a while. Brewery growth also compounds this. When you are opening into new markets and make promises on supplying a pumpkin beer for the entire season you always try to overproduce. This can hurt when you don’t sell out. As breweries slow their expansion and have a better understanding of market penetration this waste will be minimized.
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 do put pumpkin puree in our beer, but I don’t believe this is necessary. Spicing is the most important and then you can write a grain bill to give the illusion of pumpkin content. That being said, we haven’t experienced any issue with sourcing pumpkin.
Can you give us general insight into the process you’re following in order to create your pumpkin beer this year?
We are making the same beer we have in the past few years so there is not much change. We should have our production volume estimated much better this year so hopefully everything sells out. Next year we will be brewing on a new brewhouse so that will require some potentially drastic recipe adjustments. We’ll procrastinate on that for now though.
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?
Pumpkin flavouring/extracts are certainly becoming more popular as the addition can be made post fermentation, allowing the flavouring to be just right and there is less aroma lost during fermentation. The baking industry has been using these for quite a while and as craft brewers realize that we are really the black sheep of the food industry we will begin to adopt some of their useful practices.
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?
I haven’t had any other breweries’ pumpkin beers this year, but I typically only have a few over the season. A few other breweries have been putting Amber Lagers and Scottish ales out in lieu of pumpkin beers and they’ve been really good. I guess that is an example of the exact transition you’ve been asking about.
This was awesome! Great answers to all we throw at you! So far I’ve unfortunately not been able to find Parallel 49 anywhere near me. Hopefully that changes. Nevertheless, best of luck this fall season and thanks for your time as always! Cheers!