Q&A with Stevens Point Brewery

This is the Bumpin’ Pumpkin Beer Q&A sessions. This week I speak with Gabe Hopkins, brewmaster at Stevens Point Brewery in Wisconsin. These guys are special because they are perhaps the most consistently incredible pumpkin beer I’ve ever had. I’m super stoked to not only be trying there beer again this year but to have been supported by them yet again with a phenomenal sample package and kind words. Nevertheless, 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 has consistently medaled at GABF and other judging contests for several years now.  Our use of fresh, whole spices lend to it’s authentic pumpkin pie aroma and flavor.  It is also well-balanced and we worked hard to develop it so that it is not a spice bomb.

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?

Pumpkin is one of the most well known seasonal beers.  It kind of symbolizes the fall weather and holiday seasons.  What better way to celebrate both these things than with a pumpkin beer which instantly takes you to the Thanksgiving table.

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?

Market saturation definitely plays a part of the issue.  We continuously see a rise in demand and I think it’s attributed to its well known name and quality.

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?

Our numbers continue to grow on our pumpkin beer.  I think the key to it is to make sure it is available early enough yet Dec 1 have it off of the shelves as people generally turn to winter seasonals.

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?

The key to it is to maintain good relationships with suppliers and get in forecasts earlier enough to provide for flexibility in procurement times.

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

The key to a good pumpkin is quality hops and malts along with super fresh spices.  The process is definitely proprietary but the end goal is to create a well-balanced beer where the spices compliment a solid malt back bone.

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?

It’s hard to really say.  Brewers are getting very creative in developing new beers.  It’s almost become a culinary playground where brewers are using combinations of multiple seasonal ingredients to create fantastic beers.

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 enjoy pumpkin beers and super appreciate the well balanced-beers the most!

I appreciate you taking the time to speak on behalf of everyone at Stevens Point Brewery. Thank you again for such an amazing care package this season! I am very much looking forward to sampling the Whole Hog Pumpkin Ale!