Brewmaster Kevin Crompton discusses his approach to crafting the perfect pumpkin beer
“I think you either love them or you hate them,” explains Kevin Crompton, Epic’s Brewmaster, at the mention of fall and pumpkin beers. Below he describes his interpretation of the style an introduces The Gourdian, Epic’s newest canned seasonal.
This spring we started developing a new pumpkin beer for release in the fall, called The Gourdian. It’s not your typical “pumpkin pie” beer. We wanted something as unique as our popular Fermentation Without Representation Imperial Pumpkin Porter but more sessionable and In a canned format, something you could throw in your backpack and enjoy on a fall hike.
When I think about pumpkin beer I’m always reminded of the harvest and crisp mornings with hot afternoons. The Rocky Mountain landscape seems ripe and dry but still full of fragrance. I really wanted to try and capture that essence in the beer. We started with a Maris Otter and American Two Row grain bill with some caramel, chocolate, and honey specialty malts that provide an almost graham cracker like toasted sweetness. From there we introduced the pumpkin, a lot of pumpkin actually, but not in the pie sense; it’s earthy and dense and very fresh, like cutting the top off of a jack-o-lantern. I wanted to add just the right fragrant spices to highlight the pumpkin without overwhelming it. We eventually settled on both bitter and sweet orange peel, cacao nibs, star anise, and Saigon cinnamon. The finished beer really is the perfect hiking beer. I think it captures the season well and it’s refreshing enough to enjoy in the field.
The first pumpkin beer we brewed was a collaboration with DC Brau Brewing Company. We started discussing “pumpkin pie in a glass” and how we could make something different, something better. At the time nobody was brewing dark pumpkin beers and Jeff and I thought the roasted and fruity nature of a porter would interact well with pumpkin; the same way chocolate chips bring out the gourdy sweetness in pumpkin bread. We actually add the pumpkin to the fermenter so none of the aroma is driven off and the character stays fresh. To round out the beer we use quite a lot of fresh Madagascar vanilla beans but there is also allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and clove which punctuate the chocolate character of the porter base. I think the Imperial Pumpkin Porter is either a beer pumpkin lovers really enjoy or don’t care for. Like I mentioned, we wanted to make something different and really stay true to the earthy, squash character that real pumpkin tastes like.
The Gourdian will be distributed in Colorado only, as 12 oz cans and draft starting August 17. Fermentation without Representation Imperial Pumpkin Porter is distributed to all of Epic’s markets in 22 oz bottles and draft.
Kevin Crompton, Brewmaster – Epic Brewing Company