Created in Breckenridge, Pumpkin Spice Latte beer goes national
Breckenridge Brewery has rolled out a new seasonal brew across 40 states that seeks to capitalize on the pumpkin spice craze but was originally dreamt up by the mad scientists at the brewery’s “Innovation Center” in Breckenridge.
Pumpkin Spice Latte is a stout beer made from dark roasted malts and cold brewed with roasted coffee beans from another Breckenridge-based business, the Cabin Coffee Co.
The additions of vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves compliment the beer’s pumpkin flavor, and the result is a highly approachable, velvety fall brew that’s 5.5 percent alcohol by volume and pairs nicely with doughnuts and other desserts.
Pumpkin Spice Latte also comes as part of the brewery’s Nitro Series, a lineup of beers infused with nitrogen gas, instead of purely carbon dioxide.
Using nitrogen for beer is nothing new, as brands like Guinness are famous for it and have been experimenting with nitrogen since at least the 1930s.
Still, nitrogen beers are becoming increasingly popular, especially in the booming industry of craft breweries, which has seen their market share grow recently to as much as 12 percent of all beer sales nationwide.
Seeing the dramatic growth in craft beer industry, Anheuser-Busch bought Breckenridge Brewery, which opened in Summit County in 1990, about two years ago and added it to the beer giant’s lineup of high-end brands, including Goose Island Beer Co., Blue Point Beer Co. and Elysian Brewing Co.
After the purchase, Anheuser-Busch rechristened the small production facility in Breckenridge the Innovation Center, while keeping the brewery’s main production facility based out of Littleton, where all of the large-batch brewing takes place.
At the Innovation Center, creativity is the name of the game, and with two men who seriously love good beer — head brewer Jimmy Walker and lead brewer Blake Schwalls — at the helm, there might not be anyone better for the job.
Ask the duo how much of their job is mad science, and they say pretty much all of it is. Probe them on what’s their favorite beer, and they hold up the one they happened to be drinking at the moment.
When they read at night, it’s usually an industry magazine, they said. If they’re surfing the Web, they’re probably perusing forums for professional brewers, and when they go out on the town, they’re constantly sampling brews in search of ideas and inspiration.
“Blake and I pretty much live, eat, drink and breathe beer,” said Walker, who’s been working for Breckenridge Brewery for 21 years now. “We’re just trying to come up with something new and exciting, and what’s so great about this location (in Breckenridge) is that’s all we do up here.”
For most of the beers whipped up at the Innovation Center, usually just a few hundred gallons at the time, when it’s gone, it’s gone. However, there are a few select brews — like the Pumpkin Spice Latte and Mango Mosaic Pale Ale — that pass muster and make it into mainline production.
According to Walker, the Pumpkin Spice Latte beer actually began as a coffee stout, but in one of the kegs, they decided to add some pumpkin spice and nitrogen. From there, things took off, and it’s now being mass produced based on the recipe that first came together in Breckenridge.
“It’s awesome,” said Dave Peters, owner of Cabin Coffee Co. in Breckenridge that’s now supplying large-scale orders of the roasted coffee beans. “It’s a good beer. I’m prone to the darker beers, and I really like it because of that … It’s really great in that this is getting such huge exposure all over the country.”
Currently, there are no locations in Garfield County that sell Pumpkin Spice Latte. But pumpkin cravers can keep checking back on the brewery’s beer locator.
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