Alltech's great pumpkin is coming

jpatton1@herald-leader.comAugust 26, 2013 

Sure signs of fall: turning of the first leaves, marching bands practicing for football games, and now the arrival of the seasonal ale.

In the next week, Alltech's Lexington Brewing and Distilling Co. will debut its first limited edition seasonal expression, Kentucky Pumpkin Barrel Ale.

"This will be a pumpkin ale, aged in newly decanted bourbon barrels," said Matt Cordle, global sales manager.

Why pumpkin?

"Pumpkin ales are some of the hottest seasonals," he said. Beer Advocate's website lists more than 400 pumpkin seasonals.

What will make Alltech's stand out is the bourbon that seeps in.

Alltech has traditionally used Woodford Reserve barrels for its popular Bourbon Barrel Ale, but increased demand for bourbon barrels for other uses led them to source from other Kentucky distilleries as well for this.

There is another reason for pumpkin: "Historically, brewers would use whatever was around to make their beer, based on the season," said Ken Lee, Alltech's master brewer.

For this batch of about 352 bourbon barrels of ale, Lee used at least a pound of pumpkin butter and spices including cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice per brew (which is about 500 gallons), resulting in a fruity and smooth ale that smells of warm banana bread.

"The pumpkin butter came from Holland, Ky., because we wanted something locally sourced," Lee said.

Seasonal flavors are popular with craft beer drinkers and with brewers. According to trend-spotting data company Mintel, 84 percent of craft beer consumers like to choose their beer depending on the season.

Alltech hasn't had a seasonal before because they didn't have to room to make one, Cordle said. But with the ongoing $20 million expansion to its site on Angliana Avenue, Alltech has increased capacity.

Already Alltech has transferred some production to Angliana, including a canning line. A new brewing line is coming sometime in the next year once the equipment has been manufactured in Germany.

With the new line, Alltech's capacity will grow from about 40,000 barrels a year now to up to 300,000 barrels.

"That will give us the ability to grow into new markets and new line extensions," Cordle said.

Next, Lee will be working on a "winter warmer" and probably a spring seasonal, with flavors yet to be determined. Eventually, Alltech plans to do at least four seasonals a year.

"This gives us something creative to do," Lee said. "And it's fun for everybody."

The high-proof ale (10 percent alcohol by volume) will be on tap where Bourbon Barrel Ale is sold possibly as early as next week, with four-packs for sale in stores by mid-September for about $14.99.

Or you can sample the beers and bourbons at the distillery and brewery in downtown Lexington, where Alltech offers tours and now has tasting rooms that offer both the ales and spirits.

For information on tours, go to Kentuckyale.com or call (859) 255-2337.

Janet Patton: (859) 231-3264. Twitter: janetpattonhl

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