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Beer makers struggling to find pumpkin for this year’s fall brews

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Should you stock up on your favorite pumpkin beer before it's too late? (AP File Photo)

We’re still in the height of summer where piña coladas are usually favored over pumpkin-spiked drinks.

But brewers are already scrambling to get their hands on enough orange squash to make their signature autumn ales.

Last year’s canned pumpkin shortage may not have kept you from enjoying a pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving but, according to Draft Magazine, “ it may have a lingering effect on pumpkin availability in 2016.”

In 2015, brewers, bakers and canneries had just enough to fulfill their orders. But this year, some brewers are finding their regular purveyors in short supply.

Nebraska Brewing Co., which releases a Wick For Brains pumpkin beer each fall, was told by its supplier that they wouldn’t be able to bring in the 5,000 pounds of pumpkin puree the brewery requires each year.

But all hope is not lost.

“We did end up finding a supplier, but not until after a few years were dropped from my lifespan trying to figure things out,” Nebraska president and co-founder Paul Kavulak told Draft.

“We bought enough for maybe the first two batches and then went back to buy more—being good disciples of Just in Time Inventory—and were told they were out. We had to brew [Wick For Brains] five times this year, so you can see the panic that set in. My guess is that this is going to be an issue across the board.”

Brian Nelson, head brewer at Richmond, Va.’s Hardywood Park, says he tried to place an order with their regular pumpkin puree supplier about a month ago—only to be told they were totally out. He contacted nearly a dozen pumpkin purveyors who had some excess to sell.

“I was able to patch it together this year and I referred this supplier to a couple other Virginia breweries that I’m friends with,” Nelson says. “We’ll be fine this year, but I know there are other small breweries scrambling. And I hear it’s not only in the brewing industry but in the culinary industry as well.”

The Brewers Association features a forum where craft beer makers can connect. The message board revealed that several brewers were in search of adequate pumpkin supplies to complete their fall beer batches. Many appear to have been matched with a handful of the country's suppliers who had enough pumpkin puree to go around.  

So don’t expect the shelves to be completely depleted of pumpkin beers just yet. But with a severe drought this summer already affecting the season’s gourd harvest, 2017 could be the year we finally have to go without real pumpkin.