Saturday, September 22, 2012

Pumpkin Beer

A couple of years ago I brewed up a really nice pumpkin beer and thought it was about time to try it again.  I even planned way ahead and planted a sugar pumpkin plant in my home garden for the sole intention of using the pumpkins in a beer.  Unfortunately, the plant had some serious issues and I didn't get a single fruit from its vine (in fact, all my squash/cukes/melon plants had issues this year).  So, I went with Plan B and picked up a couple of small pumpkins at a local farm/orchard.

There are a multitude of methods out there for brewing a pumpkin beer - from using a canned puree to baking whole pumpkins in the oven with brown sugar to skipping the pumpkin altogether and just using the requisite pumpkin pie spices.  I didn't like any of those options.  I wanted to use fresh pumpkin, but didn't want to deal with the extra steps of baking it (and the mess and probable stuck sparge that goes along with it).  I did a little research and discovered that the gelatinization temperature for pumpkins falls within the normal mash temperatures.  So, I figured if there's any starch that needs to be converted, it can just happen right there in the mash (though it turns out, as far as I can tell, there's not a lot to convert).

I cut the tops of the pumpkins, scooped out the seeds and stringy pulp, and chopped them up into chunks (rind and all).  I then processed the chunks with my cuisinart with the handy-dandy grater attachement.  The resulting pumpkin "hash" was mixed right into the mash.  After an hour, full conversion was confirmed with an iodine test and I proceeded to sparge as normal with no problems.  The brew process went without a hitch.  I decided to use a combination of EKG and Challenger hops since I have found recently that I really like the beers I've made that use more than a single hop variety - there just seems to be an added dimension to these batches.  I also added a judicious amount of spices (again, using a combination to give the final beer more complexity).  Most pumpkin beer recipes I see out there tend to only add hops for bittering, letting the spices predominate the flavor and aroma, but I like the way English hops meld with the spices, so I opted to add some late hops.

For the yeast, I decided to try something different and went with WLP072 French Ale (Platinum Release)...mostly because I had it already in my fridge after picking it up on a whim earlier in the summer, but also because I figured its malt-forward characteristics would work well in a beer like this.  I pitched a 1 liter starter and fermentation took off.  I currently have it in my "mudroom" (for lack of a better term) where the ambient temp is ~64°F.  I hope to have a few bottles ready for a pumpkin-carving party in October, but I imagine it won't really hit its peak until at least Halloween.

Feathertop 2.0
brewed on 9/19/12 (and into the morning hours of 9/20/12)

Recipe Specifications 
Batch Size: 4.00 gal

Estimated Color: 11.9 SRM
Estimated IBU: 29.9 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 69.00 %
OG: 1.048
FG: 1.012
ABV: 4.7%

5 lbs Pale Malt, Maris Otter - 52.6 %
1 lbs Caramunich I - 10.5 %
8.0 oz Melanoidin Malt - 5.3 %
8.0 oz Vienna Malt - 5.3 %
8.0 oz Wheat Malt - 5.3 %
2 lbs Pumpkin, fresh, raw, grated - 21.1 %

10 g Challenger [7.20 %] - 60.0 min
10 g Goldings, East Kent [4.50 %] - 60.0 min
4 g Goldings, East Kent [4.50 %] - 15.0 min
4 g Challenger [7.20 %] - 15.0 min
4 g Goldings, East Kent [4.50 %] - 1.0 min
4 g Challenger [7.20 %] - 1.0 min

Spices (all added in last minute of the boil)
0.50 tsp Cinnamon, ground
0.50 tsp Nutmeg, ground
0.25 tsp Ginger, ground
0.25 tsp Allspice, ground
0.13 tsp Cloves, ground

French Ale (White Labs #WLP072)

 Mash Schedule
Single Infusion, 150°F, batch sparge


Shegogue Brew said...

Great way to incorporate the pumpkin! I just made my pumpkin ale a week ago and used 60 oz of canned pumpkin - worst sparge I have ever had AND I used rice hulls which I NEVER use! I might have to go this route next year. So I can attest to canned pumpkin being a pain!

Looking forward to how it turns out.

Jim Lemire said...

It worked really well last time. I do wonder though if anyone would taste the pumpkin in the beer (or any pumpkin beer for that matter) if they didn't know it was there. It would be interesting to try this recipe without the pumpkin and see how it turns out. I'd also be interested to see if the pumpkin-free beer turned out out as orange - I actually like to think I get a lot of color extracted from the rind, but it might just be the malt (photo of previous batch).

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