It’s that time of year again, time for the invasion of Pumpkin Ales. Wait? They were on the shelves in August? Ok. What. The. Fuck. Pumpkin beers remind me of Halloween, and cool Sunday afternoons in November watching football. Can someone please let the kind people at Boston Beer and BMC know that in Arizona it’s still 105* or higher in August, and the last thing on earth we want is a god damned pumpkin ale when it’s 105*? Pumpkin is a harvest ingredient. Pumpkins are harvested in the fall. Anyway, you get the idea….
Now that that’s out of my system, let’s get back to my (seasonally correct) Pumpkin Ale. This is a recipe I’ve brewed now for a couple years, and it’s a big hit with friends and family. It’s slowly changed over the past couple years, with the big change this year being oak. I had a couple ounces of oak sitting around begging to be used in something, and what better batch would subtle oak and vanilla flavors meld with? This recipe is pretty simple. I use some Victory to add some of that crackery, biscuity malt character, and some C60 for some nice sweet, raisin-like caramel flavors. The rice hulls are there to aid in lautering, and then of course there’s the pumpkin.
Two days before brewing this, I gave my fermenter fridge a test after it apparently died a couple weeks ago. I brought home from Greg’s, 5 gallons of my Citra Burst Pale Ale that had almost finished fermenting, and put it in the fridge to see if it could hold 68*. It worked just fine, so I have no idea what went wrong a couple weeks ago. Nevertheless, I feel comfortable that I’ll be able to keep this batch of pumpkin ale cool. Brew day was a pain in the ass, as most pumpkin beers are. I missed my mash temp 10 degrees low by overcompensating for the pumpkin. The mash stuck a number of times while recirculating; pumpkin makes for a very sticky mash. Since the recirculation was so slow, and it stuck so often, the HERMS took the entire hour to bring the mash up to 151*
Other than having to take a little more of the pumpkin trub into the kettle than I would have liked, it was smooth sailing from there out. I boiled for 60 minutes, and added the re-hydrated spices at flameout. I started chilling immediately, and knocked out the batch at 63F.
1lb Rice Hulls
60oz Canned Pumpkin (4 cans)
Mash @ 151
20g Magnum @ 60
1tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice: Re-hydrated, and added @ flameout
2oz American Medium Toast Oak: steamed, then added directly to the primary
WLP002 – 2L starter – Fermented at 64F
002 is a rock star due to how fast it ferments. Around 48hrs after pitching, I noticed the krausen had already fallen. A quick hyrdo sample put the beer at 1.012 already. I raised the temp to 68* at that point to help the yeast finish up, as 002 is notorious for floccing out early. I left the beer in the primary for exactly two weeks, and then racked to secondary to get it off the oak. My goal with the oak was to keep it very subtle, which after two weeks turned out to be perfect.
Unfortunately, the wort I created from the low mash temp was a bit too fermentable, and this batch over-attenuated. I was shooting for 1.011-1.012, so 1.008 is quite a bit drier than planned. Thankfully the pumpkin adds some mouthfeel to the beer, so it doesn’t drink as dry as it would seem.
This beer has a beautiful orange hue that reminds me of fall. Although, unfortunately, this beer has some chill haze that just refuses to fall out. The nose smells like a crisper version of pumpkin pie. The spices are subdued, and the caramel malt comes through. I can’t pick up the oak in the nose. It tastes like pumpkin pie: caramel, slightly sweet, and a little spice. The amount of oak is absolutely perfect. It’s noticeable in the finish, but if I didn’t tell someone it was there, I’m not sure they would pick it up. There’s no real noticeable bitterness, and it finishes dry and clean.
I’m really happy with where this recipe ended up. The only thing I wish I could change would be the mouthfeel of this beer. I really wanted it to have a creamy, luscious mouthfeel, and what I ended up with is just average. That was a mash mishap though, not a recipe one.
Cheers to Halloween, fall, and football!