Pumpkin Ale (all-grain)

Pumpkin beers are an interesting breed.  They seem to grow in popularity every year, and with that, there are lots of good ones, bad ones, and then some downright ugly ones.  Some might call pumpkin beers a fad, along with every other food / beverage that can have pumpkin stamped on it for appeal – coffees, scented candles, breads, desserts, etc.  Regardless, if you can find yourself a nice pumpkin beer, it’s a fun beer to drink when autumn rolls in and definitely gives you that warm and fuzzy feeling of colder weather setting it.
Alright, so a little explanation of the recipe. The extract version I made last year was a good starting point, but I definitely wanted a different grain bill.  I wanted a nice hearty amber fall beer, but without going too heavy on the standard caramel flavors that most pumpkin beers overdo.  I recently tried Evolution’s pumpkin ale, and it had a really great hop presence – not typical for the style, but I liked it a lot. So, I didn’t hold back with some nice spicy hops added a little earlier in the boil, to hopefully give it a nice hoppy bite in the middle. Lastly, I went with American Ale yeast because it’s pretty neutral and clean; the Weihenstephaner yeast last time really gave it a hefeweizen twist!
  • 5 lb US pale 2-row (Briess)
  • 5 lb German Munich (Weyermann)
  • 1 lb CaraMunich II (Weyermann)
  • 0.6 lb Victory malt (Briess)
  • 0.4 lb Wheat malt (Briess)
  • 1 oz Mt. Hood hops (6.1% aa) 60 min
  • 1 oz Mt. Hood hops (6.1% aa) 30 min
  • 2 cloves, and 1/4 tsp each of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, all-spice. (5 min)
  • 2 packages WYeast 1068 American Ale yeast

// Brewed 9/29/12. Strike w/ 4 gal of 166F water (1.33 qt/lb), brought grains to 158-159F. Had to add some cold water to bring it down to around 154F.  Mash 60 minutes, batch sparge to collect ~8 gal 1.028 wort. Boil 90 minutes. Collected 4.5 gal 1.043 wort. Cooled to 80F, let sit 25 minutes, aerated and pitched yeast. Cost: $35 //

Brew day was relatively hectic – I ran out of propane halfway through the boil, so I had to take a 15 minute pause to run down to the gas station and get it refilled.

UPDATE: Okay, so pitching two packets of yeast had some slightly undesirable effects. First off, this thing was so active, that the yeast overflowed into the airlock multiple times, shooting the bobber off. That would’ve been OK with me (hey, healthy active fermentation is a good thing!), but that leads to the second part – the final gravity. The yeast really chowed down, and, despite mashing high, the final gravity was 1.005. As a result, the mouthfeel is pretty thin.

Onto the positives. The overall taste of the beer is great. I’d say that the malt profile is spot on – a nice amber, light bready, nutty feeling which compliments the spices – which are also very nice. Very balanced and subtle. I’d say that if there was any body left to this beer, it would need more spice, but in this place it’s really nice. The hopping is nice as well, just a touch of a hoppy bite but nothing overbearing.

I waited til the airlock bubbled once per minute (6 days total in the primary), then racked to the secondary.  Added two cinnamon sticks to the secondary for just a hint of extra spice. I honestly think it would be fine without it, but I wanted to keep consistent with the last recipe.


Despite such a low finishing gravity (1.005), this actually seemed to thickened up a bit when chilled and carbed for a few days.  I’m really happy with most of the qualities of this beer. I love batches like this; I wound up with a really nice beer, and take away a bunch of lessons learned. A sense of accomplishment.

So, like always: what to change next time? Obviously, only one pack of yeast next time (but with a starter). I would probably beef up the malt bill a little since the gravity was a tad low to start (1.045), but definitely keep the same proportions. In addition, probably multiply the spices by a factor of 1.25 to balance.  If I had to add anything extra, I’d like a little bit more sweetness – like a candy sweetness – to resemble pumpkin pie a little more. Maybe a little honey malt, or even a small addition of lactose to add some creamy sweetness.


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Filed under All-grain, Pumpkin

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