Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pumpkin Ale

Finally, the reason I got into brewing is here.  Fall.  And that means many things: leaves changing colors, weather getting cooler, Halloween, and great beers.  Over the years, I have tried quite a few pumpkin ales, some better than others.  So, when I set out to make one of these seasonal fruit ales, I wanted the flavors to really come through.  I wanted spices and aroma to the point when people have to sit and savor the taste of the beer they are drinking.  I wanted perfection.  

When I set out for a recipe, I made an immediate decision to use fresh pumpkin.  Some beer experts will say use only fresh, others will swear by the canned goods.  But, I wanted to be involved in the entire process of this beer.  I wanted to know it inside and out.  One of the drawbacks of fresh pumpkins is waiting for season.  Which meant that it wouldn't be ready by October.  But, still, my beer should be here before Halloween, hopefully giving me a little bit of October drinking.  

Upon further recipe investigation, I found none that looked appealing to me.  So, I set about to make my own recipe, which was really just a hybrid of about four different ones.  I had to make decisions with ingredients and technique, which will probably turn out disastrous.  But, fingers crossed, I made a list and drove off to the brewing store to get my ingredients.  

Here is the stuff I got from the brew shop:

6.6 lb Amber LME
1.65 lb Light LME
1 lb 2 Row Pale Malt (meant to pick up Pilsner)
1 lb Vienna Malt
.5 lb Caramunich Malt
2 oz Styrian Goldings Hops 

In addition to that, I picked up three small baking pumpkins from the grocery store and some spices at the local Farmer's Market (cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, and ground nutmeg).  

Preparing the pumpkins turned out to be a bit of a process.  First off, I had to cut my pumpkins into 2 or 3 inch pieces and clean them (taking out the seeds and other "innards").  Then, I baked them at 350 degrees for about an hour (until they were soft to the touch).  After they cooled down, I removed the outer skin of each piece, leaving the "meat" of the pumpkin.  At the end of the process, I had about 3.75 lbs of the baked pulp.  From this, I divided it into two sections.  2.5 lbs of pumpkin would be placed in a muslin sack and steeped with my grains before the boil.  The other 1.25 lbs would be put into a hop bag and placed into my fermenting bucket similar to a dry hopping technique.  I wanted to do make sure I got pumpkin flavor in whatever way that I could.  I just hope I didn't overdue it!

After steeping my grains and pumpkin (a very crowded brewpot!) for 45 minutes at 155 degrees, I added my liquid malt extract (LME) and brought everything to a boil.  My LME may have been another mistake because instead of putting in about 7.5 lbs, I added all of the extract which was over 8 lbs!  Along with my 2.5 lbs of steeped grains, this created a very sweet wort, which could mean strong beer or bad beer.  We will have to see.  

When I got my wort to a boil, I added 1.5 oz of the hops.  After 45 minutes, I added the rest of the hops.  At 50 minutes, I added my spices.  Again, because I was creating my own recipe and desired strong flavors, I may have gone a bit overboard.  I added 5 cinnamon sticks, 1 tsp of nutmeg, and 7 whole cloves to my boil.  Everything was starting to smell delicious!  In the last 5 minutes, I put the other pumpkin in a hop bag and threw it into the boil.  This was not to take out any flavors, but simply to sterilize my pumpkin that would go into the bucket.  

After cooling down my wort, I pitched by yeast (Nottingham Dry Ale Yeast), tossed the cooled pumpkin back in, and hammered my lid shut.  I left the pumpkin in for about 48 hours before removing it. 

The wort ended up being 1.060 OG and tasted wonderful.  It really did taste like a pumpkin pie, especially in the sweetness.  I will probably rack over to a secondary sometime this week.  

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