With fresh, local pumpkin finally available it was time to brew our annual pumpkin beer. Last year our pumpkin beer in late October, and the five gallon batch was not ready until almost Thanksgiving. We ended up with a lot of leftover pumpkin beer.
This is our third year in a row brewing a pumpkin beer. The Pennant Race Pumpkin Wheat was one of our first batches when we started brewing. The first batch was an extract recipe with specialty grains, where we used the simple steps I outlined to brew a pumpkin beer as easily as possible. As to why we used a wheat beer as a base style? I honestly don’t remember. I think we just grabbed a couple cans of wheat liquid malt extract as we threw the recipe together.
By last year I had graduated to partial mash BIAB brewing. I roasted the pumpkin the same way I had the year before, and threw the wedges in the bag along with my grains during the mash. We used a ridiculous amount of pumpkin, ten pounds, so plenty of pumpkin flavor came through. My efficiency was horrible and the finished beer only had about a 4.5% ABV. There was not enough malt flavor to balance the spices. When we entered it into a competition the judges agreed the cinnamon was too dominant.
For this year we brewed a 2 gallon batch, enough to keep the girlfriend happy, I’ll enjoy a few at Halloween and Thanksgiving, and it won’t be cluttering up the house when we have all moved onto winter beer. This year we bought a baking or sugar pumpkin, pureed it, and added about two pounds to the mash which still made up about 25% of the grist. Pumpkin contains fermentable sugars, but it also contains water so it’s contribution to the alcohol level figures to be small. I had planned to use 6-row barley and red wheat as my base malts. The extra proteins from the 6-row would help convert the starches in the pumpkin like it does when brewing with corn, and the red wheat looked like it would have a more robust flavor than white wheat to stand up to the spices. Unfortunately I was short on 6-row, and ended up supplementing it with some additional 2-row.
I almost always advocate using the freshest ingredients possible. For the spices we used ground spices off the spice rack. It is always nice to save a few dollars. I also find that ground spices are easier to portion. We measured our spices by the 1/8th of a teaspoon.
I brewed this the same day as the Ballantine IPA clone. While that was a relatively smooth brewday in terms of hitting my mash temperature, the pumpkin puree made it almost impossible. BeerSmith is designed to tell you how hot your water should be before adding grain, not necessarily pureed vegetables. When the mash was sitting at 140F, I turned up the heat on the stove-top. Then after not paying adequate attention, the next thing I knew the temperature was over 170F. Then I was frantically adding ice and cold water. None of this helped my efficiency at all. Luckily I designed the beer to have a high starting gravity so I would have a margin for error.
The beer is fermenting away. I will likely just bottle it after two weeks of fermentation. It would be ready for Halloween and maybe even be gone by winter beer season. Some year I would like to do an imperial pumpkin beer in the late fall and age around about a year so it would be ready for the following September.