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Keys to Pumpkin Beer

I figured with fall upon us, it may make sense to have a ‘best practices’ pumpkin beer thread started. Add to boil, secondary, or tincture at packaging? Proportion of spices? Which spices? (clove, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, allspice)? Whole spices or ground? Fresh Ginger, candied, or powdered?

I know IME, as spiced beers age, everything fades except clove. I don’t drink a lot of pumpkin beer, but I’ve found I like Schlafly’s and have liked STBC Pumpking in the past (though it has deteriorated in recent years)

Some keys I’ve found:
-limit the clove (as above), or preferably, get it from the yeast (such as WLP Hefe IV)
-higher percentage of crystal malts for stable caramel flavor
-high mash temp for bigger body and lower fermentability

I have two base beers on tap right now, Weizenbock and a Brown Porter, that would be great with some pumpkin spice. Was thinking of making a tincture of the following and seeing how they played together. I have a separate thing of vanilla extract I am making, so I thought I would try adding to a pint then scaling up:

1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of a tincture of ginger, cinnamon and a little allspice

to both my weizenbock (which has been cold aging for 6 months, so all it really has left is clove) and the porter.

I was really hoping for some responses to this thread, as I’ll be brewing the Smashing Pumpkin All Grain this Sunday. My plan is follow the directions provided by NB. I will add three 15 oz cans of pumpkin to the mash and my own blend of pumpkin pie spice (as I HATE the taste of nutmeg) at flame out. I’ll also prepare a spice tincture before bottling day and add additional spice at bottling if needed.

Since I’m mashing in a bag, I’m not overly worried about the sparge getting stuck. Some people have said that they first dissolve the canned pumpkin into the strike water and then add the grains. Has anyone tried that? Is it worth doing if I’m mashing in a bag?

Ah, thanks for reminding me, meant to put this in the original post: I personally don’t think adding actual pumpkin to the mash or boil adds anything worthwhile to pumpkin beers. Unfermentable starches, pectins and zero flavor. If you roast/bake the pumpkin you MAY get some melanoidin/carmelization flavor, but I prefer to get that from crystal malts.

Did the Smashing Pumpkin last year with 6 pounds of purred pumpkin, and didn’t get much out of it. But used the provided spices with a little extra addition of cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. Think 1 Tsp, 1/2 tsp and 1/2 tsp respectively.

Reduced the pumpkin to 2 pounds this year just for color and did a mash with some 6-row and Naked Golden malt (at the suggestion of my LHBS).

Had rave reviews from it last year and received Honorable Mention from a local comp on it.

Just brewed NB’s Pumpkin Ale, fermenting now. Roasted a fresh pumpkin, and added it with 2 lbs of 6 row into the mash. The color looks great! Getting a good aroma from the fermentor too. I’ve noticed that quite a few people add extra spices other than provided. Do most feel that the 1 tsp mix is a little weak? What is the best way to test this? Sample out of the secondary and add spices as you see fit? Should I add a little extra at bottling day?

  • Jeff

I’m looking at the NB kit this Oct and will probably be adding a little lactose for a sweeter taste and little mouth feel. Also going to create a tincture using cinnamon, vanilla extract and bourbon to add after primary fermentation is done. Thinking by Thanksgiving it should be awesome when I take it with me to visit family.

Just a thought. Has anyone tried juicing a few pumpkins, to make a pumpkin juice? Then you could do an extract like some do with apple juice for cider. Freeze the juice in a container, remove from freezer, let thaw over a container to get the extract.
Add that and your spice blend to a vodka solution and use it to bottle dose your brew.
Just an idea…

Mr. Octabird
American Made!

I make a big batch of pumpkin ale each year and serve it to the moms and dads on Halloween when they trick or treat. It is a neighborhood favorite. The malt bill is 66% 2-row and 33% Wheat. Hop with Saaz and use US-05 dry yeast. To be proper, I put some pumpkin in the end of the boil but it is not really necessary. Below are notes from my 20 gallon batch:

Cube up some pumpkin meat and bake in oven for 90 minutes at 250F until carmelized. Add to a muslin bag and put

in the last 10-15 minutes of the boil. Spice Extract: add the following fresh spices to a

750 ml. bottle of vodka and let sit for a few weeks (shake once per day):

3 tsp. Cinnamon 1.5 tsp. Allspice 1.5 tsp. Nutmeg 1.5 tsp. Clove 1.5 tsp. Ginger

90ml per keg of the spiced vodka.

I use pumpkin for the novelty of it. Pumpkin is pretty flavorless so I don’t see a point to do anything else . I brewed a pumpkin beer this year 100% due to request. I would prefer a pumpkin beer without the pumpkin and spice. But here’s what I brewed, gravity sampled tasted really good after a week so I have high hopes.

70% 2 row
4% caramunich II
4% melanoidin
1% chocolate wheat
10% brun fonce dark candy sugar
10% canned pumpkin

1tsp pumpkin spice in mash
1tbsp at flame out
22IBUS

London ale III mashed at 154

[quote=“Octabird”]Just a thought. Has anyone tried juicing a few pumpkins, to make a pumpkin juice? Then you could do an extract like some do with apple juice for cider. Freeze the juice in a container, remove from freezer, let thaw over a container to get the extract.
Add that and your spice blend to a vodka solution and use it to bottle dose your brew.
Just an idea…[/quote]

That’s an idea. Since most say it adds little flavor only color, if you strain this to just the juice you can get the color from it.

[quote=“MullerBrau”]I make a big batch of pumpkin ale each year and serve it to the moms and dads on Halloween when they trick or treat. It is a neighborhood favorite. The malt bill is 66% 2-row and 33% Wheat. Hop with Saaz and use US-05 dry yeast. To be proper, I put some pumpkin in the end of the boil but it is not really necessary. Below are notes from my 20 gallon batch:

Cube up some pumpkin meat and bake in oven for 90 minutes at 250F until carmelized. Add to a muslin bag and put

in the last 10-15 minutes of the boil. Spice Extract: add the following fresh spices to a

750 ml. bottle of vodka and let sit for a few weeks (shake once per day):

3 tsp. Cinnamon 1.5 tsp. Allspice 1.5 tsp. Nutmeg 1.5 tsp. Clove 1.5 tsp. Ginger

90ml per keg of the spiced vodka.[/quote]

Thanks for the recipe!

“That’s an idea. Since most say it adds little flavor only color, if you strain this to just the juice you can get the color from it.”

I’m surprised by this. Over the last three years I’ve tried about 30 different spiced fall beers from various breweries and I’ve always noticed a distinct flavor difference for those that had actual pumpkin in the mash. I enjoy the true pumpkin beers more than the spice only beers and really think that pumpkin in the mash adds a unique flavor. I’m not trying to take anybody to task here, maybe I’m more sensitive to the flavor than others or just have an over active imagination. Anyway, I think pumpkin in the mash is important to this style of beer and adds a nice character.

I agree that with enough pumpkin you can certainly taste it. I hate a heavily spiced beer too, I think restraint with spice allows pumpkin flavor to come through. I just had a commercial brew that had a very nice pumpkin, the brewer said he roasts the pumpkin first.

I brewed a beer yesterday, used a brown ale recipe with Maris Otter and english crystal 20 and 130, a little pale chocolate and black malt and some added belgian 90 syrup. Got 1.050 sg. I cut up and roasted two pie pumpkins and those went in the boil for an hour. I also added the guts and skins, I figure the skins have lots of color and the guts have good aroma. I did remove the seeds and toasted them for eating. The only spice I added was 1/4tsp of ground clove. It’s fermenting on S04 right now.

I brewed my Smashing Pumpkin Ale yesterday and was so excited to brew it that I forgot about the pumpkin until the mash had already rested for 60 minutes! No worries though; since the temperature after 60 minutes was still at 152 degrees F I just added the pumpkin and turned it into a 90 minute mash. The OG ended up at 1.062 versus the 1.054 from the kit instructions, so I’ll either end up with a stronger brew or I can dilute it down at bottling and get a few extra bottles. The color was an amazing orange, and my own world famous, top secret, proprietary pumpkin pie spice blend yielded an equally amazing aroma. (It’s two parts cinnamon, plus one part each of ginger and cloves. I hate the taste of nutmeg! And so much for being top secret, but it is world famous, at least in my world.) The spice was added in the last ten minutes of the boil. I tasted the finished wort and think I may whip up a tincture of spice just in case I want to add more at bottling. Since I mash in a bag, there were no issues with draining. And it was a perfect day for brewing with mostly sunny skies and 66 degrees!

Ok well you guys have broken me. I’m going to brew a pumpkin this year for some friends who are visiting and dig them, and for parents of trick-or-treaters…and I’m going to add carmelized pumpkin to the mash.

Thinking:

-85% Maris Otter
-8% Melanoidin
-5% Crystal 120
-2% Special B (want some raisiny aroma, do I need to increase this?)
-3 lbs carmelized pumpkin in mash
-154 mash temp
-Saaz to 20-25 IBU
Gravity around 1.065
Lactose (I believe pumpking has some lactose in it) and spice tincture including vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, tiny bit of allspice and nutmeg to taste post-fermentation.

Here’s my question: should I use something like WLP Hefe IV to get a clove note instead of actual clove? I know everything fades in these beers except clove.

I like the recipe, and the idea of using the hefe yeast. I may add a little vanilla to mine, was considering that. I think you could go to 5% on the special B, I used 10% crystal malts in mine.

Ken, I don’t think theres a reason to mash with the pumpkin. There isn 't that much starch in them and you don’t need the sugars, just the flavor which you’ll get from the boil.

Man, I was going to skip the spice beer this year and just get by with my now ready to drink Oktoberfest, but you all have got me ready to brew. Guess I’ll have to revisit some recipes and start one up. Probably aim for something in the 1.055-1.060 OG; nice and malty that can serve as a a holiday brew. I had planned on a pumpkin brew this year, but got behind on my favorites (porter and ESB) so was about to just skip it. I do have an excuse for getting behind. I brewed Ken Lenard’s Bierhalle vienna Lager in May and liked it so much I’ve added it to my favorites and there is a limited number of brew dates to squeeze everything in (so many styles/so many options/not enough time).

This has got to be the second most debated topic in home brewing, right behind whether or not to use a secondary…

This has got to be the second most debated topic in home brewing, right behind whether or not to use a secondary…[/quote]

Not to be argumentative, but I don’t know about this. Most experienced brewers I know acknowledge that adding actual pumpkin (whether to mash or boil) is largely (if not wholly) for novelty purposes.

As I said above though, I’m going to find out for myself… :cheers:

Just kegged my smashing pumkin ale. Followed recipe as is, with addition of 3 cans of pumpkin purée to mash (strike water) and1 tsp of apple pie spice. I figured I wanted a little more spice that the 1 tsp that came with the kit, yet I didnt want too much clove. Apple pie spice is more cinnamon in flavor, and was a nice addition to this brew. Then I soaked another tsp of pumpkin pie spice in rum, dumped into keg, and racked on top. Now I just have to wait…

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