I've made a Thanksgiving ale before, and that was a kit that used pumpkin pie spices, but it didn't have any actual pumpkin in it. My initial thought was to just buy this kit again but put some real pumpkin in it. However, I decided to get a bit more creative than that.
The kit that I had used (from MoreBeer!) was a somewhat dark and malty American-style ale with the aforementioned pumpkin pie spices. I wanted to make something a bit lighter and fruitier while still having a bit of mild hop flavor to go along with the pumpkin pie spices. So, I put together my own kit and bought a medium-sized pumpkin.
I got to try a bottle of it just yesterday, and my initial reaction was somewhat mixed. It's REALLY pumpkiny. When taking a sip, the first taste to hit you is a mildly-hoppy ale with a hint of pumpkin spice. Once it goes to the back of the tongue, a big punch of fruity pumpkin overwhelms the palate. The nice thing though is that it leaves you with a rather pleasant taste in your mouth, like you just had a slice of pumpkin pie, only you're not craving a glass of water to go with it.
I went and had another glass of it today, and I have to say that it's growing on me. Much like the chili ale, I think that this is going to be one of those beers that people are either going to really dig or not dig at all. Also, it's going to be a "right time and place" kind of beer. It probably would go best as the last beer of the evening or maybe even along with desert. (I imagine that it would feel kind of redundant to have it with pumpkin pie.)
So, for the homebrewing nerds out there, here's the actual process:
I started off by gutting a pumpkin then slicing it up. I took the cut-up pumpkin and baked it at 350 degrees for about an hour.
I then soaked the pumpkin in 150 degree water for an hour. I barely got any pumpkin flavor out of that into the water, so I let it soak overnight. Still hardly any pumpkin flavor after that.
I decided to go ahead and put all of the pumpkin and slightly pumpkiny water into my brew kettle for the boil. This is what did the trick to get that pumpkin flavor into the beer. I also put all of the seeds into a grain bag. (I'm not sure how much this affected the flavor.) I have to point out that the beer is somewhat hazy. Part of this is because I forgot to put the whirlfloc tablet (which clears the beer without altering the taste) into the boil. Still, I've done that before, and I've never had such a murky-looking beer.
Here are the ingredients for an extract-kit boil:
1 lb. Crystal 15L
.5 lb. British Pale
.5 lb. German Munich
7 lbs. liquid light malt extract
2 oz. Fuggle for the entire boil
2 oz. Kent Goldings at the last 5 minutes.
(That's a lot of hops, but those are pretty mild tasting. I wanted the hops to be noticeable but not overpowering, which is probably what I would have gotten had I used something like Magnum or Centennial hops.)
sweet orange peel - last 10 minutes
pumpkin spice - 1 teaspoon at the last 10 minutes, an additional teaspoon at the last five minutes
Fermentis dry American Ale - fermented at room temperature, left in carboy for two weeks
Read about my Chili Ale (includes videos):