Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Pumpkin Ale 2: The Secret of the Boogaloo

If I was smart, I would have written about this a few months ago when it was all fresh in my head, but it just occurred to me that I never wrote about my second attempt at a pumpkin ale.  My first attempt was a success, but I still figured that I'd try something a bit different this time just to mix things up.  I plan on trying again next year, and I've got some ideas as to how I can do it differently yet again.

Anyway, the first thing that was different this time was that I used a green pumpkin.  As you can see from the picture on the right, it's only green on the outside.  But why use that instead of the standard orange one?

My logic was this:  I wanted to get as much pumpkin flavor into this beer as possible.  When I went to my local pumpkin patch, I explained my situation to one of the guys who worked there.  Now, I knew that there was a slim chance that he'd have any experience making pumpkin ales, but I figured that he might know something about what kind of pumpkin is best to cook with in general.  So, I asked him which kind of pumpkin he'd use if he was making a pie, and he told me that the green one was easily the best choice as far as that was concerned, and I figured that would translate into it being the best kind of pumpkin for brewing as well.

Take another look at that sucker.  Unlike most pumpkins which are mostly hollow inside with some stringy guts hanging about, this sucker is full of "meat", with only a little bit of that stringy goo.  Yes, it would really suck trying to turn this thing into a Jack O' Lantern, but for sheer volume, you're going to get more pumpkin out of it.

With the pumpkin, I followed a pretty similar procedure to what I did with my first pumpkin ale, minus the stuff that didn't work and plus some stuff that works better.  I chopped up the pumpkin, baked it for an hour, and then put it in the food processor.  (The last step was a new one.)  I then let all that chopped up pumpkin soak (using a strainer bag) in some hot water for about an hour.  That resulted in some rather orangey, pumpkiny liquid.  (See the other picture.)

As for the beer itself, I was going for more of a light-brown ale this time, and I wanted a yeast that didn't create a lot of fruity flavors.  While I don't have it written down exactly what the recipe was, basically it was something like this (it's an extract recipe):

A pound and a half of steeping grains:
About half of that was Caramunich malt
About a quarter of that was German chocolate wheat malt
About a quarter of that was Castle Abbey malt

I used 7 pounds of malt extract.  (It might have been eight...didn't seem to write that down.)

For hops, I used 2 oz. Magnum hops for the one hour boil and 2 oz. Kent Goldings for the last five minutes.

In the last five minutes, I also added 2 tsp. of pumpkin spice and 1 oz. of bitter orange peel

The yeast was California Ale from White Labs (which I understand to be a clone of what Sierra Nevada uses in their Pale Ale).

The final result?  It's a pretty damned good beer.  I like it, and I've had friends and family drink it down no problem.  One friend, who isn't much of a beer drinker, even had a really tall one, so that's got to be a good sign.

The pumpkin taste really hits you when you take a sip, not in an overwhelming way, but it's there.  The bitter orange and spices kick in on the aftertaste, and honestly, I wish that I had cut back on each of those by about a half.  It doesn't ruin the beer, but it's a bit too strong for my liking.  The Kent Goldings, which are mild, give it just enough hoppiness to be noticeable but to not drown out the other flavors.

Overall, this was probably one of my most labor-intensive beers.  Just carving that damned pumpkin took a lot of time.  Good thing I had the whole day to myself when I made it.

As for the next pumpkin ale?  I'm going to do something pretty similar to this, only cut out the bitter orange, cut the spices by half, and use a Belgian Saison yeast.  I'm already looking forward to it.

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