Pumpkin Beer photo by NorthwestBeerGuide of flickr.com

Pumpkin Beer photo by NorthwestBeerGuide of flickr.com

Nightmare Before Christmas

You may be thinking about Jack Skeleton but I am actually talking about pumpkin beer.  Pumpkin beer in August?  You’re probably thinking I better get out of here with that mess and write about a refreshing brew that will quench your thirst on those hot August days but, as a homebrewer one must always be thinking ahead.

Fall is right around the corner and what better way to ring in the new season than a pumpkin beer.  Let’s get one thing straight.  I am typically not a vegetable beer fan or really even a spiced beer fan, but I do love myself a quality pumpkin beer.  I do not appreciate a pumpkin pie in a bottle, but I want to know imagine a jack-o-lantern with each sip.

I am going to share my recipe with you for one of my personal pumpkin beers.  The base recipe comes from one of my favorite Robust porters from a local brewery, Equinox Brewing.  This porter has a big roast character, smooth balance of malt and hops but really allows the malt to shine and has a rich finish.  It is the perfect base for a pumpkin beer.

One word of warning….spices.  I would highly encourage you to test your spices prior to putting them into your beer.  Whether that is tasting them straight up or baking something with them first, testing your spices will give you an idea of what is the main ingredient (could be cardamon, cinnamon, all-spice, etc.) along with let you know how potent the spices are.  If you are buying your spices from a local spice shop, likely they will be extremely strong and you may need to back off on the amount you add.  If you buy the spices at the local grocery store, you will likely have a cardamon bomb and may want to add more of the others.  So, what I am trying to say is taste your spices and judge accordingly.

Pumpkin Beer credit: Raul Pacheco-Vega of flickr.com

Pumpkin Beer ingredients credit: Raul Pacheco-Vega of flickr.com

Nightmare Before Christmas Pumpkin Beer
O.G.: 1.058
F.G.: 1.017
ABV(est): 5.50%
IBU(est): 39.4
Batch Size: 5 gallons
5.75 lbs Marris Otter
1.75 lbs Light Munich
1.25 lbs Brown Malt
1 lbs 80L Crystal Malt
.7 lbs Chocolate Malt
.5 lbs Debittered Black
.5 lbs Dark Wheat
.25 lbs Chocolate Rye
Pumpkin & Spice
112-128 oz of Pure Pumpkin Puree (not pumpkin pie filling as it contains added sugar)
1-1.5 TBSP of pumpkin spice (again, taste before you add)
1 oz Willamette (60 minutes)
.75 oz Willamette (20 minutes)
1oz Willamette (5 minutes)
British Ale yeast of your choice

Mash grains for 60 minutes at 154 degrees.

Pumpkin Puree credit: Dan and Elena of flickr.com

Pumpkin Puree credit: Dan and Elena of flickr.com

There are many different ways brewers extract pumpkin flavors.  Because pumpkin is such mild flavor, it can be difficult to extract the earthy taste of pumpkin.  I have had great success with adding the pumpkin to the mash water and dissolving it prior to doughing-in.  You might also want to just add it to the boil kettle.  Or maybe you want to add it to the mash….but be warned of a potentially stuck sparge if adding it directly to the mash.  That will ruin your day.  Do what works for you.

I typically add my spice about 5 minutes prior to the end of boil.  I have also had good luck with adding spice at flame out.  Either is fine but know your system.  If you are an experienced brewer or want to try something new, try making a tincture at kegging/bottling time and add spice at that time instead of during the boil.   This is a great way to add an intense spice flavor at the level of your liking rather than risking adding too much or too little during brew day.

Additionally, you are an experienced brewer or want to try something new, try cold steeping your dark roasted grains the night before instead of mashing them with the rest.  This will result in a beautiful roast character without extracting any astringency or tannins from the dark roasted grains.  Add the steeped water to the kettle before or at the start of boil.  You would want 2 quarts of water for every 1 pound of roasted specialty grain. You will need to allow 24 hours for this process.

So….there you have it.  The Nightmare Before Christmas Robust Porter.  Early September would be a great time to brew this beer in anticipation of fall.  So, get your brew equipment out and get down like Jack Skeleton.  All hail the Pumpkin King!