My Wife’s Pumpkin Ale

by Eric Shepard | Updated: September 30, 2015

Pumpkin Ale

Last year’s pumpkin ale

One of the two beer-drinking adults in my household really loves pumpkin spice beers.

I mean she is really over-the-top, embarrassingly-excited, can’t-say-enough-about-them, spend-multiple-GABF-sessions-finding-them in love with pumpkin spice beers.

Perhaps you know someone like this. Perhaps you are someone like this. Perhaps you should brew a pumpkin spice beer of your own.

Personally, I brewed one last year. I am in the process of brewing one this year.

It is important to me that I keep the pumpkin-spice-beer-loving member of my household happy.

Just a few of design notes about pumpkin spice beers.

  • Some people will tell you pumpkin is optional in a pumpkin spice beer. This is false. Add pumpkin to your pumpkin spice beer.
  • The beer should give you enough pie spice flavor to remind you of pumpkin pie, but it should not overwhelm the beer. I like to make a spice “tincture” and add to secondary to taste.
  • Hops are only in there to use their bitterness to balance out malt sweetness.
  • If you (or someone you love) like the beer, it is a good beer.

Garden Pumkins

Pumpkin

Pumpkin isn’t a strong flavor, but as I mentioned above, I think it is necessary to use pumpkin as part of the recipe. More than anything, it adds to the mouth-feel something that just isn’t there without the pumpkin.

It may be my imagination, but I think you can also taste a little pumpkin flavor in the finished beer.

We actually grew pumpkins in our garden this year, but I still use canned pumpkin in my recipe. I just think it is more likely to be consistent year to year.

I add the pumpkin to the mash. This should add fermentables to the wort, but I have never found a reference to tell me how much. Experience tells me that it isn’t more than a couple of gravity points to the OG, and I tend to just ignore it in my recipe formulation. It is just a little bonus.

Pie Spice Tincture

Rather than add pumpkin pie spice straight to the beer, I usually make a “tincture”.

There are a couple of reasons I do this.

First, I’ve found that pumpkin pie spice doesn’t really always dissolve completely into beer. It makes a weird, slimy sludge that has been known to clog up my poppet valve coming out of the keg (yuck).

Second, I get more control out of adding the “tincture” than adding dry spices. I’ll add a little, the beer a try. Add some more until I get the spice flavor where I want it.

Making a spice tincture is easy. I measured out 3 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice (all spice, ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon) into a mason jar and then filled the jar the rest of the way with vodka. Mix well.

Let this mixture sit through primary fermentation until time to add to the beer. The solid spice will have settled to the bottom and you can either decant this off the top or use a coffee filter to separate the liquid from the solid.

This is more way more spice than is needed for the beer. I actually stored the mason jar from last year to add to this year’s beer. I’ll expect I’ll still have some left for next year’s beer.

Canned Pumpk

 

“Will-O-Wisp” Pumpkin Ale Recipe

Stats:
Original Gravity: 1.052 (grains only)
Est Final Gravity: 1.016
ABV: 4.7%
IBU: 22
Brew House Efficiency: 75%
Batch Size: 5.50 gal into fermentor
Boil length: 90 minutes

Malts / Pumpkin:
8 lbs Simpson’s Golden Promise
2 lbs Simpson’s Medium Crystal
2 oz Briess Midnight Wheat
2 oz Crisp Pale Chocolate
58 oz Libby’s Canned Pumpkins (2 cans)

Hops / Spices
3/8 oz Columbus (15% AA) – 60 min
1 Cinnamon Stick – 5 min left in boil
Pumpkin Pie Spice Tincture –  Secondary to taste

Yeast
1 pkg S-04 SafAle English Ale

Misc
Whirlfloc
Yeast Nutrient

Process
– Mash grains at 155°F for 30 minutes.
– While mashing, Cook pumpkin at 350°F
– Add pumpkin to mash and let rest another 30 minutes
– Collect wort and boil as directed above
– Cool to as close to 60°F as possible, pitch rehydrated yeast
– Hold fermentation between 60 – 64°F for 24 to 48 hours
– Let temperature rise to 68°F – 72°F for 2 weeks
– Rack into secondary along with Pumpkin Pie Spice Tincture
– Let sit a couple days. Taste and add more Tincture as needed.
– Keg (or bottle if you have to). Carbonate to 2.4 (ish) volumes
– Patiently wait at least a couple weeks. Better to wait a month.

Into Fermentor

So, at the moment, my beer has been in the fermentor for about 10 days. I gave it a little taste today. The base beer tastes great.

I’ll probably rack to secondary this coming weekend along with the first addition of spice tincture.

We will probably share some with friends around Halloween, but will (try to) save most of it for Thanksgiving into December.

Hopefully the other beer-drinking adult of the household will enjoy this one as much as she enjoyed last year’s pumpkin spice beer.

Eric (aka Sheppy) brews in and around his Colorado home brewery whenever he can. He started with a Mr. Beer kit that his sister bought him for Christmas in 2009 and has been obsessed ever since. He likes to pretend he is a “real” brewer.