Pumpkin Homebrew Tasting

Homebrewed Pumpkin BeerSix weeks have passed since I brewed my high gravity pumpkin ale. The base recipe for the beer was an English Barley Wine on the low end of the style category. The original gravity started at 1.077 and finished at 1.017, giving me an approximately 8% ABV beer.

My goal with this beer was to take take the pie crust malt character found in many commercial pumpkin beers and amplify it, while decreasing the spice intensity. Additionally, I really wanted to make a beer where you could actually taste the caramelized pumpkin that was added to the mash.

Beer Tasting

Judged as a BJCP Category 21A Spice / Herb / Vegetable Beer.

Aroma (10/12)
Big round malt on the nose that is quite full with lots of deep caramel, toffee, and a hint of honey. There is a definite vanilla aroma as well as some oakey bourbon. The spicing is quite low with cinnamon being the most readily apparent, along with some nutmeg that instantly combines with some of the whiskey aromas to become reminiscent of eggnog. There are some pumpkin aromas that come off as cooked squash. As the beer warms, there is a hint of alcohol heat and acetone.

Appearance (3/3)
The beer is a beautiful deep amber or garnet with reddish highlights. The beer is clear, but not brilliantly so. The head is off-white and persistent.

Flavor (10/20)
There are some intense crackery and biscuit malt flavors upfront that are a little more substantial than I would have liked. There is no hop flavor although the beer has a nice firm balancing bitterness. Caramel hits mid palate and gives an impression of sweetness. It feels like the melanoidin rich malt is combining with the spice and alcohol to give a somewhat harsh flavor on the finish. There is a earthy gourd-like flavor that reminds you that you’re drinking a beer brewed with a substantial amount of pumpkin.

Mouthfeel (3/5)
The beer is quite full, perhaps a bit too much. The carbonation is low, further enhancing the beer’s fullness and leaving the mouthfeel a touch flabby.

Overall Impression (5/10)
This is not a bad beer, but I wouldn’t say it is world-class either. The slight harshness from the very intense toasty flavors are a bit much and could be dialed down a bit. Additionally, the whiskey and vanilla notes, while interesting, could benefit from some restraint. The presence of actual pumpkin in the beer is very apparent and quite welcome. It is quite likely that the beer will mellow out and become much more enjoyable with some age.

Total: 31/50 (Very Good)

Pumpkin Beer – Brewday and Recipe

2 Sugar Pumpkins were heavily roasted yielded about 3 pounds of sweet pumpkin meat.

2 sugar pumpkins were heavily roasted yielding about 3 pounds of sweet pumpkin meat that was pulverized and added to the mash.

Update: You can find a full review of this beer, here.

People seem to either love pumpkin beers, or love to hate them. Craft beer drinkers consume them in quantity each fall while a certain segment of ‘beer geeks’ gleefully rant about their disdain for the style and write them off as a trend (oh, the irony). Having been part of this latter group, I can confidently say that my tune has changed. In particular, I look forward to the yearly ritual of consuming high gravity samples like Elysian’s ‘Great Pumpkin’ and the signal of fall these beers represent.

Many craft pumpkin beers feature in-your-face spicing paired with a big residual sweetness. For this beer, I am shooting for something a bit different. While malt-forward, the focus is on toasty bready notes, and less on sweet caramel. This beer features low-spicing — hopefully allowing the heavily roasted pumpkin to shine through. The goal of combining a Maris Otter base with biscuit and honey malts was to produce a graham cracker like character, similar to what is found in pie crust.

Recirculating for mashout. Very nice orange color.

Recirculating for mashout. The malt bill and pumpkin produced a very nice orange color.


Size: 2.75 gal
Efficiency: 70%
Attenuation: 72.0% (projected)

Original Gravity: 1.086 SG (Actually hit 1.077 due to pour efficiency)
Terminal Gravity: 1.024 SG (projected)
Color: 16.26 SRM
Alcohol: 8.2% ABV (projected)
Bitterness: 27.9 (projected)

6.25 lb (65.4%) Maris Otter (Crisp)
1.3125 lb (13.7%) Munich TYPE II (Weyermann)
8 oz (5.2%) Biscuit Malt (Dingeman)
8 oz (5.2%) Flaked Oats (Briess)
6 oz (3.9%) Crystal 45 (Crisp)
6 oz (3.9%) Honey Malt (Gambrinus)
4 oz (2.6%) Belgian Caravienne (Belgian)
3 lb Roasted Sugar Pumpkin

8 g (100.0%) Magnum (14.5%) – added during boil, boiled 90 m
0.5 ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – added during boil, boiled 15 m
0.5 tsp Wyeast Nutrient – added during boil, boiled 10 m

1 ea Cinnamon (Stick) – Whirlpool 10m
.125 tsp Clove (whole) – Whirlpool 10m
.125 tsp Nutmeg (ground) – Whirlpool 10m

WYeast 1056 American Ale™
1 ea Vanilla Bean Soaked in Bourbon (1 bean in 2 oz. bourbon) – Secondary

120 °F – 5m (Beta Glucan)
154 °F – 60m (Saccarification)
168 °F – 10m (Mashout)

Yeast Starter:
Final Volume into Fermenter = 2.25 Gallons
Yeast Required = 132  billion (per Mr. Malty)
Yeast Production Date: 8/16/13
Yeast Starter = 1L @ 1.040 on stir plate (per Mr. Malty) =  4 1/8oz. DME

1. Chill to 60* F and keep at 62* F until activity slows (1 week+).
2. Raise temp to 70*F 2 days
3. Crash to 32*F 5 days