How Pumpkin Beer is Made
It’s fall and our taste buds are craving our favorite pumpkin brews. So, as you sip on your Pumpkin Ale, your mind starts to wander…where does it wander? The creation of Pumpkin Beer as a whole. So, how is this tasty concoction made? Let’s find out!
While the major brewing companies keep their recipes a secret so that the everyday person can’t just copy their recipe, there are definitely ways to make your own. Let’s explore that!
First: There is no specific base style that is required for a pumpkin beer. Pick your favorite. Have fun, start with an amber, pale, wheat, porter, stout or any other style.
Next, simply add pumpkin and spices. Yep, it really is that easy. Experiment with spices that you like! Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Vanilla Bean are pretty popular. However, you can add whatever you want! Maybe you could add a little vanilla extract or honey too! Or…maybe not. Haha.
The only important rule of thumb is that you should probably start with a recipe that isn’t very hoppy, and limit the amount of flavor and aroma hops. Hop additions for most pumpkin ales should typically consist of a single 1/2 to 1 ounce addition at 60 minutes, and nothing more. This keeps the hop flavors and aromas from getting muddled and confused with the pumpkin pie spices.
Here’s a popular base recipe.
Amber Ale, light dry malt extract, a pound of crystal 20L, and a pinch of chocolate malt.
Now for the Pumpkin.
Make sure you look for the small pumpkins that are made for pies. Or, for all you underachievers, feel free to grab a can of pumpkin for pies instead! Try your best to get pumpkin that does not have preservatives. How much pumpkin should you use? It’s up to you. One pound of pumpkin for 5 gallons of beer is the minimum needed to impart character, while some flavor-heavy beers can have 5 pounds for a 5 gallon batch.
Ways for adding pumpkin to beer vary widely, from adding the pumpkin to the boil or the mash or even tossing it into the carboy after fermentation is complete. Lots of people even declare that the best pumpkin beer is made without any pumpkin at all, and advise only using pie-like spices. Say whaaaaat? While there may be some good pumpkin-free brews out there, that seems to defeat the purpose. Don’t be like that. Instead, experiment with different techniques to maximize the potential of the pumpkin.
One thing that most brewers and tasters agree on is that you get the best flavors if the pumpkin is cooked and caramelized. Whether you’re chopping and mashing the pumpkin yourself, or you get it out of the can, it should be spread in a thin pan and baked for at least 60 minutes at 350°F. This will allow the sugars to start to cook, and give the beer the pumpkin-esque undertones that we’re looking for.
Now for the spice. DO NOT GO OVERBOARD…IT IS WAY TOO EASY TO MAKE THE BEER UNDRINKABLE WITH TOO MUCH SPICE!!! You want to stick with just one teaspoon of spice per five gallons of beer. This will be plenty, trust me.
Share your recipes with us! Until then, cheers.
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