Although there are a few pumpkin spice ales on the market that I enjoy (Hoppin' Frog's Double Pumpkin, Samuel Adams Fat Jack, and Heavy Seas Great'r Pumpkin come to mind first), I've yet to brew a pumpkin spice ale that I have been happy with. Either I didn't feel like the base beer was quite right, or the spice mix was too "something" (insert random pie spice there) forward, it was too hop-forward, or it was wrong in some other way. This year, I decided to try the kit from Great Fermentations in Indiana to see if I liked that any better than previous brews.
9 pounds 2-row Brewer's Malt
1 pound Munich Malt
8 ounces Crystal 40L Malt
15 ounces Canned Pumpkin (not included in kit)
1/4 tsp. Brewtan B (my addition to kit)
1 ounce Glacier Hops
1/2 tsp. Brewtan B (my addition to kit)
1 tsp. Irish Moss (15 min.)
0.5 tsp. Ground Cinnamon (not included in kit)
0.5 tsp. Vanilla extract (not included in kit)
0.5 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice (not included in kit)
0.25 tsp. Nutmeg (not included in kit)
0.25 tsp. Ground Ginger (not included in kit)
1 packet Wyeast London Ale III yeast
6.5 gallons of Reverse Osmosis filtered water, plus:
- 3 grams Gypsum
- 2.5 grams Calcium Chloride
- 1.2 grams Epsom Salt
- 1.1 grams Magnesium Chloride
- 0.3 grams Table Salt
- 0.3 grams Baking Soda
- 1 ml 88% Lactic Acid solution for pH balance
Brewfather estimates the following characteristics for the beer:
- Batch Size: 5.0 gallons (4.75 actual)
- Boil Time: 60 minutes
- Pre-Boil Volume: 5.5 gallons
- Mash Efficiency: 59%
- Original Gravity: 1.048 SG estimated (1.048 SG and 1.053 SG actual)
- Pre-boil Gravity: 1.043 SG
- Final Gravity: 1.012 SG
- IBUs: 19
- BU/GU Ratio: 0.40
- ABV: 4.8%
The RO water was treated with the listed salts and the acid solution, plus 1/4 tsp. of Brewtan B to help the beer (hopefully) retain flavor and resist oxidation in the bottle. The grain came pre-crushed. Once the water was up to temperature, the grain was slowly stirred into it, followed by the can of pumpkin.
This recipe uses a simple mash schedule. Mash at 151-153F for 60 minutes or until conversion is complete. Sparge with room temperature water. (I know that's blasphemy to some brewers, but Denny Conn mentioned at Home Brew Con 2020 or 2021 that at home brewing scale, heated sparge water is not really going to increase efficiency or extraction enough to bother with.) I tend to believe Denny, and I've seen no difference using heated or room temp water so far.
The recipe requires a 60-minute boil with the following schedule:
- 60 minutes (i.e., start of boil): Add 1 ounce Glacier hops
- 20 minutes: Brewtan B (1/2 tsp.)
- 15 minutes: Irish Moss (1 tsp.)
- 10 minutes: All spices and vanilla
- 0 minutes: Turn off the heat, begin chilling down to as close to 64F as possible
London Ale III yeast likes to ferment in a 64-74F temperature range, the low end of which is approximately what my ambient basement temperature is this time of year, so I do not think temperature control will be needed for this brew. If I can get it down to around 65F, I don't imagine it self-rising to much beyond 68-70F, which is still well within the yeast's range.
I decided to split the 5-gallon batch across two smaller fermenters, for two reasons. First, I think it will help with maintaining fermentation temperature. Second, it will allow me to add Bourbon-soaked oak chips to one of the fermenters and produce a "Bourbon Barrel Aged" Pumpkin Ale like Heavy Seas Great'r Pumpkin, which was a favorite of mine and I haven't seen in years. This also yields two batches of beer from a single brew day, which is also pretty cool.
Post Brew Notes and Observations
11/14/2021: Running enough RO water to start the brew was one hurdle that I had to overcome. Because I've made my share of spiced ales in the past, I had all the spices this recipe called for and didn't have to go purchase any (thankfully). However, I did not have a fresh can of pumpkin on hand. Thankfully, my wife was able to stop somewhere on her way home from visiting with family and pick up a can for me to use.
The 120V (Original) Grainfather took a while to get the 4.5 gallons of mash water up to temp. I continued running RO for the sparge as it did so, and stirred the grain into the water when the water reached about 120F.
A check of the wort pre-sparge with a refractometer read 14.1 Brix. Post-sparge there was about 4.5 gallons in the kettle (instead of the expected 5.5 gallons) and the reading then was 14.5 Brix. I decided to add in about a half gallon of tap water to raise the volume up a little. After that, the refractometer was reading 13 Brix or about 1.053 SG. All these gravity readings, I should note, are not temperature corrected and may be lower than the actual room temperature reading. I ended up adding another half gallon of water to bring me to the correct pre-boil amount (5.5 gallons). Even so, the gravity at temperature (~175F) was reading 1.048 SG.
I've not been doing 5-gallon batches in The Grainfather for a while now, and forgot how long it takes the original 120V model to heat that much liquid.
I decided to split this into two smaller batches. One will receive only yeast. The other will also receive some medium toast American white oak chips soaked in Bourbon. Original Gravity for the un-oaked batch was 1.049 SG on the Tilt Hydrometer, and for the oaked version 1.053 SG.
11/16/2021: Gravity on both batches is down to 1.027 SG today per the Tilt Hydrometer. That puts them at roughly 67% fermented at this point. The temperature has yet to exceed 70F, which is well within the yeast's optimal range.
11/17/2021: Gravity is now down to 1.010-1.011 SG for both batches. Both are 68-69F. The highest temperature either reached during fermentation was 71F for the barrel-aged one and 69F for the regular batch. That's well within the yeast's optimal range of 64-74F so I don't expect any off flavors.
11/18/2021: Gravity is now reading 1.007 in the regular batch and 1.009 SG for the barrel-aged batch. Temperature in both fermenters is now down to 67F, which is ambient basement temperature.
12/04/2021: Gravity in the both batches is 1.004 SG. It's held there for about 4 days in the non-barrel batch, but the barrel-aged batch held at 1.005 SG for a while before dropping down to 1.004 SG in the last 24 hours or so. This continued slow fermentation could explain why I've had a number of beers that seemed overcarbonated after a month or two. Primed to a "medium" level of carbonation, if they continued to ferment beyond what I thought was final gravity, they could easily reach an over-carbonated level in time. I got about 21 bottles of the barrel-aged version and 24 of the non-barrel version. A warm, flat sample from the fermenter tasted a bid underwhelming, with the spices seeming fairly muted. I'm hoping it's better cold and carbonated. We'll see.
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