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2012 pumpkin ale

September 23, 2012

*updated 10/15/12


Every year, around this time, I make a pumpkin beer.  Last year, I didn’t get around to it until late October, so I really kind of missed prime pumpkin-beer-drinkin season.  Not wanting to make the same mistake again, I brewed a full month earlier.  This should be ready in the second week of October (or so).

Last year, the base for my pumpkin ale was Wee Heavy (a rich, malty, scottish-style ale).  It was good, and I think that base made sense, but I admittedly went a little nuts with spice additions and personally, it was too much for me.  That said, I did have friends that loved it and begged me to make it again the same way this year.  In the end, I opted to overhaul the recipe and try something totally different this year.

This time around, I’m using more pumpkin, less spice and am trying a base beer that should allow the pumpkin and spices to shine through.  The base for this is going to be an Old Ale- mostly maris otter malt, with some english crystal malts for a bit of color, and a nice, fairly clean english ale yeast.  This is not going to be an old world old ale – and by that I mean, no barrel, no brett.

Mash tun before 5 lbs of pumpkin are added

Recipe after the jump..

Pumpkin getting added to the mash

One of the big debates with pumpkin ales is whether it is best to use canned or whole pumpkin.  I used whole pumpkin the first time I brewed one, and it was okay, but it was a total pain in the ass.  I’ve used canned pumpkin ever since (only organic, though), and I think I get more pumpkin flavor out of it.  Plus its way less work, so there’s that.

I was lucky to find some local organic pumpkin (Lake Shore Pumpkin from Williamsville, NY), but unfortunately – not enough of it.  I stopped at another store and was able to find 2 more cans of a more generic organic pumpkin.  The Lake Shore was much thicker, richer and darker in color.  The generic was somewhat watery and much paler in color.  Not sure what to make of that, but it doesn’t really concern me.

A trick that I employed on this batch, was the addition of some 6-row malt.  6-row is a modified version of standard pale malt (aka 2-row), and it is richer in enzymes.  Enzymes are what convert starches to fermentable sugars in the mash.  The goal of the 6-row, is that the extra enzymes that it contributes should help convert some of the pumpkin starches into fermentable sugars.  The pumpkin should therefore be more a part of the beer and not just some gourd that I soak for a little while.


If you’re paying attention to the recipe, you’ll note that I claim to have achieved 90% efficiency.  For the record, that’s not necessarily true.  My recipe estimate of 79% is pretty common for my system.  My brewing software did not account for any fermentables (and therefore increase in Specific Gravity) on account of the pumpkin.  It seems to me that I did achieve some extraction from the pumpkin, which artificially inflates my efficiency numbers.  Enough of that, onto the recipe.

2012 Pumpkin Ale
19-A Old Ale
Brewed: 9/22/12

Size: 6.25 gal
Efficiency: 90.58% (measured)
Attenuation: 75.0% (estimated)
Original Gravity: 1.065 (measured)
Terminal Gravity: 1.016 (measured)

Color: 10.83
Alcohol: 6.41%
IBU: 27.2


  • 10.0 lb Maris Otter Malt
  • 2.0 lb American 6-Row Malt
  • 0.25 lb British Crystal 80°L
  • 0.125 lb British Crystal 120°L
  • 5.0 lb Canned Pumpkin
  • 1.0 oz East Kent Goldings (5.0% AA) – boiled 60 minutes
  • 1.0 oz East Kent Goldings (5.0% AA) – boiled 15 minutes
  • 1.0 ea Wyeast 1098 British Ale
  • Cinnamon, Vanilla, Nutmeg, Allspice to be added to secondary (amounts TBD)


  • Mash-in: 5.1 gal; Strike: 168.36 °F; Target: 152.0 °F.  60 minutes
  • Batch Sparge: 4.13 gal sparge @ 180.0 °F, 0.0 m; Total Runoff: 7.5 gal
  • Collected 6.75 gallons in primary brew kettle.  Remaining .75 gallons were collected in a smaller pot and “cooked down” on the stove.  Combined the two, for a total of 6.25 gallons before chilling.


  • The Avett Brothers – The Carpenter


  • Brewed on a Saturday, by myself.  Shitty, chilly weather – perfect for making pumpkin beer and drinking IPA:
  • Took my sweet time with this brew.
  • Great pumpkin aroma coming off the mash and boil.  Lovely color.
  • Chilled to 72F (hooray for cooler ground water) and left at an ambient of 63F to ferment.  Fermentation moving along by morning.
  • 10/2 – gravity to 1.018. transferred to secondary
  • 10/10 – added 0.5 oz Penzy’s pure vanilla extract and 6 oz of a ‘tea’ made with a few cinnamon sticks and a few pinches of fresh nutmeg (microplaned).
  • 10/15 – gravity to 1.016, taste is delicious – definitely has a bit of a Pumking thing going on.  Racked to keg and 10x 12oz bottles.  Bottles got carb drops, keg rec’d 3 oz of dissolved sugar.  Purged keg headspace, left at 65F ambient to carb

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