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Pumpkin Ale Version 2 Tasting Notes

I made a commitment to start posting more about my homebrewing. I noticed that I post a fair number of recipes, but I never review them and explain future changes that I would make. I’m going to start making a better effort to do this and I figured I should review my Pumpkin Ale while I still have some left.

My pumpkin beer pours a nice clear dark amber color and has a thin white head that fades with time. The nose smells like pumpkin pie with a balanced dose of spices and some pumpkin meat.

The taste is pretty close to what I was shooting for. There is a good malt flavor with some hints of bread and graham cracker. The pumpkin pie spices come in and help clean up the beer. I really liked the aftertaste on this one. After all of the major flavor components have a chance to sit for a bit, they meld nicely.

This beer turned out exactly like I wanted it to with a few minor exceptions. The clove was a bit stronger than the other spices, so I will dial that one back a bit. I did think the spices were in balance with the beer though. This was not one of those overly spiced pumpkin beers. I want to add a bit more body to it as well. The oats didn’t give it as much silky texture as I would have liked. I’ll probably increase the mash temperature to help get some longer sugars out of it and as a result, more body. The mix of crystal malts worked nicely and I wouldn’t change a thing there. I might take a look at giving it some more bread character to better simulate the crust of a pumpkin pie. I would consider adding a touch of biscuit, brown, or carabrown malt depend on what I had on hand. I’m pretty happy with this recipe overall and I think I’m 90% there as far as how I want it to be.

Schwarzwald Black Lager Brew Day

I was contacted by the nice folks at Midwest Supplies a few weeks ago asking if I would be interested in reviewing one of their kits and/or doing a article or two for them. I was happy to take them up on their offer and I grabbed their Schwarzwald Black Lager kit. The beer is modeled after a traditional German Schwarzbier (German for black lager). It’s a beer style that I have always liked, but never attempted to brew.

I really like the box that this beer kit ships in. I should quickly note that this is the first partial mash beer that I have done in three or four years. The kit comes with some grain, a half gallon of liquid malt extra, hops, yeast, Sinamar color extract, and everything else that you would need to brew this beer ingredient wise. Midwest puts sticker on the side of the box to let you know what you should find in the kit as well as the expected color of the beer.

I followed the included directions to the “T” so that I could accurately review this beer kit. The grains that came with my kit did not appear to be crush so I sent them through the grain mill and filled my muslin bag with them. I heated 2 gallons of water to 155 degree and steeped the grains for a half hour. After the half hour, I removed the pot from the burned and let grains sit in the water for another ten minutes. You can see the color change that took place during that time below.

I removed the grains an put them in the box that the kit came in (a nice and easy way to dispose of your spent grains). I only made one change from the directions and added a gallon of water before adding the liquid malt extract and boiling. I did this because I didn’t want to scorch the extract and come away with a “homebrewed flavor.” After boiling and adding the hops as described in the directions I cooled the wort and added two and a half gallons of additional water. I then shook the carboy to oxygenate the wort and added the yeast. The final product looks like this.

My basement is sitting right around 57 degrees at this time of the year, which is perfect for primary fermentation. I’ll leave it in the carboy for two weeks and then transfer to another carboy that will be held at a colder temperature for eight weeks or so. As of right now the carboy is sitting with all of her brothers and sisters.

I’ll give an update to this one after I get a first tasting.

Belgian IPA Recipe

I’ve been in a bit of a hop kick recently. I know, I know, a craft beer person in the mood for hops, big shocker. I also fell back in love with Belgian beers this summer so I decided to marry the two ideas in to one. As I have mentioned before, the Belgian IPA style is still in development so you can kind of do what you want with it. I basically had two criteria when designing this beer 1). It has to be hoppy and 2.) the Belgian flavor components should be noticeable and add to the quality of the beer.

I began this recipe by taking a look at my Belgian Tripel recipe. It’s a pretty simple recipe with three malts and two types of hops. I then gave my IPA recipe a look and it also had a simple recipe with four grain and two hops. I then began to compare the malts and hops in use. Clearly the IPA hops would overpower any of the Tripel’s hops, so I ditched any of the traditional Belgian Tripel hops and went with high alpha-acid American hops. The base malts were not far apart and I only had American 2-row in hand so that won out. The rest you can see below:

  • 12 lbs. 2-row
  • 2 lbs. Munich
  • 1 lb. German Wheat Malt
  • 1 lb. White Table Sugar (added @ 15 mins)
  • 1 lb. Dried Malt Extract (added @ 15 mins)
  • 1 oz. Magnum @ 60 mins
  • 1 oz. Columbus @ 5 mins
  • A half and half mix of WLP530 and WLP500

As I said the base malt is pretty standard. I really like adding Munich malt to almost all of my beers as it adds a nice touch of bread and complexity to my beers. The wheat malt is there to enhance the body and to aid in head retention. I didn’t want to murder my base malt supply in making this beer so I added a bunch of sugar and a pound of dried malt extract to this one to supplement the base malt. The table sugar is also there to make sure the yeast get off to a quick and happy start.

The stats for this one can be seen below:

  • OG: 1.094
  • FG: 1.024
  • ABV: 9.39%
  • IBUs: 77

I love trying new things with my brewing and developing a recipe around a beer that doesn’t have a set style was both a challenge and a joy. This beer is currently kegged and I will get tasting notes up shortly.

Pumpkin Ale Recipe- Version 2

I’ve brewed two pumpkin beers in the past. My first one was right when I first got into homebrew and it involved cutting up some cooked pumpkin pieces and steeping them in the boil kettle. The results were good but I wanted more out of the pumpkin. I also thought that the porter aspect of my beer took away from the other aspects that I wanted to showcase. About three years ago I brewed my second Pumpkin Ale. I still like the recipe idea but I got a stuck sparge and only collected 2.5 gallons of wort. The only thing that I didn’t realize was that I managed to get the majority of the sugar pulled out of the grain before it stuck, meaning that I had a 15% pumpkin beer.

For this round I wanted to make sure that I could really highlight the pumpkin flavor. I also had two secondary goals; a medium mouthfeel and a bready malt quality. On the technical end I just wanted to avoid a stuck sparge again. Below is the recipe that I decided to go with after looking through the ingredients that I had:

  • 8 lbs. 2-Row
  • 1 lb. Light Munich
  • .5 lb. Oats
  • .5 lb. Carapils
  • .5 lb. Crystal 40
  • .25 lb. Crystal 80
  • .25 lb. Crystal 120
  • 3 lbs. Pumpkin puree
  • 1 lb. Rice Hulls
  • 1.0 oz US Goldings @60 mins
  • 1.0 oz US Goldings @10 mins
  • 1 tsp. Ground nutmeg @1 min
  • 1 tsp. Ground allspice @1 min
  • 1 tsp. Ground cinnamon @1 min
  • WLP008 East Coast Ale Yeast

Generally I like simple malt bills but I went a little more complex on this one. The 2-row is pretty standard as a base grain but the rest are all added for a specific purpose. The Munich malt helps add some breadiness as well as a depth to the malt character. The oats are there to provide a bit more mouthfeel. Carapils is there, well for what Carapils does, head retention. I used a variety of crystal malts to try and hit all ends of the caramel/toffee spectrum. The rice hull are there to help stop a stuck sparge. My pumpkin puree was made using the process I described here with the only difference being that I didn’t add any water. I added the spices at the end to make sure I could get as much flavor out of them as possible without having to add them in the secondary. I made sure to make this mash very thin, mashing 12 lbs. of grain and 3 lbs. of pumpkin puree with 6 gallons of water at 153. I sparged with 2 gallons to collect a total of six gallons of wort.

I wasn’t sure which yeast I wanted to go with on this one originally but the homebrew store only had one “standard” American ale yeast in stock so WLP008 was the choice of the day. After doing some research I think this one will do well with the style. It is described as, “Similar neutral character of WLP001, but less attenuation, less accentuation of hop bitterness, slightly less flocculation, and a little tartness. Very clean and low esters.” The beer comes out with the follow stats:

  • OG: 1.049
  • FG: 1.008
  • ABV: 5.37%
  • IBUs: 24

As of posting this the beer is sitting in the secondary and my transfer sample tasted very nice. I can’t wait to try this one out in a few weeks.

Belgian Wit Recipe

It has been super hot here for that past few days and I have been itching to brew something. The combination of heat and the perceived need to brew something light and refreshing lead me to try my had at a Belgian Wit. I haven’t tired to brew a Belgian beer in almost two years, and I’ve never brewed a Belgian Wit.

My recipes are generally a combination of research and simplicity. I find that many homebrewers often like to add 300 specialty grains because the grains add “something special” to their beers. I’m more of the mindset of, “breweries probably don’t add too many grain to their beers as they would cost to much to make, so I shouldn’t either.” I’ve been known to go crazy from time to time, but in general I like the KISS approach to brewing. For this beer, I kept the grain bill simple, but I added some ingredients that I have never worked with before to the mix. You can see my recipe below:

  • 5 lbs. Pilsner
  • 4 lbs Wheat Malt
  • .5 lb Oats
  • 1 oz Hallertau (3.0% AA) @ 60 min
  • 1 oz Saaz (2.6% AA) @15 min
  • .5 oz Bitter dried orange peel @ 5 min
  • .5 oz Coriander @5 min
  • Yeast: WLP410

I only went with three types of grain on this one with a slight edge to the Pilsner malt as I wanted to keep this beer out of a 50/50 ratio with the wheat. The wheat malt is still over 40% of the grain bill but I also wanted to try out oats as I’ve never had a chance to brew with them before. I’m hoping that they help give this beer a more silky character. The hops are pretty traditional European hops with low alpha acids and serve to help keep the beer in balance but are not intended to add any significant flavor or smell contribution.

The end of the recipe is where I was most excited. I’ve tried dried orange peel before but it has been almost four years and I thought this would be an excellent recipe to try it in again. The coriander is there to help the Wit be a bit more assertive in the spices that the yeast give off. WLP410 is on of White Labs seasonal releases that is only out there for May and June. It is rumored that it is the house Brewery Ommegang strain. It apparently has less phenolics then a typical Wit yeast strain and gives off more esters. It also doesn’t ferment as fully but I figure that the Coriander and esters will help give the beer a drying feeling at the end instead of leaving it overly sweet. The projected stats for this beer can be seen below:

  • Expected OG: 1.046
  • Expected FG: 1.011
  • Expected ABV: 4.5%
  • Expected IBUs: 14.5

I brewed this beer prior to posting this recipe and I did pretty well getting an OG of 1.042. I did make a mistake with the orange peel and coriander as I added them with my last hop addition instead of at the 5 minute mark.