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Pumpkin Ale update #1

The Pumpkin Ale has been fermenting for the last two weeks now and my measurements show that everything has ended with the process. I will probably be bottling the beer this afternoon but before I do that, I wanted to give a quick update. My mini-fermenter  has fully cleared and the beer looks beautiful. The color is exactly what I was hoping it would be. There is a lot of sediment on the bottom. I am not sure if it is due to the two different yeasts used, the extra amount of sugar in the wort, or if the yeast just multiplied like crazy. There is also the big chance that the bottom is a lot of pumpkin puree that clogged my mash tun. In any case, there is a lot of it.

10-11-01

10-11-02I took my gravity readings and it comes in at 1.010. If you remember correctly this beer had a starting gravity of 1.082, so it finished out in the 10% ABV range for my quantity of wort. I pretty surprised it went that high as both of my yeasts are not known for having a high tolerance. I also took a test taste from the extra drops left over from my refractometer reading. The upfront taste is distinctly pumpkin. Score. The back is all spiciness. I is a bit harsher than I wanted and I think it would of been totally dead on if there was a full 5 gallons. The cinnamon and nutmeg come through the most with some all-spice hints. Overall I am pretty happy with how it has turned out thus far (minus the over spicy) I can’t wait to get it carbonated and have it ready to drink in a few weeks.

As a side note, sorry for the lack of posting this week. I started a new job and I’m getting used to the whole work/life balance again.

Pumpkin Ale Brew Day

10-03-01I was tempted to call this post the brew day from hell because it was the most frustrating homebrew experience that I have ever had. I’ve been planning this pumpkin ale for a long time now and I was super excited to brew it. And then the brew day came. It started like a normal brew day but I was using some new ingredients that I have never used before. The first was a pound of rice hulls. I’ve never used them becasue I have never used enough of an ingredient to be cautious about a stuck sparge. For those of you who don’t know a stuck sparge is when the grains clog the openings at the bottom of the mash tun and prevent any liquid from coming out. In essence you have a bunch of wort stuck in the grain and no good way to get it out. With the addition of the pumpkin puree, also something I’ve never used before, I decided that rice hulls were a good idea.

Taking a few suggestions online I soaked them in warm water before adding them into the mash tun with the rest of my grains and pumpkin puree. The idea is to soak them first so that they absorb water and don’t steal any water from your strike water. Simple enough. The rice hulls expanded a lot more than I had expected, but that was alright because I still had plenty of room in my mash tun. Adding the rice hulls, pumpkin puree, and the grains all at one time was a bit of a challenge and I could of used a helper. Maggie the homebrew helper puppy was too busy playing with a towel to help me out this brew day.

After adding everything together I took a temperature reading and decided where my water temperature needed to be. I wanted to mash at 152. The first problem came when I realized that the pumpkin puree takes a lot more heat to warm up than the grains do. Grains instantly change temperature, pumpkin puree is much more resistant. My mash temperature came in much lower at about 142 degrees. Another problem came when I put too much water in becasue I wasn’t sure how to account for the pumpkin puree. I actually used bungee cords to keep the top of the mash tun on and prevent any extra heat escape.

10-03-02

I mashed for 60 minutes and then opened the ball valve to find a trickle of wort coming out. Crap. There was plenty of liquid in the mash tun, just not coming out of the front. I moved the grains around a bit and it started flowing a bit more. I collected about three gallons before it stopped again. I also added the 2 pounds of brown sugar when the wort started flow more to get it to dissolve better. The wort stopped flowing and I got my trusty strainer out and put it over the boil kettle. I then took a bowl and scooped out the grain and placed them in the strainer. Any liquid that was stuck in there trickled out, but I did not squeeze the grains to avoid any tannins from coming out in there. I emptied the mash tun out and captured another half gallon or so go wort.

I could not do a second runnings becasue the grains went from the stainer to the trash. I boiled what I had and added the planned hop additions anyway so I’m expecting the IBUs to be a bit higher than I wanted. I also added the same amount of spices that I had planned I use my kitchen sink to cool down my kettle since I do not own a wort chiller (yet!). My apartment has a duel sink setup that allows the water to overflow one and go into the other. It is a great solution for me to always have cold water running and the warmer water drain off. But today of all days, the apartment complex has some plumbing issues and the sinks start backing up. Not just in my sink but the 16 other apartments in the complex. I was ready to give up.

I finally got the wort down to a respectable level, 80 degrees, and put it into the fermenter. I added two different dry yeasts that have high flocculation (fall out of suspension) and high attenuation (eat a lot of sugars) characteristics. I took my gravity reading and it came in at 1.089. The ratio of brown sugar to wort drastically increased the gravity. I’m now looking a a pumpkin beer around the 9% ABV level. Could be good, could be really bad. I also tasted the wort to see what flavors were in there and man it was wonderful. Sweet, pumpkiny, and had the correct spice balance. Hopefully it comes out alright. The day after brewing the fermenter was whistling from all of the CO2 passing though the airlock. We shall see how this beer turns out but brewing it was a pain.

Now this is how you make a Pumpkin beer

Pete, my brewing partner in crime, shared this link with me the other day. Basically someone turned a huge pumpkin into a mash tun for their pumpkin beer. After that they used a smaller pumpkin for a fermentor for some of the wort. Pretty interesting idea.

09-17-01

I would love to try using a huge pumpkin as a mash tun if they weren’t so darn expensive. I don’t think that I would use a smaller pumpkin as a fermentor because the risk of spoiling the beer from critters in the pumpkin or getting into the fermentor is really high.

My only question is I’m wondering how much pumpkin flavor they got into the beer. Generally the pumpkin meat is cooked a bit before it ever goes near the beer or soon to be beer because the sugars are complex and need to be broken down a bit before they are super useful. Cooking does exactly that. Now converting the sugars is not essential for flavor transfer because I’m sure they were looking to get flavor not sugars out of their pumpkin. From what I have read, cooking and converting helps transfer more flavors than just dumping it in. During the mash the temps were high enough to convert a bit.

For my pumpkin beer (recipe coming tomorrow) I want to get the flavor of the pumpkin, but I would also like to grab some sugars from it. So I will be cooking it till it is soft. More details to come tomorrow but experimenting with pumpkin mash tuns and fermenters has got me thinking. I promise I will stop with the pumpkin posting soon I’m just excited by the prospect of making a delicious pumpkin beer. That reminds me, Dogfish Head’s Punkin Ale is now sitting in my fridge  🙂

Belgian Dubbel Brew Day

08-22-03Last Saturday around the time of this post I had a chance to brew my Belgian Dubbel. The wife went to see the Time Travelers Wife, which gave me a few hours of time to brew. The whole idea behind the beer was to save some money on yeast and have another Belgian style beer on-hand since I’m really digging Belgian beers right now, so is the wife. I ordered from Austin Homebrew Supply again and followed the ingredients that I had originally set-out on using. I didn’t order a half pound of wheat malt from them becasue I already had a pound on hand. One problem, they shorted me a half pound of Belgian Pale malt. Crap.

08-22-02I decided to go on with brewing anyway and get that half pound reimbursed at another time. I threw all of the grain into the mash tun and heated my strike water to 165ºF. Being that I roughly had 6.5 lbs of grain and wanted to keep a water to grain ratio of 1.25 quarts per pound the 2 gallons of water reached that temperature very quickly. I then let it all sit there for an hour and again, it only dropped 2ºF from 152ºF to 150ºF in that hour. I’m really happy with my new mash tun.

On my last brew, I had a terrible efficiency, so I wanted to fix that up a bit. I collected my first runnings and threw it back on top of the grain and collected it again. My thinking was that the water was still hot and I could grab some extra sugar.  I heated up another two gallons of water to 180ºF for the second and third runnings. On both I let them sit in the mash tun for 10 minutes. By the end I had collected 3.5 gallons of wort for the boil.

08-22-04I did my 60 minute boil using .5 oz of Styrian Goldings hops and 1 oz of Saaz hops for 15 minutes. I also threw in some Irish Moss to try and help clarity. Why I didn’t do this for the Tripel is still a good question. I cooled down the wort and pitched it on top of the yeast cake from the Tripel as that is now in a carboy.

I was shooting for a gravity of 1.062 but actually got 1.053. It was better than the Tripel but still pretty poor. Only 65% or so. I’m not sure if the problem is coming my mash, the water, or 08-22-01how Austin Homebrew Supply is crushing the grain. I’m inclined to lean towards the latter after talking to some people my the local homebrew club. Maybe new brew I will borrow on of their grain mills.

This brew marks my first experience with Belgian candy sugar as well. I used a dark variety of it. I was a bit concerned about scorching, but during the wait time with the second and third runnings I dumped all of it (1/2 lb) into the boil kettle and stirred like a madman. The kettle was sitting on the floor under the mash tun. The liquid was still hot and it dissolved pretty quickly. No scorching at all! I’ll have a few updates on both of my beers soon.