by Aaron Fournier

Oh Pumpkin Beers. It is, without a doubt, the only seasonal beer that inspires both undying love and simultaneous hatred in the craft beer world. For us craft beer loving people, breweries mimic the Tour De France in getting their Pumpkin Beer on the shelf before any others. The story behind this middle finger to keeping seasonal beers seasonal, is that the first ones out will sell the best. Leaving those that release it during the actual season (October and November) sitting on the shelf staling away not getting bought. Sure, I could point my finger at the culprits, but what good would that do? Besides, especially if you’re a big fan of the style, you probably already know who they are.

I will freely admit that Pumpkin beers are not one of my favorite styles. Sure, I dig Pumpkin Pie. I mean, after all, I am a red-blooded American. But some of the beers out there are setting the bar pretty low. Many aim for straight Pumpkin Pie in a bottle – nothing more, nothing less. I don’t judge this at all, quite the contrary. The flavor profile is so unique, and is the reason that there is Pumpkin coffee, donuts, and soda. I recently heard a rumor that Exxon is working on a Pumpkin spice gasoline for Fall drivers looking to spice up their emissions. It is an aroma and taste that conjures up memories of the glorious harvest season of Fall. Unmistakably the best season when it comes to humans in general who like food, and fat guys like me who just cannot handle Summer any longer. One constant you will notice with these recipes is the absence of actual Pumpkin. This may or may not surprise you. Many commercial Pumpkin Beers contain either no pumpkin whatsoever, or a very very small amount, so that they can put “Brewed with Pumpkin” on the label. Pumpkin does not actually taste like much. At least not without a special blend of spices we all associate with Pumpkin Pie. And for the beers “Brewed with Pumpkin”? Well, many of them were brewed in May or June for the aforementioned early release. Please tell me where they found a ripe pumpkin patch. The spices are king, and we’ll treat these beers as such.

In this two-part blog post, we’ll examine 5 different recipes for Pumpkin Beer. The most popular style, a sort-of Pumpkin Amber Ale, I won’t bore you with. There are already tons of them both on the market and in homebrewing recipe books. This post will focus on 3 different recipes; An Imperial Chocolate Pumpkin Porter, Pumpkin Stout, and a clone of Southern Tier’s Pumking. You’ll have to read the next blog post for the other two awesome iterations!

The first one we will pie into (kinda like “dive into” but with a pumpkin pie kinda…oh never mind) is a favorite of mine, and the beer was chosen to be the Bourbon Barrel Big Brew recipe at Keystone Homebrew in 2010. It is a recipe developed from a commercial beer of the same name by Midnight Sun Brewing in Alaska. They produce the “straight” version every year in the appropriate season, then a Bourbon Barrel version the following Spring (usually).

Imperial Chocolate Pumpkin Porter

All Grain:
mash at 152° F for 60 minutes.
60 Minute Boil

Grains, Extras, and Spices

  • 15 lb Domestic Pale Malt
  • ½ lb. Briess Carabrown Malt
  • ½ lb. Thomas Fawcett Chocolate
  • ½ lb. Thomas Fawcett Pale Chocolate Malt
  • ¼ lb. Muntons Black Patent Malt

All of the below spices and Cacoa Nibs are added at the end of the boil. Allow to steep for 15 minutes, and then start cooling wort as usual.

  • 5 oz. Cacao Nibs
  • 2 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 3 Whole Nutmeg
  • 3 Whole Allspice

Hops & Yeast

  • 1 oz Brewers Gold 60 minutes
  • 1 oz Willamette 5 minutes

 

  • Wyeast 1335 or White Labs WLP007 (2 packs or vials) or an appropriate starter

Extract with Grains, Extras, and Spices

  • 6.6 lb. Muntons Light LME
  • 3 lb. Muntons Amber DME
  • ½ lb. Briess Carabrown Malt
  • ½ lb. Thomas Fawcett Chocolate
  • ½ lb. Thomas Fawcett Pale Chocolate Malt
  • ¼ lb. Muntons Black Patent Malt

All of the below spices and Cacao Nibs are added at the end of the boil. Allow to steep for 15 minutes, and then start cooling wort as usual.

  • 5 oz. Cacao Nibs
  • 2 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 3 Whole Nutmeg
  • 3 Whole Allspice

Hops & Yeast

  • 1 oz Nugget 60 minutes
  • 1 oz Willamette 5 minutes

 

  • Wyeast 1335 or White Labs WLP007 (2 packs or vials) or an appropriate starter

Pumpkin Stout

Our next recipe is for a Pumpkin Stout. This is where Pumpkin Beer (besides the above Imperial Chocolate Pumpkin Porter) really starts to get my palate humming. You get what you expect from a Pumpkin Beer, mainly the spices. But then some waves of chocolate, coffee, and roasted barley intertwine themselves to create a whole new experience. The addition of Victory Malt will lend the flavors of a good pie-crust against the chocolate pumpkin backbone.

All Grain:
mash at 149° F for 60 minutes.
60 Minute Boil

Grains and Spices

  • 10 lb Domestic Pale Malt
  • ½ lb Victory Malt
  • ¾ lb Thomas Fawcett Chocolate Malt
  • ¾ lb Briess Roasted Barley
  • ¼ lb Thomas Fawcett 90 L Crystal Malt

All of the below spices and are added at the end of the boil. Allow to steep for 15 minutes, and then start cooling wort as usual.

  • 2 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 2 Whole Nutmeg
  • 4 Whole Allspice

Hops & Yeast

  • 1 oz Kent Goldings 60 minutes

 

  • Wyeast 1968 or White Labs WLP002 (2 packs or vials) or an appropriate starter

Extract with Grains

  • 6.6 lb Briess Light LME
  • 1 lb Briess Light DME
  • ½ lb Victory Malt
  • ¾ lb Thomas Fawcett Chocolate Malt
  • ¾ lb Briess Roasted Barley
  • ¼ lb Thomas Fawcett 90 L Crystal Malt

All of the below spices are added at the end of the boil. Allow to steep for 15 minutes, and then start cooling wort as usual.

  • 2 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 2 Whole Nutmeg
  • 4 Whole Allspice

Hops & Yeast

  • 1 oz Brewers Gold 60 minutes

 

  • Wyeast 1968 or White Labs WLP002 (2 packs or vials) or an appropriate starter

 Pumking (By Southern Tier Brewing Co) Clone

Next up we will tackle a Pumpkin Beer that seems to be the seasonal beer that is on the shelf all year round, Pumking by Southern Tier Brewing. This is by far one of the bigger and heavier of the Pumpkin Beers. I can only think of Weyerbacher’s Imperial Pumpkin Ale that even comes close. Both of these beers have the Pumpkin Pie in a bottle, but with a big body and a boozy temperament. I actually like Pumking. But only once a year, and typically, just one bottle. After that, I’m good for a whole year. Well, maybe a year. If I have one in November at Thanksgiving, I actually only have to wait 8 more months for one. A special thanks to a friend from Southern Tier who helped me put this recipe together. It is not identical, but damn closer than any of the other recipes I saw on other homebrew forums.  All-Grain brewers should take note of the higher than normal mash temp. Be careful not to over-shoot and destroy the enzymatic activity. Constant stirring during mash-in will be important!

All Grain:
mash at 156° F for 60 minutes.
60 Minute Boil

Grains and Spices

  • 16 lb English Pale Malt (Pale, NOT Maris Otter)
  • 1 lb English Crystal 60
  • 1 lb Dark Candi Sugar (D45)

All the spices will be added during the last 10 minutes of the boil.

  • 2 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 3 Whole Nutmeg
  • 4 Whole Allspice

Hops & Yeast

  • 1 oz Magnum 60 minutes
  • 1 oz Sterling 10 minutes

 

  • Wyeast 1056 or White Labs WLP001 (2 packs or vials) or an appropriate starter

Extract with Grains

  • 6.6 lb Munton’s Light LME
  • 3 lb Munton’s Light DME
  • 1 lb English Crystal 60
  • 1 lb Dark Candi Sugar (D45)

All the spices will be added during the last 10 minutes of the boil.

  • 2 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 3 Whole Nutmeg
  • 4 Whole Allspice

Hops & Yeast

  • 1.5 oz Magnum 60 minutes
  • Wyeast 1056 or White Labs WLP001 (2 packs or vials) or an appropriate starter