Friday, October 11, 2013

Adventures in Homebrewing- Pumpkin Flavored Silver Linings

It was a total tragedy.  55 bottles of Southern Tier Pumking Clone down the drain, and just to twist the knife, they all had to be opened individually.  Pumking is my favorite Fall seasonal release, and I was looking forward to having a supply that would last me through the Autumn months.  It was not meant to be.  A gusher bug infected the entire batch, creating the geysers depicted here and making the beer taste like a mixture of vinegar and dishwasher detergent.  I was heartbroken.

As luck would have it, the next day Austin Homebrew Supply (AHS) released a limited edition pumpkin pie cream ale the very next day. Needless to say, I jumped on it.

A cream ale is a clean style, light in flavor and body. It utilizes a small amount of flaked maize as an adjunct, and consequently has a subtle flavor and aroma of corn. Basically, it’s an ale version of a light lager, which means it’s a good base on which to add other flavors. AHS’s kit adds canned pumpkin to the mash, along with pumpkin spice and orange peel for that distinctive aroma that your girlfriend swoons over at Starbucks during the months of September and October. It also adds in lactose for added body and sweetness and vanilla extract at bottling for an extra boost. Yeah, I’m excited too.

Here’s how it went.

This particular brew was extra special because it was the first time that I got to use my new grain mill for the entire batch. After a little bit of trial and error on calibrating the rollers, I got a pretty nice crush. Better efficiency, here I come!



First step is mashing in. I use the brew-in-a-bag (henceforth referred to as BIAB, us brewers love our abbreviations) method for my all-grain brewing. Instead of mashing in a separate mash tun, the brew kettle does triple duty as the hot liquor tun, the mash tun, and the brew kettle.  A large mesh bag is used to separate the grains from the liquor and, later, the sweet wort. It’s a cheap, easy way to make the leap to all-grain brewing, but at the expense of efficiency. 80% would be a very lofty goal for a BIAB brewer, and I usually float around 70%.

Next, in go the grains. Since I use BIAB, I mash in higher than one would in a typical system – about 175 F. This gives us a mash temperature of about 160 F. I mashed for 1 hour, stirring the crap out of the grains every 15 minutes.


After 60 minutes is up, out comes the bag using my totally awesome pulley system. I “sparge” the bag by spraying it down with the hose (yes, I use plain tap water, don’t judge me) until I hit my boil volume, then squeeze the remaining liquid out.


After the bag is "sparged," the burner goes back on to heat up to a boil.  Watch out for the hot break!


I use the hose on the mist setting to prevent boil-overs. Spray bottles work as well if you’re using spring water.

Timer starts after the hot break gets under control. You may notice the strange apparatus on top of my kettle now. It’s called a hop spider, and it’s a life saver for your beer’s clarity and yield. It separates hop matter and other boil additions from the wort without sacrificing all the wonderful flavors and aromas. When the boil is complete, simply pluck it out and empty the bag. It’s cheap and simple to make. 

Here is the hop schedule I used:

1 ounce Perle at 60 minutes

.75 ounces of Saaz, the pumpkin spice and orange peel, a Whirlfloc tablet (helps coagulate proteins that can make your beer cloudy) go in at 15 minutes.  Don’t forget to drop in your wort chiller to sterilize here.

.25 ounces Saaz and 1 pound lactose at 5 minutes


Time to cut the wort chilller on and keep it stirring until we hit about 80 F. Make sure you sterilize everything the beer touches from here on out. 


Once we hit pitching temp, I pour the beer back and forth from the kettle to the fermenter a few times to aerate the wort, then in goes the yeast. This particular strain is White Labs’ Cream Ale Blend. It’s a blend of ale and lager yeast and is a very clean-fermenting yeast, producing very little of the fruitiness or other yeast-derived characteristics that mark the ale styles.

That’s all for the brew day. My original gravity was 1.058, giving me 73% efficiency. That’s a record high for me, and very good for a BIAB setup. It was even .002 higher than what was on the directions sheet included with the kit!

This beer is currently in my closet fermenting away at 69 F. It’ll be there for another 5 days or so before it gets put in the bottle. I can’t wait for this one to turn out!

Posted By Reece LeMay


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