Repent Pumpkin Beer Sinners, The Path to Atonement
Every year, more and more sinners are born.
They are conceived in the darkest part of hell, raised by the devil himself, and born into our world loving that which is most foul: Pumpkin Beer.
In their sin, they are flagrant and obscene. Once confined to a few weeks of fall, now they flaunt adoration for months, beginning earlier and earlier each year. This abomination sends our world into war. The purist, on one side, claim that this world has no place for such a sin and direct sinners to dispose of their devil juice into the garbage with an overused meme. On the other side, the pumpkin heads are unabashed in their love for evil itself.
This war that has brought us to this moment. We must find a middle ground. We must compromise or be destroyed by our hate. This is how to make a sin-free pumpkin beer:
1) No Nutmeg Bombs
Every competition I have judged, I get the privilege of judging everyone’s favorite category: Herb, Spice, and Vegetable. If you didn’t pickup my sarcasm, here it is simply. People hate this category. It consists of pumpkin beers, pumpkin beers, pumpkin beers… and jalapeno beers. The problem with these two beers is that the words “nuanced” or “subtle” are never written down. Almost every beer is overpowering. Yes, there are some excellent pumpkin beers or the occasional cucumber saison that is delightful, but that is rare. If we want to bridge the gap between those that love pumpkin beers and those that hate them with a passion, my advise is to calm down on the spices.
2) Pumpkin Puree and Fresh Pumpkin is the Same Damn Thing
Remember that scene in Brave Heart where the Scottish lifted up their kilts at the English? That’s essentially what I just did. Fresh pumpkin vs. canned pumpkin is the most bizarre debate I have ever heard. I understand that fresh pumpkins are more authentic and celebrate the harvest season, let’s not forget my last article about Wet Hopped IPAs , but only with pumpkin is there such contempt for an ingredient after it’s been canned. Do you remember the canned Apricot Puree Massacre of 2014 or the Great Passionfruit Standoff last year? Nope.
Don’t let marketing tell you that fresh pumpkin beer tastes better or worse, at the end of the day, it’s starches that convert into sugar which yeast eats to shit out alcohol. If you want to brew with canned pumpkin, go for it.
3) Prepare the Pumpkin Properly
Pumpkin is just a bunch of starch. Unlike grains though, they cannot be easily converted in the mash. This is why I recommend cooking your pumpkin first before using it. There are a few ways to do this, some people enjoy roasting it to caramelize the sugars, some people bake it for two hours at 325°F, and some people smoke their pumpkins. No matter how you prepare it, it’s important to get those starches converted into sugars before adding them.
4) Brew Beer You Drink
Don’t make an amber pumpkin ale when you hate drinking ambers. My advice is to treat pumpkin like you would any other ingredient. If you love drinking a clean lager or a chocolate stout, brew that beer and add pumpkin to it. While it may seem obvious, a lot of homebrewers will brew their pumpkin beer based on what others tell them is “to style” rather than something they want to drink. At the end of the day, you’ll have 5-10 gallons of beer, it should be something you want to drink.
5) Adding the Pumpkin
This is the most asked question. I personally add it in the mashtun with rice hulls. I have done it in the boil, in secondary, and at high crousen. I found that the pumpkin flavor shines really nicely if it is added in the mashtun. This year, I learned that adding squash in as well gives the pumpkin this amazing subtle sweetness that really shows off the nuanced flavors (this is referencing the above point about staying away from the damn nutmeg, see what I did there?). Try other ingredients as well to show off the pumpkin instead of hiding it behind spices. Ginger, cucumber, lemon zest, and vanilla are all excellent ingredients to add a unique flavor to your pumpkin beer. Not all at the same time though, we are trying to bridge the gap, not set off a nuke.
6) Time to Sin
Le sigh. Spices ruin good beers, but they’re needed in pumpkin beers to showcase the flavors people expect. The best advise I can give you, is to hold off on your spices until the beer has fermented and it is in secondary. At this point, you can pull a few glasses worth of beer and mix with your spices. If you make a few tinctures in vodka the week before, you can add those to the glasses of beer to get a really good idea for how the spices will compliment or ruin your beer. Start with a small amount and increase the spice as you go. Remember, you can always add more spice, but you can’t take it out once it has been added.
Pumpkin beers can be amazing showcases for a brewers technique and skill, if they are done well. Unfortunately, pumpkin beers have earned as much hatred as they have gained in a dedicated fandom. This creates a culture where brewing or drinking a pumpkin beer is frowned upon, which means you are a heathen that has to live in secret or in disgraced shame. I say it’s time you repent and declare that there is a difference between beers pumpkin beers and pumpkin spice beers! By showcasing your pumpkin beer by limiting spice, backing up the flavors, and making a beer that you’ll love to drink, we can start converting the non-believers… except if you love pumpkin spice beers, then you are a dirty sinner. Say twelve Sam Calagiones in the mirror and ask for forgiveness.
Now let’s stand together and share in the good word of our Gourd. Yam-men.