For some reason, I didn’t think that one batch of pumpkin ale in 2011 would be enough. I also decided that I wanted to try my hand at coming up with my own beer recipe, but didn’t think I was ready to jump in without some guidance. Finally, I thought it would be fun to ferment beer inside a pumpkin.

I took those three ideas and came up with Plumpkinstein. The recipe is only slightly altered from Plumpkin Ale (aka Midwest Supplies’ Pumpkin Ale kit). The biggest change being that I opted to use all Mount Hood hops instead of using Cascade for aroma. I didn’t have a good grip on many hop varieties, but I knew that Cascades were associated with Pale Ales and IPAs and I didn’t think I wanted any of that character in this beer.

But yes, the major excitement for this beer was the fact that it went through secondary fermentation inside of a pumpkin. I cut off the top of the pumpkin, scraped out the guts as best as I could and then filled it with boiling water. This sanitized it and also gave me an idea of how much liquid I could fit inside. It turned out to hold about four gallons. The other rest of this five gallon batch went into another project, Black and Orange, which I’ll cover tomorrow.

IMG_20110919_165840I brewed the beer in the same manner as Pumpkin Ale, with an indeterminate amount of spices and pumpkin, then gave it a normal primary fermentation. After about a week in the bucket, I prepared the pumpkin as described above and racked the beer into it. The top of the pumpkin was replaced, along with an airlock stuck into it and the pumpkin and beer sat undisturbed for just under two weeks. I noticed that the pumpkin was starting to show signs of aging at that point and I decided it was probably time to get the beer out of there, so I racked to my bottling bucket and bottled it.

This beer had a great, fresh, vegetal pumpkin flavor. It was less pumpkin pie and more pumpkin patch. The aroma of a fall day in a beer. Fresh, it was fantastic. It did not age well at all, though. There are definitely hunks of pumpkin in this beer and the alcohol does not seem have been enough to keep them preserved. After a couple months, it was already showing serious signs of aging.

IMG_20110929_171330That said, yes, of course I still have some and of course I will be doing some tasting notes on three year old bottles soon. My recipe is below. I think the recipe could use some serious updating, but I think the idea of fermenting in a pumpkin is a good one, given that you are going to be drinking the beer pretty quickly. I would like to try it again some day, maybe next year.

BeerLabelPlumpkinsteinStyle: Pumpkin Ale
Brew Date: August, 2011
Serve Date: September, 2011

6 lb. Gold liquid malt extract
8 oz. Caramel 10L

1 oz. Mount Hood @ 60 min
1 oz. Mount Hood @ 2 min

1 lb brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice, cloves and canned pumpkin all added to end of boil.

Nottingham Ale Dry Yeast

Plumpkin Ale (2011)

My first pumpkin ale came very early in my homebrewing career. It was my fourth overall batch. At the time, I had only brewed from kits I ordered from Midwest Supplies and that continued with this batch. The kit, though, did not come with pumpkin and reviews advised that the spices provided were not enough for a very distinct character, so it this was the first time I added any of my own twists to a kit.

I bought canned pumpkin and added extra cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. My notes were not good (okay, I wasn’t really taking notes…), so I’m not sure how much of each, I do remember the cloves came through the most, which I liked at the time. I added the spices and the pumpkin to the to the end of the boil.

There was a small issue with the pumpkin. I ordered it online. 100% pure organic canned pumpkin… for dogs. I didn’t notice that last part until it arrived. On brew day. It was pure pumpkin and it tasted fine. I’m not sure what is different to make it specifically for dogs, but knowing the way people treat their pets, my guess is that if anything, it was of a higher quality and more pure than pumpkin for people.IMG_20110902_115259

Other than that, I used the ingredients provided in the manner described in the instructions. This is your basic, standard amber pumpkin ale and it turned out pretty well. The cloves come through the strongest, as I mentioned. I think this gave it a bit of distinctness that was welcome. In 2010, I got the pumpkin beer bug and went through a ton of several different breweries’ offerings. I expected to do the same in 2011 with my homebrew, so I made another batch shortly after this first one with some key differences. I will post about Pumpkinstein tomorrow. For now, the recipe (minus key details about spice and pumpkin additions) is below.

BeerLabelPlumpkinAle2Style: Pumpkin Ale
Brew Date: August, 2011
Serve Date: September, 2011

6 lb. Gold liquid malt extract
8 oz. Carapils
8 oz. Caramel 10L

1 oz. Mt. Hood @ 60 min
1 oz. Cascade @ 2 min

1 lb brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice, cloves and canned pumpkin all added to end of boil.

Munton’s and Fision Ale Dry Yeast

Pumpkin Beer Week

plumpkinA local bottle shop posted online last week that they got their shipment of Pumpking in. Yes, it is July and I think it is pretty ridiculous to see pumpkin beers. I like to use the release of commercial pumpkin beers as a guide for when to start planning for homebrew, though. Starting now and planning on about six weeks, your pumpkin beer can be ready in September.

I am not planning to brew a pumpkin beer this year, but I have done several in the past. I enjoy them, but I can never seem to finish a full batch in one season, so it has become a bi-annual tradition. Anyway, I’ll be covering all of my previous pumpkin beers, including some tasting notes this week.

Amy and Mitch’s First Anniversary Mead

I already covered our Second Anniversary Mead and explained why we have started the tradition. To recap, though, there is an old tradition of taking a month and drinking mead after your wedding. This is, possibly the origin of the term honeymoon. Amy and I (okay, mostly me) decided to make a batch on our anniversary every year and keep some around from each batch in case of ever having occasion to take a honeymoon.IMG_20121228_125419

For our first batch, we kept it simple. Orange blossom honey, water and champagne yeast along with some yeast nutrient. We used twelve pounds of honey from Dutch Gold, a local honey distributor. They have a small factory store at their headquarters. I have bought most of the honey I’ve used for mead, including our Second Anniversary and my Wyld Cyser there.

We heated some water and dissolved the honey in it, then added it with the rest of the water and yeast to a bucket. It fermented in the bucket for a couple weeks and then I racked it to a carboy, moved it to the corner of the basement and forgot about it until our second anniversary. We bottled it and drank some, one year after first mixing the ingredients.

IMG_0120It turned out pretty well. It is very dry and tastes like a white wine without much honey character. I will do some tasting notes soon, although I don’t think I’m very qualified to wine or mead tasting notes.20140719-134252-49372889.jpg

Kory’s Peachy Pale Ale

A couple years ago, my buddy Kory and I were talking about Dogfish Head’s Aprihop and he mentioned that while he liked it, he would prefer peaches to apricots. With his 30th birthday coming up, a surprise batch was definitely in order.

My plan for this beer was to brew five gallons of beer on the edge between IPA and Pale Ale, then had a gallon of water/peach mixture to take it to six gallons and push it down into the Pale Ale range. I based some of it on what I knew about Aprihop, but adjusted it quite a bit as well.

First of all, I used a much lighter Crystal Malt than Dogfish Head uses. This was more for aesthetic reasons than flavor. I was hoping a lighter color would allow some of the hue from the peaches to come through. This worked out pretty well, the beer definitely had some peachy orange hues.

IMG_20121120_184442Amarillo is definitely the showcase hop in Aprihop and I wanted to stick with that, but I also decided to add some Cascade and used Nugget for bittering. While I added a bit more Nugget halfway through the boil, I don’t think it changed the flavor much. The Amarillo still showed the most, but there was some citrusy Cascade flavor behind the tropical fruity Amarillo.

For the peaches, I bought frozen fruit and pureed it in a blender with enough water to get it into mostly liquid form. I added this puree to a carboy and racked the beer on top of it after primary fermentation. The sugar in the peaches kick started more fermentation and the beer ended up super dry. The final gravity was much lower than it had been when I racked it. Along with the peaches, I added an ounce of Amarillo hops to the vessel for dry hopping.

IMG_20121229_191125I gave Kory a box of the beer along with a bottle each of a bunch of other beers from the time and we all drank some more of it at his birthday party. It went over really well. The Amarillo hops were the big star with the peach being a bit more subtle, but definitely there. The only issue was that the beer was very cloudy from the peach puree. That just showed that it was real fruit though, I guess. Thinking about this beer now is making me want to use more Amarillo hops soon…

BeerLabelKorysPeachyPaleAleStyle: American Pale Ale with Peaches
Brew Date: November 3, 2012
Serve Date: December, 2012
Original Gravity: 1.055
Expected Final Gravity: 1.006
Approximate ABV: 5.4% (with water and peach puree added)
IBUs: 50

1 lb Crystal Malt 10L
7 lb LME
1 lb DME

.5 oz Nugget @ 60 min
.5 oz Nugget @ 30 min
.5 oz Amarillo @ 15 min
1 oz Cascade @ 2 min
.5 oz Amarillo @ 0 min
1 oz Amarillo dry hop

pureed peaches added in secondary fermentation

Nottingham Ale Dry Yeast

Berliner Weisse Batch 3 and Sour Cherry Sour

20140717-142805-52085850.jpgYesterday, at the same time and slightly after brewing Triple Valor, I also made another batch of Berliner Weisse. I have outlined this process before and I stuck fairly close to how I’ve done it in the past with one change for the mash.

I was mashing this batch while I boiled the Tripel. Last time I made this beer, I used the brew in a bag mash method. For that process, your mash takes place in the kettle. My kettle was otherwise occupied, so I had mash in my normal cooler mash tun. It was also an extended mash because I started it close the beginning of the Tripel’s boil and let it go until I finished boiling and chilling that beer and then cleaning the kettle.

Other than that, I didn’t do much different from last time. I’m following the same plan as both other batches of brewing about eight gallons and splitting it. Half will be a normal Berliner Weisse and the other half will have fruit added. I did raspberry the first time and mango the second. This time I’m adding cherries. I’m using semi-sour cherries, usually used for pie making as well as some tart cherry juice. Cherries have always been my favorite fruit to have in beer, from Kriek to dark ales to Summer wheat beers, there is no fruit beer I like better.20140717-142806-52086553.jpg

The beer is fermenting away in the kettle on my stove top. It is covered with aluminum foil to keep dust out but to allow it to breath. Last time I used plastic wrap after using aluminum foil the first time. I’ve been doing some reading about lactic fermentation and learned that there is more acetic acid produced when there is less oxygen in the environment. While the plastic wrap was definitely far from air tight, it was closer than the foil. The higher level of acetic in the second batch was my only issue with it, so I’m going back to the original plan.

I began culturing the lacto for this batch on Sunday. I’ve given them five days in the past but with the extra heat right now, I figured three would be enough and that has proven to be true. The fermentation is very active right now. I am going to have to watch this closely to keep it from getting too sour. I will probably be pasteurizing it this weekend, splitting it and adding the ale yeast and cherries. My recipe and basic process is below.

20140717-142806-52086246.jpgStyle: 17A: Berliner Weisse
Brew Date: July 16, 2014
Serve Date: August, 2014
OG: 1.036
Expected FG: 1.006
Approximate ABV: 3.9

Fermentables (8 gallon batch):
50% 5 lb 2 Row Pale Malt
50% 5lb White Wheat


Home cultured Lactobacillus and White Labs 365: Belgian Saison II

8 gallons of water at 160º to achieve 150º mash temp.
Held for three hours (doesn’t need to be this long).
Run off into kettle.
Add more water to mash at about 180º, stir and run off until you have collected 8 gallons.
Chill to 100º and add lacto starter.
Monitor daily and pasteurize when proper sourness is achieved, then add ale yeast to finish fermentation.



Triple Valor Brew Day

20140716-220527-79527827.jpgThis batch has been in the works for a long time. I mentioned back in May that I was planning some Abbey beers. This is the first of those. I’m planning at least a Belgian Dark Strong Ale, maybe another beer or two, but I’m starting with the Tripel.

Victory’s Golden Monkey was probably my first exposure to this style. That was very early in my beer drinking career. Before I knew anything about Belgian beers, let alone Abbey or Trappist beers. When I first tasted it, I thought it was a souped up wheat beer. That is probably where I got the idea for Trap Weiss. I also thought that it actually had bananas in the recipe. With monkey in the name and the extremely fruity flavor plus the fact that I was about twenty-two, I think my ignorance can be forgiven…

If you’re unfamiliar, a Tripel is Belgian strong ale that is pale in color. It is the hoppiest of the Abbey style beers, not that that is saying a whole lot. Despite “quad” or Belgian Dark Strong Ales’ name, Tripel is often the strongest beer in a breweries portfolio. The style was created by Westmalle and their version is still considered the gold standard by many people.

Tripels’ grain bills are usually made up nearly entirely of Pilsner malt. Small amounts of Aromatic, light Crystal or wheat malts are sometimes added. Unmalted grains including wheat and corn are sometimes used, as well. I opted for a small amount of flaked wheat in addition to a whole lot of German Pilsner.20140716-220527-79527391.jpg

Like many Belgian beers, though, the fermentables go beyond the grain bill. Tripels should get ten to as much as twenty percent of their fermentables from sugar. This can be anything from candi sugar (syrup) or invert sugar to plain table sugar. I went with ordinary table sugar. Invert sugar is just sucrose (table sugar) that has been broken down into simpler sugars. Brewers’ yeast will do this on its own, though. The process of inverting sugar involves heating it with water and some acid. Continuing this process can lead to darker candi sugars which will add both color and flavor to your beer and it is desirable in darker Abbey beers, but for Tripel, you want to keep it as light as possible so you are better off saving your time and money and just using table sugar.

I went towards the top end of the hop spectrum for this style. According to the BJCP guidelines, a Tripel can have anywhere from twenty to forty IBUs, but most examples are somewhere in the thirties. I pushed this close to forty because that is my preference. I also added my late hops even later than is usual. I am finding lately that I’m not getting much flavor and aroma if I don’t push my hops to the very end of the boil. This may just be because it’s so hot and it is taking me longer to chill my wort than usual. This is not a hoppy beer, but with as much alcohol as they tend to have, it can take quite a bit to get any hop character at all and while not all examples do, I prefer the ones with noticeable hop bite.

I have mentioned Abbey and Trappist beers a few times already, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ll explain a little bit. Trappist is a designation for beer produced by or under the supervision of a certain sect of monks. The monastic brewers must apply for the right to use the designation and no beer that is not approved may bare the Trappist seal. Abbey beers, on the other hand, can be brewed by anyone and are simply inspired by the types of beers made by Trappist brewers.

The most popular of these beers are Belgian Blonde, Dubbel, Tripel and Quad or Belgian Dark Strong Ale. They are all relatively strong, use sugar as an adjunct to make them drier and more “digestible” and they all get most of their character from their yeast. That yeast can range from fruity to spicy but it is always distinct. If you are interested in these beers, you need to read Brew Like a Monk by Stan Hieronymus. This is one of the best brewing books I’ve read. It strikes the perfect balance between history and brewing process. Plus he got all kinds of details from the monks themselves that were previously thought to be well guarded secrets.

I am currently working night shift. I got off work at six in the morning today and began the mash for this beer with water that I had pre-measured last night. I used the same process as my last batch, Trap Weiss. Mash, sparge, hold the wort and go to sleep. When I got up this afternoon, I began the boil and then started getting water ready for another batch of Berliner Weisse, which I’m also brewing today. I’ll cover that batch tomorrow.

This beer is boiled for ninety minutes. With so much Pilsner malt, it is important to extend the boil to prevent DMS. It is also good to help concentrate the wort a bit with a beer this strong. I planned to use Nugget hops for bittering but they were out at the homebrew store so I went with Warrior instead. It shouldn’t make much difference, but I’ve seen in Brew Like a Monk and elsewhere that some of the Trappist breweries use Nugget. I added some Hersbucker hops with five minutes left in the boil and Tettnang at the end.

After having some trouble getting my last batch chilled as low as I wanted, I froze a few bottles of water to add along with the wort chiller this time. Another of the many things I learned from Brew Like a Monk is that most of the Trappist breweries agree that it is important to start fermentation cool. While these beers are often thought of as being fermented very warm, the key is to start cool and let the yeast warm itself up. Allowing it to free rise to much warmer temperatures will cause the formation of lots of fruity and spicy esters and all kinds of interesting fermentation character. However, if you start it that warm, the yeast will go crazy and instead of pleasant esters you will instead get harsh alcohol heat. I added this wort directly on top of the yeast cake from Trap Weiss, so it is probably an over pitch, which means that it could be even more susceptible to this issue.

While chilling most of the wort, I added half a gallon of it to a pot on the stove and dissolved three pounds of cane sugar in it. I did it this way to try to insure that all of the sugar actually made it into the beer and wasn’t stuck on the wort chiller or anywhere else. Once the wort was chilled, I added both portions to the fermenter and started cleaning the kettle for the next batch. This is going to be fermenting and aging for a while, but I am extremely excited to taste the result. Now I need to get back to work on that Berliner Weisse…20140716-220528-79528365.jpg

Triple Valor
Style: Belgian Tripel
Brew Date: July 16, 2014
Serve Date: September, 2014
Original Gravity: 1.076
Expected Final Gravity: 1.012
Approximate ABV: 8.4%
IBUs: 38 IBUs

78% German Pilsner
5% Flaked Wheat
17% Cane Sugar

1 oz Warrior @ 60 min
1 oz Hersbucker @ 5 min
1 oz Tettnang @ 0 min

White Labs 500: Trappist Ale (Chimay) cake from previous batch

24 quarts of water @ 162º added to grains to achieve 149º mash temperature
Mash for 90 minutes, stirring halfway through
Drain mash, batch sparge with 15 quarts of water @ 180º
Collect about 7 gallons
Boil for 90 minutes
Add three pounds of cane sugar while chilling
Chill to 65º and ferment at room temperature, allowing to free rise
Rack once fermentation has completed and hold for one to four to six weeks before packaging