Perfect for the season, this is a favorite beer of mine to brew this time of year, and it’s always good. This is mostly an extract-based recipe, though there is a short mash/rest with the pumpkin and malt. Use this recipe as-is, or as a basis for experimentation.
For all-grain brewers, there is an all-grain pumpkin ale recipe here.
Yield: 5 gallons of beer with an (approximate) alcohol by volume of 6 to 8% (depending on mash efficiency, use of brown sugar/molasses, amount of pumpkin, etc.).
- 6-10 pounds of pumpkin, roasted and mashed or puréed
- 1 pound of Vienna or 2-Row malt, 4L
- ½ pound crystal malt, 40L
- ½ pound malted wheat
- 6 pounds light or amber malt extract
- 1 cup brown sugar (optional)
- ½ cup molasses (optional)
Hops and Spices:
- 1 ounce Mt. Hood hops (boiling)
- ½ ounce Hallertauer hops (finishing)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- ½ to 1 teaspon pumpkin pie spices (see below)
- Wyeast 1056, American Ale, or 1272, American Ale II
The first thing to say is do not use canned pumpkin! Real pumpkin is the only way to go here, otherwise you’ll be dealing with a huge mess. You’ve been warned.
I have backed off my stance of not using canned pumpkin as I’ve gained more experience over the years. In fact canned pumpkin is a great alternative if you don’t have the time to roast your own pumpkin, and will make a perfectly tasty pumpkin beer and really isn’t any more difficult or messy to work with than regular pumpkin. The only advice I have here is to not use canned pumpkin pie filling—it has to be pure pumpkin only.
If using your own pumpkin, you’ll first need to roast the pumpkin in the oven, similar to cooking squash. This softens the pumpkin and begins breaking it down. Cut the pumpkin into manageable pieces (should be cleaned, of course—old jack-o’lanterns work great), place in a shallow baking pan and add a bit of water to the pan. Roast in a 325°-ish oven for about an hour, or until soft. Or check a cookbook
There’s two ways you can incorporate the finished pumpkin: a partial mash-style method or simply a soak with the grains as the water heats. For the soak method, simply add the pumpkin and the grains to your pot of water, put it on the heat to boil. When it boils, remove the pumpkin and grains.
For the partial mash, add the pumpkin and grains to hot water (ideally you want this mash to settle at 150 to 155 degrees Fahrenheit) and let rest for an hour. Sparge the pumpkiny wort from the mash, and add to your brew kettle. (Note: if you don’t have sparging equipment, so this removal is simply via a wire strainer.)
(A third alternative is to add the pumpkin directly to the boil, which will add body and flavor but no real sugars.)
Add the malt extract (6 pounds is for dry, 7 pounds if it’s syrup), optional brown sugar and molasses, Mt. Hood hops and boil for 1 hour. After 45 minutes, add the finishing Hallertauer hops. At the very end of the boil, add the vanilla and pumpkin pie spices—these are volatile and adding them to the boil any sooner will essentially nullify their flavor and aroma contributions.
Ferment for 1 week, or until primary fermentation settles down, and rack to a secondary for 1-2 more weeks. The secondary fermentation is not strictly necessary, but I like it for clarification and for letting the flavors mellow. You might also add the spices at this stage for a more pronounced presence. Bottle, priming with ¾ cup of corn sugar, and drink after a couple of weeks.
Spices: I like a typical mixture of what you’d put into a pumpkin pie: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, mace, maybe ginger. I’d avoid buying the generic “Pumpkin Pie Spice” from the store, and mix your own instead—you’ll have more control over the outcome. This spice essence is one of the first things you notice when you open a bottle—yum!
I’ve heard of recipes that don’t actually use pumpkin—seems weird to me. I personally think real pumpkin adds a unique flavor and texture to the finished beer that you just can’t replicate otherwise.
And, a quick note about the hops. Mt. Hood is a nice spicy, slightly sweet hop (a variant of Hallertauer, actually) that seems to complement this beer well. For finishing, you don’t have to stick to Hallertauer; play with it a bit. Cascade might be a nice finish, or if you want to reduce the hop bite, omit the finishing hop altogether.