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Ovens and Spices and Squash, Oh My!

Frequent visitors will probably have noticed that I tend to be a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to beer recipes. After all, brewers are discovering new things to do with malts, hops, water, and yeast all the time. That approach does get a bit dull after a while though – especially when one starts brewing the same recipes 2-3 times/week. That’s probably a lot of the reason why I’m going to be brewing some wild and crazy beers over the next few weeks. That, and to build up some inventory before winter sets in.

First up is a “pumpkin pie” ale. The base beer is pretty straightforward, being more or less the grain bill from my American Amber, but with a single hop addition for bittering. The twists come from the addition of 58 oz (23% of the grist by weight) of canned pumpkin in the mash, and traditional holiday spices at flameout:

  • 10 g grated ginger root
  • 10 g whole cloves
  • 5 g whole stick cinnamon
  • 5 g coarsely crushed nutmeg

In addition to the pumpkin and spices, I wanted to further enhance the impression of pumpkin pie by giving the beer a pie-crust, graham-cracker finish. Biscuit malt would fit the bill perfectly, but getting some presented a problem. I do have a brand-spanking new “local” homebrew shop in Durango, but I wasn’t able to get there before brewday. The only solution was to try to make my own biscuit malt. Following Randy Mosher’s guidelines from Radical Brewing, I spread a pound of pale malt out on a tray and toasted it at 300°F. The entire house was immediately filled with the delightful aroma of non-enzymatic browning, progressing from sweet to bready to toasty to (unexpectedly) peanut butter. After 27 minutes the malt began to smell a little carbonized, so I took it out and left it spread out on the tray overnight. (Mosher mentions that some of the more odious aromas generated by the roasting process should be allowed to dissipate.) The finished product had a very nice biscuit character, although it may have been a little more “husky” than a commercial biscuit malt. Without tasting them side by side, it’s hard to say. The color did end up right where I wanted it at about 20 SRM according to the ol’ eyeball test.

Cargill Special Pale before and after toasting. SRM guide added digitally.

The brewday went off without a hitch. With such a high proportion of pumpkin in the mash, I was halfway expecting a stuck sparge or two, but my MLT handled it admirably. I did incorporate a long protein rest in order to ensure the pumpkin was fully converted, and ran off the wort a little more slowly than usual, just in case. It’s worth noting that according to the nutrition label on the cans, the pumpkin should have added ~0.8°P to the beer’s OG. BeerTools’ efficiency calculation doesn’t take that into account, hence the unusually high “mash efficiency” seen in the recipe.

Fall Classic recipe (PDF)

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