Captain Lawrence Brewing Company’s Pumpkin Ale: Replicator

Dear Replicator, Last fall, my wife’s brother brought back a six pack of Pumpkin Ale from New York brewed by Captain Lawrence Brewing Company. I thought it was good and my wife claimed it was the best beer she had ever had. Now she won’t stop hounding me about making this beer. I normally brew pretty standard ales and I don’t even know where to start.
Kyle Halvorsen
Portland, Maine

Like most of us, Scott Vaccaro, the owner of Captain Lawrence Brewing Company, began his brewing odyssey with a 5-gallon (19-L) pot on a stovetop. Probably the biggest difference is that he began at age 17 after seeing his friend’s dad stirring a pot of wort on their kitchen stove. He brewed his own first batch, a cranberry ale recipe from Charlie Papazian, in 1995.

Scott’s original plan was to become an accountant. During his first semester at Villanova University he found a friend that would let him experiment in his kitchen. Short on equipment, he would ferment in a sanitized 5-gallon (19-L) gasoline jug. It soon became apparent that accounting was not in his future as brewing was his true passion.

After seeing an ad for a brewing program at UC-Davis, and some tense discussions with his parents, Scott changed colleges and headed for California where he received a bachelor’s degree in fermentation science. He gives much credit to Dr. Charles Bamforth for indulging his many questions and teaching him the real science of brewing. During the summers he was able to intern at breweries in Connecticut and England. It was in England where he became immersed in the process of cask ales.

Scott owes a lot of his knowledge to Steve Dresler of Sierra Nevada Brewing. It was Steve and Ken Grossman who hired him right after graduation. While he had a good grasp of brewing science, it was his time at Sierra Nevada when he learned quality production on a very large scale.

After six years out west, Scott moved back east to take a brewing job close to home. Unfortunately, after only six months the investors pulled out and the brewpub closed. Now unemployed, Scott began to consider what it might take to open his own brewery. That became a reality in January 2006.

Now production is conducted on a 40-barrel system with a 7-barrel pilot system for experimental batches. They are projecting 30% growth this year for a total of 25,000 barrels. Currently their beers are only available in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey, but Philadelphia and Boston distribution is on deck.

Scott now oversees 3 full-time brewers but continues to advise on all recipes and performs daily quality control. Keeping true to his homebrew roots, he hosts the local homebrewing club, WHO (Westchester Homebrewing Organization) at his brewery each month.

Scott reports that the Pumpkin Ale is one of their more popular seasonals. The dark malts contribute to a rocky tan head. A simple grain bill allows for balance but allows the full flavor of the pumpkin and spices to come through. One bittering hop addition is just enough to partially offset the residual sweetness. The flavor can best be described as “pumpkin pie in your glass.”

Captain Lawrence Brewing Company’s Pumpkin Ale clone

(5 gallons/19 L, extract with grains)
OG = 1.052 FG = 1.013 IBU = 19 SRM = 11 ABV = 5.2%


3.3 lbs. (1.5 kg) Coopers light, unhopped, liquid malt extract
1.75 lbs. (0.8 kg) light dried malt extract
2 lbs. (0.9 kg) 2-row pale malt
7.5 oz. (0.21 kg) crystal malt (120 °L)
2 oz. (57 g) Fawcett pale chocolate malt (220 °L)
5.9 AAU Columbus hop pellets (60 min.)
(0.4 oz./11 g at 14.8% alpha acids)
4 oz. (0.11 kg) fresh pumpkin meat
0.2 oz. (5.7 g) nutmeg (0 min.)
0.2 oz. (5.7 g) cinnamon (0 min.)
0.2 oz. (5.7 g) allspice (0 min.)
½ tsp. Irish moss (30 min.)
½ tsp. yeast nutrient (15 min.)
White Labs WLP001 (California Ale) or Wyeast 1056 (American Ale) yeast
Priming sugar (if bottling)

Step by Step

Steep the milled grain and finely diced pumpkin meat in 2.5 gallons (9.5 L) of water at 154 °F (68 °C) for 30 minutes. Remove grains and pumpkin from the wort and rinse with 2 quarts (1.8 L) of hot water. Add the malt extracts and boil 60 minutes. Add the other ingredients as per the schedule. Add the wort to 2 gallons (7.6 L) of cold water in the sanitized fermenter and top off with cold water up to 5 gallons (19 L).
Cool the wort to 75 °F (24 °C). Pitch your yeast and aerate the wort heavily. Allow the beer to cool to 68 °F (20 °C). Hold at that temperature until fermentation is complete. Gently transfer to a carboy, avoiding any splashing to prevent aerating the beer. Allow the beer to condition 1 week and then bottle or keg.

All-grain option:
This is a single step infusion mash using an additional 8.5 lbs. (3.9 kg) 2-row pale malt to replace the extracts. Finely dice the pumpkin and mix it and the crushed grains with 3.5 gallons (13 L)
of 172 °F (78 °C) water to stabilize at 154 °F (68 °C) for 60 minutes. Slowly sparge with 175 °F (79 °C) water. Collect approximately 6 gallons (23 L) of wort runoff to boil 60 minutes. Reduce the hop addition to 4.4 AAU (0.3 oz./8.5 g) to allow for the higher utilization factor of a full wort boil. The remainder of this recipe is the same as the extract with grains recipe.

Issue: October 2014