BYO Recipe Editor Dave Green (who wrote the September BYO cover story on brewing with pumpkins), and the October 2013 cover story about brewing Vermont cult clones answered reader questions on Facebook the afternoon of September 24. Below is the transcript for those who missed it.
Garry Holmes: Have you ever used butternut squash ? We don't tend to get pumpkins until late October in England? Call me impatient !
Brew Your Own magazine: Garry, I have used acorn squash before but never butternut. But that's not to say you can't do it. In the same issue of BYO as my pumpkin beer story (September 2014), the "Tips from the Pros" column is all about using squash and sweet potatoes - check that out for some advice.
Dan Deveau: I've noticed a lot of the clone pumpkin recipes in the last issue call for spices to be added at or near the end of the boil. I haven't been able to get much spice aroma/flavor using this method compared to adding in the bottling bucket before bottling. What is your recommendation for the best time to add spices to get the aroma and flavor but avoid astringency? Flameout, after fermentation in the carboy, or in the bottling bucket?
Brew Your Own magazine: I used to always used tinctures to extract the pumpkin spices. Although my last time, I added them five minutes into the whirlpool phase of my brew (whirlpool lasted 10 minutes total before chilling). I always keep a bottle of the cheapest vodka I can buy on had for sanitizing purposes and to make tinctures/extracts. Soak the spices into a couple ounces of the vodka for a week, then using an eyedropper and a shot glasses with 1oz of your beer, continue to add tincture drops until the correct level of spicing is achieved. Iirc, 20 eyedropper drops in a mL. So you scale up 1 oz to your batch size, and scale up the eye dropper amount as well to figure out how much of the tincture to add. It's a great way to add it at bottling to the perfect level. Best of luck!
Dan Deveau: One follow up question. Strain the spices out or add it all?
Brew Your Own magazine: Strain if you're adding a bottling, coffee filter is an easy strainer. I'll add the mix if i've still got a week or so left in the fermenter. Cheers!
Dan Deveau: Perfect. Thanks!
Joseph Eberhardt: Dave, I have used canned and real pumpkin in the past and don't really get that "great" pumpkin flavor. I get great spice flavor.
Brew Your Own magazine: somebody recently suggested to me try graham cracker extract saying that it made their regular pumpkin beer great. I've tried a taste and seemed to have a "fake" flavor. When did you make the pumpkin additions?
Joseph Eberhardt: I typically add about 64oz in the secondary, but reading below should I be adding my puree to the mash and late boil stage?
Brew Your Own magazine: yeah, maybe try changing it up and/or add it at various points. Late boil and mash additions may help. Best of luck in the pursuit! I can tell from my own experience that it definitely isn't easy to that "great" pumpkin flavor.
Don Richards: Pumpkin in a can or fresh pumpkins? Is there any significant effects on the flavor? I just did a batch with Fresh pumpkin and it seemed very weak. Any suggestions?
Brew Your Own magazine: Getting actual pumpkin flavor into the final product is really difficult and a reason why some brewers even will forgo the addition of pumpkins altogether. Obviously that is blasphemy in many circles, but the pumpkin is extremely hard to detect. It really just adds mouthfeel imho. The spices are where the most of the "pumpkin pie" flavor comes. Did you roast the pumpkin at all?
Don Richards: Yes, sliced it up into several pieces to get the most out of the caramelizing. Then paraded it. Would it have made any difference adding more cooked pumpkin in the fermenter?
Brew Your Own magazine: definitely not a bad idea. Dick Cantwell's suggestions are to really try to mix pureed pumpkin up with some wort for two reasons. First you want to get the pumpkin into suspension before adding it to the fermenter. Second since pumpkin adds a lot of water into the mix, mixing it with wort will help to not water the beer down.
Betsy Parks: Dave Green I have a question: Since I know you've brewed a few iterations of The Alchemist's Heady Topper: when you wrote the story last year you recommended using a substitute for Conan yeast (or culturing it from a can or two). I read about a few small yeast companies releasing this strain (East Coast Yeast and Yeast Bay). Have you tried brewing your recipe with either of those newly released strains? If so, what are your thoughts?
Like · Reply · September 24 at 3:00pm
Brew Your Own magazine: Hey Betsy, unfortunately I have not tried any of the new yeast companies strains. With my proximity to the Alchemist, I'm fortunate enough to be able to harvest from the can. But I have anecdotal evidence from friends that have used the yeast rancher's strains, and have heard mixed reports. Sounds like some behave a little more sporadic than others. So my thoughts are if you do try one of their strains, brew a base pale ale first before attempting a heady topper clone since in my opinion you could regret it if you waste all that money on hops & malts only to be disappointed with the yeast.
Norman Heilman: How do you feel about kabocha squash over pumpkin to get that pumpkin flavor? I hear it tends to be a sweeter type and offers a more vibrant orange color.
Like · Reply · September 24 at 2:50pm
Brew Your Own magazine: Just had to google kabocha squash, so can say i don't have a great opinion. But that said, it sounds like a great experiment! The beta carotenes should add a vibrant hue to the beer and if you roast it up some, i think it should work well. If you go for it Norman, we'd love to hear the results!
Adrian Baez: How long do you recommend aging a pumpkin barleywine after bottling?
Brew Your Own magazine: Hmm...good question. Generally the belief is that pumpkin beers should be consumed quickly. That said, a mellowing of the flavors with a barleywine may take president. I'd give a couple bottles a try fresh and then save some for 6 months and some for 1 year. Don't know if you want to go more than 1 year. Now if you were bulk aging it and adding spices at that time, then I would say a go a year, add spices, and bottle. That may be the ideal route imho.
Jason Marx: Often canned pumpkin mixes contain squashes different from actual pumpkins, like hubbard squashes. have you ever used other squashes to get more of a pumpkin flavor in a brew?
Brew Your Own magazine: I have used roaasted acorn squash once, but I don't think it really added much to the beer. I have just used roasted pumpkins personally. The Tips from the Pros section in the September issue had some interesting ideas from pro brewers on using other gourds and sweet potatoes.
Daniel Monroe: Seems like most pumpkin beers feature cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. What are some more original herbs, spices, ect. that work well pumpkin?
Drew Grabarz: highly recommended adding ginger in the spice mix it will actually enhance the flavor of cinnamon and nutmeg
Brew Your Own magazine: vanilla is a spice that plays nicely. Be very careful with clove...it overwhelms quickly. Mace, allspice and cardamom are some others that show up from time to time. As Drew points out, ginger is great addition to the mix. Once you get past that you're into what I consider the "fringe" pumpkin beers which you'll see with the like of chili peppers and cumin to name a few. It really starts though with your base beer and where you want to go with it.
Norman Heilman: What is the best type of pumpkin to use? Fresh pumpkin or, canned pre spiced? I have read and been told to use half in the mash and half in the boil, would this provide a much more heavier pumpkin flavor?
Brew Your Own magazine: I wouldn't use the canned pre-spiced since we really don't know what is being used. Libby's has a 100% pumpkin puree mix which would be preferred imo. They in fact have their own distinct line of pumpkins called Dickinson's which is suppose to be a good pumpkin to use in beer. Half in mash and half in boil sounds like a solid plan. I always use fresh pumpkins, but that means I'm waiting for harvest before starting my pumpkin beer in the fall. I'm not sure which would provide a heavier pumpkin flavor though...
Kevin Milam: Should I add canned pumpkin to the boil or secondary? And if I want to had another fruit should I wait till secondary!
Drew Grabarz: i recommend adding it in the mash so you can convert some of the starch within the pumpkin to sugar or else you could get some unwanted haze and texture
Brew Your Own magazine: what about splitting the pumpkin between the boil and the secondary? I posted in another question that Dick Cantwell from Elysian Brewing Co who in my opinion would be the unofficial "pumpkin beer king" say to try to get the pumpkin puree into solution before adding it to the boil and/or fermenter. This should be done with wort since you don't want to water the beer down even more since pumpkin is already adding a lot of water!
Daniel Hartis: It used to be that pumpkin beers always used a base similar to a brown ale or amber, but lately darker pumpkin beers have come into favor. Are there any styles that you think could benefit from the pumpkin treatment that might not get as much love?
Brew Your Own magazine: definitely. I talked with both Dick Cantwell from Elysian Brewing Co & Garrett Oliver from Brooklyn Brewery about pumpkin hefes and how the flavors of a bavarian hefe strain can really mix well. Dick had many other suggestions of where to go...their Great Pumpkin Festival they hold is a true testament to where pumpkin beers are going these days.
Steve Gift: Dave, I have a friend who went to the trouble of buying neck pumpkins, cutting them up, baking/broiling them for 90 min in the oven, purée ing them, etc. A good bit of work. Are the benefits worth the work (to maybe get a more carmelized pumpkin flavor) or save all the hassle and just use Libby's? I tasted a hydrometer sample of his but cannot discern any appreciable pumpkin flavor, or benefits from the work done.
Brew Your Own magazine: I do agree that it's a lot of work for what seems like little gain...but that in itself is kind part of brewing a pumpkin beer. You could just roast the pumpkin puree as well in a flat pan. Iirc that is what Wayne Wambles at Cigar City is doing. I know that it adds little...but I still always will add roasted pumpkin to my pumpkin beer.
Craig Emenhiser: When is the best time to use pumpkin?
If i use it in the mash, how much rice hull is needed to avoid a stuck sparge?
Brew Your Own magazine: Hi Craig, good question, there are really a lot of ways to look at it. Most would add to the mash to get the starch to convert to sugar. But then again some will add it to the boil or to the fermenter with the thought of getting an additional flavor contribution from the fresh pumpkin. So in that sense treating it like a spice addition. Elysian Brewing Co. adds it to all three times with that in mind.
James Smith: I used 5-15 oz cans of pure pumpkin for a 5 gal batch, 4 of which were used in the mash and 1 in the boil. Still fermenting, but seemed to go well. Regarding the rice hulls, I used .5 lb and got a slightly stuck sparge. I'll up that to .75 next time.