Saturday, November 2, 2013

Pumpkin Beer

Since this is the season for brewing pumpkin type beers I thought I'd chime in on my opinion about brewing these types of ales along with the process I use for my own version.

First off, I don't particularly like the taste of pumpkin beers but I know a lot of people do like them or at least like the idea of them as a way to celebrate the Halloween/thanksgiving season. And so, since I am gleefully wanton of the income that comes from the sale of pumpkin type beers I’m all aboard the Ichabod Crane pumpkin train. Yes, I'd sell my soul for the resulting pesos that come from exploiting peoples desire for nostalgia and the taste of the season. But my soul doesn't come cheap and I have one rule as I exchange it for the mighty peso and that is that if I brew a pumpkin ale, it better be damn good beer!

Most people associate the flavor of pumpkin pie with the spices that are used to make what is for the most part a pretty unexceptionally flavored squash. Cinnamon, all-spice, clove, nutmeg and ginger provide the very essence of a delicious pie. Take that away and I doubt anyone would be begging for another slice of squash pie. So, let's be real, the pumpkin is really the minor player here. In fact, if you could make a pumpkin pie without actually using any pumpkin, I expect even more people would like it.

Pumpkin Beer in San Miguel de Allende

This leads me to an important decision when making my pumpkin beer, leave out the pumpkin. Yeah, I'm like a lot of men who don't really care for vegetables so why would I want them in my beer. In fact, that's the last place I want 'em. Sacrilege.

So my primary and in fact only interest when brewing is to have the best beer when all is said and done and this applies when I approach a recipe for a pumpkin beer. I want a good beer first and foremost, one that can stand on it's own. and I want to follow that with the flavors that I associate with pumpkin pie. Not overbearing but subtle, flavors that will enhance the experience of the base beer. To achieve this I came up with a selection of malted barley that produces a beer along the lines of an American brown but with a lower bitterness from one hop addition. I didn't use any late hop additions because I didn't want that flavor to compete with the malt and spice balance. I use a combination of 2-row, crystal 20, crystal 60, Munich malt and chocolate malt. For this beer I wanted the slight fruity qualities you get from White labs English yeast along with the excellent flocculation to achieve a nice clarity.

I add pumpkin pie spices in the last minute of the boil and again later in the keg when I racked from the primary fermentation. I found it necessary to add the spices in the kegs to reach the level of flavor that I wanted and the advantage to doing it this way is that I could even add more later if the flavor was wasn't up to the level I was trying to reach. In this particular case it wasn't necessary to add any more than the initial dose.

This beer ended up being quite nice. A full bodied, super clear brown ale with a semi-sweet malt backbone that is enhanced with a mild but clearly evident pumpkin spice profile that even I am enjoying.

I only produced eight cases of this beer so it will be gone quickly but there may be a few out there in some of the restaurants that stock Dos Aves. You can also get a chance to taste this beer at the beer/food pairing on November 17th. At La Frontera in San Miguel. Seating is limited so call Noren for a reservation soon. Cheers!

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