Thursday, November 13, 2014

BREWDAY: Great Old Pumpkin Ale

Salutations and Season's Greetings!

Decorative Pumpkins went on deep discount after Halloween, and I picked up quite a few cheap. Jaradale's are an old heirloom variety from Australia, in particular, that are delicious. American consumers think they're just decorative because they are blue. Another old, French  heirloom, the Fairytale Pumpkin, is a rich mahogany color, with touches of green and blue. Also an old heirloom, this is a very good brewing and cooking pumpkin. I used four pounds of the latter variety in the boil last night in an Old Ale from which I expect great things.

10 pounds of British Mild Ale Malt
2 pounds of Weyerman Munich Malt
1/2 pound of British Crystal 55l
1/2 pound of Amber Malt
4 pounds of Pre-cooked pumpkin mash @90
1 oz of US Brewer's Gold @90
1 Bourbon-soaked vanilla bean @5
1 small stick of cinnamon @5
1 teaspoon of fenugreek @5
Nottingham Ale Yeast (Dry)

Brewday was exciting. I couldn't find my magic wand lighter thingie, and went through ALL THE MATCHES with the flame going on and off during the boil. I also had to run out to the store in the beginning of the boil and get another propane tank. It's a ten minute run to the end of the street, tops, but it still slows things down and risks warping the IBUs in the boil. I just hate the idea of keeping so much flammable propane around in deep South Texas, where the weather is somewhere between Solar and Hellscape.

I also, once again, noticed that I really should keep two propane tanks around, for when one goes out. I want to slow down the amount of propane used with a good, old-fashioned mash tun this winter, even though it means more things to clean, because I won't need to use spurts of propane to keep the temperature up. It will ultimately end up being cheaper.

Edit for tasting notes: holy smokes but that is boozy! Warming and aromatic, the vanilla is dominant, and the fenugreek is a light undertone. Pumpkin, as well, is only present on the flavor, and underneath the vanilla and booze. Came out strong. Like whoa strong. I didn't take a gravity reading but one of these is like two of a regular beer, and I am going to treat it like a barley wine. Delicious success for next winter''s warmth!

update to add:

2/6/14: This beer is superb. Very little pumpkin flavor came through, but I blame the particular (watery) pumpkin that I used, not the recipe, itself. The bittering is bracing, the flavors are spicy and complex and have really evolved even over the few short months. I can't wait to crack one of these open next winter and see what they taste like. I expect the hoppiness to fade out and the various spices to rise up. I also suspect fenugreek is a powerful bittering flavor, and really has a place in brewing bracing beers!

Age has been kind.  Pumpkin, fenugreek's mapley-ness, and complex vanilla and spice notes in a smooth, sturdy package. Make winter warmers for the year ahead, not the year you're in. When our brief, windy winter blows through, I will be ready with a lovely, boozy Great Old Pumpkin Ale.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Bottling Thanksgivingfest

On bottling day, the flavor is superior. The late hop additions are present and very pleasant, while the rich melanoidins and lager yeast flavors fill the mouth with that wondrous autumnal flavor. When it is carbonated fully, come Thanksgiving, I hope it is even more delicious. Fresh beer is the best beer. Drinking ones own creation and comparing it to the many fine commercial brews out there is unfair because your own is fresher.

Sharing the dregs with my dad, he took one cautious sip, then shouted, excitedly, "That tastes like an Oktoberfest!" This is high praise because he was comparing it to the beers of Germany, where he was stationed in the army. It was, for him, straight out of the beer halls of Munich, of memory.