Pumpkin ale brewday and other project updates

If you’re a general beer geek and follow commercial releases you’ll know that pumpkin beers have been on shelves since July.  I think this is crazy and refuse to drink any pumpkin beers before September, it’s just plain wrong to have a pumpkin beer in July.  It would be nice if craft beer could stay away from the seasonal creep of other consumer products but it looks like that ain’t happening, I’m sure next year I’ll get some pumpkin ale from the Easter Bunny.  But now we’re into the cooler evenings that mark the end of Summer and we’re officially less than a week away from the start of Fall, which means it’s cool to commence consumption of Autumnal ales.  And also to brew them.

Our pumpkin ale was inspired by Southern Tier’s Pumking which for my tastes is one of the best pumpkin beers I’ve tried.  The spices are just right with a noticeable nutmeg front, there’s a sweet milkiness reminiscent of whipped topping and a buttery graham cracker crust – there is some Willy Wonka magic going on in this beer.

Pumpkin ale brew day in review.

Pumpkin ale brew day in review.

After drinking and analyzing Pumking we set out on a search for clone recipes, we found several but none seemed to capture all of what we were looking for.  So we mashed a few together and made our own tweaks and we’ll see what we come up with.  Our recipe included two lbs of fresh roasted pumpkin, typical pumpkin pie spices, a bit of lactose, and we’ll use graham cracker and bourbon vanilla extracts in secondary.  It tasted great going into the fermenter, but it’s basically a soup of sweet wort, pumpkin and spices so what’s not to love?  Let’s see how fermentation treats it, we’ve got high hopes.

Pumpkin ale going into the carboy

Pumpkin ale going into the carboy

Update on hop farming, Domain of The King stout, and Tornado Warning triple chocolate porter.

So here’s the update on our hop farming…. it failed miserably.  The shoots never got more than about 6′ tall and we didn’t get a single cone on any of them.  I’ve heard that 1st year Centennial can be picky so we’ll see what happens next season.

Our Domain of The King stout is in a keg and stuck back to age for a while.   The mouth feel on this one is light and definitely not what we were going for.  Other flavors were pretty good but I still think we’ll do this one again to get it exactly where we want it.  We also left it on the oak too long and there’s a woody bitterness to it, I’ve heard that can calm down some with age so we’ll sample again in a month or so and see.

Tornado Warning triple chocolate porter got some bugs in it, this was totally our fault.  We had it in a fermentation chamber with a 1 gallon batch of Sparge of Darkness, an experimental batch we had going with some leftover wort and dregs off a bottle of Tart of Darkness.  The pellicle on top of both jugs looked identical so I’m thinking we got some cross contamination there.  Since this isn’t a wild strain we may actually end up with something decent in the end.  We’ve transferred this one to another carboy to age for a long time and then we’ll sample to see if it’s salvageable.

Sparge of Darkness (L) Tornado Warning (R)

Sparge of Darkness (L) Tornado Warning (R)

Making More Mead – Bottling Day

After our initial success with Pirate Pancake Syrup Brian and I realized that we are naturally gifted mazers and decided we needed to make 42 more batches immediately.  This revelation came to us last fall so we set to work getting batches in carboys until my closets were full of sweet honey water.  Since we’d already mastered basic mead we decided to get adventurous and make an acerglyn (mead made with honey and maple); a blueberry, lavender and vanilla melomel (mead with fruit); another batch of Pirate Pancake Syrup; and a variant of PPS we dubbed Sailor’s Warning which we made with blood oranges.

Blueberry Berserker and Sailor's Warning

Blueberry Berserker and Sailor’s Warning

We allowed the meads to age for several months before doing anything with them, once they had cleared nicely we transferred them into a secondary to remove some trub and help us get a clearer product into out bottles.  On our first bottling of PPS we got things stirred up a bit and had some sediment in the bottom of a few bottles, this hasn’t effected the mead yet but over time it can be undesirable.  Last weekend (after about 8 months aging) we sampled the meads and decided our blueberry mead, Blueberry Berserker, and Sailor’s Warning were ready to bottle.

Sailor's Warning just before bottling

Sailor’s Warning just before bottling

Sailor's Warning mead all bottled up

Sailor’s Warning mead all bottled up

Blueberry Berserker mead all bottled up

Blueberry Berserker mead all bottled up

We chose to put these in wine bottles and cork them as the color and clarity is fantastic and brown bottles just don’t do them justice.  Blueberry Berserker is deep violet and bursting with blueberry with nice vanilla notes and a hint of lavender.  Sailor’s Warning is clear and golden, surprisingly lacking the red tint we expected from the blood oranges however the oranges were not as red as I’ve had them before, we’ll have to make another batch to perfect this one.  This one is very sweet with a lot of citrus and spice, especially cinnamon.  It’s very nice but is best in very small servings such as a cordial.  We’ll likely try a different yeast next time to see if we can dry it out a bit more.

Overall we’ve been very happy with our meads and can’t wait to make some more.

A nice pour of Sailor's Warning

A nice pour of Sailor’s Warning