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Pumpkin Spiced German Oktoberfest 2010

After being less than impressed with the Oktoberfest I brewed last year, I wanted to mix things up a bit this year.  I’ve really been enjoying pumpkin spiced beers the last couple of years, and thought that last year’s boring Okto would benefit from a little pumpkin spice, thus the idea for the Pumpkin Oktoberfest 2010 was born!

I did quite a bit of research preparing to make this beer.  There are a lot of opinions as to which type of pumpkin to use, or whether it’s even a necessary ingredient.  Many use a baking pumpkin, while others swear by canned pumpkin.  I read other places where a lot of people don’t even bother to use a pumpkin, as it doesn’t really contribute a great amount to the beer, and the spices are what most people recognize as ‘pumpkin’ in the beer, anyway.

As I had no idea where to get a baking pumpkin, I set out to find canned pumpkin.  Oddly enough, the store was out of canned, but was stocking baking pumpkins.  Score!

Recipe & Ingredients

Ingredients

  • 6.6 lb. Munich LME
  • 1 lb. Amber DME
  • 8 oz. Crushed Caramel 60L
  • 4 oz. Crushed 20L
  • Brewferm Lager Yeast
  • 1 oz. Willamette Bittering Hops
  • 1 oz. Willamette Aroma Hops
  • 3-4 lb. Pumpkin

Spices

  • 1 tsp. Pumpkin Spice
  • 1.5 tsp. Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. Allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. Ginger
  • 1.5 tsp. Nutmeg
  • 1.5 tsp. Vanilla Extract

Additional Details

  • SG 1.050
  • FG 1.022
  • 3.68% ABV

Preparing the Pumpkin

Before anything else, you need to prepare the pumpkin.  I cut the pumpkin in half and de-seeded it, then i cut the halves in to slices and laid them out on a baking pan.  I stuck them in the oven for an hour at 350°.  If a person had extra time, I’d suggest going a little longer to really soften them up.

After an hour the pumpkin was fairly soft and easy enough to remove from the outer skin.  Plenty messy, but not hard to do.

Generally, you would add this pumpkin goo in with your mash, but this is an extract batch, so I needed to steep the pumpkin with my grains. Sooooo… I usually take good notes, but for some reason I neglected to jot down how long I steeped the pumpkin for.  For the sake of good story telling, I’ll assume I put the pumpkin in to my boiling pot as I brought it to steeping temperature.  When the water reached the steeping temperature (150°-165°), I added in my specialty grains.  These remained in the pot for 20 minutes.

Again, my notes are terrible, but looking at pictures, it would appear I strained the wort before the boil to remove the pumpkin sludge.

The Great Pumpkin Boil

Time for the fun part, the boil!  After steeping, I brought the pot to a boil and dissolved all of the LME and DME.  Once the wort returned to a boil I started my spice & hop clock.

Brewing Schedule

  • 60 minutes:  1 tsp. spices
  • 40 min.:  1 tsp. spices / add 1oz Willamette hops
  • 20 min.:  1 tsp. spices / add 1oz Willamette hops
  • 10 min.:  1 tsp. spices
  • 5 min.:  remaining spices  ~1 tsp.

I made this all up as I went along, so my measurements are random, and a little bit inaccurate.  I didn’t add the vanilla until after the first addition, and I have no idea how much I added at the 5 minute mark.  I ended up adding the vanilla after reading that it helps the dry spices from flying away when added to the hot wort.

After the boil, I let the wort cool for about 30 minutes in my sink ice bath, letting hops and spices settle to the bottom.  As usual, I strained the cooled wort with a strainer as I poured it in to the bucket.  The pumpkin filtered out fine, but made the strainer HEAVY.  Be careful it doesn’t fall in to the wort.

This beer used a lager yeast, which was a first for me.  I kept it in my beer fridge, at the temperature suggested on the yeast pack (53° to 59°).  I’ve been terrible at keeping track of fermentation temps, but I’m hoping to fix that moving forward.

I racked this to the secondary on 10/24, 13 days after brewing.  Kegged the beer on 11/9.  The beer was pretty cloudy all the way through.  The pumpkin would take the blame on that one, I think.  The carbonated beer is still cloudy, but not quite as much as it was in the secondary.

Tasting & Tweaking

The basis for this batch was a 2009 Brewer’s Best Oktoberfest kit that was an Ale.  As this year’s beer was a lager, it’s probably already a better beer than last year’s.  That said, I was basing my concept on the boring flavors from last year’s batch, so I might have gone too far.

Pumpkin beers are really a matter of taste.  It’s hard to really qualify this beer as good or bad.  I’m quite happy with the way it turned out.  I wanted quite a bit of spice, and I certainly got that.  I think I will dial the spices back next time, but not a ton.  General reaction to the beer has been mixed.  Most who don’t like the beer are the same people who don’t like any pumpkin beer.  Those who like a pumpkin spiced beer, are generally pretty receptive.

Next time around I’ll go for more of a golden ale as the base.  This beer hits a little hard in both spice and malt.  I’d like something a little lighter.  I’d also like to go with an ale instead of lager.  I’m happy with this beer, and I think it’s a great stepping stone for next year’s beer!

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Something a little different on the Making Homebrew blog. I’ve got a guest post! I wrote a while back about my purchase of the Deluxe Mr. Beer Kit, and I decided that it would be helpful to have somebody else brew a couple of the eight different beers that were included.

I’ve enlisted the help of friend and fellow beer brewer Travis.  What follows is a nice step by step account of the creation of a Mr. Beer beer.  Travis has brewed several Mr. Beer kits in the past, and has a few techniques that I have not yet adopted!

The following is a guest blog from Travis, webmaster of Scroll Saw Villiage

Brewing a Mr. Beer Octoberfest Vienna Lager

I’ve brewed a number of Mr. Beer kits in the past.  Its a quick and easy way to make a batch of beer, especially when you’re short on time or space.  This time, I’m making up a batch of Octoberfest Vienna Lager.  This a basic ingredient kit from Mr. Beer.  The refill kit comes with a pre-hopped malt extract, yeast packet hidden under the lid, booster, and a sanitizer.  The instructions came with my original kit.  I’ll deviate a little from the instructions provided with the Mr. Beer kit.  I just found these techniques easier.

First, gather all of your utensils.  Naturally, you’ll need your Mr. Beer keg.  You’ll also need a pot, a large bowl, a saucer plate, measuring cup (1 cup), can opener, a whisk (optional), stirring spoon, and a spatula.

The first thing I do whenever using a Mr. Beer kit is to rinse out my keg.  Dust and other debris may accumulate while in storage.  I certainly don’t want to find a dead spider in my beer.  Just a quick rinse under the faucet and a wipe-down (inside and out) with a soft washcloth does the trick.  Don’t use soap! You’ll notice that I don’t have the spigot in place yet.  I store my spigot, o-ring seal, and nut inside the keg while in storage to prevent mold.  I’ll also rinse these off separately before assembling.  I’ll also open the spigot and let water run through.  I don’t have to get too crazy, just get the dust out.

After I rinse off the pieces, I’ll assemble the spigot on the keg.  The rubber o-ring goes on the threaded end of the spigot.  The inside of the cup should face toward the spigot.   Just twist it on until it won’t go anymore.  Then put the spigot through the hole in the keg and attach the nut.  The large flat surface on the nut should face toward the keg wall and the spigot.

Now its time to start sanitizing your equipment.  The sanitizer takes about 10 minutes or so to kill any nasty bugs that will hurt your precious beer.  First, I’ll fill the keg 1/3 full of water while pouring in half of the sanitizer packet.  We’re only using  half of the sanitizer powder at this point.  The other half will be used during bottling.  I usually put the lid on the keg, then slosh the sanitizer solution all around, making sure to coat every surface.  Sloshing up and down will make a mess, but a round horizontal sloshing motion will get everything mixed up and coated pretty well.

Now the keg has been sanitized, its time to sanitize some of your utensils.  Which ones?  The ones that would potentially come in contact with the beer after the boil.  This would include the whisk, spatula, and can-opener.  The saucer plate will be used to place utensils on between uses, so that will have to be sanitized too.  Just open up the spigot and rinse the plate.  Then add a bit to the plate for awhile, just for good measure.

What about the rest of the stuff?  Well, those items come in contact before the boil.  Since boiling sanitizes anyway, there’s no need to sanitize those items.  Your sauce pan, large bowl, measuring cup, and stirring spoon can escape the bath.

OK.  Lets start brewing some beer!  With your large bowl, fill it up with the hottest tap water you can get.  Then place the pre-hopped malt extract (in the can) upside down in the bowl.  Why?  Liquid malt extract is thick!  The hot water will warm up the malt extract and will make it much easier to pour.  I place mine upside down so when I open the extract, less will stick to the bottom.  Set this aside for now.

With your measuring cup, add 4 cups of water to your pot.  Open up your booster and slowly start sprinkling in the booster while stirring.  It will clump and congeal on the bottom of the pot.  Just keep stirring and use your spoon to break apart the clumps.  As soon as it is completely dissolved, put it onto some heat.  Don’t get too crazy with the heat, because we don’t want to burn the sugar.  But we do want to bring it to a boil.  Continue stirring while the mixture comes to a boil.  What kind of boil?  Well, we don’t want a vigorous rolling boil.  That’s too hot and can alter the properties of the sugar. We’re trying to get the mixture hot enough to sanitize the solution, dissolve the sugar, and thoroughly mix the pre-hopped malt extract (next step).    So, just enough boil to break the surface.  Once it reaches this point, take it off the heat and get rid of your spoon (we won’t use that anymore).

Dump the remainder sanitizer solution from the saucer.  Remove the utensils from the keg and place them on the saucer.  Remember, once these utensils come out of the solution, they should not come in contact with anything that hasn’t been sanitized (hence the sanitized saucer).  Put the lid on the keg again, and give it another slosh or two.  Then dump the sanitizer out.

With your sanitized can opener, open up your pre-hopped malt extract.  Pour it into your pot (off the heat…not even on the warm burner) and stir with your sanitized spatula.  Use your spatula to get every bit of extract out of the can.  You may be tempted to dip the can into your solution to get some water so you can really rinse it out, but don’t.  Remember, the outside of the can hasn’t been sanitized and you’ll risk contaminating your beer.  Keep stirring with your spatula until its thoroughly mixed.  Congratulations.  You now have wort!

Fill your keg to the 4 quart mark (pre-marked on the back of the keg) with cold water from the tap.  This water will prevent thermal shock and prolong the life of the keg.  Then pour your hot wort into the keg, using your spatula to get as much wort out as possible.  Then fill the keg with cold water again until it reaches the 8.5 qt mark.  This will cool the wort mixture to the proper temperature for pitching (adding) the yeast.

But before we add the yeast, we must aerate and mix the wort.  Aerating give oxygen for our yeast friends so they can use so it can make a great byproduct called alcohol.  Put the lid on the keg, and start shaking the heck out of it.  Remember to slosh it around in a horizontal motion rather than up and down to prevent a huge mess.  Do this for two or three minutes.  This is great exercise and will burn off that beer gut.  But if exercise isn’t your thing, you can also use the sanitized whisk to do the same thing (wuss).

Open the keg, and sprinkle in the yeast.  Try to get it nice and even across the top without actually touching anything.  Put the lid back on the keg and wait for 5 minutes.  This might be a good time to get yourself another beer, or clean up your mess before your wife flips out.  After 5 minutes of rest, shake the heck out of it again for another 2-3 minutes.

Now its time to find a place for your beer to ferment.  You’ll need a dark, dry place that maintains a temperature of 68-74 degrees.  Once fermentation begins, the yeast will kick out some heat too.  So I shoot for a temp of 68-70 degrees.  Keep it out of the light, too.  Beer hates light.  Why else do you think they come in brown bottles?  I found a closet in the middle of the house that is both dark and the right temperature.  I added a separate thermometer so I can monitor the temp of the closet.  But I also keep an eye on the thermometer strip that comes with your Mr. Beer kit.

The Mr. Beer kit says it will only take 7 days to ferment.  Is this true?  Kinda.  Most of the fermentation process takes place in the first few days.  But depending on how old the yeast is, how old your kit is, and your fermentation conditions (temp), this will vary.  We want to be absolutely sure that all the sugar has been eaten by our yeast friends.  This is especially true of you choose to bottle in glass bottles.  If your beer isn’t done fermenting when bottling, it can result in exploded bottles or over-carbonated beer.  I always keep mine in the keg for 14 days.  The results are much better.

Article written for MakingHomebrew by Travis

Drinking the Octoberfest Vienna Lager

It was really interesting to compare the Mr. Beer Octoberfest with the Brewer’s Best Oktoberfest that I brewed last year. At the time, I felt like my first Oktoberfest was overly simple, and a little too boring. Funny that the Mr. Beer Octoberfest would fall into that same category. As with any of the Standard kits from Mr. Beer, the use of Booster instead of LME or DME results in a pretty simple final brew. This beer tastes absolutely fine, in fact it’s probably more to my pallet than the Cowboy Lager. My only complaint is that compared with most Oktoberfest beers on the market, both of these kits produced malty, simple tasting beers. I would like to add in some additional flavors or spices to make things a little more interesting.

I think the only other major difference is the carbonation.  I think the use of table sugar for priming gives the Mr. Beer beers a ‘harsher’ carbonation.  They need a few minutes after opening to mellow out, otherwise they can be pretty bubbly.  Almost like a soda.

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german-oktoberfest-package

When it came time to pick a beer to brew for my sixth batch I weighed my choices.  My last batch was an IPA, so I wanted something maltier this time.  As it was late August, I decided to go with a German Oktoberfest, just in time for October!  I’m not actually a huge fan of most Oktoberfest beers, but I thought it would be fun to try it out.  I purchased a Brewers Best German Oktoberfest kit from my local homebrew shop.

Upon opening the kit, I was fairly surprised to see that all of the ingredients were pretty common to other batches of brew I’ve already made.  The kit includes 6.6 lb. Muntons Light Malt Extract, 8 oz. Crystal 60L, 4 oz. Crystal 20L, 1 oz. Willamette Bittering Hops, 1. oz. Vanguard Flavoring Hops, and Nottingham Yeast.

german-oktoberfest-wort

Ingredients and the Boil

The process went pretty well this time around.  I added the grains to my brewpot at the same time as I turned the heat on, to give them a little extra time as the water heated up.  The grains steeped from room temp all the way up to about 170 degrees over the course of about 30 minutes.  Then I removed the grain bag, turned up the heat, and brought the liquid to a boil.  As this was happening, I put both cans of LME in a pot with hot water to get them to flow out of the cans a little easier.  Once the water was boiling, I added both cans – stirring as I added.  I brought the liquid to a boil again and added my bittering hops.  I let that go for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, then added the flavoring hops.

Usually I fill my sink with ice and cool the wort in an ice bath.  As luck would have it, I badly clogged my sink earlier that afternoon, and couldn’t use it!  I’d read that the hot wort could be added directly to the fermenting bucket, so I decided to try that out.  I filled the fermenting bucket with 3 gallons of cold water first, then added the hot wort.  It took a little bit, but eventually the mixture cooled off enough for the yeast to be added.  This probably took a little longer than if I’d used the ice bath, but it wasn’t too bad.  While the wort was cooling, I added the yeast to a glass of water to get it started.  I also took this time to take a sample and measure my Original Gravity.  I was sitting right about 1.054, right where the kit suggested I would be.  Once the cooled wort came down below 90 degrees, I added in the started yeast, and put the lid on the fermenter.

I’d purchased a temperature regulator for my beer fridge  just before starting this batch, so I was excited to be fermenting the Oktoberfest at a consistent, proper temperature.  I set the regulator to about 65 degrees, so the beer would be fermenting right about 70.  The guy at the homebrew store told me that fermenting beer will be about 5 degrees warmer than the air temp – which held true.  I had intended to ferment for 14 days, but I got busy, and actually waited 22 days.

german-oktoberfest-pitch

Bottling the Oktoberfest

This is where things got interesting…   I’ve brewed several batches over the last few months, and I got a little cocky.  I decided to start my next batch (a Russian Imperial Stout) the same night as I bottled my Oktoberfest.  The brewpot takes an hour to boil, and that seemed like plenty of time to get my Oktoberfest out of the fermenter and in to bottles.  Everything started out great.  I got my Stout boiling.  Then, I cracked open the fermenting bucket and measured my Final Gravity.  It came to 1.012.  Using a cool online calculator I found, that figures my beer to be about 5.5% alcohol.  Next, I got my sanitized bottling bucket ready and started to siphon the beer from the fermenting bucket in to the bottling bucket.  This is where the juggling began…  I got the siphon started, then went to check my Stout.  The siphon wasn’t deep enough and sucked air and stopped before the beer was all the way transferred.  For the life of me, I could not get it to siphon again.  For the sake of time, I decided to slowly pour the remaining beer in to the bottling bucket.  I’d recently bought a new strainer, so I took this chance to filter out some of the extra hops that were still floating around in the fermenter.  This actually worked out pretty well, as I was able to get that out to keep it from getting in the bottles.

I got all of my beer in to the bottling bucket, and started bottling.  My stout had some time left to boil, and everything was still running semi-smoothly.  I got 2 growlers and 12 bottles done, then realized I had made a huge mistake.  I never added priming sugar!  Ugh.  I don’t know whether I could have just let it go or not, but decided to risk pouring the bottles back out and adding the sugar.  I emptied the bottles back in to the fermenting bucket, even dropping one of my growlers IN TO the beer in the process.  I got the priming sugar added to the bucket and slowly stirred it up a bit.  Of course as this is happening, my stout was ready to be taken off the heat, too.  I let it cool on the stove and started back on my bottling.  I bottled about half of my bottles, and then put the wort in an ice bath in my sink.  This bought me enough time to finish bottling the Oktoberfest.  Of course I still hadn’t cleaned my fermenting bucket yet, so I had to take a few minutes to do that now too!  Multi-tasking was a bad idea…

german-oktoberfest-fermenter

Final Results : Brewers Best German Oktoberfest

I cracked the first bottle open after a week.  Still too sweet, but honestly not too darn bad.  Even after all of my problems, the beer still had carbonation, and there didn’t seem to be anything wrong with it!

Week 2.  The beer is better!  Really, it’d be pretty fine to drink at this point.

Week 3 and on.  As with every beer I’ve made, it just keeps getting better and better as it ages.  The Oktoberfest is a pretty plain beer, but good.  There isn’t as much character as you would find in a store bought Oktoberfest, though.  I think if I made this kit again, I would make a few ingredient changes to liven it up a little.  Maybe use more or a different type of hops, or use a different malt extract.  I’ve read it’s common to use a Pilsner malt.

Next up – Russian Imperial Stout
Previous batch –
India Pale Ale

german-oktoberfest-ingredients

If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear them!

 

 

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