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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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