Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Reason for Every Season.

It's not a coincidence that your favorite major brewery pumps out seasonal ales with various characteristics when they do. Before my beer enlightenment I questioned why someone would release a fresh hopped beer in the fall when I was looking for a wee heavy or an Oktoberfest. I lamented not having super special seasonal stouts released in the summers when I had the most time off from work. One day I had an epiphany about beer seasons.

Rather then simply breaking down the beer seasons I wanted to make specific points about tradition, crop harvests, and alcohol.

(read more after the break)

Point one: The hop harvest in north America is in the fall (September-October). This is why as I am winding down my desire for hop centric summer brews that are lite on the palate and crisp in the finish a fresh crop of fresh hopped beers rolls out. Some brewers call this their harvest ale, some a fresh hopped version of their already hoppy beers. If you love a recipe but want a fresh take on it, think of fresh hopping it, it won't be the same but it could also be good.

Point two: Some beers are traditionally brewed at certain times; Oktoberfest is traditionally a fall beer. Nothing would prevent Sam Adams from releasing Oktoberfest year round, but it's a fall tradition. I like this style of beer, it's a nice fall sipper to drink while watching football among friends. It could work in the summer on a cool evening, or even in the winter, but it's a fall beer and I'll have to live with that.

Point three: Alcohol is dehydrating, a diuretic, and warming(in feeling only). This all adds up to making sense that heavy beers come out in the winter. RIS, Wee Heavy, Porters, Stouts, Barley Wines, Old Ales all tend to see heavy release cycles in the cooler months. Never fear though anything above 7% alcohol should hold all year in your cellar for when the mood strikes.

I've found that my craft drinking friends who are all but oblivious to these seasons often enjoy the seasonal beers the most in the seasons they are intended for. In the summer my friends are more likely to order a glass of crisp pale ale than a Russian imperial stout. I take this into account when I have beer tastings or serve my friends. I plan to take this into account with my kegerator as seasons pass and new beers go on tap.

My contribution to the seasonality of beer:
This season's beer could very well be Octoberfest, but I'm going to brew another fall seasonal:  The Pumpkin Ale. I'm also going to make a pumpkin pie. For my pumpkin ale I want to brew a beer with an orange hue, have a solid malty sweetness under the pumpkin, and subtle behind the scenes bitterness. I'm shooting for about 15 SRM because my flanders red was a bright orange at 13 SRM, and depending on the SRM of the pumpkin I'll hit right about there. I'll be mixing in some traditional pumpkin pie spices as well to bring this beer alive.

I originally designed this beer as a sweet potato pie beer, with sweet potatoes in place of the pumpkins. When I found sugar pumpkins at the local orchard I knew I had the recipe ready, and just substituted one for one by weight. I'll still brew this as a sweet potato beer but they are available all year where as sugar pumpkins are a fall specialty.

Pumpkin waiting to be pureed
1.125 lbs Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM) 43.9 %
4.0 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt - 60L (60.0 SRM) 9.7 %
8.0 oz Sweet Potato/Pumpkin (15.0 SRM) 19.5 %
4.0 oz Rice Hulls (0.0 SRM) 9.7 % 
2.0 oz Biscuit Malt (23.0 SRM) 4.9 %
4.0 oz White Wheat (2.3 SRM) 9.7 %
1.0 oz Maple Syrup (35.0 SRM) 2.5 %
0.10 oz Nugget [13.00 %] - Boil 60.0 min 25.3 IBUs 

1.5 Tsp Cinnamon
1 Tsp Ginger
1 Tsp Nutmeg
1/4 Tsp Ground Cloves

1/2 Tsp Vanilla Extract

Sacc Rest add 6.28 qt of water at 159.6 @ 152.0 for 75 min
Mash Out Heat to 168.0 F over 7 min 168.0 for 10 min

Size: 1 gallon
OG: 1.051 SG
FG: 1.011 SG
SRM: 13.3
IBU: 25.3 IBUs

Brew Throughts:
Brewed on 10/11
I put the pumpkin in the mash. After I pureed it in the food processor I used my rubber spatula to get the pumpkin into the bag, to prevent it from falling through the bag right away I placed the bag in a bowl and put a good base of rice hulls in. I mixed the grains in on top of the pumpkin and placed it in the water before stirring the whole thing up. The water became cloudy after a few moments of steeping the bag. As of 10/13 my apartment still smells like a pumpkin pie, the pumpkin aroma from the mash still fills the air and the flame out spices must have had some aeromatics driven off because they are floating around my place. The beer is vigerously fermenting as I type this.

Preparing the Pumpkin:
I am starting this beer with a whole, fresh, sugar pumpkin. These pumpkins are smaller, sweeter, and less stringy then their larger cousins. I purchased this pumpkin at a local orchard while I was buying pie apples; perhaps is was fate they were selling pumpkins.

To prepare a pumpkin you'll need an oven, a food processor, and a sieve. If you don't have a food processor don't sweat it, run a knife through the cooked pumpkin until you're satisfied.

Step 1: Baking and Processing
(1) Halve the pumpkin removing the stem portion and the stringy seeds from the middle.these can be discarded or saved and roasted.
(2)Take your two halves and place them face down in an oven proof dish, cover with foil and place in the oven(preheated to 375). Bake for 90 minutes or until the flesh is tender. If you can easily cut it with a butter knife without much resistance, the sort of resistance you felt when halving the pumpkin or removing the stem portion, it's ready.
(3)Once it has cooled, scoop out the flesh, and puree in a food processor. Remove the processed pumpkin and press it through a soup seive into a holding container.

Step 2: Doing what you desire to do with it.
You can add the pumpkin to the mash, the boil, primary, or secondary. As with anything there are trade offs with any one of those choices.
(1) mashing probably offers the best extraction of sugars giving the enzymes of the grain a chance to work their magic on whatever may be in the pumpkin. This will offer the least authentic pumpkin flavor of the options. Whenever you expose something to air you drive off aromatics by diffusion.
(2) The boil could be an option for small pumpkin additions, this adds pumpkin after the enzymes have shut down, but still boils it to sanitize, and extracts the sugar while presumably leaving the fleshy pumpkin behind in the boiling pot with the hops and other trub.
(3) Primary fermentation is an option which should yield a good mix of fermentable sugar, and aromatic properties. the problems I can see here would be sanitation, and fermentation driving off aromatics as it does with hops and delicate spices.
(4) Secondary fermentation, would be ideal, if you were working with largely fermentable sugars the remaining yeast could work on, and there wasn't a risk of infections. With any fruit addition to secondary you're going to get a refermentation and a risk of infection.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for all the detailed information. Been looking for a small batch pumpkin recipe, and this one sounds tasty!