The Spoils of Wort: Pumpkin Ale Update

After a good bit of deliberation, I decided to try the mini-mash version of this recipe. The author was kind enough to point me to it and suggest using very soft water. I completed it with WLP565: Saison 1 yeast. But that’s not all! Using sugar-water, I cloned the yeast from a bottle of Saison Dupont, and added that along with the “test tube” yeast. The fun part about yeast cloning is that the water not saturated with yeast has to be poured off. Might as well drink it! The water tastes exactly like Woodchuck hard cider, and if it were more concentrated, it would probably taste spot on. Cloning was done by putting as much sugar into water as it would hold and replacing the contents of the bottle. Every week (it was three weeks) – I would dump out half as the top half of the bottle had no yeast in suspension – and replace this with sugar water. The cloned yeast I dumped in were put in the fridge briefly to try to get a compact yeast bed as possible then after I poured off the liquor I shook the bottle to get everything floating once again and poured it right on in.

Brewing went according to the recipe and I cooked the pumpkin as advertised, which darked it considerably and almost burnt it. The minimash is where things started to come apart. For one, my pot seems to cool incredibly rapidly. Much moreso than I think it should. I started at 155F and by the time I checked on it again it was down to 140F. From 14.1 of the Palmer book entitled How the Mash Works, we can see that the goal is to convert almost all the grain into maltose. This wouldn’t be a very complex beer if it were unspiced, but that’s not the case. Since the mash target temperature was 150F and no more the author is trying to ungel the sugars while getting as much fermentables out of them as possible. Thankfully for this batch this means not having good control over the temperature is OK and more gelled sugars means a bit more body and a bit sweeter beer. The pumpkin, similarly, isn’t going to be hurt by being cooler than it should be since there’s almost nothing convertible in pumpkin.

Where I was victim of my equipment was in the mash-out. I normally put cheesecloth twice across the mouth of a bucket and zip tie it down. Mashing out is accomplished by dumping the pot on top of the bucket and then rinsing the grain mess with hotter (168F) water. I did this and promptly clogged the mesh with the pumpkin, which had become glue to the grains. Figuring I could get away with simply spooning off the pumpkin and squeezing the grains out, I began to push the grains against the cloth. The cloth gave a bit and I got more wort out of the grain filler, but it wasn’t fantastic. Thankfully I have bumped the caramel malt to twice what it was in the recipe figuring I would screw it up. And screw it up I did. After doing this to the majority of the malt – which took quite awhile – I was ready for the last bit. Rather then keep it up, I decided to pour the grain into a largish pile and pick up the cheese cloth. I undid the sides and balled it up just in time to have a corner give up and drop all the remaining grain into the bucket. I ended up pouring it through a metal strainer again and pushing the wort out one last time and I still think it’s going to be starchy.

Finally the last problem was I didn’t realize it was an all-grain recipe when I was at the homebrew store and threw 9.9lbs of dry malt extract into there when it really should have been 6.6lbs. I failed the conversion quite badly and said to my wife “man, why didn’t I get that last bag?” I didn’t get that last bag because I was doing it right the first time through. We’ll see where this goes, it’s going to be some really interesting stuff. It might just be the Halloween version of the Mad Elf clone.