The Great Pumpkin

My brother-in-law, Travis, has been brewing with me regularly now for a couple years.  Back in September we brewed our annual Pumpkin Spice Ale.  We made 10 gallons of it and I put 5 gallons on tap and set the other 5 aside.  We wanted to use that other 5 gallons to fill a real pumpkin and serve the beer out of one.  Last weekend we did it.

First, the tap version turned out pretty nice.  I still detect too much ginger and clove in the beer and they over power the cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice.  I put 9 pieces of clove in a 13 gallon boil and it’s still too much.  Those are all there, but there is too much clove.  The aroma turned out real nice as did the color and, best of all, the flavor.  We were pretty pleased with the brew.

The question was going to be what would happen once we put it in a pumpkin.

We decided to carbonate it first, before putting it in the pumpkin.  I’m not too familiar with making cask beers and didn’t want to experiment on this project.  Shelley and I visited Elysian Brewery in September for their Pumpkin Festival and I talked with a brewer there about how they set up their pumpkin.  So we decided to try two different versions for our pumpkin.  Elyisan’s way and what I’ve read on forums.

What Elysian did was cut off the top, clean it out and then apply a torch/flame to the inside to sterilize the interior.  I neglected to ask them about carbonation.  But they told me they treated the pumpkin as if it was a cask.  The sample we had wasn’t very carbonated, but it did resemble what you’d have from a cask beer.  They sealed the top back on with beeswax.  So we did this for one of the pumpkins.


The other pumpkin we cut off the top, cleaned it out and then filled it with water and Five Star to sanitize it.  Basically, we treated and sanitized the pumpkin like a keg.  After letting the Five Star sit in the pumpkin for 5 minutes or so, we poured it out and then filled the pumpkin.


We filled the two pumpkins at the same time in the same manner we would fill a keg.  Well, sort of.  We just pushed the beer out of a corny keg at about 3 psi and filled the pumpkins.


We left some headspace inside each pumpkin, just in case.


We then put the caps back on and then sealed the seam with beeswax.


We did all this the day before we tapped the pumpkins.  We knew there would be an issue with carbonation so we didn’t want to let the pumpkins sit too long.  I placed both pumpkins in our wine cellar at 55 degrees.  I would have liked to put them in a refrigerator but we don’t have one that’s big enough to hold them both.  The next day we took them over to my sister-in-laws for dinner and tapped the bigger one of the two.  We held the smaller one back for an extra day to see how the carbonation level held up.

Here are some still photos Shelley took of our tapping of the pumpkin.

pumpkin tapped

pouring the first beer

the toast

So, the pumpkin beer tasted okay.  It was still carbonated but did lose some bubbles.  It did seem very cask-like.  The flavor changed quite a bit too.  This was the pumpkin we sanitized with Five Star.  We think that the pumpkin itself contributed quite a bit of moisture to the beer and watered it down a bit.  I took a sample home and checked the gravity but it was unchanged.  But it clearly tasted thinner then the tap version.  With that said, it wasn’t disappointing at all.  The pumpkin held three pitchers of beer and we drank the entire pumpkin during dinner.  The flavor was very pumpkiny as well.  Much more so then the tap version.  Again, I think there was some transfer of flavor while inside the pumpkin.  If we can figure out a way to keep the carbonation level up, it would be interesting to taste this beer after three days inside the pumpkin.

I’m also happy to report no one complained of any ill effects the next morning.

We drank the smaller of the two pumpkins the next night.  It lost all of its carbonation and was very flat.  We didn’t taste any difference between the smaller pumpkin beer and the larger one the night before other than the carbonation level.

Some things we might try for next time.

Travis wants to flame the inside more on our next attempt.  We’re not sure if that might reduce the added moisture from the fresh pumpkin leaching into the beer or not.  It will be interesting to try at least.

Second, I think we’ll fill the pumpkin before we carbonate the beer but then add priming sugar to the beer and carbonate it inside the pumpkin.  We’ll leave some headspace as well, but I can’t image we would have any issues with over pressure that breaks open the pumpkin.  After all, the pumpkin is somewhat permeable.  Enough to relieve any overpressure from carbonation?  I think I’ll keep the pumpkin inside a plastic tote, just in case.


The Fermenter Wagon

It’s been a while since I updated my homebrewing.  I’ll put a post together in the next week or so talking about all I’ve been learning over the past few months concerning all-grain brewing, but first I want to finish detailing some of the new equipment I bought and modified.

As many of you know I purchased two 14.5 gallon stainless steel, conical fermenters.  I bought mine from Stout Tanks and Kettles.  I’m really pleased with them, but I did have to make some modifications to them.  Luckily, I have a nephew going to school in the engineering department at Boise State University and he was able to get the modifications done for me.  Stout Tanks and Kettles do not use model numbers, so much, for their products so I can’t link directly to the fermenter I bought.  But if you go to their page and look for the one titled, “14.5 Gal, Conical Fermenter with welded-on legs, thermowell, thermometer.”  That would be the one.

My biggest problem with using the conical is where to put it.  Since I brew outside I realized I would need to make my fermenter mobile.  There are times when I brew and I’m by myself and there’s no way to carry 10 – 13 gallons of wort in a kettle from the patio to the laundry room.  So I came up with the idea to build a wagon for the fermenter.  This would also allow me to move the fermenter around the house to help maintain better temperature control as parts of the basement get hotter or cooler depending on the season.

Like the brewhouse, I only wanted to make this fermenter wagon one time (well, twice since I have two now).  So if I ended up buying larger fermenters I wanted to make sure the wagon would be able to hold the weight.  Since the total height would be nearly as tall as me, I also needed it to be able to hold me as well as a full fermenter.  Width and length were big issues as well since I would need to go through doorways and around hallway corners.  Since I couldn’t find a complete wagon that met these conditions I ended up buying this Millside Wagon Kit from Northern Tool and Equipment.  The weight limit on it is more than I would ever need, but it is the only wagon kit I could find that allowed me to design my own body and meet my weight requirements.

I’ve used this fermenter wagon five times now and it’s great.  Holy cow I never imagined how much easier it would make the process.  I can wheel it out next to the brewhouse and pump the wort directly into it, pitch the yeast and then roll it into the house where I want to park it.  When fermentation is over, I can wheel it into the laundry room and keg the beer.  I built wood leg extensions for the fermenter to sit on so I can gravity fill the kegs directly out of the fermenter.  The larger rubber tires roll easily over every surface I have.  We have a stone patio outside, a 4″ step up into the house from the patio, slate in one hallway, carpet in another and linoleum in the laundry room.  Even pulling the wagon over the step up into the house is a breeze.

The base of the wagon is large enough to hold my blow off bucket so as I move the wagon around I don’t have to carry anything with me.

The only downside I have run into so far is the space directly under the bottom of the fermenter is not wide enough to fit a 5-gallon bucket.  That really isn’t a huge problem.  I use a tri-clamp and hose line to drain out the bottom if I need to drain out more than a standard 1-quart pitcher will hold.

Here are some pictures of the construction and use.

This first just shows the underside after installing the frame work of the wagon kit.  I used two pieces of 3/4 MDF that measure 34″ x 24″.  The tongue for the handle make the total length 42″.

Here it is flipped upright with the handle and wheels attached.  I counter sunk all the bolt heads.

The leg extensions are just 4″ x 4″ lumber.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve used it for five batches now.  This morning I transferred my stout from the fermenter to the kegs.  Here are some photos of the fermenter in action.

If you’re asking, “Why is that hose line so long?”  It’s the line I use to drain out the bottom of the fermenter as well.  I don’t want to have to keep switching from one short hose to a longer hose every time.  It’s easier just to use one size.  One addition I will probably make is to add some linoleum over the top of the MDF.  During sanitizing and cleaning a lot of water gets spilled onto the MDF so I’d like to minimize any water damage that may lead me to have to replace that top piece of MDF.  Other than that, I haven’t had any issues with the design and I’m really happy how it turned out.

There was one major modification that I had made to the fermenter.  It had to do with the lid.  One major flaw with this fermenter is the method used to seal the lid.  If you’re not very, very careful, the gasket under the lid can pop out and drop into your beer.  This flaw makes it difficult to dry-hop as you don’t want to be taking the lid off and re-install it in case the gasket pops off on you.  I’ve had this happen twice.  I saved the beer the second time, but not the first time.  I didn’t know it happened the first time.  To over come this, as well as provide the ability to do one more thing, I had my nephew (Noah) cut a hole in the lid to fit a corny keg lid.  The corny keg lid legs had to be cut shorter as well to achieve a good fit.

This does three things for me.

1) I can get the fermenter lid on and then check to ensure the gasket is in place and seated properly by reaching in through this hole and feel with my fingers to make sure the gasket is in place.  Once that’s done, I just fill the fermenter through this hole and sanitize it.  Since this hole is air tight (when sealed with a corny keg lid), once the fermenter lid and gasket are in place I never have to take the fermenter lid off again till I transfer the beer and wash the fermenter.

2) I can dry hop right through this opening now without having to remove the fermenter lid.

3) After the fermenter is sanitized and drained, I pump in some CO2 and then fill the fermenter from the bottom forcing the CO2 and air out the top.   I bought one of these Carbonating Keg Lids from MoreBeer, cut off the tubing and had Noah shorten the legs to fit the fermenter lid.   Okay, this last part might be a little over kill.  However, the other thing this does is allow me to double-check for any air leaks from the fermenter.  I stick a rubber stopper in the blow off port and listen for any leaks from the tank being under pressure from the CO2.

Here’s a couple of pictures of the modification.

My New Brew House

Okay, it’s not a real brew house like this is a brew house.

It’s more of a brew sculpture.  But I like to call it my brew house.  Friends and I have been working on it for about 2 months now and I have used it to make two batches.  I haven’t published this post since I’ve been making modifications to the brew house ever since I first used it a month ago.  I like where it’s at right now and ready to share this post.

First, I want to thank a few people who helped put this together.

My wife, Shelley, is first on this list.  She has done quite a bit with this over the last few months.  Just a sampling include:  Putting up with this project in the garage for the first few weeks; letting me borrow her truck for parts and supply runs and kicking her out of her garage bay; running errands to Edge Construction to buy stuff I had forgotten; giving me pointers and tips concerning the O2 system for the brew house as well as helping with its cost.  Not only those things, but just being super encouraging during the planning of all this since November.  Without her help and support this would not have happened.  Plain and simple.

I also want to say thanks to two of my brother-in-laws and nephew, Travis, Hawk and Noah.  Travis and Noah have given up a few of their own days off to come over and help construct this as well as teach me how to run propane gas piping.  I can’t say enough about Noah and the paint job and machining he was able to do for the brew house.  Hawk has been helping on the water quality side of things concerning recipe creation.  I’ve learned a lot from both of them and their help has been invaluable.

Then there is all the businesses around the valley I’ve been annoying for the last few months with Do-It-Yourself questions and mistakes.  Everyone of them have been more than generous in helping me out and taking the time to answer my questions and give me advice on putting this thing together.

I’m going to start with Marcus and his crew at Home Brew Stuff.  I’ve asked him so many questions (sometimes twice over the course of weeks) and he’s been super patient with me and taken the time to walk me around the store and help put stuff together so this project will be a success.  Not only that, but the customer service at his place is beyond reproach.  I’ve had to exchange items (because I bought the wrong stuff) as well as returned items that had issues.  Every time they have been super nice and taken care of me with my questions and problems.

There is also Don and Corrie at Edge Construction Supply.  That’s the place I bought the Unistrut material for the framing of the brew house.  I’m not an engineer and only had some paper drawings made with a pencil and ruler, but Corrie helped me select the stuff I’d need and helped me out with questions about the material.  Then, because I’m not an engineer and didn’t know if I had enough supplies, I ended up buying more than I needed.  That’s where Don’s patience paid off.  I had to bring all that stuff back and return the parts I didn’t use.  If any one out there is reading this blog and want to know where to buy their material, Edge Construction is the place to go.

Those are the two big places I got lots of help from.  But I also had help from Suburban Propane (wish I could remember the guys name.  He was super nice and patient.); Brian at Norco here in Boise and Doug with Oxarc in Nampa.  House of Wheels (down near Anne Morrison Park) was another place I bought stuff, then returned stuff, then bought more stuff.  They were great to work with as well.  House of Wheels sent me to Gem State Metals down in Garden City where I bought the axle for the wheels.  The piping for the project was purchased with the help of the guys at Andy’s Supply.  Finally, I can’t leave out Ace Hardware and the Big Orange Box, Home Depot.

After all that, I didn’t even blow myself up.

In deciding to do this project, I did a lot of research into what type of stand and material to use.  I found this guy’s blog post on his brewstand.  I don’t know much about welding or anyone with that ability that I could get for free, so I decided to use Unistrut for my material like he did.  It made the stand heavier (with all the brackets and nuts and bolts) but it allowed me to build the stand without real detailed drawings.  If I screwed something up, it seemed that it would be more forgiving to making mistakes.  I can make my share of mistakes.  It went together in a weekend like a grown man’s Erector set.  I think that’s why Travis and I had so much fun that weekend.

I also didn’t want a complicated system that a RIMS (Recirculating Infusion Mash System) or HERMS (Heat Exchanged Recirculating Mash System) system entails.  In my research they seemed more complicated than a gravity type or direct infusion system.  Really, it comes down to personal preference.  I’ve seen some real nice RIMS and HERMS out there that have made me jealous and there is certainly no fault in going that direction.  I simply chose a 2-tier, partial gravity system.

I built this brew house to be expandable.  The stand is large enough to hold up to a 45 gallon kettle.  In the event I end up making larger patches I won’t have to build a new stand.  That’s why I have larger burners, a larger frame and a taller HLT tower.  The HLT had to be tall enough to sit over a 45 gallon pot on the mash-tun burner.

So, here are some pictures of the construction beginning on day 1.  That’s Travis grinding on the Unistrut to enlarge one of the pre-drilled holes that wouldn’t quite line up.

After getting the framing done, I turned the project over to my nephew, Noah.  He took it into his garage at his house and gave it a great paint job.  Two coats of Emerald Green and a nice clear coat.  I didn’t want black.  Everyone has a black brew house.  I wanted something with some color, but not bright.  Here is the painted stand back from Noah.  Travis is working on the gas piping.  You can see a metal shelf between the mash tun burner and the boil kettle burner.  I ended up with problems with the size of that plate and ended up making it smaller.  You can see this in the final photos at the bottom.

One of the three burners, specifically, the mash tun burner.

Here’s a photo of the gas manifold and pipe.  The brass connector on the far left is where the hose line to the tank screws on.  Each burner has its own regulator.  Some may ask why the manifold is where it’s at.  It doesn’t look all that convenient.  As you see later, it’s due to how the stand and kettles will be stored.  More on that below.  Down at the bottom left of the brew house is the axle brackets for the wheels.

A close up of the manifold.

I attached a 40 plate wort chiller to a side support and hooked up a homemade aerator to the output side of the chiller.  The brass hose bib attachments were also added to make it a bit easier to reach the connections with a hose.

I used the brew house as shown above for the first time about a month ago and it worked fine.  The biggest weakness to the whole thing was a lack of wind protection.  So prior to my next brew, I added wind protection to the outer frame.  This made a huge difference.  It added a little big of weight, but at the same time I was able to remove some parts since the wind walls also added structural support.

I also decided not to put any permanent feet on the upper, left side of the brew house.  When the brew house is stored, I’m just going to set it on wood blocks instead of attached feet.  I just didn’t like any of the ideas I came up with for the feet.  They all ended up being about shoulder height and I could see someone walking around that side and hitting them with their shoulder or head.  So I bagged the whole idea.

Here are the final photos of what the brew house looks like right now.  Besides the wind walls I also cut the metal plate between the mash tun and boil kettle down a little bit.  It overhung the boil kettle burner too far and started to warp from the heat.  You can see the marks from that experience below.  On the right side of the brew house I added some handles to make it easier to lift and move the brew house around.  It is heavy, but it is surprisingly easy to move around over a hard surface like the patio.

The last two items to install on the brew house are the pump and the wort chiller covers.  Both are made, I just need to install them.  My next brew isn’t till April 28, so I have some time.  Both of these additions are precautionary as I have not had any issues with spillage………….yet.  It will be nice to get them on.

When I store the brew house, the plan is to store it on its end.  The three kettles will be stored inside the frame work to reduce the amount of space I need to take up in the house.  All three kettles will fit inside the frame work.  The below photo shows one kettle.  The other numbers show where kettles will sit.

There you have it.  I hope to get a post up about my first two experiences with the brew house in the coming days.  I also created a nice fermenter wagon that I want to show off as well.  Now that I have some pretty cool equipment, I just need to make a tasty brew.

Home Brewing Update

I haven’t posted anything about my home brewing since August so I thought it time to do so.  I’ve been busy trying to recap our Denali trip and just haven’t found the time to plug a post in here.

Since the Nut Brown Ale was brewed, we have been enjoying it on tap for the past month or so.  It didn’t turn out quite as good as last year and I had terrible problems with the bottling.  In an effort to reduce the amount of residue in the bottom of the bottles I switched from using priming sugar to carbonate the bottles to using Coopers Carbonation Drops.  I ended up with all sorts of carbonation issues with these drops.  The only instructions on the packaging was one drop per 12 oz bottle.  There was nothing about when to add them or how fast to cap the bottles or how long to let them sit out before putting them in the refrigerator.  So I didn’t really keep track of things.  I filled a bottle and sometimes I would cap it right away and other times I would let it sit till I got to it after filling more bottles.  No rhyme or reason to my process.

When I tried my first bottle a few weeks later it was nearly completely flat.  It was terrible.  I tried a couple more bottles and the same thing.  All of them were flat.  Now I figured I could have mis-capped one or maybe even two, but after the third one I knew it wasn’t the capping.  I had 15 more bottles left so I decided to try an experiment.

I took the remaining 15 bottles and grouped them into threes.  The first five I would pop the cap and immediately drop in another drop and recap it.  The next five I would pop the cap and wait for the drop to dissolve then cap the bottle.  Both of these groups would be placed back in the refrigerator immediately after capping.  The third group would be capped immediately after a new drop was put in, then allowed to remain at room temperature for a day before being placed back in the frig.

I waited a couple of weeks and tried them again.  Everyone was flat.  All 15 bottles.  These drops suck.  I still had the beer in the keg, but lost all the bottles.  I have no idea why they didn’t work.  The only instructions I got when I bought them was to drop them and they’ll carbonate the beer.

When the Nut Brown was tapped and ready, I moved my attention to my 2011 Pumpkin Spice Ale.  I didn’t do anything much different this time around.  Here I am enjoying my Honey Ale and a CAO cigar while I steep the grains on brew day.

Everything went pretty well on brew day.  I again steeped with pumpkin mash as well as put the pumpkin in the boil and in the primary.  After moving the beer into the secondary I had a lot of pumpkin mash still in the beer.  So I decided to let it sit in the secondary for a few extra weeks to allow time for the mash to settle out.  This worked, to a certain extent.  The final product is still pretty cloudy.  It doesn’t taste grainy at all, but it doesn’t look that great either.

The only real change to this year’s recipe compared to last was a tip I got from the brewer at Elysian Brewery in Seattle.  Shelley and I stopped in for lunch at the Capitol Hill brewery and he was kind enough to come by the table and talk for about 10 minutes.  He recommended that I try to get my aroma in the beer after kegging but before serving.  He told me they add the aroma spices to the beer in the bright tanks.  They sterilize everything they can before dropping it in and then let it sit in the tanks for a few days before kegging.  Since I don’t have a bright tank and it was already in the secondary, he suggested to do it after I put in the keg.  So I did.  I sterilized a hop bag and put all my spices into the bag and dropped it into the keg after filling it up.  I had a string attached to it (sterilized as well) so I could pull the bag back out.  I let the spices sit in the keg for a few days and then carbonated the keg and served it.  I have decided to call this technique “Dry spicing.”

This worked really well.  I got a great aroma off this technique.  The beer tastes great, it smells great, but it looks like crap!  Oh well.  It’s home brew, right?

The only other brew I have in progress right now is my Stout.  It was scheduled to come out of the secondary the first of November.  But I think I may lose that beer.  The beer has developed a white, crusty film on top.  I’m wondering if, while we were gone to Denali, the water in the airlock evaporated allowing some contaminates to get it and spoil the beer.  I’m not really sure what the white, crusty film is, but it can’t be a good thing.  Last year’s brew didn’t have this problem and it tasted fine.  Or, maybe it is a byproduct of so much coffee in the beer.  I just don’t know.  I plan on moving it to a keg in the next week or so and getting my first smell and taste of it at that time.  I should know for certain then.

The only other big news in my home brewing world is that I have decided to make the switch from extract brewing to all grain brewing.  I plan on my next batch in the spring being my first all grain beer.  I have bought three new 15 gallon kettles.  I used one in the making of my Pumpkin Spice.  Some time after Christmas I’ll start buying the rest of the pieces for my all grain system.  I’ll be doing a three-tiered gravity-flow system.  I thought about buying a new beer sculpture like this one but, at around $690.00, the cost is just too much.  So I’m going to put my own together using Unistrut metal framing channels.  I got the idea from this guy who made his stand out of the same stuff.  The channels are only about $1.49 a linear foot, so I should be able to build the frame for around $200.00 and there is a local retailer here in Boise that sells all the parts.

My learning curve will steepen a bit once I make the switch.  I’m hoping to hook up with one of the local brewing stores in town when they do an all grain batch to get some experience at it before doing my first batch.  I’ve already talked to them and they do that sort of thing all the time.  They brew out in the parking lot in front of their business on some Saturdays.  I just need to show up.  They’ll even brew my recipe and I can take the beer home with me if I want.  I have to supply the ingredients of course.  But even if I just want to watch them brew their own, they are good with that.  So, hopefully I can do that a couple of times before doing my own batch.

2011 Nut Brown Ale

Shortly after getting back from our climb, it was time to begin replenishing my beer tap.  The decision was made to return to my Nut Brown Ale recipe from 2010.  I did make a few changes for this year’s batch.  I added some extra brown sugar, I changed up the grains a bit to make it a bit darker and used a different yeast than my last version.  Based on my research into a classic Nut Brown Ale, they shouldn’t be too strong on the alcohol and the yeast should be on the dry side.  So I tried to achieve both of those with this new recipe.

Hawk also decided to join me in brewing as he hasn’t brewed for some time.  Hawk was brewing a cherry stout recipe.  Also joining me on this Sunday morning was Travis.  Ripley hung around as well.

First and introduction to Hawk’s brew by Hawk himself.

Although Travis wasn’t brewing his own, he helped out with the boil and mashing the cherries.  The extra pair of hands was a great asset.

Here’s an introduction to my Nut Brown.

The beers went into the fermentor without any issues and about a week later I transferred the Nut Brown into the secondary.  It should be ready in about a month.  Which is a good thing as my Irish Red blew the other week and I’m down to just one beer, the Honey Ale, on tap now.  My concern is the Honey will blow before the Nut Brown is ready.  Horrors!

Homebrew Update

I’ve been busy the past month with two different homebrews.  I didn’t post about them individually since I was making them so close back to back.

The first one is a new recipe for a Red Ale.  This was an extract and grain recipe.  I used ultra-light dry malt extract, some British Brown and Belgian Special B.  I made a recipe mistake with the grains.  Instead of the British Brown, I should have used Cara-Red.  I’m not sure how I missed that in my research.  For that reason I think it may turn out a bit too dark when it’s finished.  I’ll correct that next time.

As you can see, it was a great day for brewing.  The Red is in the kettle in the background with a pint of Pumpkin Spice in the foreground.

I used some Chinook and Kent Goldings in the boil.  As a new twist that I have never tried before, I decided to dry hop this brew and used Fuggles for that in the secondary.  For those purests out there, I know, Reds shouldn’t have a strong aroma.  But I’ve wanted to try dry hopping for some time and so I decided to toss some in and see how it works out.

I used Wyeast Labs 1084, Irish Ale yeast.

According to my calculations the brew should end up with a SG of 1.057, ABV of 5.6%, 20 IBU and 26 HCU.

So, how did I do?

Well, I have no way to measure IBU or HCU, but my SG ended up being 1.054 and my ABV is at 5.6%.  Not too shabby.

A few weeks after making the Red, it was time for my annual Honey Wheat.  I’ve been getting closer with each brewing of this beer and I went into this attempt pretty confident I’ll finally get it right.

The weather wasn’t nearly as nice for the Honey Wheat.  Kind of rainy but luckily I had very little wind.  Everything went fine on brew day.  The main change I made to this version was to cut back on the amount of honey.  I used 3.5 lbs in my first attempt and it was too weak.  I bumped it to 6 lbs last year and it was too much, so I used 4 lbs this year.  But I also divided it in half.  I put 2 lbs into the boil and held 2 lbs back that I put in with 10 minutes left.  I wanted more honey aroma in this batch and also didn’t want to boil off all the flavor either.  I’m hoping that works.

I changed the recipe around a bit as well to give it more of a wheat style beer instead of an ale.  I used wheat and British pale malts along with dry malt extracts.  I added Galena, Centennial, Kent Golding and Hallertau hops as well.  I may have used too much Centennial, but I did wait till the 30 minute mark to add them.  Shelley detected a bit of a hop bite on our sample last weekend when I moved it from the primary to the secondary.   So I may need to cut back on the Centennial next time or use a less powerful hop.  I finished it off with some American Wheat yeast.

My calculations indicated I should be around a SG 1.066 (may be a bit high), ABV of 6.8% (also too high), 43 IBU and 5 HCU.  The IBUs may be high for Shelley’s taste and I think she may be right when she tasted it last weekend.

My final numbers turned out pretty good.  My SG turned out to be 1.060 and the ABV came down to 6.2%.  I like both those numbers much better.  We’ll see how it ages as it sits in the secondary for the next month.  Both Shelley and I tried some samples when I transferred it the secondary.  The flavor isn’t quite there yet but the aroma is very good.  There is a bit of a honey flavor at the start but that fades pretty quick.  My guess is some more aging should help this over time.

Here are the two beers sitting in their secondaries.

The Red will be transferred to the keg next weekend and should be ready to drink the weekend after that.  The Honey has another month in the secondary and another week in the keg before it’s ready.  We still have some of the Russian Imperial Stout and Pumpkin Spice on tap, so we are trying to make some room for the Red.  The stout should go first and I’m trying hard to drink it all up so I have room for the Red.  Bummer life, yeh?

Speaking of the Russian, that is my next project.  That will get started around March 27 so it will be ready in October.

2010 Pumpkin Spice Ale

I finally got around to brewing the Pumpkin Spice Ale for this season.  I’m quite a bit late due to the remodel in the master bedroom.  Last year I brewed this beer the first week of September.  I’m hoping it will be ready by Christmas, but that’s going to be close.

I made a few changes to this year’s version.  Because I’m so late I am using canned pumpkin mash instead of making my own from pumpkins.  I also used pumpkin pie spice along with cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, ginger and cloves.  I eliminated the ground cinnamon as well and chose to use real sticks of cinnamon instead.  The final difference is in how I used the pumpkin mash.  I used 9 pounds of mash and split it into two groups.  I put 5 pounds in the boil and 4 pounds in the primary.  Now, 9 pounds sounds like a lot, but it really wasn’t.  More on that later.

I had a guest brewer over to help me out this time.  My brother-in-law, Travis, stopped by just as I was starting the steep and stuck around till the beer was in the primary.  His extra pair of hands and eyes were a great help.

Once I got the steep water up to 170 degrees I put the grains into the water.  I wrapped the pot with a thick blanket and just hung out and waited for 45 minutes.  I used some British Pale, British Munich and American Crystal Malt, 40L in the steep.  The blanket was a great tip I got from Hawk earlier this year.  That helped me maintain my water temperature throughout the steep.  Once the water was up to 170 degrees, the blanket kept it right there for the entire 45 minutes.  I was also lucky that there wasn’t any wind and the outside temperature was about 60 degrees.

When you are just hanging out for the steep to finish, there isn’t much to do but wait.  So, might was well wait in comfort with some home brew (the Big Black Russian) and a cigar.  I nice robusto can easily be smoked in 45 minutes.  Here you can see two of our patio chairs acting as a windbreak and the boil pot wrapped in the blanket.

Once the steep was finished, I did a poor man’s sparge of the grains.  I just took the grain bag out, placed it into a funnel that Travis held onto and poured a gallon of 170 degree water over the grains and let it drain back into the wort.  I’m not sure this does all that much, but it certainly doesn’t hurt things.  This additional gallon of water brought the total wort volume up to 5 gallons.  That’s important to remember for later.


Once the sparge was finished we added the light, dry malts and first 5 pounds of pumpkin mash.

Once the malts and pumpkin were added, it was time to sit back and relax for an hour.  So, I pulled out one of my dad’s old pipes and smoked that while I kept an eye on the boil.  We had the football game on the TV as well while we enjoyed another home brew.  At the 45 minute mark it was time to put the immersion chiller into the wort to get it ready to chill the wort down from its current 203 degrees to 70 – 75 degrees.  In the photo of me trying to keep the pipe lit, you can see the immersion chiller in the wort.  The hose in the background is the out-put water.  I run the hose out to the trees to keep it a bit dryer around the patio.

With 10 minutes left in the boil I tossed in all the spices.  Here they are in the bowl ready to go and then getting ready to go into the boil.

After 60 minutes of boiling, the heat is shut off and the cold water is run through the immersion chiller (the dark green hose) and out the out-put hose (the light green hose on top).  In order to speed this up a bit we stirred the wort.  This helps get the temperature down in about 15 minutes.  I did a really good job with my temperature control this time.  I think it had to do with little to no wind out on Sunday.  I was able to maintain right about 203 degrees pretty well.  The only time I lost a bit of my boil was when I submerged the cold immersion chiller.  But I was able to get the boil back pretty quickly.  That’s something to think about for next time.

Here’s a short video of Travis working on chilling the wort.  The clanging noises is the metal spoon hitting the copper piping of the immersion chiller.

Once the wort is chilled down I moved it to the laundry room to transfer it into the primary fermentor.  Once the transfer was complete I tossed in the last 4 pounds of pumpkin mash.  This will sit in the primary until fermentation is complete.  I’m hoping that by adding this right at the end, I’ll get some more pumpkin aroma and flavor into the beer.  You can see the chunks floating around on top.  They were eventually broken up and mixed into the wort.

So, after the transfer I needed to bring the total wort up to 7 gallons.  The primary bucket has a scale on the side which indicated to me that I currently had just over 6 gallons of liquid in the primary.  But hold on……I started out with 4 gallons in the steep, added one gallon during the poor man’s sparge and ended up with just over 6.  There was a lot of water caught up in that pumpkin mash (plus just the pure volume of mass that the pumpkin represents as well).  So, I don’t really know how much pumpkin is in the beer.  I can say 9 pounds, but that 9 pounds includes quite a bit of water.

I took some measurements and then had Travis double check my observations.  Here are the final numbers taken from my hydrometer and then calculated out on a program that takes into account the temperature differences.  All measurements were taken at 66 degrees.

Potential alcohol by volume:  8.25% (taken on the Hydrometer)
Potential alcohol by volume:  8.22% (taken from the calculator)
Specific Gravity T60 degrees (Original Gravity):  1.062 (measured at 66 degrees)
Actual Original Gravity after computing for temperature:  1.0626
Balling: 22 (taken from Hydrometer)
Balling: 15.34 (taken from calculator)

I hit my original gravity pretty well.  I’m hoping for a final gravity of under 1.020.  If I do that, I should be pretty good.  8% is kind of high, but as long as I don’t go under 1.010 I should be okay.  The beer should stay in the primary for about a week to ten days, then I will move it over to the secondary.  I’ll take more measurements at that time for a good comparison of where the beer is at.  As of this post the beer is fermenting away downstairs in a spare bathtub.  So far, so good.

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