We have a problem… a Ghost Problem

For better or for worse Pumpkin ales of all sorts are a staple of the fall season. They come in many varieties; sours, stouts, ambers, IPA, etc. Whether or not they are good pumpkin beers is an entirely subjective matter. Personally I have had enough pumpkin beers to know that there is a solid foundation to make some really tasty pumpkin beers.

We have been throwing around an idea for a stout for a little over a year now, it was originally supposed to be a Halloween beer but we never got around to brewing it on time. We decided that even though the season (for all intents and purposes) was over we would still go through with making our pumpkin beer. This one has a bit of a twist on the traditional styles though. This would be a smoked pumpkin stout with vanilla beans. There is most definitely going to be a lot going on here, but we feel the flavors will meld together with time.

We decided to call this; Ghost Problems: A Spooky Stout

10 lbs     Maris Otter
1 lb         C-40
1 lb         Chocolate Malt
8 oz        Roasted Barley
2 lbs       Peachwood Smoked Malt

3 oz        Crystal Hops

1.5 lbs   Roasted Pumpkin

1 TB        Pumpkin Spice (Allspice, Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg)

Original Gravity:      1.060           Final Gravity:            1.012

ABV: 6.28%

Actual OG:                 1.056           Efficiency: 60%

We had a few options in regards to adding the pumpkin to the beer. We could’ve done a mash infusion, boil, or add it to the secondary. Of the options we were presented with, I liked the idea of boiling it the most. Mash was a close second on the list – but the idea of a stuck sparge and messy mash tun didn’t necessarily get me excited.

I had originally planned for the mash to be at 163F but decided that was probably a bit too high, so I changed it to 153F, which is a pretty safe temperature. We did a single infusion mash with a batch sparge (strike water heated to 170F and rest for 15 minutes). You immediately smell the light smokiness of the peachwood smoked malt we used, but it wasn’t overbearing. It was definitely there, but it was very subtle; exactly what we wanted.

We ended up with more wort than originally anticipated, but with a 90 minute boil it wasn’t the end of the world, but still had a slightly lower OG because of it.

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Hot break about to pop

We did two hop additions, one at 30 minutes of ¾ ounces and another at 75 minutes of 2 ¼ ounces. When it came time to add the pumpkin at 70 minutes, rather than throw the pumpkin inside the kettle we added it our hop bag and set it aside. With 10 minutes left in the boil we added a yeast energizer and our pumpkin spice. The pumpkin spice was a mixture of; allspice, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. It smelled awesome going into the boil and left a lingering aroma of pie.

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Nice rolling boil with all additions of hops, pumpkin, and pumpkin spices!

The addition of the spices and the pumpkin made the wort have a pretty great looking orange hue. The color combined with the rolling boil was almost hypnotic to look at, and the smell only added to the mesmeric allure. We chilled it down to 66F, hit it with 120 seconds of pure O2 (thank you, diffusion stone) and added two packs of WLP007. Within 12 hours it was bubbling away like crazy. We used a blow-off tube for this one, but it might not have been necessary, oddly enough.

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Wort going into the carboy

We are going to add vanilla beans once primary fermentation has completed. I may also add a bit more spices depending on how much they come out. Based on the sample it wasn’t spice heavy, and we could maybe use a bit more. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it though.

Josh and I are both really excited for this beer, not only because we’ve been talking about it for over a year now, but also because the sample was very promising. If it all goes well this may be something we brew every year for the holidays.

Cheers.