Pumpkin porter. Sounds good? Yep. Sounds easy? No.
In my ongoing effort to, apparently, drive myself crazy, I decided to make a pumpkin porter Saturday. Actually, I decided a few months ago. I brewed it Saturday.
This was something I was really looking forward to, even though I’m not a huge consumer of porters. I already have a raspberry porter in the carboy (see comment at the end of this post), and that should pretty much surpass my porter consumption limits. Add that to the 1/2 batch of stout I made a few weeks ago, and I’m set for the year.
But the pumpkin porter sounded good, and looked like a bit of a challenge. I like a challenge–easy brewing is boring–but in this case the challenge was the doofus brewer, not the recipe.
First, peel and chop baking pumpkins to get 2 Lb of the flesh. Easy. Boil it in “enough water to cover it” for about 20 minutes. Then, puree. Here I got to use one of my newest gadgets, my KitchenAid 7 cup food processor. (caveat: I have recently learned that while 7 cups may be the capacity of the bowl, if you put in more than about 4 cups of liquid, it will all leak out through the hole in the middle).
Then, you “mash” it. That is, mix it with an appropriate enough amount of hot water and crushed malted barley. The grain has to be there because the enzymes in the barley will convert the starch in both the barley and the pumpkin to fermentable sugars. There’s a not-too-complicated formula for water to “grain and adjuncts” proportions, and you need to have it sit at a certain temperature for a certain length of time. The recipe was a little simplistic for me (it was made, I think, for people who know nothing about mashing). Unfortunately, I tried to modify the process to suit my sense of sophisticated elitism, and of course, screwed it up.
Actually, I’m going to defen d myself here. I didn’t screw it up on my own. The recipe was a little vague. It called for pureeing the pumpkin, “but don’t throw out the cooking liquid” then putting the pumpkin in the brewpot with the grains, and 1/2 Gallon of water. It did not say to put the brewing liquid back, too.
In the recipe, you then raise the temp to about 155 and hold it there for 45 minutes. I have a lot of trouble holding temperatures in brewpots (unless I’m actually boiling) so I have a 2.5 Gallon thermos into which I put the grains, pumpkin and hot water, hot enough to hold at about 155 when mixed with the cooler grains. (usually if you put in water at 165, it will stabilize at 155. That’s the theory anyway. I always have trouble hitting the mark.).
The temperature is important, because a few degrees’ difference means you will have more or less fermentable sugars. this, in turn, means that either your yeast will not have enough to eat, making a sweeter and fuller bodied beer, or your yeast will have lots to eat, making a “drier” and thinner beer. Depending on the style you’re going for, any of these outcomes can be good or bad.
Well, after fudging with the temp for a bit, getting it to someplace where I think it’s okay, I let it sit for 45 min. Then I looked at the water in which I boiled the pumpkin, and thought “should this have gone in there, too?” I re-read the recipe. Wasn’t sure. I then consulted my mashing proportions. From my recollection, the proportion of water to grain should be about 1-1.5 Quarts per lb. That would mean 2.5 lb of grain plus 2 Lb of pumpkin would need… way more water than I had used. (A gallon is 4 Quarts, so we’d be looking at at least 1 Gallon). The proportions are important.
Anyway, cursing myself, I heated up the pumpkin cooking liquid to about 165-170, dumped it in the thermos, stirred it around, and let it sit for another 1/2 hour. Whatever, right? I get to the “whatever, let’s just finish this” stage after two hours of preparing.
Next step, boiling. The recipe calls for straining this into the brewpot, then adding enough water to make 4.5Gallons. I have a 5 Gallon brewpot, and a 10 Gallon one. the 10 Gallon is the one without a lid (it was supposed to come Friday but they “forgot to put it on the truck” and it’s being courriered on Monday–I’ll believe it when I see it). the problem with trying to heat 4.5 Gallons of thick liquid on a regular stove is that it will have serious trouble reaching a full rolling boil. This is something I’ve written about before, so I’m not going to get into it here. Suffice it to say, that it took a LOOOOONG time to get boiling, and then whenever I added something else, it took a long time to get back up to boiling. the lid would have helped with heating, but not with the full boil, since you need to keep the lid off so some water evaporates away.
The rest was just process. A long boil, followed by a long cooling time, followed by a long straining into the fermenter (all the pureed pumpkin gummed up my strainer). I added to it some very active yeast from a previous IPA, which I had racked to a secondary carboy while the beer was brewing. This may add some additional hoppiness to a beer that is not supposed to be all that hoppy, but it should be okay.
It is now bubbling away in the basement. Cross your fingers on that one.
BTW, just an aside. I was intending to bottle the Raspberry Porter on Saturday. I did not do this. I tasted it, and it was way too raspberry-y for my liking. All the other flavours were gone. So I’m trying to figure out how to modify it. I may add some cocoa and maybe lactose powder (boiled to sanitize) into a secondary fermenter. This may ruin the whole batch, but as it is it is in my opinion, undrinkable. We’ll see.