Pumpkin Patch Imperial Stout

I have a more-or-less annual tradition of making a pumpkin beer, and I was looking for something a bit different this time around. Although to be honest, I’m always looking for something different on pumpkin beers! Each brewing year brings something unique–for 2017, I’m doing a pumpkin imperial stout!

The recipe is patterned after a BYO clone recipe for Southern Tier’s Warlock Imperial Stout, in the September 2017 issue. I scaled it down from 5 gallons to 3 gallons, because I didn’t really want a massive quantity of a ~10% abv beer. To up the malt complexity, I subbed in Vienna malt for the recipe’s 2-row, and subbed Warrior in for Chinook hops. Because this is such a high gravity beer, I assumed 70% mash efficiency (which turned out to still be a bit high). My local shop didn’t have WLP022 (Essex Ale yeast) in stock, so I opted for Mangrove Jack’s M15 (Empire Ale).

Pumpkin Patch Imperial Stout

  • 6.25 lbs. Vienna malt (Great Western)
  • 5 lbs. 2-row pale malt (Rahr)
  • 0.6 lb. flaked barley
  • 0.5 lb. de-bittered black malt (Dingemans)
  • 0.3 lb. caramel malt 60L (Briess)
  • 0.25 lb. Munich II malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.19 lb. chocolate malt (Briess)
  • 0.15 lb. rice hulls
  • 0.6 lb. pumpkin puree (homemade)
  • 1 oz. Warrior hops (15.8% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Fermax yeast nutrient, 10 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. Empire ale yeast (Mangrove Jack’s M15)
  • Cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, and ginger extracts to taste (3:1 ratio of cinnamon to others)

Target Parameters

  • Infusion mash to hit target of 150°, 60 minutes. Batch sparge.
  • Claremont tap water, with Campden tablet.
  • 1.095 o.g., 1.022 f.g., 9.7% abv, 70.5 IBU, 38 SRM, 3 gallons into fermenter


  • I mashed in with 4.4 gallons of water at 162°, to hit a mash temperature of 151.4°. Given the big bulk of grain, the mash temperature held pretty well for the full 60 minutes.
  • After 60 minutes, I vorlaufed and collected the first runnings. I had a very slow run-off for this step.
  • I then added 2.45 gallons of sparge water at 185°, let it sit for 10 minutes, and vorlaufed again. I did a gentler (slower) vorlauf, which seemed to help with the sparging issue.
  • In total, I collected 4.9 gallons of water with a gravity of 1.065, for 67% mash efficiency. Given the high target gravity versus the volume of water, I’m not incredibly surprised. Nonetheless, I’ll want to remember to adjust efficiency accordingly for my next high gravity recipe.
  • I brought the wort to a boil and added the various hops, etc., at the designated time. After 60 minutes, I turned off the heat and chilled the wort to around 80°. I transferred while aerating, and then pitched the yeast directly.
  • Starting gravity was 1.085. I’ll be starting fermentation at 66°. I brewed the beer on 19 August 2017, and had visible yeast activity within 9 hours after pitching.
  • After around two weeks, I’ll add the appropriate spice extracts. I plan to make these myself, using a vodka infusion. Although the original recipe calls for clove extract, I am going to leave that out, because (as I read once from Gordon Strong) clove is too often an off flavor and might detract from the overall taste on the final product.

Fermenting happily, ~12 hours after yeast pitching

Beer Tasting: Pumpkin Ale 2015

My latest pumpkin ale is nearing the end of its run this year, so I wanted to do a tasting before the keg was kicked. I’ve served this beer to a number of friends, to rave reviews (well, except for one person who doesn’t like any pumpkin beer, period, but I accept that the style isn’t for everyone!). It has done a good job of satisfying my pumpkin beer cravings for another year.

  • The Basics
    • Original gravity = 1.064; final gravity = 1.017; abv = 6.2%; estimated IBU = 13
  • Appearance
    • The beige head is of a medium consistency on the bubbles, moderate in size, and quite persistent. The beer itself is clear and medium amber in color, with no evident haze.
  • Aroma
    • This beer smells just like pumpkin pie with whipped cream on top! I pick up vanilla and nutmeg fairly prominently, with a faint vegetal/pumpkin background. Somewhat surprisingly, I don’t get any cinnamon immediately on the aroma, but I think that’s my nose. A freshly poured glass sampled later had a very prominent cinnamon aroma. I detect no distinct malt or hops aroma.
  • Flavor
    • The flavor is moderately malty, with a light caramel character. Bitterness is moderate too, and evenly balanced against the malts. I don’t really pick up much spicing, if any, in the flavor itself, except perhaps a hint of cinnamon at the finish.
  • Mouthfeel
    • The body is moderate, with good carbonation as I would like in a beer like this. It has a slightly sweet finish, which pleasantly lingers.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Yes! Overall, this beer drinks quite smoothly and has the spices very well balanced (to my palate), so it’s more than the typical pumpkin ale which is just a lager with some cinnamon and nutmeg. This is a very solid recipe, and the beer was well-received by most people who have sampled it. My only minor change might be to dial back the cinnamon a touch next time, but that’s an easy fix.
  • Overall
    • 8.5/10

Pumpkin Ale 2015

Pumpkin beers are perhaps one of the most divisive styles I know, and for good reason. Too many take the “just add spice” approach, and are basically a light lager with an overdose of cinnamon and nutmeg. However, I know that there are good pumpkin beers out there, as evidenced by some reasonable success on last year’s pumpkin ale. Following a string of successes with recipes from Gordon Strong’s Modern Homebrew Recipes, I opted to give his pumpkin ale recipe a try (in very slightly modified form to adjust for ingredient availability). His recipe is intriguing for its sheer amount of pumpkin–9 pounds–as well as for its complex grain bill that I think will make the background beer more interesting in its own right.

Pumpkin Ale 2015

  • 5 lbs. Golden Promise malt
  • 3 lbs. Vienna malt
  • 2 lbs. Munich II (“Dark Munich”) malt
  • 0.5 lbs. brown malt
  • 1 lbs. flaked oats
  • 1 lbs. flaked wheat
  • 1 lb. Belgian Caramel Vienne malt (17 SRM)
  • 0.25 lb. pale chocolate malt (225 SRM)
  • 9 lbs. Libby’s pumpkin puree (5 large cans, added at vorlauf and transferred to boil kettle in bag)
  • 3 oz. Grandma’s Original Molasses
  • 0.5 lb. Turbinado sugar
  • 1.65 oz. Hallertau hops pellets (4.3% alpha, 5.6% beta), 20 minute boil
  • 1 tbs. 5.2 pH stabilizer (in mash)
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet (10 minute boil)
  • 1 vial English Ale yeast (WLP002), in 1.5 L starter
  • Spice blend including:
    • 6 large sticks cinnamon, broken up and crushed
    • 1.5 tbs. crystallized ginger, chopped up
    • 1 whole nutmeg, coarsely ground
    • 10 whole allspice, coarsely ground
    • 2 vanilla beans, split, scraped, and chopped
    • 4 black cardamom pods, peeled from husks and crushed
    • 0.25 tsp. ground mace
  • Prior to brewing, I put the pumpkin puree into a few baking dishes, so that it formed a layer 1-2″ thick in each. I roasted the pumpkin in a 400° oven for 1.5 hours, stirring it up every 15 to 20 minutes. By the end of this, a lot of the excess moisture had been driven off and the pumpkin had darkened up a bit too. After it all cooled, I placed it in a big mesh grain bag and set it aside for the mash
  • I mashed in the grains with 5.1 gallons of water at 168°. The mash stabilized at around 156°, and was down to 154° after 40 minutes. After 60 minutes, I added the pumpkin and 1 gallon of water at 180°. I vorlaufed after 15 minutes, drained the mash tun, and added 4.1 gallons of water at 185°. I let this sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and drained the rest of the wort. I transferred the pumpkin over to the boil kettle, and let it steep while the wort came to a boil.
  • In total, I collected 7.5 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.050, which equates to 68% efficiency.
  • I brought the wort to a boil, and at this point removed the pumpkin. I saved the pumpkin to recycle for a pumpkin soup. The wort boiled for 60 minutes total. I added the hops during the last 20 minutes, a Whirlfloc tablet during the last 10 minutes, and the spices at flameout. I let the spices sit in the hot wort for 10 minutes, before removing them and chilling the wort as usual.
  • Once I had cooled the wort down around 80°, I transferred it to the fermenter and pitched the yeast. (The yeast had been cold-crashed, so I decanted most of the spent starter).
  • Starting gravity was 1.064, a touch higher than initially predicted (1.060). The cinnamon is pretty prominent–I am a little worried that it might be too much so (I suspect the recipe’s 6 cinnamon sticks were smaller than the one’s I used!), but maybe that worry will be unfounded. I started fermentation on October 3. The beer was happily krausened when I checked on it ~12 hours later, and had a robust fermentation. I will leave it in primary for at least 2 weeks.

Beer Tasting: Andy’s Pumpkin Ale 1.0

Before this beer got too far along, I wanted to do a critical tasting of my pumpkin ale. I’ve only got a few bottles left, and have been enjoying these through the winter months. Pumpkin ales (and pumpkin spice anything) are a bit of a trend these days, which has resulted in no shortage of commercial examples that (in my taste opinion) range from mediocre to delicious. Not one to dodge a beer bandwagon, it seemed like a good idea to brew one. As you’ll see below, yes, it was a good idea!

  • Basics
    • Original gravity = 1.060; final gravity = 1.012; abv = 6.3%
  • Aroma
    • A hint of nutmeg and pumpkin (the savory vegetable aroma from freshly cooked pumpkin). Very nicely balanced–not a “spice bomb.”
  • Appearance
    • Thick off-white head with excellent staying power; a creamy appearance and feel to the head. The beer itself is brilliantly clear, with a rich golden hue (the picture really doesn’t do it justice). This is about as beautiful as it gets.
  • Flavor
    • Hard to describe, in a good way. Very lightly malty, with a pleasant but not overwhelming bitterness. I definitely pick up the nutmeg–distinct, but not overpowering–but the cinnamon is much more subtle; basically, just a little zing on the finish.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Perhaps a touch overcarbonated. That aside, the mouthfeel is pretty smooth, just as I’d hope for something with pumpkin.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Absolutely! I might dial back the carbonation just a notch, but otherwise this is pretty much the perfect pumpkin ale. The vegetable, malt, and spices are well balanced, and the body is full enough that it’s not like a lager with spice added. This recipe is going into the yearly rotation. I’ll also note that it has aged very well, and is just as tasty (if not more) after two months.
  • Overall rating
    • 8/10