I was fascinated by the idea of making some kind of a pumpkin ale for a number of years. Interestingly enough I don’t think I’ve ever had a commercial one that really embodied what I envisioned. The result of my experimentation was my Black Pumpkin Ale. This recipe continues to be a favorite among those who frequent my basement pub. I try to make it at least once a year and I think it’s definitely worth focusing on in a future post.
I try to use fresh ingredients in my beer whenever possible. I love the flavor from fresh whole leaf hops, fresh spices, and fresh fruits and vegetables. When I started tailoring my pumpkin ale recipe years ago many of the examples I looked at used canned pumpkin. I knew that wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted to add freshly harvested pumpkin to the mash. So I went to the local farmer’s market, selected two bowling ball sized pie pumpkins and brought them home. I’ve done this almost every year since.
To prepare the pumpkins I start out by halving them and cleaning out the seeds. If you want to you can save the seeds and roast them later. They make a tasty snack.
After cleaning the seeds out of the pumpkins the next step is to spice them. In my recipe I heavily spice them with grated cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice. The fresher the spices are the better. Then I pour some water into a cookie sheet or baking stone, place the pumpkin halves skin side up on the cookie sheets and put them in a 350 degree oven and wait.
Roasting the pumpkins takes about 90 to 120 minutes. The goal is to cook them long enough so that they are cooked all the way through and the skins come off easily. The skins will start to look deflated and turn dark in color.
Once they’re cooked take them out and let them cool until they can be handled. At that point you start cutting. You want to end up with skinless pumpkin cubes that you can throw in your mash tun with your grains. I’ve also heard of extract brewers steeping their pumpkin like they would specialty grains and my friend Tom prefers to just throw his in the boil. There’s plenty of room for experimentation.
Once my wort is in the fermentor and the yeast is pitched I’ll typically pick some of it out of the spent grains, rinse it off, and freeze it. There is still plenty of goodness left for pies, coffee cake, soup, or whatever else you are interested in.