Monday, January 23, 2012

Recipe and Tasting Notes: Belgian Pumpkin Ale

Brewery: Bear Flavored
Style: Pumpkin Ale / Belgian Dubbel
Brewed: 11.2.11
ABV: 6.5% 

It's possible that I overdosed on pumpkin beers in 2011, both on the commercial side and the homebrewing side. This Belgian-influenced pumpkin ale is my third pumpkin beer for the year, which is... quite a lot of pumpkin beer to drink in a few months time. Happily, this is probably the best of the three.

Brewing and Tasting Notes: 
Early on in my homebrewing journey, I had the thought that a Belgian-ish beer would make an interesting base for a pumpkin ale. I have never seen another example of this, at least not a commercial example. The very idea would throw beer purists' panties into a tizzy, but hey, why not?  So I designed something vaguely resembling a Belgian dubbel — a little lighter, so the spices could blend in without being overshadowed. And... that's pretty much how this came out. Hey-oh.

I'm not sure whether I prefer this one or my first pumpkin ale, pumpkin-wise, but this one is definitely a "better beer." #1 was a bit more obviously pumpkiny, and had a very clean flavor in the end, once the sweetness mellowed out. #2 was a little off in a couple ways I couldn't accurately pin down, besides being overly-malty and under-carbonated. Overall, this is sort of like a much-better version of pumpkin ale #2. The darkish malt base reminds me of most commercial pumpkin ales, while the spices are mild but well balanced. The Belgian character isn't particularly strong — there's some spiciness in the background showcasing those Belgian yeast, but as I hoped would happen, they blend well enough with the spices that the yeast's contributions are easy to miss.

In a way, this is both more successful and less exciting than I expected. It's not the most obvious of pumpkin ales — and its subtlety makes it pleasantly drinkable after overloading on the style — but I actually think you could sneak this onto a bar's "Pumpkin Beer Night" lineup without drawing many complaints.

Probably the main issue I've had with most of my beers so far (with the exception of the IPAs) is that they end up too sweet, especially those with a more complex malt bill. That's still the main critique I have with this one, too. On the other hand, I almost always prefer exceptionally dry beers, and I haven't yet figured out the art of making malty beers taste clean. Overall, I think this came out rather well. The carbonation is good; the body is good; there are no off-flavors. I don't actually have any specific ideas for how to make the concept of a "Belgian pumpkin ale" more successful. Maybe dial down the sweetness and you have yourself a pretty solid, offensively unorthodox beer.

4 Gal., Partial Mash
OG: 1.062
FG: 1.014 

43.5 % Belgian Pilsner 2 row
3.9 % caramunich
3.9 % biscuit malt
2.0 % special B
38.8 % wheat DME
1.3 % chocolate malt 

Hop Schedule (25 IBU)-
1 oz Challenger @60
0.4 oz EKG @20
0.6 oz EKG @5 
Yeast- Wyeast Belgian Ardennes
Added 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin spices at bottling (cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, cloves)


  1. I'm not sure why you didn't mention the name of this beer or that it was my beer, not yours.

  2. Your beers could be sweet because you are under pitching the yeast. With the higher gravity beers you are making, you could be leaving sugars unfermented, causing the sweetness. Just a guess.

  3. Pumpkin Ale...In my opinion, one of the hardest ales to master drinkability coupled with balance. The first pumpkin ale I brewed was by a long shot the best pumpkin ale I have had to date; I do not like to toot my own horn, but it was fabulous...It actually tasted like delicate sweet pumpkin pie and had a beautiful slightly cloudy orange hue which reminded me of Halloween. The beer was almost thirst quenching like a wit with a light body (which is unusual for a pumpkin ale I fell like) and I feel like most pumpkin beers are failing in this aspect. I researched for hours on how people were executing these types of ales with techniques all over the board. I also drank probably 15 different commercial pumpkin beers and not one was impressive. The main thing I have noticed was most use way too many spices and the actual execution of how the pumpkin was added struck me as odd (I roast pure pumpkin pure and add spices and the roasted pumpkin to the mash; this makes for a messy stuck sparge every time, but its worth it). I served this beer on nitro which turned out to be the game changer...Creamy and fucking lovely, just like it should be. I am now on my 3rd rendition of this and am trying different techniques, including adding 1lb roasted pumpkin pure with minimal spices to the secondary for 5 days. I will again serve this on nitro once completed and will keep you up to date on how it turns out. My main goal is to incorporate actual pumpkin flavor just like moms pumpkin pie at thankgiving along with a creamy mouth feel. If anybody is more interested on these ales please let me know, I will be more than happy to share my detailed techniques. On a side note, at the 2015 GABF no body won a gold in the pumpkin ale category and for good reason...They just were not that good. If you can brew a good pumpkin ale, you my friend have brewed something very special.


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