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This is the podcast where we investigate, experience, and share interesting finds
My name is Asher and lets begin
The informal investigation podcast is for entertainment purposes only. We are not responsible if you mess up. You should always do your own homework. If you try anything mentioned on this podcast you are doing so at your own risk. The views presented on this podcast are solely those of the speakers and do not represent any affiliated or unaffiliated organizations.
Today we are opening an informal investigation into pumpkin beer
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For those of you who haven't noticed the summer has come to an end
I’m sorry, the fall is now upon us, and winter is coming
It is that time when pumpkin everything has completely taking over our lives
We have to make that difficult decision every morning whether to order our regular black coffee or a pumpkin spice latte
Pumpkinizing everything has become the norm’ and everyone's inner basic white girl has come out to play
I was listening to the radio the other day and the host made a joke “They even put pumpkin spice on grill cheese” and everyone laughed on the laugh track.
Its no joke! 2 years ago I made a killer wrapped pumpkin spice brie that could have easily been turned into amazing grilled cheese sandwiches
Today we are not talking about PSL’s aka Pumpkin spice lattes or some other modern pumpkinized foodity but rather one that dates back to 1771 . Yes, 17 freakin 71.
In doing research for this episode I got my hands on the oxford companion to beer written by Garrett Oliver - who I consider one of the most famous brew masters alive today
This book is an encyclopedia for beer
It literally goes from A to Z everything beer
As I clicked through the pages and got to the letter P and to my surprise there was actually a section under pumpkin beer
It seems that pumpkin ale is the first original American beer style dating back to the 18th century
As we know, beer is traditionally made by soaking barely and hops in water then allowing the sugars from the barely to ferment creating beer
Because of grain shortages at that time the colonists were looking for other sources of sugars to ferment into alcohol
Well...you can guess what happened next! Get the pumpkins! Screamed the colonists
Smash um! Squeeze um! Hop um!
This actually happened...
Oliver quotes a recipe:
The recipe is entitled
Receipe for pompion ale
“Let the pompion be beaten in a trough and pressed as apples. The expressed juice is to be boiled in a copper a considerable time and carefully skimmed that there may be no remains of the fibrous part of the pulp. After that intention is answered let the liquor be hopped cooled fermented as malt beer. “
This recipe was published by the American philosophical society in Feb 1771
This recipe is almost like a pumpkin cider. If you break it down to its most basic elements Its essentially pumpkin juice that is hopped and fermented
Not exactly sure when our modern version of pumpkin beer surfaced. Wikipedia says that The first commercially brewed pumpkin ale came from Buffalo Bill's Brewery in Hayward, California, in the 1980s.
This was part of the PSL- pumkin spice latte craze where everything started to become pumpkin spice more then actual pumpkin per se
Skipping forward in time, in the year 2020 if you go to beer advocate - which is a popular beer ranking website. There are 1,783 versions of pumpkin beer
Pumpkin beer fits into category 30B - Autumn seasonal beer. When I say category this is the BJCP category - Beer Judge Certification Program. FYI - If you think you have a good palate take their test and you can become a judge!
Pumpkin beer unlike most modern styles is brewed in all sorts of different ways. There's alot of variation between brewers.
Modern day pumpkin beer uses grains - usually different types of barley, wheat and even oats. Hops are added but generally in small quantities because no one really wants a truly bitter pumpkin beer.
Believe it or not it's controversial whether to actually even add pumpkin or just pumpkin spice. Of those who add pumpkin some bake it first, some boil first, some add it early, and some add it late. This is why all pumpkin beer tastes very different.
Reading through the list some of the top beers from beer advocate they include:
Pumpkin from southern tier brewing company
Pumpkin ale from the schlafly taproom
Rumpkin from avery brewing company
Good gourd imperial pumpkin ale from cigar city brewing company
Pumpkinator from saint arnold brewing company
I set out to try as many of these as I could find but depending on where you live in the country this can be difficult
Disclaimer: I have never tried a pumpkin beer I really enjoyed
The problem I ran into is that I didn’t want to buy a bunch of 6 packs that would go to waste. Instead I went to a shop that does make your own six packs and put as many pumpkin beers in as possible
The only one I actually enjoyed was blue points pumpkin ale - they are a brewery in long island NY
After dumping the other 5 pumpkin ales I set out to make my own “modern pumpkin ale” convincing myself i will succeed where everyone else failed
I watched a few youtube videos, checked the book brewing classic styles by john palmer - best beer recipe book out there and finally settled on a recipe
For my grains I decided on:
American 2 row - plain old american barely
Caramel malt - stewed malt that gives a caramel flavor
Biscquit and victory malts - roasted barely that should give me that crust like flavor
As for whether to add pumpkin I went with an astounding yes!
I used 3 cans of pumpkin to which I added pumpkin spice and vanilla extract. Then I baked it at 350degF for an hour to caramelize the sugars in the pumpkin
I then took the pumpkin mush and all the grains above and let it soak in 150F water for an hour and then strained them out
For those of you who have tried your hand in home brewing you know that the next step is the 1 hour boil to sanitize the liquid. I decided to do away with this and just pasteurize the beer.
If you have never worked on a dairy farm pasteurization is the process of bringing a food to a temperature that will kill most of the nastys without exposing it to harsh boiling temperature. This creates a beer known as “raw ale” - The hope of using this method was to create a raw and hazy end product. Pumpkin ales are naturally a little hazy but I wanted to embrace the haze
After all the pumpkin and barley was strained out I raised the temp to 170F for about 10 min. After this I added my hops and proceeded to cool the beer.
Hops normally add a bitter flavor to the beer. Do you like your pumpkin pie bitter? Your answer is probably no! This is why I added the hops late! Hops contain alpha acids that bitter beer when exposed to high temperatures. If however you add your hops late - when the beer is cool you will get the fruity and floral notes instead. This is why our NEIPA’s - or new England IPA’s can taste like a cup of carbonated juice.
Like most plants there are different variety of hops. I chose amarillo which is a variety that is known for its orange and tangerine flavors. My thought was the zesty orange flavor would bridge the gap between the beer and pumpkin spice.
Once the liquid was cooled to around 70-80F(this is the temp yeast likes) i added the yeast. I’m not going to go into the process of choosing yeast but I chose US04 a popular strain of saccharomyces. After the yeast is in just let it sit till the sugars ferment to alcohol, bottle, and enjoy.
Lets take a short break and try the beer I brewed
Explain of taste
I was going to close this investigation but then it hit me!
I need to try the OG version of pumpkin ale
Going back to our recipe from 1771
“Let the pompion be beaten in a trough and pressed as apples” - so basically this is pumpkin juice
“The expressed juice is to be boiled in a copper a considerable time and carefully skimmed that there may be no remains of the fibrous part of the pulp.” - then we boil it
“After that intention is answered let the liquor be hopped cooled fermented as malt beer.“ - add hops, cool, add yeast
I think we got this guys!
It turns out getting pumpkin juice is actually harder to come by then it sounds. One option was to go to harry potter world in orlando i buy them out
I was also considering trying to extract it from pumpkin puree but this seemed extremely inefficient and like cheating
In the end I bought 3 sweat pie pumpkins
After cutting them up and scooping the seeds I juiced them using my moms old juicer
This was a complete mess...I manages to get the juice but i'm pretty sure there are still pumpkin seeds stuck to my ceiling
For next step I boiled the pumpkin juice and skimmed the scum off the top
Following this I added hops - I used a hop variety called azacca just because this is what i had around
The liquid was then cooled and I added yeast and some yeast nutrient
I also needed to add some additional sugar because my pumpkins did not have enough sugar to create a beer with a significant amount of alcohol.
After letting the beer ferment I bottled it in the classic 12oz bottles
Finally, it was time to taste what the colonists were drinking in 1771!
The pumpkin added great color and a refreshing quality to the beer
Unfortunately I added way to much hops
I didn’t realize that the pumpkin juice did not have the body to support much in the way of bitterness
the overriding bitterness almost ruined the beer completely
This 18th century version of pumpkin ale will need some work but it was pretty cool to be drinking what the colonists drank back in the 18th century.
This investigation completely changed the way I think about pumpkin beer. Pumpkin beer is the first american beer style dating back to 1771 just two years before the boston tea party. It is not simply a seasonal fad but actually a significant part of US history. Pumpkin beer has earned its place at the thanksgiving table and represents the ingenuity of our great nation. The next time you here someone talking about pumpkin everything understand the cultural significance of pumpkin everything in the United States of America.
With that we are going to close this investigation. If you enjoyed this podcast please subscribe to be notified about our upcoming episodes. Also, Check the links in our show notes for the resources discussed in this episode.