Now, we Aussies can be forgiven for hearing "pumpkin" and "beer" in the same sentence and thinking that to be a strange concept, but I assure you, the yanks have been brewing pumpkin ale for many years.
The giant pumpkin fermenter
Now, I don't quite recall how I stumbled across this page , but somewhat bemused at this bloke's commitment to utilising his giant pumpkins in his beer, I shared the page with my friends - and my wife, who tends to love these kind of off-beat ideas and often succeeds in motivating me to try them - as is exactly what happened in this case.
I tried to combat her promptings with excuses like "where am I going to get a pumpkin that size?", but as it happened, she'd recently made a friend who happened to have grown giant pumpkins and had no plans for them other than to feed them to their pigs.
So, we took a drive out to Longford and collected one (thanks Ed & Christine).
It seems that most folks who brew a pumpkin ale are looking to introduce the pumpkin pie flavours and spices. I was after more of a roast pumpkin experience, such as the pumpkin from the roast meal that particular afternoon. I decided the beer should take the form of an amber ale, representing roast pumpkin in colour. The beer would be malt-driven with enough bittering from the hops to bring balance and perhaps a faint aroma, but the pumpkin should be the star.
93% Base malt
5% Caramel 120L malt
2% Roasted Rye
0.8 g/L 15% Ella at 60 mins
0.56 g/L 8% Challenger at 10 mins
I gutted the pumpkin (ensuring I cut a neat 'lid') into a large baking dish and added a couple of generous tablespoons of brown sugar to help with the caramalisation. With the 18L of mash sitting on 66C, the guts went in the oven at 180C.
About midway through the course of the 60 min mash I checked on the guts in the oven and was astonished to find it looking more like soup that baked pumpkin. It needed reducing - fast. A dished half into a saucepan and put it on a burner, and leaving the other half in the oven I made sure I opened the oven door regularly.
At the 60 min mark, the pumpkin was about perfect. The reduction was a sticky, seedy caramel - ready for addition to the boil.
Denny's Favourite had finished its slow work within around 10 days, finishing quite high (1.018). I'd put this down to some additional fibre picked up from the fleshy fermenter.
I spent quite sometime in a huge hardware store looking for the right plumbing to install a tap into the pumpkin prior to this project, but alas, walked out empty-handed. So, the messy task of siphoning the brew into a secondary fermenter began.
The secondary was left to cold crash before bottling. As you can see from the picture, the end result wasn't so cloudy for a thick ale :-) Although this pic doesn't do it justice, the brew developed an excellent thick, finely-bubbled head with excellent retention.