Introduction: Cuco's Pumpkin Ale

Much like the folklore of the pumpkin-headed boogeyman Cuco (or Coco, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coco_(folklore)), this recipe has been the product of several incarnations incorporating knowledge from several sources over my years as a homebrewer.  It's an improvement over a similar pumpkin ale I brewed that won recognition in the Jersey Homebrew Showdown (http://www.nj.com/entertainment/dining/index.ssf/2012/05/jersey_home_brewing_champs.html).  Please forgive me for the dearth of pictures though, I'm typically too absorbed in the brew day to take pictures and this particular batch predates me joining Instructables. 

Ingredients

8.0 oz Rice Hulls
3 lbs Pale Malt (6 Row)
3 lbs 10 oz Pumpkin Puree
9.6 oz CaraHell
8.0 oz Caramel Malt - 60L
8.0 oz Victory Malt
6 lbs 9.6 oz Liquid Malt Extract - Golden Light
8.0 oz Brown Sugar, Light
2.0 oz Molasses
1.00 oz Magnum [14.00 %] (Boil 60.0 min)
2 vials Edinburgh Ale (White Labs #WLP028) 
1 tsp Pumpkin Spice
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract

Equipment

5 gallon brew pot / mash tun (or larger)
Large brew/grain bag or cheese cloth
Long spoon
5-6 gallon carboy or fermentation bucket
Funnel
Fermentation lock
Brewing thermometer

Intro

Everyone's equipment is different, so I'm going to go through the brew day as if I'm a newbie with the minimum equipment (assuming anyone with more advanced gear will be able to adapt this method accordingly, if not, let me know).

This is a partial mash recipe.  For those of you new to homebrewing, that means that most of the mash (converting malt to wort, or fermentable liquid) is already done for you.  This is a great method to start out with for new brewers, brewers with limited space or equipment and brewers who don't feel like dealing with pounds of wet grain.  That's not to say that this is an entry level recipe, it utilizes techniques that are best attempted after a couple successful brew sessions.

Before You Start

Remember, it is important to follow the golden rule of homebrewing... drink a homebrew while you brew.  So crack open a fresh one while you lay out your equipment and ingredients.

Mash-In: Step 1, Protein Rest

Collect 3 gallons of water in your pot.  Drop the tail end of your grain bag into the water and add your 6-Row Malt, Rice Hulls and Pumpkin Puree.  Mix the ingredients together with your spoon, close off the bag and bring the water to 120 degrees F for 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes.

Take a look at the Sep/Oct 2013 issue of Zymurgy for a great article by Scott Jackson detailing this mash method.  It's a little longer than most mashes but it gives you great color and flavor from the pumpkin.

Mash-In: Step 2, Sacch Rest

Add the remaining grain (CaraHell, Caramel 60L and Victory Malt) to the grain bag.  Bring the water to 154 degrees F for another 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.  The enzymes in the 6 Row will help to breakdown proteins (previous step) and complex carbohydrates (this step) in the pumpkin for the yeast to chew on, giving you a more pumpkin-y beer.  The Rice Hulls act to break up the gelatinous blob that would otherwise be your puree and malt while simultaneously allowing better circulation of the water.

While this is a pumpkin ale, it's base recipe is more of a strong scotch ale.  This imparts added characteristics to the brew that will help accentuate the pumpkin.  Not only are we getting a nice amber color from these later grain additions, we are also getting a wonderful caramel flavor and nose that will help round out the pumpkin.

Mash-Out

Bring the water to 170 degrees F for 10 minutes.  While you are doing this bring another gallon of water to 170 degrees (it may be a little warmer, just not boiling), this is your sparge water.

Sparge

Remove the grain bag and allow it to drain into the pot.  There are as many ways to do this as your imagination affords, but please whatever you do be careful and don't squeeze the grain bag.  I use an extra large colander which fits nicely atop my pot others support it above another container and add the drippings later, but if you're looking for a good isometric workout, holding the bag while it drains is just fine.

With the grain bag out of the brew pot, rinse it with the 1 gallon of water.  Again, it will depend on your technique on how you do this, but you can either dunk the bag into another pot with the sparge water or pour it slowly over the bag.  This amounts to a rather inefficient sparge, but it's all we really need for this recipe.

Boil

After you've collected the drippings (or your arms has fallen off), bring the pot to a rolling boil under constant supervision.  At this point you will experience hot break, the foaming and coagulation of all the proteins and carbohydrates in the water, and if you don't pay attention your pot will boil over and create a terrible mess.  Once the hot break has subsided add your Liquid Malt Extract (LME) while you constantly stir, doing this will avoid scorching.  If you're having trouble here, I find warming the LME in a water bath helps move things along, or you could always turn the heat off before you add it.

Once your LME is dissolved, add your Magnum Hops into a hop bag or straight to the wort.  Boil for 90 minutes uncovered, stirring occasionally.  Just before you turn the heat off add your Brown Sugar, stir until it dissolves, then your Molasses.  Turn your heat off, add Pumpkin Pie Spice and Vanilla then place the lid on the pot.

Cooling

it is vitally important that you cool your wort to room temperature as quickly as possible.  There are a myriad of ways to do this, the easiest is putting the pot in an ice bath.  After this, everything you do must be done in a sanitary manner.

Primary Fermentation

Sanitize your fermentation vessel (carboy or fermenting bucket), funnel and anything else that may come in contact with your wort.  I use a Star San solution but there are several options out there.

Transfer your room temperature wort from your pot to your fermentation vessel.  If using a bucket, this means simply pouring it in but you'll need your funnel for a carboy.  Add your 2 vials of Edinburgh Ale Yeast, then top off with enough room temperature water to reach 5 gallons (I typically use about 2-2.25 gallons of bottled spring water).  Vigorously shake the vessel for 5 minutes to aerate the wort.

Finishing Your Beer

Primary fermentation ends at around two weeks at room temperature, at this time you have several options available to you.  You can either transfer your beer to another fermentation vessel for a secondary fermentation to aid in clarification and maturation, you can transfer into a keg to force carbonate, or you can transfer into a bottling bucket with 3.5 oz. of corn sugar dissolved in water.  For all options make sure you properly clean and sanitize any surface the beer may come in contact with.

Serving Your Beer

This brew pours with a lofty orange-tan head and deep amber-orange body.  With a beer like this, you're going to want to show off it's balance of spice, caramel and pumpkin while tempering yourself against its surly 8% ABV.  I would recommend hearty dishes and desserts to pair with that are not overly spicy or complex.  Think turkey dinner not Thai, though there are some tasty pumpkin curries that this would go very well with.  Some of my friends and family like to drink this brew in a tulip glass rimmed with pumpkin pie spice and sugar.  Whatever option you chose, just be sure to enjoy it responsibly.



Brewer's Notes

- A little bit of spice goes a long way.  If you feel there isn't enough, wait until primary fermentation ends then add a fraction of a teaspoon more every day or every other day until you get the flavor you want.
- Proper aeration of your wort is necessary for healthy yeast reproduction, especially when you get up into the 8% ABV range.  Just make sure you minimize the time the wort is exposed to outside air.
- This recipe calls for 2 vials of yeast, though advanced brewers know to make yeast starters from 1 vial or cultivated yeast, which should be the method you use once you are comfortable.
- This is a partial boil method, meaning only a fraction of the finished volume of beer is boiled then diluted with water at the end.  Full boils produce better beer and reduce the chances of contamination but require larger boil pots to account for boil-off and boil-overs.
- Maintaining consistent temperatures during primary fermentation is important, especially for the first 3-5 days.  Keep your fermenter insulated with cold packs or warmed with a heater to maintain a constant temperature around 68 degrees F.
- Maintaining mash temperatures can be tricky, wrapping your pot with an old towel or sleeping bag during the hold times (when the heat is turned off, obviously) can help retain the required temperatures.
- Do not add the pumpkin pie spice or vanilla to the active boil.  Both contain volatile and temperature-sensitive essential oils, aromatics and flavors that will dissipate rapidly at boiling temperatures.
- Fermentation is recommended in a vessel that is at least 6 gallons in capacity.  Smaller vessels and/or vessels at warmer fermentation temperatures will probably need to be equipped with a blow-off tube for the first few days.  This is a sanitized tube that runs from the top of the fermenter into a container of water to create an air lock while also allowing the excess krausen (foam at the top of the beer) to escape.
- You can brew this with actual pumpkin you have roasted yourself, though it's obviously more difficult, time consuming and it may not be ready in time if you are brewing it for Halloween since pumpkins hit the grocers in October.  If you do decide to use fresh pumpkin, pick a 10 lbs cheese (baking) pumpkin cut the flesh into 1-2 inch squares.  Score the pieces with a knife and lay them rind-side down on baking sheets with water in the bottom.  Before you put the pumpkin in you can also dip the flesh in a bit of brown sugar, but this isn't necessary.  Roast the pieces at 350 degrees F, refilling the water as necessary, for as long as it takes to make the flesh yield to a spoon (midway the consistency between a fresh and boiled potato).  This process took me about 2 hours, but that's not edict.  Finally mash the pumpkin with a bit of water to a puree.

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Bio: Avid homebrewer, guerrilla geneticist and constant crafter. I am always elbow deep in at least three projects while dreaming up another. Currently I'm exploring ... More »
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