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Your Halloween party just got more festive (and boozier)
Halloween is inching closer and closer, and we're already gearing up for our Halloween bash. So naturally, we couldn't be more pumped to pick up one more pumpkin for this fantastic conversation-starter: the DIY pumpkin keg.
Melissa Klein at Celebrations demonstrates really just how simple it is: if you've carved a pumpkin before, you'll get the basic gist. Once your pumpkin is hallowed out (those seeds will clog your spigot, so be warned), carve out a place-holder for the spigot, pop it in, and pour away.
Check out the video of Klein's pumpkin keg demonstration, as well as her instructions below (you can get more directions from Celebrations).Supplies:
1 large pumpkin
Marker or pencil
Plastic spigot (aka tap)
Lots of Sam Adams Octoberfest beer
Click here for directions to make the DIY pumpkin keg.
How to Brew Beer
This guide tells you exactly how to make your first batch of brew with just a handful of special equipment and ingredients.
Making beer at home is easier than you think. It requires just a handful of affordable equipment and special ingredients and it&aposs a great way to learn a new skill while impressing your friends!
Unlike cooking recipes which are expected to take a few hours at most, beer recipes have a timeline that is more like four weeks from beginning to end. While the wait may be long, it doesn&apost take very much work to brew your own beer from malt extract. You&aposll need a few special ingredients and pieces of equipment that can all be ordered online or provided by a local homebrew shop.
There are three major phases in the brewing process: wort making, fermentation, and packaging. Wort making is the step that requires the most work from the brewer, as you make a perfect solution for brewer&aposs yeast to turn into tasty beer. During wort making fermentable sugars from malt are combined with the flavor and antioxidant properties of hops. The next step is fermentation, the time when special yeast bred to ferment wort converts sugar into carbon dioxide (CO2) and ethyl alcohol (ethanol) to make beer. While fermentation happens there is no action required by the brewer because yeast are doing all the work! The final step of brewing is packaging. In most cases homemade beer will go into bottles but it can also go into large bottles called growlers or kegs for serving on draft. A small amount of sugar is added to the beer before it goes into individual bottles. This sugar acts as food for the yeast in the beer which they turn into the CO2 we expect in beer! Yes, all those bubbles in your final brew are from a yeast snack.
What You'll Need: The Key Ingredients
Before beginning the brewing process, you must first understand the four key ingredients necessary to brew a batch of beer: water, fermentable sugar, hops, and yeast. Each ingredient is integral to the recipe and must be cooked in a certain way to yield a successful batch of brew. Understanding their basic qualities and how each ingredient is meant to react with the others is an important aspect of beer brewing.
Water: Water makes up 90 percent of the brew, so using tasty water makes a big difference. If the tap water at your house tastes good to you, then it is fine to use for beer brewing. If you don&apost like the way your tap water tastes, then you can use bottled or distilled water instead. If you use tap water, boil it first to evaporate the chlorine and other chemicals that may interfere with the brewing process. Let the water cool before using.
Fermented Sugar: Malted barley is the ingredient commonly used to fill the sugar quota in a home brew recipe. Some brewers will substitute a percentage of corn, rice, wheat, or other grains to add a lighter flavor to the beer. Beginning brewers should purchase a ready-to-use form of malted barley called malt syrup or malt extract, rather than attempting to malt the grain from scratch, as it is a very complex and touchy process. Using a malt extract will guarantee the fermented sugar is prepared in just the right manner and will act as it needs to throughout the beer brewing process.
Hops: Hops are cone-like flowers found on a hop vine. They lend the bitter flavor to beer that balances out sweetness. Hops also inhibit spoilage and help keep the "head" (the frothy top when a beer is poured) around longer.
Yeast: First things first: Do not use bread yeast for beer brewing! Beer yeast is cultivated especially for use in brewing. Beer brewing boils down to mixing a mash of malted grain (often barley) with hops and then fermenting it with lager or ale yeasts. There are two broad categories of beer yeast: ale and lager.
The yeast you choose helps determine the brew you end up with. Lagers are light, crisp and golden ales, darker and more alcoholic.
Ale yeasts are top-fermenting, which means they tend to hang out at the top of the carboy while fermenting and rest at the bottom after the majority of fermenting has occurred. Ale yeasts will not actively ferment below 50 degrees F (20 degrees C). Lager yeasts are bottom-fermenters and are best used at a temperature ranging from 55 degrees F (25 degrees C) down to 32 degrees F (0 degrees C). As their names suggest, the type of yeast used plays an important part in influencing the type of beer that will be made. Do not rely on the yeast to define the beer, however, as all of the ingredients play a part in the taste and type of beer you will create.
Sanitized for Your Protection
Before you begin brewing, you&aposll need to clean and sanitize your equipment and work area to prevent spoilage and avoid foul tastes in the beer. The saddest situation for a beer brewer is to wait weeks for fermentation only to find the beer&aposs spoiled.
For every step of the brewing process you&aposll need two types of cleaner: one to clean dirt and grime and one cleaner to sanitize surfaces. It is easy for beer to become infected by microbes in the air or left over in kitchen equipment. These microbes can make beer taste like vinegar or sour butter so it&aposs important everything is very clean to avoid those nasty flavors.
Dedicated food-grade sanitizer like Star San
Kettle (at least 4 gallons, but the bigger the better)
For this very simple ale recipe the basic ingredients are available from any homebrew supplier. Read about the hop pellet profiles to pick one that has flavor notes that are appealing to you. Your kettle can be a large stock pot or a specialty kettle ordered from a homebrew supplier.
3 gallons cool water (plus more for sanitizing)
Any 5 gallon vessel with a lid can be a fermenter, but it is important there is a way for CO2 to escape without letting air (containing harmful microbes) into the beer. Most fermenters will use an airlock for this. Some fermenters have the airlock included while others require it to be purchased separately, be sure to read product details.
Baker&aposs yeast will not work to ferment beer. You can find dry brewer&aposs yeast online for less than $5 a pack. An American ale yeast is a good starter yeast because it has a clean flavor and can withstand higher temperatures so the beer doesn&apost need to be in a cooled fermentation chamber.
4 ounces granulated sugar
Silicone beverage tubing (if bottling bucket and ferementer have a spout)
Siphon and racking cane (if bottling bucket and ferementer do not have a spout)
The specialty equipment for this stage is a bottling bucket and beverage line or a siphon and racking cane. If you can find a bottling bucket with a spout it will make the bottling process much easier. If not the classic racking cane and siphon are available at all homebrew shops both in person and online.
Swing topottles don&apost require the purchase of a bottle capper or separate bottle caps. They are good for beginners before deciding to make an investment in homebrewing as a hobby. The bottles must be brown to protect the beer from light. When light interacts with some compounds in beer it can create an undesirable skunky flavor.
The Brewing Process
Follow the steps below, split into the three major stages of brewing, to make your first beer.
Clean your kettle and large spoon very well with an unscented cleaner. Be sure to rinse well.
Bring 2 gallons of water to a boil.
Stir in malt extract adding a little at a time to make sure the syrup does not stick to the bottoms or sides of the kettle. If this happens the syrup can scorch causing burnt and even metallic flavors in the final beer.
Once all the syrup is stirred in, bring the water back to a boil and add ½ ounce of hops. Boil for 55 minutes. Adding the hops will cause the mixture to foam, be prepared to turn down the heat and stir with the metal spoon to avoid boil over.
After 55 minutes add the remaining 1 ½ ounces of hops and boil for 5 minutes. Again, watch for foaming after adding hops.
Fill the sink or another container large enough to hold the kettle with water and ice for an ice bath.
When the wort is finished boiling take the kettle off the stove and put it into your ice bath.
While wort cools in the ice bath, prepare for fermentation.
Sanitize your clean fermentation vessel, funnel, and airlock (if they were not already clean, both clean and sanitize it) ensuring every surface that wort will touch has been sanitized.
Pour the contents of the yeast pack into about 1 cup room temperature water. (If using liquid yeast, read package instructions)
Pour 3 gallons of cool water into the fermenter.
Use the funnel to pour the cooled wort into the fermenter. Shake the fermenter or use a well sanitized spoon to stir the cool water and cool wort together, this will also help aerate the wort which helps the yeast ferment.
"Pitch" the yeast by sprinkling it over the surface of the wort.
Place the lid on the fermenter. Fill the airlock with a sanitizer and water solution and place it in the hole or bung depending on your fermenter. Store your fermenter somewhere dark, and about 65-70ଏ.
After a few hours you will notice bubbling in the airlock. This bubbling will continue for five days to one week and then will calm down. Wait another week after bubbling subsides to package the beer.
Packaging (about 14 days after fermentation began)
Sanitize the bottles by soaking them in the sanitizing solution (make sure to hold them under the solution so the water gets inside of the bottles) for 1 hour. Also sanitize your bottling bucket, and a siphon and racking cane if your bottling bucket and fermenter don&apost have spouts.
Boil one cup of water in a small saucepan. Add sugar and continue to boil for 5 minutes. Pour mixture into the bottling bucket. It is important that you measure your sugar exactly. Too much sugar in this phase could result in too much CO2 in the bottle which can cause bottles to explode.
Place the fermenter full of beer on the kitchen counter and the bottling bucket on the ground below it.
If your fermenter and bottling bucket have spouts:
Make sure the spout on both buckets is sanitized. You can use a paper towel dipped in sanitizer or a spray bottle with a sanitizer solution.
Attach sanitized tubing to the spout on the fermenter and run the wort into the bottling bucket. The beer and the sugar solution will combine at this stage.
Detach the tubing and sanitize it again. Attach the tube to the bottling bucket.
Place the bottling bucket on the counter and the other end of the tube into a sanitized bottle. Run the beer out of the spout into the bottle to fill it to ¾ from the top. Swing the top closed and make sure it is sealed securely.
Repeat on remaining bottles until there is no beer left.
If your fermenter and bottling bucket do not have spouts:
Attach the racking cane to the siphon. Prepare the siphon by filling it with tap water. Pinch both ends of the siphon to prevent the water from running out. Place one end of the racking cane and siphon into a sanitizer solution and one end into an empty jar. When the solution has run into the siphon and expelled all of the water into the jar, pinch both ends and let the sanitizer sit in the siphon for 5 minutes to re-sanitize the siphon. (Resist the temptation to blow into the siphon with your mouth to encourage the flow.)
Place one end of the sanitized siphon into the fermenter and the other end into the jar once the beer has begun flowing through the siphon, transfer the end of the siphon to the bottling bucket. Monitor the speed that the beer transfers into the bottling bucket by pinching and releasing the siphon with your fingers (or use a specialty clamp). The beer should not splash into the bucket it should gently rush into it.
Place the bottling bucket on the counter, attach the siphon and run the other end of the siphon into a bottle. Fill each bottle with beer to 3/4 inch from the top of the bottle. Swing the top closed and make sure it is sealed securely.
Repeat on remaining bottles until there is no beer left.
Allow beer to referment in the bottle in a cool place like a closet for 14 days.
Drinking! (about 14 days after packaging)
Chill all bottles in the refrigerator and enjoy! Because the swing top bottles can allow in a little oxygen it is best to drink the beer within a month.
Raise a toast to yourself and impressing your friends! Ready to try it? Try these recipes:
How To Make Hard Seltzer at Home
If you can brew beer at home, then you already have all of the equipment you need to brew hard seltzer. Let me show you how.
This is everything you’re gonna need to brew hard seltzer. What we’ve got here is 19 liters of distilled water. You are going to want to use either distilled water or reverse osmosis water.
If you use tap water, even if it’s filtered, it’s probably going to come out a little bit too cloudy. So we’re going to, with that, we also have some gypsum here, uh, some dry yeast, some DAP, and then this heap beast here is sugar.
So the, uh, the brewing process here is really simple. Basically, we’re going to heat up some water, boil it for a little bit and dissolve the sugar into it. So we’ll start off with the distilled water.
Then I’m going to add in my gypsum, this is just a little bit of calcium into this distilled water. And then I want to bring this thing to a boil. So I’m going to turn on my heat and while that’s heating up, I’m going to dissolve my sugar into here.
Now, the purpose of this sugar isn’t to make the beer sweet it’s to give the yeast something to eat so that we actually get some alcohol in this thing. So all of this corn sugar will actually be consumed by the yeast and we shouldn’t really have any of it left in the finished product.
I’ve moved my kettle underneath my extract fan. I’m just approaching a boil. Now I am going to leave this boil running for 20 minutes.
Now, at this point, we will have basically brewed alcoholic water. So we’re going to want to add a little bit of flavoring into this as well. And I’ve partnered with Olive Nation to try out some of that extracts in my hard seltzer. So I’ve got a whole bunch of flavors here, some fruity ones like blue raspberry and pineapple through to some more out of the box flavors like chocolate chip mint.
And I’m going to be adding these in, at the very end of the process. And if you want to have a go at this yourself, um, olive nation have provided me with a coupon code for a discount on their extracts. All right, back to the boil.
Going to want to get this down to around 68 Fahrenheit, 20 Celsius before pitching the yeast. And we’re going to then move this into a fermentor. Uh, you can use whatever fermenter to you like clarity, uh, fermentation bucket would be fine as long as you can seal it up and put an air lock in, you’re good. I am using a Fermzilla.
Um, I actually quite like this one because there’s a floating dip tube. So I’ll just be pulling the Seltzer off the top and leaving the stuff that’s on the bottom when fermentation is done. Anyway, I’ve um, I sanitized this with some star san, and now I’m going to get ready to transfer the seltzer into here.
For brewers that want all the advantages of a conical fermenter without the price tag of a stainless steel unit. Allows you to dump trub, harvest yeast, carbonate, and serve – all in one vessel!
Four grams here of diammonium phosphate or DAP, and this will go just sprinkle into the water. And then I’ve got my yeast as well. So this is US-05, it’s an American Ale dry yeast. And I’m just going to pitch this in, just sprinkle it on the top. That’s it.
I put my fluting dip tube in for the air lock. I’ve just filled up a growler with some sanitizer, and then I’m going to go from out here, which is the gas post into here.
So any CO2 will just bubble up in there. By the way, the gravity for this came out at 1.031. And, uh, I guess this just tastes like sweet water, right? Sugary water. Yep. That’s it. So I’m going to ferment this now at 68 Fahrenheit or 20 Celsius for probably about three weeks, then come back, move into kegs.
It’s fair to say. We’re quite excited to do this, right? Yeah. Yeah. You’ve got everything laid out pretty brilliantly. I’ve got, uh, my Fermzilla here, the seltzer water is pressurized. So, um, before we try any of the flavors, how about we just try the water by itself? It looks super fizzy. I drink a lot of seltzer. Wow. Okay.
Yeah, that sounds great. That sound is beautiful. I hope that captures, it’s beautiful. It’s nice and clear. It’s very clear. All right. Let’s see what we get nothing on the aroma. Just water. I mean, it’s fizzy. Yes. Alcoholic, but it’s not very exciting to drink. You got the bubbles, got the bubbles. All right. But let’s get some of the flavors in.
Can you top me up? And then what’s, what’s coming up first? First is going to be red raspberry. It is here. So we should say that maybe if you’re making this, you would just like put a bunch of this in the serving vessel. But because we have so many to taste, we’re just going to put a drop into these glasses.
Can you hold it it up so everyone can see? All right. The color is the scientific drop. Okay. I feel like we need a spoon to mix. Okay. Nope.
So I gave you only one milliliter, but I don’t think that’s going to be strong enough. So I’m going to do two. All right. Let’s give it a try.
Oh man. That’s good. Okay. So I did a three milliliters. You only did one. Yeah. So color wise still my little bit darker. Yeah. But my goodness, this is so drinkable. Okay. Bring it on the next one. Uh, next we have blood orange. Yes. This is one. I’m not one of the most I’m looking forward to.
Oh, that came up quite Milky.
Yeah. It is sort of is Milky. Yeah. Where it looked quite clear in the syringe that’s a really strong, lovely smell. That is just, I mean, I’ve brewed with blood oranges and that is, it smells like I’ve just squeezed the blood oranges. Really fresh smelling. Too strong? That was a little bit stronger than the raspberry for me.
So this is going to be blue raspberry and it’s thick. I don’t want to stir at it. It looks so cool. It looks like a little, it looks like worms in my, I didn’t put my full two out two milliliters in. Look, it just comes floats to the surface and mix it. Mix it, mix it. Oh my goodness. Well, let’s see what we got on the smell. Delicious. Super delicious. There’s no mistake of not even having to put that two minute. Oh my God. I’m so excited. Like blue jolly ranchers are the best. Oh, that’s true. Blue Everything.
Actually, blue jolly ranchers is a pretty good description of this. Absolutely delicious. It lives up to his flavor. It is legit blue raspberry. Oh, your tongue, Your tongue and your teeth are blue. Well, I don’t know how we top that one. Me neither, because that was a really good and blue tongue. Yeah. Well, we’ve washed out some glasses. W.
e’re gonna go to the next one, which is pumpkin spice in lieu of Thanksgiving and Christmas and full, ah, let’s start with one milliliter. Alright. Okay. Oh again, Milky. Okay. Very, um, questionable. Um, what it looks like. Oh man, go ahead and spell it. Tell me what it smells like as advertised though. It’s fair to say. And no mistake to me it smells more spicy than pumpkin. Yes. Agreed. Agreed. Very strong spice smell. Yes. It was like a candle. Oh no. Oh no. It actually it tastes like a candle.
It’s not, Oh, that’s not. That’s not bad because I know so many people would love that. Yes. I’m glad we went with one. This is a strong flavor. Was very strong. I don’t know. I think what we’re going to do for you is you’re going to smell this one first and then you can tell me if you know, all right. Sounds good. It’s a tropical fruit. I’m not so good on my tropical fruit, but I smell really good. I’m going with mango? It is mango. Yes. Yes. It is premium mango. Oh, well it has a very premium smell. It does actually smell good. I don’t know.
Let’s drink here. Yep. So I’ve had mango seltzer before I think. And this is much stronger. So it’s yeah. It’s a little bit strong. You know what? Um, I’ve drank half. Just top that up. Oh, that is much better. Yeah. Yeah. So 0.5 for four ouce glass. Yes. So one would be good for like 12 hours. Hmm. Okay.
Well you have one more for me. Okay. I do. You won’t tell me what this one is. No, it looks green. Okay. All right. How’s that kind of thick?
It’s not like mouthwash tooth paste? It’s very mint.
Smells like my favorite ice cream, but I’m so excited. Your favorite ice? My favorite ice cream mint choc chip?
It tastes exactly like mint CHOC chip except in drink form instead of ice cream. Yeah. This is quite weird. It’s like so good. Like an after eight mint in a glass. Oh my goodness. I don’t have one of those in a long long time. Um, so yeah. Check out the description. We’ve got a link to all information there and you can actually check out all of the different flavors. They have a whole ton. We just got six of them to try.
And you can also find my recipe in the description for the hard seltzer as well. Normally we do a cheers. You don’t have anything to cheers? No. I have a one that doesn’t have anything in,…. Cheers!
The Best Beer Pumpkin Ideas for Halloween
1. Beer Logo Halloween Pumpkin Carving
If you’ve got a steady hand, and a favourite brewery or beer brand, you could give this pumpkin carving a shot. Let’s hope they send you some free beer for the promo!
2. Drunk Halloween Pumpkin / Puking Halloween Pumpkin
This is a classic style and pretty easy to create for those who are new to pumpkin carving. It’s funny, childish, and goofy– perfect.
3. Hops Halloween Pumpkin
This is for all you creative hop heads out there with an eye for design — and a no-brainer for those annual pumpkin carving contests at the brewery. “Hoppy” Halloween!
4. A “COLD BEER” Carved Pumpkin Sign
This is the ultimate “party here” sign. Sometimes you just need to know where to go to get the party started… Or you can use this to let the trick-or-treaters know that they aren’t getting a trick or a treat until they get you a cold one.
5. Easy Beer Cooler Pumpkin
No carving talent required! This is a must-have for your Halloween party. An evolution of the previous “Cold Beer” pumpkin, the beer cooler pumpkin is functional and ‘fancy’!
How to make a Beer Cooler Out of a Pumpkin
It looks pretty self-explanatory, however, here’s a great tutorial on how to make your own beer-cooling pumpkin (with dry ice) from the Tipsy Bartender.
6. Pumpkin Beer Keg
Still lacking inspiration? You could always skip carving and convert your pumpkin into a keg – with the beer-tapped pumpkin
Admittedly, this one seems a little funny, but also friggin’ gross, so until we try it, we’re not going to recommend it. We think it’ll taste more like a random pumpkin-saturated beer than a pumpkin ale, which taste like a pumpkin on purpose. That said, it’s all over the web as a “festive” way to serve beer, so we included it for aesthetics.
How to Make a Pumpkin Beer Keg
Wanna try it out? Here’s a how-to video from Samuel Adams if you try this… let us know how it went and we’ll feature you on the JustBeer Instagram page!
Fill the Pumpkin
I recommend first filling the pumpkin with water to ensure you do not have any leaks. Test that the tap is working properly before dumping out the water. Once tested, fill the pumpkin with your cocktail, beer, etc.
If filling with a cocktail (like a punch) feel free to add a large ice block inside your pumpkin for chilling, just as you normally would inside a punch bowl. Also, if you’re filling with a homemade cocktail, give it an occasional stir (through the opening at the top), as natural separation is likely to occur.
How to Keg Beer at Home
Ok, what you need to start:
- 1 reclaimed, clean soda keg
- A Regulator (I have a 5 lb. one, but as long as it can be attached to a regulator, you&rsquore are OK) &ndash basically the cheapest tap you can get
- Various Lengths of Gas and Beer Lines, plus fittings to connect to Keg, Regulator and Picnic Tap
- A cold place to store it all (we have a fruit cellar that stays pretty cold, but the beer fridge in your garage would work too)
So, if anything on that list sounded totally foreign, then you are just like me when I first tried this. Fortunately, Ontario Beer Kegs has complete kits for the neophyte. I got the one depicted above to get me jump-started and it all worked like a charm.
Once you have everything and a batch of beer ready at the bottling stage of brewing, do this:
1. Clean everything meticulously, but don&rsquot use chlorine based cleaners as they are hard on the stainless steel keg and other parts. Rinse thoroughly.
3. When the Keg is nearly full (don&rsquot fill past the short CO2 &ldquoin&rdquo pipe) stop the siphon &ndash or just continue it into whatever jug you normally bottle from. You&rsquoll deal with the leftovers later. For now, you need to fit the keg lid and start to close it. Don&rsquot seal it all the way quite yet.
4. Get your CO2 cylinder and regulator setup and ready to go.
Keep the regulator shutoff closed, dial open the cylinder and adjust the regulator to about 12-14 PSI.
6. Open the regulator valve and lock the lid on your keg.
In a simultaneous and balletic synchronicity, you will start the flow of CO2 to your keg and lock the lid down. I have yet to do this perfectly, and don&rsquot know if it is even possible, so expect a little gas (and possibly beer spray if you filled the keg up too much) from around the lid as you clamp it shut. No big deal. The lid really locks best when it has the gas pressure behind it.
8. If you are unsure if your keg is holding the pressure, you can test it by tipping the little release valve on top. You should hear a gas release sound. Insert a &ldquogas release&rdquo joke of your choice here.
9. I now put the whole assembly &ndash Keg, CO2, regulator and lines &ndash in my cold cellar to chill and for the CO2 to carbonate the beer for at least 2 weeks. There are &ldquoFlash&rdquo methods of carbonation, but they require a bit more skill and timing. Unless you are in a rush, don&rsquot bother. You may choose to put everything in your beer fridge or get fancy and drill holes in it for lines and a tap (if you do that, check your fridge specs online so you don&rsquot drill out some freon).
When the beer has fully carbonated, attach your Cobra tap to the &ldquoout&rdquo post on your keg and pour yourself a tall glass of reward for your hard work.
|Gratuitous, bonus beer shot.|
This may look like a lot of work, but it is actually a lot faster than bottling and capping 60 bottles. I have included as many photos as I could to help guide where possible, and that has stretched things out. Don&rsquot be intimidated &ndash give it a shot.
Are there already any home keggers out there?
DIY Pumpkin Beer Keg
Adding Pumpkin to Beer
Step 1: Choose a base beer
Most styles work great to make a pumpkin beer but hop-forward beers tend to clash with the pie spice character. Wheat beers are common.
Step 2: Get your pumpkin ready
Avoid the large carving varieties of pumpkin as there is little meat and flavor in these kinds. Instead, look for the smaller pie and baking pumpkins, these are full of flavor and have more pumpkin goodness. Quarter and clean the pumpkin and bake at 350ºF for 30 minutes or until soft. Roasting the pumpkin will caramelize the sugars and break down the meat to bring more flavors out and make it easier to peel the skin off. Of course, you can use canned pumpkin and pumpkin pie filling it also helps to bake it for a little while to caramelize the sugars. 3-8 pounds of pumpkin per 5-gallon batch is typical depending on how much pumpkin flavor you want.
Step 3: Brew it!
If you ask three brewers how to make pumpkin beer you’ll get five answers. That’s because you can make it in so many different ways, these are just a few techniques to get you started.
If you are an Extract brewer you can add your roasted or canned pumpkin to the boil, anywhere in the last 20 minutes is fine. Some people even add it to their primary or secondary fermenters, for a brighter pumpkin character.
If you are an All-Grain brewer you can add pumpkin directly to the mash as well as the above options. If you add more than 10% of your grain bill we recommend adding rice hulls to avoid a stuck mash.
Spices - You can use a premixed pie spice blend or make your own. The common pumpkin pie spices are Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Allspice, and Ginger. Add just one teaspoon of the spice blend to the boil in the last ten minutes. It is very easy to overpower a beer with these spices, and it is easier to add more than take some out. Fine-tune the spice level at bottling and enjoy!
Brewing with Fruit
As spring fades into summer, the produce department at my local supermarket fills with fruits and vegetables. As the summer progresses, the selection gets wider and the colors get brighter. As a homebrewer, I look at all this bounty and think, “Hmmm . . . I wonder if I could ferment any of this?”
Historically, fruit has been absent from breweries in most major brewing centers. The use of fruit in beer was banned in Germany from 1516 to 1987 when the Reinheitsgebot (the German Beer Purity law) was in effect. English brewers use adjuncts in some of their beers, but there are no traditional British fruit beers. The use of fruit does, however, have a long history in Belgian brewing. Belgian brewers flavor their lambics with cherries and raspberries to make kriek and framboise, respectively. More recently, lambics have been flavored with peaches (Peche) and black currants (Cassis).
In the U.S., neither law nor tradition has restrained the use of fruit. Most brewpubs and many microbreweries offer fruit beers, often as summer seasonals. A sampling of American fruit beers includes: Sam Adams Cherry Wheat, Pete’s Strawberry Blonde, Magic Hat’s #9 (apricot), Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale, New Belgium’s Two Cherry Ale, Cave Creek Chili Beer, Leinenkugel’s Berry Weiss (loganberries, elderberries and blackberries) and Sea Dog Raspberry Wheat. Among homebrewers, raspberries and cherries are the two most popular fruits used in brewing.
Making a good fruit beer doesn’t require any new equipment and the procedures for using fruit are simple. The most common fear homebrewers have when contemplating their first fruit beer is contamination of the beer with microorganisms from the fruit. In practice, this rarely happens. To make a good fruit beer, you first need to examine the flavors of fruit and how they can be used in brewing. That is the subject of this month’s installment of “Techniques.”
The biological definition of a fruit is the mature ovary from a flowering plant. (The fruit may also contain some flower parts in addition to the ovary.) This definition includes most of what we think of as fruits as well as many fruits that we commonly call vegetables (such as tomatoes, peas and peppers). This definition further includes many plant structures that are not typically eaten, such as the “helicopters” from maple trees, the white fluffies on a dandelion and the sticky burrs of many plants. Hop cones, incidentally, are fruits. Interestingly, the biological definition of a fruit excludes juniper berries. These “berries,” used in the manufacture of gin, come from the ovary of a non-flowering plant.
The culinary definition of fruit is a sweet, edible part of a plant, often containing seeds. I’ll use this more utilitarian definition, since the only fruits of interest to brewers are the sweet, sugary fruits that can easily be used to add flavor, color and fermentable sugars to fruit beers.
Most fruits contain between 10 and 15 percent sugar when they are ripe. The least sugary fruits are limes, which contain less than one percent sugar. The most sugary are dates, which contain up to 60 percent sugar. Most fruits contain a mixture of fructose, glucose and sucrose. See Table 1 for the percent sugar content of many brewing-relevant fruits.
The sugars from fruits will raise the specific gravity of your beer. For large additions of fruits, you may want to calculate how much the specific gravity will increase.
You can calculate how much a fruit addition will affect its specific gravity by using the following formula:
SG = [Wfruit X (Psugar/100) X 45]/Vbeer
In the equation, SG is the specific gravity increase due to fruits. It is given in “gravity points,” or the decimal portion of a specific gravity number. Wfruit is the weight of the fruit in pounds. Psugar is the percentage of sugar in the fruit. The number 45 is the extract potential — in gravity points per pound per gallon — of simple sugars (such as fructose, glucose and sucrose). Vbeer is the volume of beer in gallons. For example, if you use 10 pounds of cherries in your five-gallon batch of cherry wheat, you would calculate the specific gravity addition like this: SG = [10 (14/100) 45]/5 = 12.6, or about 13 gravity points. If your wheat beer weighed in at 1.048 before the cherries were added, it would now have a specific gravity of 1.061.
Most fruits are sweeter than the beer they will end up in. So, when a beer drinker tastes a fruit beer, the fruit flavors are experienced in a background that is less sweet than in the fruit. This may explain why the most popular brewing fruits are low in sugar. The fruit flavor in high-sugar fruits may not taste quite right.
If you wish to add sweetness to a fruit beer, you can add a non- fermentable sugar such as lactose when you bottle or keg the beer. The amount of sugar you add will depend on how much “sweet” you want in the beer. Your best bet may be to slowly sweeten a pint of your fruit beer until you reach a level of sweetness you enjoy. From that basis, calculate how much sugar you will need to add for five gallons of beer. (There are 40 pints in five gallons of beer.) In five gallons of beer, 6.4 ounces of sugar will raise the sugar percentage by one percent. Lactose, however, is not very sweet. That’s why commercial brewers sweeten their sweet beers with fermentable sugars followed by pasteurization.
The sugars in fruits come from the breakdown of starches during the ripening process. There are two main forms of plant starch, amylose and amylopectin. Fruits also contain carboxymethylcellulose, which is commonly called pectin. In cooking, pectins help jams and jellies thicken. When heated, such as when boiled in wort, pectins can be extracted from fruit and cause haze problems in beer. Fortunately, most common brewing fruits — including raspberries, cherries, strawberries, blueberries, apricots and peaches — are low in pectin. (When making jam or jellies from these fruits, cooks must add pectin to get them to gel.) Most winemaking stores sell an enzyme that degrades pectins, called pectinase. In beers in which high-pectin fruit is heated, this enzyme can be used. To do so, add pectinase at a rate of 1/4 tsp. per five gallons during primary fermentation.
There are many types of acids found in fruits, including malic acid, citric acid and tartaric acid. Malic acid is the primary acid in apples, apricots, cherries and peaches. Raspberries and all citrus fruits are high in citric acid. Tartaric acid is found in grapes.
As fruit ripens, the acid content of the fruit declines. However, even ripe fruits have pH values well below neutral (pH 7). Table 1 also gives the pH values of various fruits commonly used by homebrewers. These pH values do not have direct, quantitative use in brewing as the numbers for sugar content do. However, some qualitative considerations are worth discussing.
The pH of most fruits is lower than that of most beers, which usually have a pH of 4.0–4.6. So adding fruits to beer will lower the pH of the beer and may make it more tart. Conversely, the beer drinker will experience the fruit flavoring in fruit beers at a higher pH than in the native fruit. It is interesting to note that the most historically successful fruit beers — lambics — have a lower pH than most beers. The pH of fruit lambics (3.3–3.5) overlaps the pH range of fruits used in lambics.
Some brewers attempt to make their fruit beers more acidic so that the beer pH is closer to the fruit’s natural pH. You can do this by adding food- grade acid. If you make a lambic, acidity will come from lactic acid produced by bacteria. When adding acid, your best bet might be to draw off a small sample of your fruit beer and add acid to see if the flavor improves, and if so, what rate of acid addition to apply to your beer. For five gallons of beer, you will probably end up adding only a few teaspoons. Most winemaking shops sell malic acid and citric acid, so you can add the appropriate acid for your fruit if you desire.
Many fruit beers exhibit the color of their added fruit. Lambics and wheat beers are light-colored beers that allow the color of the fruit to show. Fruit can also add a pleasing reddish cast to darker beers, such as stouts and porters. Few fruit beers fall in between these color extremes.
The color in fruits and other plant parts comes from three major pigment families: chlorophylls, anthocyanins and carotenoids. The green color in plants comes from chlorophyll, the molecules that absorb light energy from the sun. Chlorophyll is not, however, a major pigment in most fruits.
Anthocyanins are responsible for most of the red, purple and blue colors in plants. These molecules give cherries, raspberries and blueberries their color. Unlike chlorophyll and carotenoids, anthocyanins are water-soluble. So adding red fruit to a beer will make a reddish-colored beer. Anthocyanins are also pH sensitive they are more reddish at low pH values and bluer at higher pH values. In beer, the pH is low enough that they will always be on the reddish end of the spectrum. As a consequence, blueberry beers will turn out red.
Carotenoids are responsible for many of the yellow and orange colors found in plants. (They are also responsible for the red color in tomatoes and bell peppers, although most red colors in plants are due to anthocyanins). Carotenoids are fat-soluble. Thus fruits rich in carotenoids will transfer relatively little color to your beer. Pumpkin beers, for example, are not bright orange in color.
If you wish to adjust the color of your fruit beer, you could add food coloring. It will take a little experimentation to find the right amount to add. In general, however, the natural color of the fruit should be sufficient to get a pleasing color. Artificial colors tend to look, well . . . artificial.
Astringency, Bitterness and Death
Fruits are edible, but any associated plant parts are likely inedible or unpalatable. The majority of plant parts are chemically defended to prevent animals (especially insects) from eating them. The leaves and stems of most plants taste bitter or astringent, depending on the plant species and plant parts. Trim off other plant parts from fruits that you use in brewing.
The pits of some fruits, including cherries and peaches, contain cyanogens. Plant cyanogens are broken down to release hydrogen cyanide (HCN) when the plant is damaged. Cyanide is a potent and deadly poison. Yet it occurs naturally in tiny doses in many food products. (Lima beans, for example, contain cyanide.) It is highly unlikely that you could add enough fruit to a beer to cause cyanide poisoning. However, many brewers remove fruit pits, just to be safe. Pits can also impart a tannic, almond-like taste to beer, so removing them will also improve the flavor.
Choosing a Beer Style
Many people’s only exposure to fruit beers are the fruit beers made by many brewpubs. In these fruit beers, the brewer mixes fruit with a light ale or lager. The rationale is that the “blank” background lets the flavor and color of the fruit show through. This is perfectly true, but it’s also why most beer drinkers don’t like these beverages — they don’t taste like beer!
The best fruit beers are, in my opinion, those in which the flavors of beer and fruit co-exist. There are many beer flavors that can successfully interact with fruit flavors, and these are outlined below in the discussion of various fruit styles. There is, however, one characteristic beer ingredient that does not mix well with fruits — hops. Hop bitterness and aroma just doesn’t mix well with fruit flavors. When making a fruit beer, it’s best to choose beer styles that are lightly hopped or to decrease the amount of hops used in brewing the beer. Don’t eliminate the hops, but their presence should be secondary to the fruit flavor. The amount of hops a fruit beer can support is a matter of taste, but I’d recommend keeping the beer under 18 IBUs.
Historically, the most successful fruit beers are lambics. In lambics, the flavor of the fruit is balanced by the acidity of the beer. Lambics are typically made from 65 percent pale malt and 35 percent unmalted wheat. They are lightly hopped with aged hops. Lambics are fermented with a mix of yeasts and bacteria. Lactic acid bacteria in the lambics convert sugar into lactic acid, leading to a tart flavor. The light color of base lambic allows the color of the fruit to be exhibited. Lambics are great beers, but they take a lot of time and patience to brew. In addition, many homebrewers are reluctant to purposely introduce bacteria and wild yeasts into their brewing equipment. See Jean-Xavier Guinard’s book “Lambic” (1990, Brewer’s Publications) for more information.
Wheat beers provide an excellent base for a fruit beer. In wheat-based fruit beers, the characteristic “tang” of the wheat blends with the fruit flavor. In addition, the characteristic yeast aroma from German wheat yeast mingles with the aroma of the fruit. (Of course, German brewers would never add fruit to a wheat beer.) American wheat beer — brewed with a “clean” yeast rather than traditional wheat yeast — can also be used as a base. However, you should use enough wheat malt (in my opinion, at least 50%) to get a good wheat flavor in the beer. Light-colored wheat beers also provide a good background for fruit colors.
Raspberry wheat is a particular favorite of homebrewers. The tart taste and sharp aroma of raspberries mix quite well with the flavors and aroma of a traditional wheat beer. In a good raspberry wheat beer you can clearly taste the fruit and the beer. The Internet is a good source for raspberry wheat beer recipes.
Stouts and Porters
The dark, roasted grain flavor of stouts and porters can also provide an excellent complement to fruit flavors. Fruit porters and stouts can also be more highly hopped than more lightly-flavored fruit beers. However, to make a good fruit stout or porter, you need to get enough fruit flavor into the beer to compete with the dark grain flavor. This means you should only use fruits with lots of flavors, such as raspberries and cherries. How much more fruit you need is, of course, a matter of taste. But I recommend using at least 25 percent more fruit than you would in a lambic or wheat beer.
Of course, with dark beers the color of the fruit is less visible. In stouts, color from the fruit may not be seen at all. In porters, you may have to hold the beer up to the light to reveal the color contribution of the fruit. However, the deep red of a fruit porter can be very appealing. Next to kriek (cherry-flavored lambic), raspberry porter is my favorite fruit style. A good raspberry porter has a full beer flavor accentuated by the tart raspberry flavor. See the sidebar on page 47 for my recipe for raspberry porter.
One other beer flavor that could be matched with fruit flavor is alcohol. This is an underexplored option, but it seems to me that many milder fruit flavors — such as peaches or apricots — could complement the flavor of alcohol in a strong ale or barleywine. The elevated ester levels that accompany very strong beers would also add complexity to this beer. Since the hopping rate would have to be low, the resulting beer would be very sweet. This would not be a session beer, but might make a nice after-dinner drink to sip on.
Brewers have the choice of many different fruits, both in fresh and processed form and there are many ways you can add fruit to your beer. Fruit can be added at many different brewing stages. The type and amount of fruit you add, along with when you add it, will affect the extraction of sugar, flavors, aromas and color from the fruit. The risks of contamination from fruit microorganisms will also vary with the technique you use.
(5 gallons, partial mash)
OG = 1.052 FG = 1.014
SRM = 30 IBU = 21
4.5 lbs. pale dry malt extract
1 lb. pale malt (2-row)
6 oz. chocolate malt
5 oz. roasted barley
3 oz. black patent malt
3.75 lbs. raspberries (frozen)
1 tsp. Irish moss
7.5 AAU Northern Brewer hops (1.0 oz. of 7.5% alpha acid)
Wyeast 1056 (American Ale) or White Labs WLP001 (California Ale) yeast (make yeast starter)
0.75 cup corn sugar (for priming)
Step by Step
Put pale malt and dark specialty grains — both crushed — in a large grain bag. Heat three quarts of water to 165° F and submerge grain bag. Steep grains between 154 and 158° F for 30 minutes. Rinse grains with three quarts of water at 168–170° F, then set bag and grains aside. Add water to steeping water to make at least three, but preferably four, gallons and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in extract. Resume heating and boil wort for 1 hour. Add hops for final 45 minutes of the boil. Add Irish moss for final 15 minutes of boil. Cool wort and transfer to sanitized fermenter. Add cold water to make 5.5 gallons. Aerate wort and add yeast starter (wort temperature 78° F or below). Ferment for one week at 68° F. After the first week, add frozen raspberries to a sanitized fermentation bucket and crush with a potato masher. Rack beer onto raspberries and let ferment for an additional week. Bottle with 3/4 cup of corn sugar. Let bottles condition at room temperature for two weeks, then refrigerate for one week. To serve, pour beer into a tall glass, such as a wheat beer glass. Examine the color by holding glass up to light, inhale the aroma and then drink.
DIY Pumpkin Kegs & Apple Cider Iced Tea
Step 1: Draw a ring around the top of the pumpkin as a guide to carve the lid. Keep this close to the top of the pumpkin so you optimize the hollowed out space that will hold the beverage.
Step 2: Carve the pumpkin with a carving kit or carving kit or serrated knife.
Step 3: Remove the lid and clean out the pumpkin, removing all seeds out and most of the pulp. It's ok if some pulp remains – it flavors the beverage.
Step 4: Place your spigot. Using your pencil or marker, trace a circle and cut the hole with a fine serrated knife – carving kit works best.
Step 5: Make the hole clean, then pop in your spigot. If your pumpkin is thick, you'll have to thin out the pumpkin's inner wall to fit the spigot properly.
Step 6: Decorate you pumpkin with a fall or Halloween theme.
Step 7: Making sure your spigot is secured, Pour in your Pumpkin Ale or Harvest beer, or a non-alcoholic option such as *apple cider iced tea. Replace pumpkin lid.
• If filling with beer, chill the beer and pour right before serving to keep it cold. You can also set the pumpkin on ice to help keep it cold.
• When using Cider Iced Tea, you can fill pumpkin with ice. • Keep in mind that whatever beverage you choose will absorb the flavor from the pumpkin, so stick to fall beers, ciders, and teas.
Apple Cider Iced Tea Recipe
• 1/2 Gallon of iced tea • 1 cup apple cider, at room temperature or cold. To brewed iced tea add the apple cider, stirring to combine. Serve over ice.