Farm Fresh Series: Smoked Pumpkin Porter

After a hot summer this year Fall is finally in sight. The changing of the season signifies the time of year when almost every brewery in the country is brewing a spiced Pumpkin ale. An amber ale that sweeps you away on a sensory experience of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and well, Autumn.

For my fall seasonal I'll be using a heirloom pumpkin variety called Red October. A smaller, sweeter, pumpkin that is ready for harvest early in the season. The pumpkins were grown at Wright's Farm in Delaware. They were roasted and then smoked. The smoker that was used is a well seasoned smoker that contributed a huge smoked bacon flavor. After cooking the pumpkins there were twelve pounds of pumpkin meat to add to the mash. The base style to complement the flavor of the smoked pumpkins is a strong porter with a target abv of 7.5%. I'm not using any smoked malt in the grist so the smoked pumpkins will be the only smoke flavor in the beer. Also won't be using any spices to muddle the flavor of this harvest ale. Allowing the smoked pumpkins and dark malt flavors of the Porter to shine.

Heather Scotch Ale

Brewing an ale in the Gruit tradition. Before hops were commonplace in beer, Gruit was the traditional name for cereal grain fermented beverages where spices, herbs, and roots were used to flavor and add the needed bitter counterpoint to what would otherwise be a cloyingly sweet fermented cereal grain beverage. Where wine has the bitter counterpoint of tannins from the skins of the grapes, beer and gruit need to have hops, herbs, spices, and roots to balance out the beverage. Some traditional Gruit herbs and spices are yarrow, mugwort, myrica gale, wild rosemary, juniper berries, horehound, and heather. In terms of the history of "beer" hops are relatively new. Cereal grain fermented beverages have been produced, to the best of our discovered knowledge since 4000-5000 BCE with origins in the fertile crescent. Hops have only been used in the production of beer for the last 400-500 years.

The best way to understand the flavors of spices and herbs is to steep them much the same way you make tea. Heat water to a boil then pour over whatever traditional gruit spice or herb you are interested in using. Let steep for one to five minutes. Then smell and taste what is going on. Make notes of each spice and herb. Some gruit spices and herbs are better utilized for there bitterness, while others for there aroma and flavor. Figuring out when to add them during boil is probably the most difficult part next to how much to add. Unlike hops where you can calculate alpha acid content by utilization rates during boil there isn't a spreadsheet to figure out how much mugwort will give you your desired bittering units. Use your senses when you make teas, try to understand how much bitterness, flavor, and aroma each spice and herb you plan to use provides. Adding an ounce of the more bitter herbs and spices with five minutes left in the boil may have the same effect of adding an ounce of five percent alpha acid hops at the start of a sixty minute boil. For me the exciting part about brewing with herbs and spices is discovering the flavors of the spices and herbs that hops can't provide to fermented beverages. Play around with your favorite spices whether it's chamomile, licorice, or meadowsweet anything is possible in gruit (or beer as we call it today). A great website for further inspiration is

In the tradition of Northern British Isles Gruit I'm going to brew a Scotch ale with Heather flowers to add bitterness, flavor, and aroma. There are some commercial Heather Ales being produced and many mead makers carry on the tradition of brewing with Heather. Dried Heather flowers lend a floral, earthy, fruity aroma that blends well with malty beer styles.

Recipe: American Two Row, Munich Malt, Briess Extra Special Roast, and Roasted Barley. Barely hopped with Celeia. With Heather flowers added near the end of boil and at the end of boil for flavor and aroma. Fermented with Wyeast 1318 London III.

Steel Cut Irish Style Oatmeal Stout

Most oatmeal stout's are brewed with flaked oats(that have been pre-gelatinized) and/or Oat Malt to lend the style it's signature body. To make flaked oats, raw oats have been rolled while being steamed making the starches ready to be converted by the enzymes present in the mash. For today's Oatmeal Stout I'm going to use raw Steel Cut Irish Style Oats that need to be cooked for 30 minutes to break down the starches in the raw oats before being added to the mash. After the oats are cooked the enzymes in the mash can convert the starches in the oats into fermentable sugars. I'm hoping the steel cut oats add even more body than flaked oats, creating a motor oil oatmeal breakfast stout.

Recipe: American Two Row, Irish Style Steel Cut Oats, Roasted Barley, Dk. Munich malt, Crystal malt, and Chocolate malt. Hopped with Warrior for bittering and Willamette for flavor and aroma. Fermented with Fermentis Safale US-05.

Iron Brewer Robust Smoked Brown Ale

Today's brew is for the Iron Brewer competition where three mystery ingredients are picked and each brewer much concoct a beer to showcase these ingredients. So far there has been two rounds of six brewers and this is the third round of six. The three ingredients this round are Smoked Malt, Vanilla, and Centennial hops. With the hops adding a big citrus, grapefruit flavor I'll be using the hops for bittering because I'm not sure how smoke,vanilla, and grapefruit go together in beer, but grilled grapefruit with vanilla foam sounds good. Anyway it's very exciting to be invited to brew in this competition. The competition is steep this round with home brewers who brew damn good beers. Really looking forward to try what everyone brews up, but especially Slovak Brewer Stephen Freshnock's Belgian 'house smoked' Golden ale. He is by far taking the biggest risk while the rest of us are being 'safer' and brewing darker beers (3 porters, a dunkelweizen, and my brown ale). The dunkel is a pretty bold move as well though.

Allez Brasser! With these three ingredients I decided upon a Robust Brown Ale as a base. A baltic brown porter of sorts. With 37% of grist bill being Cherry Wood Smoked Malt to create a sweet bacon malty backbone. A halved Vanilla bean will be added to secondary after infusing in Bourbon for a week. Centennial hops will be used for bitterness to balance out this burly brown ale. Click here for recipe.

pLambic 1.1

The title for this post is not a spelling error. The lower case 'p' stands for 'pure culture' since real Lambic beers are only produced in the Pajottenland region of Belgium. Lambic beers from this region are brewed with a plethora of wild yeast and bacteria that creates sour and vinous flavors. These bugs of the brewing world lend a complexity to beer that doesn't exist in pure brewers yeast. Tomme Arthur writes about these bugs on the White Labs webpage. To read more about the history of Lambic beers read on.

For my pLambic today I performed a single decoction mash to create the web of dextrins necessary to make a flavorful Lambic. Also did my best to have a turbid mash which is to do the opposite of what good brewing technique dictates. By stirring the mash periodically during runoff I affected the turbidity of the wort I collected. Again, normally you want clear wort when you runoff but when preparing wort for wild beers it's a little different. You want tannins, dextrins, and other proteins to make there way to the fermentation vessel. What normally is a detriment to creating a high quality beverage is in this case needed to feed the bugs.

I'm going to split this batch between two 3 gallon FV. One I'll pitch White Labs WLP655 Belgian Sour Mix. The other I will pitch a pure brewers yeast strain, Fermentis US-05. To then pitch a different blend of bugs to that 3 gallon version later on. The caveat with these bugs is they take up to six months to really begin to emerge. So what is brewed today is enjoyed a very long time from now.