Brewing beer has so many variables that can change a beer for better or for worse…

Both pumpkin ales are out and I’ve got some interesting results to share with you…

Let me start with the purpose of this experiment

It all started when I researched brewing a pumpkin beer back in Aug/Sep and came across a very debatable topic… do you add pumpkin to the mash or the boil?

The arguments said that pumpkin has starches and therefore you needed to mash… others said just boil it, it doesn’t have enough starches to risk a stuck sparge…

Some even said… who cares, pumpkin is bland you can’t taste it anyways… worry about spices instead… in fact some toyed with the idea that you don’t need to add pumpkin at all, just pumpkin pie spice and other spices…

My question was ‘will mashing or boiling pumpkin give the beer more pumpkin flavor?’…. after all that’s what really matter anyways…

Here’s the videos on how I brewed both batches…

First Pumpkin ale

Second Pumpkin ale

Surprisingly the first batch, although somewhat flat, tastes a lot more like pumpkin than the second batch… that was the batch where I added pumpkin to the boil…

However, I can’t just say that boiling pumpkin gives you the most pumpkin flavor because of a couple observations I made…

To start off, the first batch is not carbonated and the second one is… that could have an effect on why the second batch doesn’t taste as much as pumpkin as the first one…

I’m not quite sure why the first batch didn’t carbonate, but my best guess is that I let the priming sugar cool down too much or didn’t mix it well because I did have one bottle make a little mess… the beer isn’t completely flat, it just seems as if I only added 1 or 2 oz or corn sugar instead of 4…

The second observation is that the fermentation on the second batch was stronger… I may have pitched more yeast than I intended because the airlock was popping harder eventhough the temperature during fermentation was the same as the first batch… that may have caused the second batch to lose some aromatics….

Stronger fermentations are usually desired for really clean beers or beers that don’t have much aroma… and well that’s more or less how the second batch turned out, really clean and with little aroma compared to the first…

One of the concerns with boiling pumpkin instead of mashing was that you would get a hazy beer…. I did not see any problem in that area…

One of the concerns with mashing instead of boiling was stuck sparges… again, no problems there – at least not with my equipment…

So here are my thoughts on this…

I’m leaning more towards boiling pumpkin as opposed to mashing, however, I will probably run this test again at some point in the future with tighter control and will keg the beer instead of bottle it so I can be sure to have the same amount of carbonation in both beers…

I do remember the second batch actually tasting better than the first one during bottling… it just lost all the aromatics and became somewhat bland… that’s why I question whether the first batch would taste just as bland had it carbonated?… and maybe it is a clue that this beer should be as low carbonated as possible… just enough to lift aromatics…

This experiment has raised lot of questions and has given me some ideas for more experiments…

What I got out of this experiment was that you can brew the beer both ways and worry more about the spices, and controlling the strength of your fermentation… most new brewers think their job with a beer is done after they boil, when really how you ferment, carbonate and even serve the beer can have a great impact on the final product…

This experiment raised a question which I believe will be my next experiment… say you want to brew a beer you previously brewed and you happen to pitch more yeast… will lowering the temperature to ease down fermentation give you similar results as lower pitching rate and higher temperature?

The assumption here is that you are pitching an adequate amount of yeast in both cases… and although I will look for difference in flavors, I want to know how aromas are affected…

The idea here is to have an option to remain consistent with your beers and adjust your process based on current events…

Just to clarify, even though I’m leaning towards boiling instead of mashing, this experiement is inconclusive in my mind and I need to get answers to more questions before I pick a side…

I’m thinking there may be advantages to both methods and it may be a matter of knowing when to use each…

Cheers!


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