How To Improve/Build Your Own Pumpkin Beer

It’s fall and if you are brewing with the season, this is the time of year where people start making the pumpkin brews.  If you are like me you’ve tasted lot’s of pumpkin beers.  I’ve found myself in the past making pumpkin beers even though I really don’t like them but rather because it’s, “What you are supposed to do”, as a homebrewer.  I told myself that this year I was going to do a pumpkin beer that I actually like, and it’s not really even a 100% pumpkin beer.

So how do I make a pumpkin beer without going all pumpkin?  What I do is, cut the amount of pumpkin with either : 1) Butternut squash or 2) Acorn squash.  I say either or, because some people like one over the other.  But if you don’t really care, then either will work.  I tend to lean towards the acorn squash when I make mine.

Why This Route May Be For You

If you are like me and in the past you have found that when you drink a pumpkin ale, all you can taste is the spices and not actual pumpkin.  If that is the case and you want to taste the squash, this route may be for you.  For me I actually want to taste the pumpkin itself, not the spices.  My personal opinion is if you can’t taste the pumpkin then what was the point of even adding it, so you can say it’s a pumpkin ale?  I would just say it’s a spiced fall beer.  That is why I’m adding and also suggest to add other types of squash to the pumpkin ale, these different types of squash really shine in the beer and will accent the pumpkin flavor to a point of being recognizable.

How To Build A Recipe That Will Accept A Pumpkin Flavor

We wrote a post a while back on how to build your own recipe.  In it we really talk about focal points.  What a focal point is, is the characteristic that you are trying to bring out of the beer.  For this pumpkin beer what we are going for is a strong pumpkin/squash flavor.  So how do we do that?  We strip down every thing that does not contribute to that pumpkin flavor.  Building a basic recipe for this beer is better, don’t go crazy.

Specialty Grains For This Beer

As a base recipe, I would use something that resembles a pale ale, standard bitter, brown ale, light porter or amber.  I would do minimal specialty grains and probably something that has malty flavors to really accent on the pumpkin also.  A rule of thumb for this would be  1 lbs – 1.5 lbs of specialty grains and something on the lines of, Munich, Vienna, Amber malt, victory, or biscuit.  If you choose to make a brown or a porter, I would suggest using butternut squash because not the acorn squash because it has a hazelnut after flavor when you brew with it.  If you want to use some recipes as a base recipe, check out beertools and just see what some look like, copy and tweak things you think look good.

Hop Addition For Pumpkin Beer

When I do the hops for pumpkin or squash beer, I do a first wort hop addition (FWH).  The funny thing is that I use to do these all the time when I first started brewing by, “mistake”, but I honestly like the way that they taste, and not sure why more people don’t use them.

A FWH addition is when you add the hops to the wort before it even begins to boil, then you bring it to a boil.  What this does is provides a less, “harsh”, bitter flavor to your beer.  There is a scientific reason for this that I won’t get into, but if your interested here is a link .

Going back to FWH, it will keep the hops uniformed for your main attraction, the pumpkin/squash.  Also for the hops with FWH I would go for something between 6AAU and 10AAU, that’s personal choice though; just a suggestion (If you don’t know what AAU are click here).  I honestly wouldn’t add any aroma hops with it if you were planning on spicing it because it’s going to take away from the spices or it’s going to be faded out by the spices.  For this beer, simple is going to be better.  Also last tip, since squash has an earthy flavor, use earthy hops not citrus hops. If you keep a common theme, it will be less chaotic.

How Much Pumpkin/Squash Should Be Added?

I usually go with 6 lbs – 10 lbs of pumpkin for a, “normal” pumpkin beer.  For this recipe though I want to use squash as well, so if you wanted to cut the pumpkin I would go with a 3:2 ratio of squash to pumpkin or even a 2:1 ratio. That goes for the total weight before it’s cleaned.  So for me I’m going use 3 acorn squashes (they normally weigh about 2 lbs -3 lbs each) and 1 small (and I’m talking I only want 2 lbs of pumpkin small) pumpkin.

How To Use Pumpkin/Squash In A Recipe

When using pumpkin/squash, heat your oven to about 350.  Cut and clean your pumpkin/squash and then put it in the oven until it turns a bit brown and starts to caramelize up.   A suggestion that a customer gave me that is worth sharing is, he said he does this the day before and then freezes it.  The reason for freezing it is, that it is easier to take the skin off the squash/pumpkin because you really don’t want to steep it with it.

When To Add The Pumpkin/Squash Into The Beer Recipe

Put the pumpkin/squash in with the specialty grains and steep them.  In the past though I really try to steep my grains and squash for about one hour if I can.  The reason for this is I want to get as much out of it as possible.  Also I’ll use a bit more water then I normally would, closer to 3.5 gallons (if I’m doing specialty grains) because the pumpkin/squash will absorb some.  If you are doing all-grain just add them in with the mash, and make sure to include about a 1 pound of rice hulls so you don’t get a stuck sparge if you don’t really trust your sparging abilities.

Pumpkin Spices

If you really wanted to add some spices to your beer (which I’m not), what I would suggest is wait until the very end.  If you add it in the boil, you will pick up flavors with it.  I would try to do it right before you bottle or keg.  This gives you a bit of a handicap.  You will just pick up on the smell of the spices, but the pumpkin or squash will be what you taste.  The hops at the end will be smooth and with out a, “harsh” bittering flavor.  So for me, I’m not doing any spices at all.  I don’t want this to be a pumpkin pie recipe, just pumpkin (and squash of course) recipe.

There Is Still Time

There is still plenty of time left for this recipe, you can make it and have it ready for thanksgiving or just a fall time beer.   Pretty soon, I’ll be putting up some idea’s for xmas brews that you can do – of course the typical with the spices but also what I plan on doing this year to avoid spiced beers.  Hope you enjoy.


Other Post We Have About Pumpkin Ale’s

1) Pumpkin Pie Recipe

2) Pumpkin Pie Recipe Variation

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Pumpkin Ale Recipe

Pumpkins are in season, it’s time to do a pumpkin ale.  All a pumpkin ale is, is a lighter beer that you will put pumpkin and spices in.  With that said, you don’t typically want to make a beer that will take away from the pumpkin.  We do have a pumpkin ale recipe that we posted up last year.  This recipe listed below can substitute the one from last year also.  In general this beer is a light amber beer with a little bit of orange color.  Its got a white head and a light aroma. The hop aroma is limited but if you could call it anything it would be, “earthy”.


10 oz 80L Crystal Malt

6 oz Munich Malt

5.75 lbs DME Extra Light

.75 oz Columbus hops (60min)

1 oz Styrian Goldings (15min)

1 oz Styrian Goldings (2min)

WLP 001 or Safale 05


  • Heat 2.5 gallons of water up to 150 degrees
  • Steep grains for 30 minutes
  • Take grains out and add DME
  • Bring to boil
  • In begining of boil add, columbus hops
  • Boil for 45 min add 1 oz of styrian goldings
  • Boil for 13 min
  • Add 1/2 oz Styrian Goldings
  • Boil for 2 min
  • End boil, cool down, pitch yeast

OG: 1.050

FG: 1.012

IBU: 28

SRM: 14

ABV: 4.8%


I think that less is more when it comes to adding the spices to the pumpkin ale.   If you buy a premade pumpkin ale recipe kit, you are the mercy of how the manufacturer put in the spices and in my humble opinion usually they over do it.  When making your own pumpkin ale recipe, if you are going to go big with something, go big with the actual pumpkin not with the spices.

The last thing is,  I heard this from a customer and thought it was a very clever idea.  When you go and buy your pumpkin, go and buy two of them.  Take the extra one,  and freeze it.  That way next year you can get your pumpkin ale recipe started early!



Pumpkin Pie Ale Recipe

Pumpkin Ale Recipe/How To Improve & Without Spices

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Adding Spices To Make A Pumpkin Pie Brew Like A Boss

It’s time to make the pumpkin ale brew taste like a pumpkin pie. If your totally lost on what you need to do to get up to this point or what I’m talking about, it may be a good idea to refresh yourself and reread the blog that this corresponds to this one.

As a reminder, the reason why I add all of these spices to the secondary is that I find you don’t have to add as much to the beer to have the flavors of the spices come out, especially in the aroma department.  Having the spices in the aroma is particularly what I like.

What you need:

2 vanilla beans

1.0 tsp pumpkin spice

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ginger

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1) Take the spices listed above and measure them out, put them in a bowl.

2) Take those vanilla beans out of there bottle then make a slice down the center of them.  The real flavor of the vanilla bean is inside of the bean itself.  With that said, you want to make sure that you cut them open the long ways.

Below is a picture of the beans cut in half.

Fill a pot with about a cup or so of water and bring to boil.

After the water starts to boil, add the vanilla beans to it and let it boil for about 30 seconds, your doing this to kill bacteria that might be on the beans so you don’t contaminate your brew that you worked so hard for.

After the vanilla beans have boiled add the measured spices that were in the bowl into the boiling water.  Note: I have listed the spices to what I like in my beer. It is really subjective, if you like your brew to have lots of spices add more.  If you would like your beer to be light on the spices don’t add as much.  What I have listed is purely based off of what I like and I don’t expect everyone to enjoy what I like. 

Turn off boil. Note: Even though it is not listed, at this point I added half a pound of maple syrup to it.  I’ve actually never done it before to a pumpkin brew and thought it could be different.  I did it because I wanted it to smell sweeter.  I only added half of pound of maple syrup because that’s all I had in the pantry at the time.  Never doing that to a pumpkin pie brew before, I don’t know what is going to happen actually or if I’ll be able to taste it.  When I taste it I’ll let you know though.

While the mixture of spices are cooling down (which shouldn’t take long because it’s only a cup or so of water) take your beer which is in the primary and siphon it over to secondary to, presuming that you have cleaned and sanitized everything.

After this is done, add all of your spices and vanilla beans into your secondary fermentation and then your done for 2 weeks.  You can leave it in longer if you would like, but 2 weeks usually is good enough for me.

Here is a picture of the vanilla bean seeds floating around. 


I found that vanilla beans to be kinda of expensive this year when I went to Safeway to pick them up.  They were about $6 for one bean.  Which means that they come out to be $12 and some change for this recipe, and those where the cheapest ones (they had some for $20 a bean).  I still believe that they are better then extract but never the less, you can always get them online for cheaper.

I think also the potency of the spices deals with how old your spices are, don’t quote me on that though.  What I’ve heard is that the older the spice the, “duller” they are in flavor.  So depending on what you want as well as the age of your spices, you might add more or less. If your not confident with the spices, or you think mine is too much or too little, act appropriately and just add slowly into your boiling water then smell.  Stop adding the spices once you have reached the smell that you like. If you think that I’m adding a lot of spices, just keep in mind that some internet stores will literally give you 5 oz of spices in a pumpkin ale kit… what the hell? That’s more then a quarter pound of spices in a beer.  REALLY?! I guess they live by the phrase, go big or go home. Either way, some may like that, not I, that’s to much for me. But to each is there own.

At the end of the boil, I smelled the mixture and it wasn’t as sweet of a smell as I wanted or anticipated.  I just ended up adding some maple syrup to it.  I’ve added maple syrup to other beers before, one which I’ll put posting the recipe soon, but never to a pumpkin brew.  I’ll see if it comes through when I taste it.  After I added the maple syrup to the mixture I could smell it cutting threw the spices and it did smell sweeter, we’ll see how it goes.

So that’s it, we sit and let it do its thing in the secondary for about 2 weeks if you want more of the flavors lean on 3-4 weeks then bottle.  If you were hoping to have this done by Halloween it may be cutting it close, I would just plan on having this with thanksgiving.

I’ll make sure to post when it comes to tasting and see if I’ll tweak this recipe when it comes to next year.


Related Post

Pumpkin Ale Recipe

Barley Wine Recipe

Adding Spices To Pumpkin Ale

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Make A Pumpkin Pie Brew Like A Boss

Pumpkins are now at stores, which means one thing, its Pumpkin Ale Time!  I love my pumpkin ales.  You can litterally do what ever you wish with a Pumpkin Ale.  This recipe is one that I enjoy making, it really taste like a pumpkin pie in your mouth.

At the end of the recipe I have an analysis of why I chose to do it this way.


Primary Fermentation

6.6 lbs golden light malt extract

.5 lbs 2 row – which will turn into toasted malt (makes sure it is bagged by its lonesome, away from all other specialty grains)

.5 lbs Vienna Malt

.25 lbs 60L Crystal Malt

.5 cup of Brown Sugar

1 oz Northern Brewer Hops (60min Boil)

1 Large Pumpkin

Safale 05 or WLP 001 California Ale Yeast

Secondary Fermenation Ingredients

2 vanilla beans

1.0 tsp pumpkin spice

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ginger

1/4 tsp cinnamon


You might want to read over the directions first before starting.  I’ve laid them out in a way so you can do as much as you can with your time so this doesn’t take half of your day.  WARNING: YOU WILL BE MULTITASKING 

Take your brew pot, fill with 2.5 gallons of water, put on the stove and turn on heat. At the same time turn on the oven to 350. Your going to have to keep an eye on your water and turn off the heat when water reaches 150 degrees.  In the mean time you can work on a few things.

Take 2 row that is crushed and spread on backing pan and put in oven for 15-20min (until slightly brown) once the oven has reached 350.

2 row before its toasted

While the 2 row is toasting, and water is heating up, take your pumpkin and start carving.  To carve your pumpkin, cut the top off and take a spoon and scoop out the, “guts” of the pumpkin.  Keep the seeds!  At the end we’ll be using those.

Below are pictures of pumpkin carving

What it looks like inside

Around this point in time, your water should be close to being heated up to 150 and your grains should start smelling like grape nuts.  If it’s been 15 min of toasting, take the 2 row out of the oven. The 2 row should be a bit darker.

Keep the oven on at 350, we’ll be using it again in just a bit.

Below is what the 2-Row should look like. 

Now take all of your grains including the toasted 2 row, put in steeping bag and steep at 150 for 30 min.

Steeping grains:

While the grains are steeping, cut your pumpkin up in cubes and place on a baking pan.

They should look like something on the lines of what is below.

After you have your pumpkin cut up into cubes, put onto baking pans and set them in the oven for an hour. The objective is to make sure that pumpkin is cooked all the way until it is mushy. Don’t cover the pumpkin with tin foil.

The grains should steep for 30min and when the steeping is complete, take grains out, add malt extracts, bring to a boil.  At the beginning of the boil add in 1 oz of Northern Brewer hops.  If you want it to be a little less hoppy I would suggest that you do .5 oz of northern brewer hops. Regardless of how much you are boiling, boil hops for 1 hour.

Your pumpkin slices that you’ve put into the oven will be done before the boil is.  When the pumpkin have been fully cooked, take them out of the oven and put into a steeping bag (nylon bags work the best for this)

 Cooked pumpkins should look something on the lines of below.

You should be nearing the end of the boil by now.  At the end of the boil take your pumpkin that you put into a nylon bag and put in wort.  Turn off heat, and put on the lid.  You’ll let the pumpkin steep in the wort for 1 hour.

Steeping pumpkins

You’ve got an hour to kill so that’s why we kept the pumpkin seeds.  Take the pumpkin seeds that you kept, put salt on them or onion salt (a little goes a long way) and put in the oven at 350 for about 20 min or until brown.

They should end up looking some what on the lines of this.

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