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I tried out my first five gallon batch (prior to this I had a 1 gallon system) with a pumpkin ale. I followed this recipe: SMASHING PUMPKIN ALE except that at the last 15 minutes of the boil I added a tsp of Irish moss to increase the clarity of the finished product. I also opted to add real vegetable and added 11 cans of 100% pumpkin puree or a little over 10 lbs of pumpkin. I used the liquid recommended yeast instead of the dry mentioned in the recipe.

The brewing process went well but when I started to siphon into my carboy I was unable to use my filter funnel because the wort was too thick (likely because of the pumpkin) and it kept clogging it up. So I skipped the funnel and put the wort directly into the carboy.

Within about 6 hours I noticed the first signs of fermentation. Within 12 hours it was bubbling pretty well, which was to be expected. However, it's been about 36 hours now and the fermentation seems to have stopped. I never got a good, vigorous fermentation and no head on the beer. The beer separated, so about the top half of the liquid looks like a solid pumpkin beer, very clear, and the second, bottom half is very thick, likely the pumpkin.

I've never brewed with pumpkin before so should I not expect a good fermentation because of this? My OG was a little off from the recipe (I think) as I had 1.050 and they had 1.056, but it was also very tough to tell because the wort was so thick the hydrometer just kind of stuck in it and didn't float and bob like it should have.

Any tips are greatly appreciated. I fear my first batch with my new five gallon system won't turn out very well.

  • Where in the process did you add the pumpkin? That recipe calls for adding it to the mash, so it shouldn't have made it into the boil kettle. – Simon Sep 15 '16 at 21:17
  • I have a 10 gallon kettle that is used for the mash and boil. I don't have separate vessels for those steps. – Brandon Parker Sep 15 '16 at 22:38
  • What method are you using to separate the grain from the wort, then? It could be that it wasn't effective for the puree as well. – Simon Sep 16 '16 at 14:59
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    @Simon i use grain bags – Brandon Parker Sep 17 '16 at 2:07
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11 cans is a lot. Pumpkin is also mostly starch so adding it in the boil probably did give you some flavor, but mostly a starchy mess as you indicated. You didn't mention it but I would suspect you left a fair amount of material behind in the boil kettle because I doubt it would all fit in your carboy (meaning 5 gallons of wort and all that pumpkin solid). So it sounds to me like you have a small amount of beer that fermented out already or slowed drastically due to all the starch.

I'd let it settle for a few days. Take a gravity reading and see if its close to terminal gravity. The longer you let it sit the more that puree will settle down some and the more beer you'll be able to rescue when you package. It might not be a total loss, but you'll have to wait and see.

Tips for the future would be to add that pumpkin to the mash. I'd also add pound of rice hulls as well to help with the lauter. I make a sweet potato beer and I add baked sweet potatoes to the mash. That converts much of the starch to fermentable sugars and leaves much of the solid mess behind.

  • Thanks. The recipe said 8-10 pounds so that's what I did. I have a 10 gallon brew kettle so I added it with the mash and obviously left it for the boil since it can't be removed. I managed to drain the entire kettle when I finished chilling the wort and got close to 5 gallons in the carboy. It seems separated now so I was thinking of racking the beer part (about 2-3 gallons) into another carboy with yeast to try to ferment that. Is that a good plan? – Brandon Parker Sep 15 '16 at 11:43
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    @BrandonParker it's possible that much pumpkin in the mash effected the diastatic power of the grains giving only a portion of the fermentables. What could ferment did it's thing in the first hours. – Evil Zymurgist Sep 15 '16 at 13:20
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    @BrandonParker as for a plan. I would keep it in primary. Take a gravity reading to see if it's done and taste it. If it's not full of off flavors it may be ready to cold crash to compact the pumpkin down to recover as much beer as possible. If the gravity is still high, raise your temp to 68-72 to wake up the yeast, give it a good swirl to get more in suspension. – Evil Zymurgist Sep 15 '16 at 13:28
  • The recipe I use for pumpkin ale (brewing better beer, gordon strong) calls for 9 lbs of pumpkin and recommends baking/turning the canned pumpkin at 400 degrees for an hour or two until it is "mostly dry and caramelized" and then sparging through it and leaving it in the wort until your boil starts. I've tried mashing with it in the whole time and it led to a very slow draining mash. I also keep the pumpkin in cheesecloth for easy removal. – Jeff Shaw Sep 16 '16 at 12:40

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