Showing posts with label pumpkin ale. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pumpkin ale. Show all posts

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Session: Colonial Uprising


This month's Session is being hosted by my mate Reuben over at The Tale of the Ale, who I am looking forward to showing the delights of the Central VA booze scene in a few weeks. His theme is as follows:
If you have a local beer style that died out and is starting to appear again then please let the world know. Not everyone will so just write about any that you have experienced. Some of the recent style resurrections I have come across in Ireland are Kentucky Common, Grodziskie, Gose and some others. Perhaps it's a beer you have only come across in homebrew circles and is not even made commercially.

There are no restrictions other than the beer being an obscure style you don't find in very many places. The format, I leave up to individuals. It could be a historical analysis or just a simple beer review.
If you've been reading Fuggled for a while you will know that history is something I am generally very interested in. The history of beer is of course very interesting, and far better served by the likes of Martyn Cornell and Ron Pattinson than I. Each year since I moved to the US I have organised the International Homebrew Project, which seeks to rebrew historic recipes based on Ron's research. You could say then that I enjoy reviving lost, forgotten, or misunderstood beer styles.

Living in an area of Virginia steeped with Colonial and Revolutionary era history, I am finding myself more and more interested in the lives of the people that left everything they knew back in Europe to come to the New World, including what they drank. It would seem from my reading that malted barley was something of a luxury item, and so beers from those eras were laden with ingredients that would make a Reinheitsgebot purist freak out.

Thomas Jefferson for example sought out 'The New American Brewer and Tanner' by Joseph Coppinger because it contained a method for 'malting Indian Corn'. Coppinger though mentions that it is 'peculiarly adapted to the brewing of porter' which makes me wonder if the pale beers on the market claiming to be based on Jefferson's 'recipe' (which he himself claimed was impossible to write down) are missing the mark by not using corn in a porter.

However, I digress. This year I am doing a homebrew project to recreate a drink that dates from the early 18th century, and is attested to as being brewed in southern Virginia in the run up to the American Revolution. Said drink is called 'pumperkin', and is described thus:
Let the Pompion be beaten in a Trough and pressed as Apples. The expressed juice is to be boiled in a copper a considerable time and carefully skimmed that there may be no remains of the fibrous part of the pulp. After that intention is answered let the liquid be hopped culled fermented & casked as malt beer.

Thus it is that I have 16 pumpkin plants in grow bags in a part of my garden where hopefully the deer will not discover them. I want this project to be as faithful as possible to what would have been produced at that time, so I am growing a heritage cultivar of pumpkins dating back to the 17th century. When the time comes to brew the beer sometime in the autumn, I will likely use Cluster hops, or alternatively East Kent Goldings, rather than a modern American hop strain.

I have no idea what to expect from the beer in terms of flavour, strength, drinkability, or even how much I will have of the stuff - that all depends on the pumpkins themselves. All I know at this point is that it is exciting to think about being engaged in experimental beer archaeology.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tastes of Autumn

I can't remember who tweeted it, but someone the other day asked the question "pumpkin beers or Octoberfest lagers"?

As a committed devotee of all beers decocted, cold fermented and then cold conditioned, the answer is fairly obvious for me, give me a pint of Octoberfest any day of the autumnal week. There is also the fact that I just don't seem able to get along with pumpkin beers.

As for the actual Octoberfest seasonals that I have enjoyed so far this year, Samuel Adams is a solid as ever offering, and Bell's Octoberfest is a serious candidate for my lager of the year. Big juicy caramel malts and a dose of background bitterness for balance make this an insanely easy beer to drink. While at 5.5% abv it is no session beer (regardless of what the marketing mandarins have written on the website), it is a delicious brew for sitting at a trestle table with buxom wenchie types bringing you bratwurst laden with lashings of mustard. I only have about 30 more bottles of beer to drink before my self-imposed ban on buying bottled beer is finished with, once that is done with I can see this filling some of the available space.


There is of course more to autumnal drinking than Octoberfest and pumpkin beers, for this is the season when brown ale, whether "nut" or otherwise, makes its appearance. Sierra Nevada's Tumbler is a favourite of mine, and not just because they call it an "Autumn Brown Ale" rather than a "Fall Brown Ale", smooth, silken and luscious to drink. Speaking of Nut Brown Ale, it is around this time of year that I see the eponymous Samuel Smiths winking from the fridge and indulge.

Autumn, don't you just love it?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Of Pumpkins and Pilsners

Mrs Velkyal seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time on the phone yesterday - thankfully we have Vonage and so pay a set monthly fee and can call locally and nationally, as well as to select foreign countries (including all the places my family live) for no additional charge.

During both calls, firstly to her family in South Carolina and then from her best friend, also in South Carolina, a variation on the "what is Al brewing?" question was asked. With Mrs V's family we were talking about mead, as I intend to make a maple and clover mead, using maple syrup and clover honey. With Mrs V's best friend the question was "is Al brewing a pumpkin ale?". To which the answer is no, and up until that point I didn't have any plans to do so, but I felt it necessary to do some research and headed off to the shops to buy some examples of this most American of beers, and so I swung by Beer Run and sampled the Southern Tier Pumking which they had on tap - hmm, not impressed. Too sweet and sickly for my tastes. Eventually though I headed home with all the pumpkin beers I could find, and so here we go on the Cyclops notes....


  • Sight - amber, 1 inch of white head
  • Smell - spicy, acetone, wet cardboard
  • Taste - watery, some spice, fruity
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 1/5
Goodness me this is boring stuff. Bland, undertoned and quite simply insipid. If anyone in the Charlottesville area actually likes this stuff, I have 5 more bottles that I am willing to give away for free. If this is the best large brewery in America, then God help us.

  • Sight - copper, thin white head
  • Smell - slight spice, mostly cloves
  • Taste - sweet, like a creme brulee
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
I have a grudging respect for Michelob. This beer, in common with most of their wares, is nothing special but perfectly drinkable and inoffensive. This reminded me of my spiced winter ale, but a lot weaker and more watery.

  • Sight - light amber, almost no head to speak of
  • Smell - very spicy, lots of cinnamon and a slight cideriness
  • Taste - syrupy, caramel and spices
  • Sweet - 3.5/5
  • Bitter - 1/5
This was again very sweet, but not cloyingly though sufficiently sweet to be sickly if you drank more than a few ounces. Not what I would have expected from Dogfish Head.

The pumpkin ales then that I had yesterday would not inspire me to brew my own, though I wonder if the base beer, which would seem to be a generic amber ale, gets overwhelmed in the process? Would a pumpkin stout work better? Or even a pumpkin Belgian sour red? At the moment then I still have no plans to make a beer with pumpkins, I already have plenty of experiments to do.

On a side note, today sees the release of the Pilsner that I helped brew at Devils Backbone. If you are in the area, get along to the pub tonight and try it. You may well run into me filling every growler I have available!

Beyond January

Dry January is over, but my beer fast continues. Well, it continues until Friday. As a general rule I only drink at the weekend, thus my win...

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