Seasonal brews can become great annual traditions: fruit-filled drinks for the summer, spiced drinks for the winter, and so forth. The catch is that you have to plan ahead. If you want a good Octoberfest brew, you need to start making it no later than August! If you start one now, it will be ready to drink well before Halloween.
With that in mind, I present a new seasonal cider for your enjoyment: Pumpkinhead Cider. I made a test batch last year and am starting a new batch now. This recipe combines standard cider ingredients with most of the ingredients for a pumpkin pie. Pumpkin pie filling is a great shortcut for a pumpkin-based brew because it includes the spices needed to make the pumpkin flavor stand out.
Remember, you can tweak my recipes to your own liking. I included a few options in the recipe below. For example, to keep the dark, rich flavor and color associated with most breweries’ Octoberfest varieties, I recommend using either brown sugar (medium darkness) or molasses (very dark) instead of white sugar. I have tried molasses in the standard Panda Beer with great success. I am also trying out different acid blends, which bring out different aspects of the apple flavor.
- 6 gallons apple juice
- 1 cup brown sugar or molasses (your choice)
- 1/2 cup honey
- 30-oz. canned pumpkin (one large can)
- 60-oz. pumpkin pie filling (two large cans)
- 2 Tbs. malic acid or an acid blend (try 2 tsp. each of malic, tartaric, and citric acid for a sharper flavor)
- 2 Tbs. vanilla extract
- 2 Camden tablets (150 ppm)
- Champagne yeast (such as Lalvin EC-118 or Red Star Pasteur Champagne yeast)
- Dissolved in two cups of warm water and added right before bottling:
- 3/4 cup priming sugar
- 3/4 cup lactose
- 3/4 cup maltodextrin
- Follow standard brewing procedureswith a slight variation:
- When starting the batch, pour all of your pumpkin into a mesh bag (nylon or muslin), tie it shut, and simmer it for 20 minutes in apple juice. Put the bag of pumpkin in your brewing bucket for the first stage and then dispose of it when you rack the cider into a clean carboy.
- If you don’t have an appropriate bag, you can add the pumpkin straight to the juice; the only drawback is that you will probably end up with more pumpkin sediment left in the cider.