Converting the Wicked – Pumpkin Time!

It’s pumpkin time and as sure as my name is Drew Beechum, the internet is awash in question about pumpkin beers. So to aid in answering some pumpkiny questions, I present to you a column all about the long hard slog to convert my sister to the ways of craft beer. This column first appeared in BeerAdvocate the Magazine in the fall of 2011. Since that time, my sister has gone on to brewing a ton of different beers and haunts the Tampa Bay craft beer scene better than I could. If you happen to see her say hi from her little brother. Her note about the recipe, the spices of the beer are too muted for her tastes. She’s also brewed a really nice Imperial version of the beer as well.

After more than a decade doing this brewing thing, there are a few questions that I see again and again. One of the trickiest is converting the masses to the gospel of good beer. Like missionaries of old who went solo into “uncivilized” areas, we march forth full of fire and brimstone railing against the tide of industrial backwash. But look, all those guys ever did was piss off the natives and possibly end up in a stew pot. By far, the best way to do pull off the conversion miracle is the slow and quiet way. Modern missionaries refer to this as conversion “by our presence”. I prefer to think of it as “not being a snobby know it all prick who makes people reach for the door instead of a pint.” Not nearly as catchy and sermon worthy, but who’s perfect? Anyone near the state of Florida is hearing laughter because, ladies and gentlemen, I offer as my proof of success, my older sister Aimee. (who will either consider this foolish or have me killed) The laugh isn’t because I succeeded, but instead at my notion of “subtle” and “quiet”. See now, my older sister discovered the fine art of drinking beer in college during the late 80’s. (Did I mention she’s older than me?) Since this was in Florida, a state finally catching on to the craft beer thing, she did not develop a taste for worthy brews. For years, this was my secret shame. I come from a family that doesn’t do real beer. My mom prefers a glass of champagne or a half of cider while my sister preferred her “Light”. I tried everything to convert them, including being an obnoxious twip of a young brother (a stunningly natural role for me). On one trip through San Francisco I dragged her from one beer joint to another until we arrived at the Toronado. She begged me for her “Light” beer. I didn’t dare ask the bartender out of fear. I gave up after that. I’d offer a taste now and again. Then one year the family spent Thanksgiving in Santa Rosa, CA. Surprisingly (not) our hotel was a very short walk from Russian River Brewing. Night after night, I washed away the day’s wine residue with Vinnie’s amazing beer. Before this trip my sister told me she’d upgraded to drinking a “Lite” beer and the occasional Guinness. Since RRBC offers no “Lite”, I pointed her to their blonde ale which garnered a “Meh” response. I then offered her a glass of their OVL Stout and that’s when it happened. She liked it! She really, really liked it! Now this wasn’t a thunderstruck moment of instantaneous change. The next day she was right back to her “Lite”, but the transformation had begun. It many, many years of back breaking obnoxiousness, but like water washing endlessly over a rock, I’d make a crack. Little did I know that someone else would complete the job! Fast forward some time and my sister re-meets an old college beau – a homebrewer, no less. Cupid, angels, hearts and curly little bows, etc . The next thing you know she’s texting me from Dunedin Brewery’s “Stogies & Stout” festival, raving about the beers. A barleywine here, a brown ale there, the trickle became a flood. For my birthday I received Cigar City brews! When they got married, Chris’s bachelor party consisted of running around to good beer places in lieu of the passé stripper fest. It was there I discovered that his brew stand was incomplete – no pump. Nothing like buying a high temperature impeller pump as a wedding gift. It’s both useful and annoyed my sister! Now, the transformation is complete. A request recently came across the wire – help her design a pumpkin ale (another favorite) that she could brew. It only took 12 years! Now, what about my mom?

Wicked Sister Pumpkin Ale

For 5.5 gallons at 1.054, 23 IBUs Malt / Grain / Sugar / Fruit 7.0 lbs Domestic Two Row (or Maris Otter) 2.0 lbs Munich Malt 1.0 lbs Crystal 60L 2.0 lbs Pie Pumpkin Flesh, roasted and scooped (or 1 big can of 100% Pumpkin Mix) Mash for 60 minutes at 153-154F Hops 1.0 oz Tettnang (4.5%AA) for 60 minutes 0.5 oz Tettnang (4.5%AA) for 20 minutes Spices (add at 5 minute remaining or create a vodka tincture for packaging) 1/4 tsp Cinnamon 1/4 tsp Ground Ginger 1/8 tsp Nutmeg 1/8 tsp Clove (or allspice) Yeast Wyeast 1272 American Ale II