As life slaps me in the face, I turn a cheek and find some fun times had the past few months. One of the funniest being Bumpkin Fest, or rather as it’ll be known for this year, The Return of Bumpkin. You may recall last year at Gratis for the first time a pumpkin ale was brewed. But rather than the traditional ho-hum pumpkin ale, we brewed inside a giant orange gourd. Even on that day we started planning for this year’s version. The pumpkin held up so well then that we decided to brew multiple batches through the same pumpkin. This however would not work according to plan.
We found out during Six Strain brew day that it is possible to brew three batches in the same day. If you start before the crack of dawn and have enough people to handle all the other chores associated with brewing. So again we start before the butt crack of dawn. I arrive to meet Rick for the first time (co-founder of The Southern Brewing Co.) and his bro-in-law Eddie. I’m not sure what Cloudy has against Eddie, but he was separating pumpkin seeds from the meat. That’s a tough job at 6 am on a Saturday. Getting a pumpkin that will hold 15 – 20 pounds of grain inside is tough enough, but getting two has to be a real chore. Worse yet, this went down on September 8, planned around when we were both available and not a Dawgs home game. Sarah was in SSI for a bachelorette weekend and UGA was preparing to whoop Mizzou later that night. So imagine finding two huge pumpkins almost a month before October?
Brian found plenty of pumpkins, two giants plus multiple others to use in the mash and boil if needed. He would start the brew day brewing last year’s recipe with some tweaks, mainly the yeast and spice additions. But not before the feared brew day phantom showed its wrath. The first pumpkin gets plumbed and we discover a leak. Now last year’s was solid, but had a leak also. By the end of the mash and sparge last year we had lost maybe 2 – 3 cups of wort. This pumpkin was loosing water at a rate of about a cup every 2 – 3 minutes. Brian made some adjustments to the copper manifold inside to try to level it through rind, since it appeared it was coming through at an angle. Looking back at last year’s pumpkin just now it was completely flat on one side from growing that way without being turned. So maybe for next year we’ll hunt down a flat bottom pumpkin? Second giant pumpkin is gutted and ready as Brian finally comes to senses that this one isn’t going to work. Eddie gets screwed again separating seeds from that stringy mess. We fill the second pumpkin with water and realize it’s not going to hold enough mash and water for the brews we’re looking at doing. So Brian begins to dig out some more meat when he realizes that I was standing there with the temperature probe through the wall and uses it to dig a gash into his hand. This was only the first brew day phantom’s attack.
The beer I was brewing would be the second batch of the day. A pumpkin porter brewed with graham crackers. I was content on adding real graham crackers to the mash, but Brian (with much more knowledge) was certain it would plug the grain bed. So he found an Alton Brown recipe for graham crackers and purchased the dry ingredients for me to use in the mash. The brew day phantom showed again and the pumpkin was leaking after the first batch finished. We found it Rick cleaned the spent grain using a small electric wet/dry vac from Lowes. Well, he labored away and shoveled out most of the grain. The vac was a good idea and held up well with the heat. I have a video that WP won’t allow me to post unless I pay them. Brian and I start racking our brains on how to get the punk tun to stop leaking. Apparently his idea is to slice his hand on some tin and bleed every where. My idea is to trash the pumpkin and use the actual lauter tun. After enough blood for one day he reluctantly bows and I think the brew day phantom has left the premises for this day. My brew finishes without hiccups and the third batch of the day gets underway.
The third batch is a wicked with ingredients, maple bacon coffee, coconut, pumpkin of course and finally after fermentation, aged in whiskey barrels on more coconut. This batch finishes with no problems also. Some where during all the mass confusion of brewing Chef Miley showed up and brought over lunch, spicy Cajun shrimp and grits. I finally dug into some after my brew finished and damn it was good. We finally get around to cleaning everything up and getting myself into shower. It’s a good thing after sweating in a brew shirt all day I smelled worse than wet puppy dog. Meanwhile during all this beer brewing and shenanigans Jen had been slaving away in the kitchen. It was pot luck style so she cooked everyone’s pot luck. She also made turtle burgers, which are burgers with hot dogs through the body to protrude as the legs, head and tail of the turtle. Plus bacon lattice is used for the turtle’s shell.
After dinner a sheet was hung outside and we enjoyed the Georgia game against Mizzou. We enjoyed the second half more than the first. A few bottles were popped too. Oh, and nearly after all the brewing was done Matt and Kathleen showed up with a closet full of BBA Sexual Chocolate. So that, a Hunahpu along with the (at the time) Nantahala’s only bottle releases, a BBA RIS and a IIPA. I think a combination of slight dehydration and lack of sleep the next morning was brutal. I almost caught wind while everyone else cleaned. Jen saved the day again with breakfast.
All that is left to do now is to open all the bottles, along with mine and the lone bottle of last year’s Bumpkin. Which may very well happen during tonight’s NFL game. Brian also created two great beer labels. Along with a poster of The Return of Bumpkin, which is framed and hanging in our garage.
Cheers to Gratis, Denver, Jen, Miley, Rick and Eddie. We wait patiently listening to Wu-Tang Clan on SBC’s birth.