Is there one style out there that gets more people fired up then pumpkin beers? People either seem to love them or hate the fact that they exist. Personally, I'm somewhere inbetween. I love the style but there are so many that are horrible that I'm very selective in my pumpkin drinking. Last year I swore off beers like Pumpkinhead, Buffalo Bill's Pumpkin, Smuttynose. They seem to exist because the brewery knows people love pumpkin beers because they signal the beginning of fall (even though they are now released in August and July, but that's a whole other story about "seasonal creep"). Not to sound like a snob, but I'm at the point where I'm very selective with my pumpkin beer drinking. I really only order one if it is Southern Tier Pumking (my favorite), Cigar City Good Gourd and maybe Dogfish Head Punkin Ale.
I made a Pumpkin beer called Ichabod Crane last year, but it wasn't quite what I wanted, so I'm off to brew another one this year. Well, that and SWMBO has requested one, so I must oblige.
This recipe is similar to last years, and based off Pumking's malts, but I've added a few twists. I researched Pumking clones forever this year and last and it seems that they do something proprietary to get that crazy buttery/pumpkin pie flavor that they claim can't be repeated outside their brewery. So with that being said, here's my best effort.
Ichabod Crane v2.0
8 lbs Maris Otter
1 lb Crystal 60L
0.3 oz Columbus (60 minutes)
0.25 lb Lactose
30 oz Libby's Pumpkin Puree
1 box graham crackers
1 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 tsp Vanilla
Bake the pumpkin mixed with 1/4 c. maple syrup for 60 minutes at 350F or until carmelized. Cool and add to mash along with box of graham cracker. Add lactose and pumpkin pie spice to end of boil. Add vanilla to taste in bottling bucket.
It's still only a week from bottling but I've cracked 2 open. Nice sweetness, a hint of graham cracker/vanilla (I added ~1/8 tsp to 2 gallons, maybe less). The spicing is in the background, it's not a spice bomb, but could probably use a little more. I'd like the body to be a little more substantial and there to be a bigger caramel-y backbone. Next year I'll add some more crystal malt and some darker malts and actually use a vanilla bean, cinnamon stick, ginger, etc instead of McCormick's pumpkin spice.
Overall though, this is a highly drinkable pumpkin beer. Better then a lot on the market IMHO.