How to Brew a Pumpkin Beer (with Recipe)

If you’ve walked through the beer section lately, you’ll notice that just about every brewery already has their pumpkin beer out. Don’t worry, you haven’t missed the boat… it’s not even fall yet! It seems, just like every other holiday favorite, these beers are coming out earlier and earlier. The good news for you is that there is still time to start brewing your own.

There are a few different ways to add pumpkin to your beer. However, you’ll be surprised to learn that adding pumpkin alone to your beer isn’t going to give you the same flavors as going to Starbucks and ordering a Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Wait… what?

Yep, you heard me. Pumpkin is a relatively flavorless additive to beer, there is a reason it’s called a Pumpkin SPICE Latte.

So, how do we make a good pumpkin beer? Below, we’ll discuss different ways to add pumpkin in your beer, how to properly spice it, and also offer up a recipe you can make at home.


Methods of Adding Pumpkin

  • Pumpkin pie filling & spices
    When using pie filling, the key is to get unspiced. I recommend Libby’s 100% Pure. It, as stated, is 100% pumpkin. No spices, no additives, no chemicals. To help break up the enzymes, I like to empty the can into a 13×9 casserole dish and bake at 375°F for about 30 minutes. This will also help to caramelize any sugars that may be present and give you some of that dark brown sugar characteristic.

    Suggested use: I like to add my cooked pumpkin pie filling right to the mash tun. I find that I get the same body enhancements, without the mess in the kettle.
  • A real pumpkin with spices
    Scoop it out just like on Halloween, grab a sturdy peeler and clean out the outside, then cut it into chunks. Again, to get some of the flavors out, you may want to bake the pieces for a bit to help soften them up, again 375°F for 30-45 minutes should be good. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn, but some darkness doesn’t mean you’ve ruined your batch. The char may give you a nice smokey twist.

    Suggested Use: Chunks are a little easier to work with when you consider cleanup, so if you are feeling a bit more ambitious, you could add this to the kettle. Just make sure you have enough room for all that added volume. You could also puree it, and use it just like the pie filling.
  • Pumpkin Extract
    Until recently, I didn’t know this existed. Thanks to Jill from Jay’s Brewing for pointing it out (by the way, she has some in stock). These come pre-spiced, so there is no need to worry about adding your own spices. Keep in mind when you go pre-spiced you lose a little control over the final flavor.

    Suggested Use: I’ll be honest when I say I’ve never used this method. I tend to stay away from spiced extracts, because once it’s there, you can’t take it out. I recommend going with the less is more on this one. Use a small amount at the tail end of the boil, or wait until bottling and add to taste.

What kind of spices can I use?

You have a lot of freedom here with fall spices. You can use cinnamon, all spice, ginger, clove, and nutmeg. You could even add some pure vanilla extract or a couple of vanilla beans to secondary. Vanilla and other fall seasonal spices go great together. Another great addition, which can even be used with pumpkin and vanilla, is maple syrup. I told myself I wasn’t going to make a pumpkin beer this year, but a Pumpkin Maple Vanilla Porter is sounding pretty amazing right now.


Tip – if you use extract, make sure it’s pure vanilla extract and not artificial, which can lead to medicinal off flavors.

Want to have a little fun on Thanksgiving or at a Halloween Party? Grab a pumpkin tap, hollow out your pumpkin, and serve your beer from inside your new custom keg!

It won’t be in the pumpkin long enough to really have any perceived value, but it is a great conversation piece and addition to any party table.


Maple Vanilla Pumpkin Pie Porter

OG: 1.073
FG: 1.012
ABV: 8.0%
IBU: 33
SRM: 35
Batch Size: 5.5 Gallons
Mash: Single Temp. Infusion – 154°F for 60 min.

Grain Bill
9.0 lb – Pale 2-Row
1.0 lb – Flaked Oats
0.5 lb – CaraPils
0.5 lb – Carafa I
0.5 lb – Chocolate Malt
0.5 lb – Caramel/Crystal 120L
6.0 oz – Aromatic Malt
3.0 oz – Caramel Crystal 40L
2.0 oz – Black Patent
29 oz – Can of Libby 100% Pure Pumpkin Puree (or your preferred method)

Note: Original posting of this recipe had less flaked oats and no Carapils. It also instructed you to mash at 152°F. I noticed this morning that I entered an incorrect amount of Maple Syrup into BeerSmith, and it miscalculated how much the sugars would dry the beer out. The increase in flaked oats and the addition of the dextrins from CaraPils, plus the extra 2° at mash, should counter this and keep you at 1.012 Est. FG. The ABV and SG were also affected by the change.

Misc. – 10 min. remaining in boil
32 oz – Grade B Maple Syrup
1/4 tsp – Cinnamon
1/4 tsp – Dried Ground Ginger
1/8 tsp – Allspice
1/8 tsp – Ground Nutmeg
1/8 tsp – Ground Cloves
(or replace all 5 spices with 1 tsp of Pumpkin Pie Spice)

0.5 oz – Warrior (15% AA) @ 60 min.
1.5 oz – Willamette (5.5% AA) @ 10 min.

White Labs California Ale WLP001 / Safale S-05 / Wyeast American Ale 1056 (Fermented @ 68°F)

1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract at bottling OR 1-2 sliced and prepared vanilla beans in secondary — check after a few days for taste, and bottle when desired flavor is achieved.

Note about bottling with pumpkin

Adding pumpkin to a beer has been known to slow down the carbonation process. If you are kegging, this isn’t really an issue. If you bottle, you may find this takes longer than your expected 2 weeks or so. The first time I made a pumpkin beer and bottled it, the beer didn’t fully carbonate until about the five-week mark. If you wanted this by Halloween and plan on using real pumpkin, it may be a bit late. However, if Thanksgiving is your target then get brewing, you’ve got plenty of time.

Until next time, happy brewing!

stephenStephen Boyajian has been an avid homebrewer for 4 years. A fan of many styles, with a particular love for IPA’s and Stouts. He lives in Gainesville, VA with his wife, 3 kids and dog. When not brewing, he enjoys golfing or playing guitar.

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5 Comments on “How to Brew a Pumpkin Beer (with Recipe)”

  1. John Says:

    A whole quart of maple syrup? Is that a typo?


    • sboyajian Says:

      Hi John,

      I wish I could say it was. Maple syrup is one of those ingredients that takes a lot to get a little. In my experience, and reading from others, using even half a gallon will often give you only a very subtle change in your beers flavor. Given it’s sugar content, most of the flavor gets scrubbed away in fermentation. This is also why we suggest using Grade B Syrup, which is generally darker and contains more of that rich sap flavor.

      If you are concerned, you could use half, and taste after primary fermentation and then add more if you feel it’s not enough.


  2. Preston Christopher Says:

    I’m still new to homebrewing and using extracts instead of grains. Would an equivalent recipe be possible?


    • sboyajian Says:


      Great question. It may be difficult to replicate with this recipe with a 100% extract recipe, it can be achieved using a combination of extracts and grains, a process known as Partial Mash.

      Simply replace a the base malt with Light Dried Malt Extract (DME). For instance, rather than using 9 lbs of 2-Row, you could use 5.75 lbs of Light DME. This should get you the same numbers.

      For the remaining malts, simply mill them and put them into a muslin bag and steep them for 30-45 minutes at around 150-155°. Jay’s Brewing carries a few different sizes of steeping bags, but my guess is it’s probably going to be one of the large ones since it’s almost 3 lbs of specialty malts.

      Once you’re finished steeping and rinsing your grains, it’s business as usual. Get your boil going, add half of the DME now and the rest with 15 minutes left in your boil.

      I hope I was able to help!


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