Homebrewed Spiced Sweet Potato Ale – Bad Yama Jama

So, I swore off brewing pumpkin beers a few years ago.

It’s a perfectly fine beer to brew, but I’ve brewed them twice over the last few years (once with real pumpkin and spices, and once with just the spices) and that was enough.  But weird ideas and challenges change everything.  Like brewing with sweet potatoes.

Well, the original plan was to brew with yams, but it was difficult to find yams locally, so I grabbed some North Carolina sweet potatoes.  (BTW – Yams and sweet potatoes are not even distantly related.  Good. To. Know. But that didn’t stop me from naming it “Bad Yama Jama”.) 

As far as pumpkin beers go, what’s really important are the spices.  The pumpkin doesn’t really add any flavor to the beer and only a small amount of fermentables.  As long as you brew a good beer and then throw allspice into it, TA-DA you will have a pumpkin beer.  The idea, this time, was to use something unusual in the mash and put a twist on pumpkin ales. 

There isn’t much information out there about brewing with sweet potatoes, so I just made it up as I went along.  First, I bought four pounds of NC ‘taters and I cooked them in the oven for 90 minutes at 350 degrees. 

Sweet Potato Ale - Out of the Oven

Once they were nice, soft, and juicy, I skinned them and crushed them up for the mash.

 Sweet Potatoes


Sweet Potato Ale - Sweet Potato Mash

I was assuming that the smashed up sweet potatoes would give me the nastiest stuck mash ever, but they were relatively easy to use.  I put the 4 pounds of sweet potatoes in 10 pounds of grain, and I really don’t think the whole thing would have become messy unless I had used about 10 pounds of potatoes.   I held the whole thing at 152 degrees for 90 minutes in the hope that that would be long enough to convert some of the spuds into something fermentable.

Sweet Potato Ale - Sweet Potatoes in the Mash

The boil was straight forward, and I added some of the spice in at flame out.  It is really easy to go over the top with spices and it is impossible to take them back out.  So, I just used a ¼ of a teaspoon of nutmeg, allspice and ginger and one cinnamon stick.  That won’t be enough, but the tweaking of the spices happens after fermentation when I make a tea of the spices and add them to taste.

The key to this kind of beer still lies, in my opinion, in the spicing.  The sweet potatoes didn’t add that much in the way of fermentables that I can uncover as my efficiency rates were not much higher than I would have expected without the potatoes.  Perhaps, at tasting, I will find an improvement in mouthfeel.  And, if I do, it could just be psychological.   

I haven’t bottled this one yet, but I probably will within the next week.  It was a fun and creative experiment, but I need to double the amount of sweet potato to make this one stretch my brewing skills.   And I doubt I’ll do that again soon.  Well, until I get another absurd idea.

For giggles, here was the recipe.  (The mish-mash of hops was because I was using leftovers.)

Bad Yama Jama – (Spiced Sweet Potato Ale)

Starting Gravity: 1.050 (9/7/09) Days @ 68º F
Final Gravity: 1.010 (9/23/09)
5.23% alcohol (by volume)
Apparent Attenuation: 79.31
Real Attenuation: 64.36

Mash (@152º 90 min)
11 lb Maris Otter
0.5 lb Crystal 40
0.5 lb Crystal 105
0.25 Special B Malt
0.25 Melanoidin Malt
4 lbs NC Sweet Potatoes (Baked for 90 minutes at 350 degrees, peeled and mashed)

Boil (60 minute boil)
0.25 Hallertauer Pellets (3.7 AA) (60 min)
0.20 EK Goldings Pellets (4.75 AA) (60 min)
0.33 Horizon Pellets (10.9 AA) (60 min)
0.25 Nugget Leaves (Homegrown) (12.0 AA) (60 min)

Spices at flame out:
1 Cinnamon Stick
1/8 tsp Nutmeg (ground)

1 tablet Whirlfloc (Boil – 15 min.)
½ tsp Brewer’s Choice Wyeast Nutrient Blend (Boil – 10 min.)

Primary (68º F)

Safale S-04 English Ale

Spices made in tea and added to Primary after fermentation:
1/2 tsp Allspice (ground)
1/8 tsp Ginger (ground)
1/8 tsp Nutmeg (ground)


7 Responses to “Homebrewed Spiced Sweet Potato Ale – Bad Yama Jama”

  • Colleen Says:

    This brew sounds great! I’m wondering how this sweet potato ale ended up tasting, in your opinion. I’d like to brew a sweet potato beer this fall, so I’m searching around for recipes. Thank you in advance! 🙂

  • BarlowBrewing Says:

    Hey Colleen,

    The beer turned out well, but I would defintely bump up the amount of sweet potatoes. I only added 4 lbs of them to the mash and the beer (and the sparge) could have handled twice as much.

    If you decide to do this, I’d double the potatoes and maybe go without the spices. Just a British yeast strain to see how the spuds can shine though.

    Let me know if you do.


  • Jørn Idar Kvig Says:

    Hey JB!
    Just found you page as I was searching for sweetpotato beer, must say, it`s a really good lay-out and; Content!
    Keep it up!
    I`m gonna use your recipe and a few others, throw in some more, and make a “Kon-Tiki” beer with sweetpotato (From Peru), Pinnapple (From Polynesia) and bananaleafs. That way I get the whole expedition together in one bottle.
    Thanks again for great inspiration!
    Brew Hard! High foam!

  • BarlowBrewing Says:

    Wow, Jørn.

    Sweet potato, pineapple and banana leaves sounds like a wild beer. Please let me know how it turns out.


  • Kevin Says:

    Nice job!! I’m brewing a sweet potato pale ale tomorrow. This is the second time I’ve brewed it. The first time I used The Asian variety with red skin and white flesh. They are firmer, larger and less starchy, and to me at least they have a definite hoppy aroma when roasted (which is what gave me the idea in the first place. I was eating one at home and I was like, wtf? this smells like hops). I didn’t have time to make it to the Asian market today so am using the regular american type that you used and will see if I can detect a difference. There is a commercial version from Japan called Coedo Beniaka that is not spiced, which is how I brew it, and I noticed you also suggested not spicing it so the flavor of the potato can come through (very mild the first time I brewed it but detectable).

    I’m doing a 3.5 gallon batch with:

    -5 Lbs 6 Row (has higher diastatic power so hoping for better conversion)
    -2.5 lb roasted sweet potato blended skin and all with mash water then brought up to strike temp.
    -12 oz 20 L caramel malt
    -6 oz honey malt and
    -4 oz carapils
    -1 lb amber DME

    70 minute mash at 152
    .5 oz chinook x 60 minutes
    .5 oz glacier x 15 minutes
    .5 cascade and .5 willamette at flameout.
    US-05 x 2 weeks primary then kegged

    I’ll write back with results. I liked the first batch pretty well. Color was beautiful but cloudy like a wheat beer probably from the protein and maybe starch, not much head or lace, nice aroma and that is where I could detect the sweetness of the roasted potato. Taste was good, moderately hoppy, a different taste hard for me to put a finger on. It had some astringency which quite a few of my beers were getting at that time, and since then I’ve changed my water, and got a better thermometer, and not as fine of a grind so hoping for better results. I’ll update when It’s done. Maybe I can link a picture if anyone is interested.

  • A.Borunda Says:

    Just saw this on a search for the aforementioned beer. Will definitively try to make this beer for the coming Thanksgiving.

  • BarlowBrewing Says:

    Good luck. Please let me know how it goes.

    I’m not quite sure that I got anything from the sweet potatoes that I couldn’t have gotten through tweaking the grain bill and mash temps, but it was a fun experiment. And I’d like to play with other sugar sources in the future.

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