Sep 27 2009

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)