Food

Here’s How to Turn a Pumpkin Into a Beer Keg

Make the most epic (and delicious) Halloween party decoration yet.

Halloween party checklist: Pumpkins? Yes. Keg? Of course! Pumpkin keg? Tell me more…

“The first step is going to be crazy enough to want to do it,” says Andy Farrell, beer director for City Tap House and creator of the beer-o-lantern. “I like to find a pumpkin in the 200-pound range, where you could fit a small child into it.”

The beer-o-lantern: a hit for any Halloween Party. Photograph courtesy of City Tap House.

More delicious than a small child: a generous serving of your favorite beer, preferably something like an IPA, stout, pumpkin beer, or English-style cask ale that doesn’t need to be consumed ice-cold (so no Natty Boh). Farrell says the gourd won’t impart much flavor—especially if you scoop out the insides well—but the finished product is sure to put last year’s punch bowl to shame.

All you need is a few tools, the instructions below, and a sense of Halloween adventure. Oh, and knocking back a few pumpkin beers during the process doesn’t hurt.

Special Equipment:

1 monster pumpkin

1 sharp carving knife

1 large spoon for scooping

1 trash bag for seeds

1 flathead screwdriver

1 hammer

1 cask spigot, available at home brewing stores, online (Farrell likes UKbrewing.com), or possibly from a local beer bar if they’ll trust you to return it.

1 candle

Beer!

Plastic wrap

Instructions:

1. Pick a pumpkin

A big party calls for a huge gourd—think 200 to 250 pounds—but you can make a pumpkinator of any size. Look for fresh ones without bruises, as well as gourds that lie flat instead of on a tilt.

2. Get scooping

You know the drill from the grade school days: Cut off the top, making sure you create a large enough hole to thoroughly scoop the seeds and inside flesh. This is particularly important with the beer-pumpkin, as stray debris can clog the tap. The inner wall should be as white and gunk-free as possible at the end. Should you decide to keep the many seeds, here’s an awesome recipe to use them in.

3. Cut a hole for the spigot

Farrell warns that this is the trickiest part, just like executing a dainty jack-o-lantern nose. Pumpkins are hearty, but carving shapes with too much force can crack the facade. Start by measuring the diameter of the spigot, and then draw it on the gourd’s surface with marker—about a quarter of the way from the bottom so the beer flows nicely. Next, soften the flesh around the spigot’s perimeter by gently pounding a flathead screwdriver with a hammer. It may be best to lay the pumpkin on its side during this step, depending on your angle.

4. Insert the spigot (and do damage control if necessary)

Once the area around the spigot has been thoroughly loosened, you can pop the device in. If the flesh cracks or the hole is too big, drip candle wax around the exterior to seal in the device. Farrell notes that black candle wax creates a more festive look.

5. Fill’er up

Again, you’ll want to choose a generous amount of beer that doesn’t need to be swilled ice-cold, since it’ll be sitting in a room-temperature pumpkin. Farrell recently used 3 Stars Brewing‘s Ebony imperial brown ale, Ebony & Ivory. Pour the beer into the top hole, making sure the spigot is turned to the off position.

6. Seal’er up

Once the beer is in, cover the top with plastic wrap and place the pumpkin lid on top. If you want, seal the top with more candle wax and cut away any loose plastic wrap.

7. Drink until the ghouls go home.

Don’t miss a new restaurant again. Subscribe to our weekly newsletters.

Questions or comments? You can reach us on Twitter, via e-mail, or by contacting the author directly:
Anna Spiegel
Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.