The Nature of “Seasonal” Beers…

When you hear the term “seasonal” beer – does it go klank for you like it does for me? When a commercial brewer releases a seasonal, what they mean is that they have brewed a beer to tie in to a seasonal theme, holiday, mood, etc… But think about it – in order to have it ready for that season, they had to brew it weeks, if not months, in advance… so they brewed it OUT of season…

Now, when I brew a seasonal, I usually mean that I am brewing with seasonal ingredients – something only available right now, during this season – my last brew, the Baltic Porter, used freshly tapped maple sap. I brew using spruce tips, frequently, in the late spring. Whatever fruits happen to be coming ripe often end up in a brew along the late summer/early fall timeline… (How do they get those pumpkin beers in the stores in late August? You may not want to know where the pumpkin comes from…)

I’m not entirely serious and certainly not that OC about this – I do brew with out-of-season frozen fruits, dried spices, sugars and other fermentables that are not year-round… But still…

Where is he going with this rant, I hear you asking… Well, guess what season it is in the produce department right now? Blood Oranges! My second favorite citrus fruit (after pink or red grapefruits) is only available for a few weeks and I buy them by the bagload – I juice them, puree them, section them and freeze the results for later in the year when they have disappeared from the shelf.

A couple years ago, Dogfish Head Brewing introduced their “Flesh & Blood” IPA – primarily adding blood orange zest, pulp & juice but also some lemon and grapefruit, I believe… I was blown away by my first sip – I have to make this someday, I told myself.

Today was that someday – I brewed a blood orange IPA in between shoveling paths to the barn and the mailbox and gathering wood for the stove…

Blood Orange IPA     3 gallons, all-grain

Ingredients:

  • 6 lbs. Great Western Organic 2-row malt
  • 12 oz. Patagonia 90°L crystal
  • 1 oz. Centennial hop pellets (8.6% aa)
  • 1 oz. Warrior hop pellets (18.9% aa)
  • 1 oz. Eureka hop pellets (18.1% aa)
  • Imperial Organic A20 Citrus yeast
  • 1 pint 100% blood orange juice
  • 1/3 cup corn sugar to prime

Mash:

Crush grains, mash for 60 minutes in 17 quarts at 153°F.  Runoff to kettle, no sparge.

Boil: 60 minutes with 3 hop additions:

  • 1/2 oz. Centennial after 15 minutes (for 45)
  • 1 oz. Warrior after 45 (for 15)
  • 1/2 oz. Centennial at KO

Chill to 70°F, pitch yeast. Ferment at 65°F for 10 days, rack to secondary and add Eureka hops and blood orange juice. Condition cooler (50°F) for 2 weeks. Bottle, priming with corn sugar. Bottle condition at least three weeks.

OG: 1064 (should have been higher…)

IBU’s: 75 (estimated)

Notes: The juice I will be using is in the freezer, squeezed last week while it was fresh and available.

Most Wanted Clone?

You’ve, um, heard of that beer from Vermont, Heady Topper? If I had a nickel for every time someone has asked me if I have a recipe to clone it… I could afford to actually buy some from time to time…

As it turns out, I do have a sort of a recipe – mine is not quite as alcoholic as the original, and as such the hops need to be toned down a tad to keep the balance… but here’s how I do it.

Actually, this is a recipe I brewed at the Lebanon Brew Shop last weekend as a public demo of all-grain brewing…

Froggy Hopper, 5 gallons, all-grain

Ingredients:

  • 12 lbs. Thomas Fawcett Pearl malt
  • 6 oz. Caramel Vienna (Caravienne) malt
  • 1 lb. turbinado sugar
  • 3/4 oz. Magnum hop pellets (11.8% aa)
  • 4 oz. Simcoe hop pellets (12.0% aa)
  • 3/4 oz. Cascade hop pellets (7.3% aa)
  • 1 oz. Apollo hop pellets 18.3% aa)
  • 2 oz. Centennial hop pellets (8.6% aa)
  • 1/2 oz. Columbus hop pellets (12.1% aa)
  • 1 oz. Chinook hop pellets (12.1% aa)
  • Imperial Organic Barbarian yeast
  • 2/3 cup corn sugar to prime

Mash:   60 minutes at 153°F in 16 quarts water.

Sparge:  12 quarts at 170°F.

Boil: 60 minutes.

Hop schedule:

  • 3/4 oz. Magnum for 60 minutes
  • 1 oz. Simcoe for 30 (also add turbinado at the same time)
  • 3/4 oz. Cascade, 1/2 oz. Apollo, 1 oz. Simcoe, 1 oz. Centennial & 1/2 oz. Columbus AT KO
  • 1 oz. Simcoe, 1 oz. Chinook & 1/2 oz. Apollo to primary after 7 days.
  • Rack after 5 more days and add 1 oz. Simcoe & 1 oz. Centennial to secondary.
  • Bottle after 7 more days, priming with corn sugar.

OG: 1075

TG: 1009

ABV: 8.4%

136.5 IBU (estimated)

That Time Of Year…

Cold nights, warming days, snowbanks shrinking and longer hours of daylight… Spring is coming, they say…

At my house, that also means sap – maple sap, with which I make a gallon or two of syrup for household use, and with which I also brew at least one maple-influenced beer…

My maple beers go in one of two ways – sometimes I brew something light in color and bitterness to showcase the maple; alternately, I use maple as the base of a rich dark beer. That is the case this year – my last lager of this season is a Baltic Porter, big, sweet, black as night, smooth and delicious.

Maple Baltic Porter, 3 gallons, all-grain

Ingredients:

  • 4 gallons condensed maple sap (from 9 gallons fresh)
  • 5 lbs. brown malt (I had Crisp and Simpson’s on hand)
  • 1 lb. Carafa II
  • 1/4 lb. roasted barley
  • 1/4 lb. chocolate malt
  • 1/2 lb. amber candi sugar
  • 1 oz Denali hop pellets (15.4% aa)
  • White Labs Copenhagen Lager yeast (WLP850)
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup for priming

Procedure:

Reduce 9 gallons fresh sap to 4. Crush grains. Mash for 45 minutes at 154°F. Runoff sweet wort (no sparge) and bring to a boil. Add candi sugar. After 15 minutes, add 1/2 oz Denali pellets. Boil 25 more minutes and add remaining Denali pellets. Boil 5 minutes and turn off heat. Chill to 70°F and pitch yeast. Ferment at 65° for eight to ten days. Rack to secondary, lager as close to 40°F as possible for three weeks. Prime with maple syrup and bottle. Condition cool (50 – 55°F) for three weeks.

OG: 1074

Optional: I am aging this brew on rum barrel oak chips in the secondary. Why not?