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.

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