Blood Orange Barleywine

First of all, it was never meant to be a barley wine. It just sort of happened. Here’s the story.

I wanted to try brewing with fruit. Lately the local supermarket had been stocking blood oranges and Bri and I had been taking full advantage. And the thought occurred to me, why not try my hand at a blood orange ale?

The recipe was originally based on this Blood Orange IPA clone posted on Brewers Friend. As usual, I took some significant liberties in adapting it to what ingredients I had readily available, and to shrink it down to my stovetop setup. This was a 1-gallon batch, and volumes/quantities are listed below.

First – The Brewer’s Friend recipe offered the following as a baseline:

Target OG = 1.064
Target FG = 1.015
IBUs = 61.25
Estimated ABV = 6.47%

My adjusted grain bill:

660g Maris Otter Malt
380g Superior American Pale Malt
42.5g Caramunich Malt (60L)
100g Rye Malt

I used a variety of hops in my recipe, including two different Northern Brewer hops (5.4% and 10.1% AA), Styrian Golding (1.9%) and Galaxy (13%).  I used a dash of irish moss at the end of my boil. As indicated in the IPA recipe, the blood oranges went into the wort after primary fermentation was complete. I peeled and weighed out about ~0.5 kilograms (kg) blood oranges and blended them with 6 grams (g) Galaxy hops, and the whole batch and the mixture were transferred to secondary fermenter.

I used a standard brew-in-a-bag method.

Brew day (March 25, 2018)

  • 3.2 litres (L) water heated on stovetop to ~157F using stock pot.
  • Grain added in brew bag and steeped at ~150F for 60 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Using a second stock pot, 3L water heated to ~170F for sparge.
  • Temperature of mash raised to 168F for mash out over 10 minutes. Lifted the bag to drip-drain.
  • Sparged using the 3L volume of water.
  • Re-circulated twice through bag and allow ~10 minutes for bag to drip-drain.
  • Post-mash gravity was 1.015

OK, so in hindsight I should have known something was off. Did I misread the hydrometer? Maybe the sample I’d used from the pot wasn’t mixed well enough? …As I later found out, my kitchen scale was inaccurate, shorting my grain bill by as much as 30%, so my next actions were at least partially justified. But, as they say, hindsight is always 20/20.

Regardless, I immediately went into damage control. I keep some dark dry malt extract in my supplies for emergencies. As I got my wort up to boil temperature, I measured out 200 g of DME and prepared a 1 g/ml syrup. Meanwhile:

  • 10 minutes into the boil, I added 5 g Northern Brewer (5.4%) hops
  • I took another gravity measurement: 1.015 at 190F.

At 20 minutes, I mixed in my 200 ml of syrup.

  • 45 minutes into the boil, I added 7g Northern Brewer (10.9%) hops and a tspn irish moss
  • I took another gravity measurement: 1.032 at 190F
  • I quickly mixed and added another 100 ml (g/ml) of the DME.

…Is this where I went wrong? I bet if I’d left well enough alone at this point in my boil, I would have had a respectable ale approximating my target ABV. But alas.

  • 55 minutes into the boil, I added 7 g Styrian Golding.
  • At 60 minutes, I removed heat and added 5 g Styrian Golding.
  • 20-minute ice bath to reach room temperature
  • Post-boil gravity (drumroll) was 1.079

Uh oh.

  • Pitched yeast – American Ale Safale US-05

March 30, 2018

Not surprisingly, this brew went through a very active fermentation, slowing down only around day four. To prepare the oranges, I:

  • Thoroughly washed the oranges
  • Sanitized cutting board, knife, bowl, blender and oranges with Star San solution. I use 1 tsp/gallon when mixing Star San, which is convenient to measure out in my 1-gallon bottles. For some tips on using Star San in a food-safe way:
  • I peeled each orange, removing as much of the pith (the white stuff under the skin) as possible.
  • Measured the oranges out in the bowl using my kitchen scale (remember that my scale was off? …If you’re planning on reproducing this recipe, be sure to keep that in mind)
  • Tossed oranges in blender
  • Added 6 g of Galaxy hops pellets and blended smooth
  • Poured the whole mixture in a freshly sanitized 1-gallon carboy (my secondary fermenter).

I then transferred my wort into  the secondary fermenter using a syphon, gently pouring it over the orange mixture. I took a reading with my hydrometer at the same time: 1.030 at room temperature. All done, the volume of the fermenter was just shy of the 1-gallon mark on the carboy. A fair amount of trub was left in the primary. Capped my fermenter with an airlock and let the yeasty-beasties get back to work.

Bottling Day (April 11, 2018)

  • Final gravity: 1.012
  • Priming solution: 17g corn sugar dissolved in 100 ml water

I estimate the ABV at 8.79%, but the addition of water volume and fermentable sugars with the blood orange mixture makes this a best guess. Bottle conditioned for three weeks before tasting.


All right, it’s fair to say this one did not turn out as planned. Still, it wasn’t a complete failure. If you’ve ever wanted to try a beer that tastes both malty, peaty and like an Orange Crush mixed with Sour Patch Kids, this is it. I do think the Galaxy and Golding hops brought out some more tropical tastes, notes of pineapple and pear. But the orange citrus is definitely the overwhelming flavour in this beer.  I was expecting a deep red color, but after the dark DME I was not surprised that this came out closer to black, 24+ on the lovibond scale. A pour served up a modest amount of pulp.

A lesser quantity of oranges, maybe 0.3 kg, would allow those other flavours some room to breathe. Juicing the oranges rather than blending them would eliminate the pulp. Adding ginger might also be a nice compliment for future experimentation.

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