How to Brew Orange Cranberry Belgian Blonde

by Karl S Updated on February 8, 2023

The holidays are filled with rich foods and sweet desserts, which I absolutely love. But, when many of the seasonal beers can also be thick and flavorful, it can be tough to put a few back on a full tummy.

So, I’m attempting to solve this issue by making a crisp and easy-to-drink blonde ale that will cut through it all while still giving the feeling of the holiday spirit.

I’m Trent Musho and this is the Bru Sho. Let’s brew an Orange Cranberry Blonde.

If you’re a big stout fan around this time, I hear you, and stick with the channel because I do have a winter warmer or two on the way. But around this time of year, you rarely see anything light and easy to drink. Everything is beefed up with high ABV and full character.

I wanted to create a beer that complements the feast without being overwhelming, so you can finish that plate of seconds and keep on sipping well into family game time.

I was inspired by a beer I had at Lawless Brewing Co. It was a cranberry orange golden ale, crisp, refreshing with a multivac bone and a twisted citrus, and slight cranberry sweetness bringing those mulled wine characteristics into a beer, much like I did on a cider last year.

I took some creative liberties to make this my own, dialing back the ABV slightly and focusing on a lighter body to really make this beer easy to crush. Let me show you how I made it.

First, a big thank you to the partners that support this channel: Northern Brewer, who supplied all the ingredients for this brew, and Claw Hammer Supply, which I’ll be brewing on their electric 120-volt system. I have links in the description if you’re interested to know more.

Today, I’m changing things up a bit and brewing a smaller batch, aiming for 2.5 gallons of finished brew.

So, I started with four and a half gallons of distilled water and heated it up. I also added in some water salts to improve the flavor, looking for a water profile similar to this.

Then, I added the grains, which consisted of 57% pilsner for a lighter maltiness, 14% flaked wheat for a touch of body, and I just had a little bit extra laying around. The remaining 29% will be cranberry juice.

Looking back, I probably should have dialed this back a bit, but we’ll talk about improvements later. I mashed it at 148° Fahrenheit for 45 minutes to get as much fermentable sugar out of it as we can for a dry finish.

For 45 minutes, I removed the grains and brought the wort to a boil for 30 minutes, at which point I added 0.25 ounces of Warrior for our main bittering charge.

During the boil, I prepped the oranges. I have two navel oranges, which I peeled, trying my best not to get too much of that white bitter pith, and then cut them into manageable sizes to fit into the hop spider.

Then, I waited until the five-minute mark to add the last hop addition, a half-ounce of Saaz, for an overall total of 20 IBUs. I followed that up with the orange peels, trying to get every little last piece into the hop spider.

I then decided not to let the juice go to waste, so I squeezed it right into the kettle. Nice! Finally, the last step was to add the cranberry juice. So, right at the end of the boil, while the wort was still hot, I added in the whole bottle, and man did it really change the color.

No longer a regular blonde, now a cranberry blonde.

The original gravity came in at 1.047, and from there, I chilled it down and transferred it into a fermenter. In the past, I would add some spices to the boil that play into that mulled wine character, and you could try adding some cinnamon or clove in the last few minutes of the boil.

But instead, I decided to use a Belgian yeast to add that slight phenol and spice character without using actual spices. I’ve done this before with other seasonal saisons, and it worked great.

So, I’m using the Abbey Belgian Ale by Lalamund and then added a cooling coil to regulate the temperature. I fermented this one for one week at 67 degrees Fahrenheit.

After a week, I took a sample and noticed that a lot of the red cranberry color had faded away during the fermentation. I took a final gravity reading and it was 1.009, which means this beer comes in at 5% ABV, the perfect amount in my opinion.

I carried it up and tasted it as soon as possible to share it with friends and family for the holidays. The color is festive, with a nice orangey blush and a fluffy snowhead. The aroma is light with a touch of fruitiness. The drinkability is immediately noticeable with the added cranberry sugars and lower mash champ drying it out, making it very easy to drink.

The cranberry flavor is strong, but the beer is mild enough to let you know it’s a beer. There’s also a zippy citrus flavor that’s more apparent with the dryness.

Despite not adding any spices, the Belgian yeast added a light clove flavor on the back end that rounds the beer out, bringing it back to a mulled wine flavor, just without the boozy kick.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with this beer, but I can see some areas for improvement in the future. This will go great with the holiday feast.

Thanks for watching, liking, commenting, and subscribing. I appreciate every one of you who continues to support me and this channel. Stay tuned for more epic recipes and experimental brews in the new year. Cheers and happy holidays everyone!

If you’re looking for another holiday beer filled with sugar and spice, check out the gingerbread Cezanne I made. It’s the perfect cookie substitute for Santa this year!