Homebrew #20: Orange Lantern, Imperial Pale Ale w/ Mandarin Orange and Pink Peppercorns

Two years ago, I brewed a Citra Pale Ale. It was a favorite of family, friends, and neighbors. It had nice hop flavors, wasn't too bitter, and was an easy drinker. I've wanted to revisit that recipe again.

Our kids attend a Mandarin immersion Chinese Charter School. The school holds an annual fundraising gala and I decided to make a homebrew to commemorate the event and offer as a gift to attendees. I remembered my old Citra Pale Ale and knew it would be perfect.

But I wanted to add Chinese twist. After pondering the possibilities, I decided to to add mandarin orange zest and pink peppercorns to the mix. I also wanted to dial up the tropical fruit flavor, so I substituted the Citra hops (from the original recipe) with Galaxy. Here's the recipe:

  • Style:  Pale Ale (with Mandarin Orange Zest & Pink Peppercorns)
  • Type:  All Grain
  • Boil Volume:  6.0 gallons
  • Batch Size: 5.0 gallons
  • Boil Time:  60 min.
  • Stats:
    • Target OG: 1.057
    • Target FG: 1.013
    • ABV:  5.8%
    • IBUs:  36
    • SRM:  7.5
    • Efficiency:  70%
  • Grains:
    • 11.0 lbs. 2-Row Pale  (90%)
    • 0.75 lbs. Caramel/Crystal - 40L  (6%)
    • 0.5 lbs. Briess Carapils  (4%)
  • Hops: 
    • 0.46 oz. Warrior — 13.7% alpha acid (60 min)
    • 0.46 oz. Galaxy — 14.5% alpha acid (15 min)
    • 0.23 oz. Cascade — 6.6% alpha acid (15 min)
    • 0.46 oz. Galaxy — 14.5% alpha acid (0 min)
    • 0.23 oz. Cascade — 6.6% alpha acid (0 min)
    • 0.62 oz. Galaxy — (dry hop)
    • 0.46 oz. Cascade — (dry hop)
  • Special Ingredients:
    • 0.4 oz. Pink Peppercorns, crushed (10 min)
    • Mandarin Orange (10 min)
  • Mash:  15.3 quarts (1.25 qt / lb) water @ 173.1° and hold for 60 min @ 155.0°F
  • Sparge:  21.6 quarts of 170°F water over 60 min
  • Yeast:  California Ale  (WLP001)

Brew Log:

Jan 2:   Made a WLP001 yeast starter and agitated it with my homemade stir plate.

Jan 5:   Brew day. I added the crushed pink peppercorns (which have an amazing floral and spicy aroma) and mandarin orange zest into the boil 10 minutes prior to flameout. My final OG came in at 1.08, higher than my expected target of 1.057. Then I realized my error.  I had set the efficiency to 70% in my brew software. My brew setup typically runs at 75% efficiency. Oh well, I guess I'm making a big beer! I pitched the yeast into the 72°F wort. About 6 hours later, I had airlock activity.

Jan 6:  Active fermentation is underway!

Jan 10:  Fermentation has slowed down significantly.

Feb 9:  Transferred to secondary and added the dry hops. I took a taste. The tropical fruit flavors are coming through and dry hops should take it up another notch. However, my specialty ingredients are barely noticeable. So I infused an ounce of good vodka with another 1/2 teaspoon of crushed pink peppercorn and a teaspoon of mandarin orange zest. The vodka will extract the flavors and I'll dump in the strained vodka during bottling.

First taste

Crushed peppercorns & mandarin orange zest in vodka

Feb 17:  Bottling day.  My final gravity came in at 1.01, which means my beer should about 9.4% ABV. While this is higher than expected, my new Imperial Pale Ale isn't tasting hot and the tropical fruit flavors are prominent, thanks to the dry hops. Bottled with 4.8 oz. of dextrose and my peppercorn and orange-infused vodka.

Mar 4:  Since I'm making this beer for a special event, I decided to wax dip the bottles. I never did this before. I asked my homebrew shop for some advice, and was told to melt the wax in a beer can. It worked perfectly! It allowed me to get the right amount of wax onto the bottle with minimal waste. I think the bottles look great! A friend designed a label for me and I'll attach those in a few days.

Mar 7:  Attached the labels with 3M spray on adhesive. It was tedious and messy work. No wonder I never label my homebrews. But I think the end result looks great and was worth the work! I named the beer Orange Lantern since it's made with oranges and aligns with the event's logo.

Mar 8:  The big event is here! I'm really happy with how it turned out. It has loads of tropical fruit flavor, and the mandarin orange and floral notes from the peppercorn are now noticeable thanks to my flavor infused vodka.

Mar 20:  I've been getting back lots of good feedback from people who tasted the beer. Someone even offered to buy more from me. I thanked the person, but declined the offer since it's illegal to sell homebrew. My miscalculation of efficiency turned out to be serendipitous, as this this beer works quite well as a heavier bodied, Imperial-style ale. Although it has a calculated ABV of 9.4%, the alcohol is fairly stealthy.

Apr 3:  In a random stoke of luck, one of my bottles ended up in the hands of Eric Steen, a friend who organizes beer events, including a homebrew event I participated in last fall. Small world!  He and his wife enjoyed it with their delicious looking dinner.

photo courtesy of Eric Steen

I'm very happy with how Orange Lantern turned out! I always have a mild annoyance with each of my homebrews, but I wouldn't change anything with this one. The base recipe is excellent and I'll brew it again, but with another TBD twist! I saved a few bottles and will see how Orange Lantern evolves during the next few months.

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  1. Wow. Those bottles look great! The beer sounds really good too.

  2. Thanks Paul. I'm thrilled with how the bottles turned out. The beer's not bad either!

  3. Your bottles look great! I label all of my bottles. The secret is to skip the glues -- dredge them in milk! 2% works well and it will keep your labels on the bottles until you soak them off (and they come clean unlike some of the glue-based products.) There are some YouTube videos that show the whole process... Cheers! Paul J.

  4. The glue was a pain. Thanks for the tip, Paul! I'll give it a try!


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