Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Recipe of the Week: Bell's Oberon Clone

Bell's Oberon is pretty much the beer (along with SNPA) that got me into craft brews. I used to live in Kalamazoo, MI right down the street from Bell's Eccentric Café and General Store. The Michigan winters were tough, sometimes not seeing the sun for weeks and trudging through 3 feet of snow on the sidewalks. What got me through was knowing that March 30th was coming closer with each passing day and the that orange label with the bright sun would soon be on the shelves again to prove that spring has sprung. Oberon Day, as we called it, was always a great day to celebrate.

In my personal opinion the last few years Oberon was not what it once was. I believe this was the fault of the hop shortage and the rise in hop prices which made it difficult for Bell's to afford the expensive Europeon hops that are used in this great American Wheat beer. I have not had it since 2008 so it is quite possible that the hops that were used to sub have been replaced with the original.

Living in Denver I cannot buy any Bell's products they are mostly distributed in the midwest and east coast. I emailed them to see if they could help me out with developing a recipe based off of Bell's: Here is what I received back from Gary S. Nichols:

Dear Grant:

Thank you for the message. John Mallett forwarded your message to me & asked that I respond. We really don't have a small batch recipe to offer you, as it is difficult for me to adapt things for your exact equipment set-up. I can & will, however, offer some suggestions & advice. Aim for a target original gravity of around 1.056 and moderate fermentability. You want a decent portion of wheat, something in the 40-50% range: go as high as you can within the limits of your lauter tun’s ability. A touch of caramel malt will be all the color you need usually. Oberon uses several hops, but the signature varietals are Hersbrucker & Saaz. Don’t be lured into using coriander or orange peel: Oberon is spice-free.

As for yeast, you ideally would culture yeast from one of our bottles, but that’s going to be hard to come by in Denver. With that in mind, I called the homebrew shop attached to our brewery pub/retail outlet. According to them, the most common yeast choice for people trying to clone our beers seems to be the California Ale yeast from White Labs, WLP001.

I would also recommend investigating one of the many collections of clone recipes on various homebrewing websites, as they are absolutely chock-a-block with solid, time-tested recipes that can easily be adapted to your specific set-up at home.

I hope this helps. Happy brewing!


Gary S. Nicholas
Quality Assurance & Control
Bell's Brewery, Inc.
8938 Krum Avenue
Galesburg, MI 49053

When developing a clone you will want to take a look at all the information on the beer you are trying to clone. Here is the info from Bell's Website:

"An American wheat ale brewed with Saaz hops. Spicy and fruity, Oberon is the color and scent of a sunny afternoon."
Original Gravity: 1.057
Alcohol by Volume: 5.8%
Available Packages: 4/6/12 oz. bottles (case), 15.5 gal. keg, 5 liter (1.32) gal. mini keg
Dates Available
: Summer Seasonal*
March 30th through October
State Availability
: AL*, FL*, IA, IN, KY, MI, MN, MO, NC, ND, OH, PA, VA, WI *Available year round

The recipe below I have made plenty of times and I have to say it is pretty darn close. The key to getting this right is culturing yeast from a Bell's bottle. It is just something about this yeast that brings a citrus note to the table. If you cannot get your hands on any of the bells house yeast sub with Wyeast 1272 American Ale II or Wyeast 1010 American Wheat.  This is for a 5 gallon batch:


5 lbs Briess 2-row Pale malt
5 lbs Briess White Wheat malt 
.5 lbs Briess crystal 20L

Mash temp: 

153 degrees Fahrenheit 

.5 oz GR Hallertau 4.5AA 60 min
.75 oz Czech Saaz 3.2AA 30 min
.5 oz Czech Saaz 3.2AA 15 min

1 oz Czech Saaz 3.2AA dry hop in secondary 

OG: 1.056 FG: 1.013 IBU: 17.2 SRM: 5 Alc. by Vol: 5.67%

**For extract sub the 2-row malt with 3 lbs light DME and the wheat malt with 3 lbs wheat DME then steep .25 lb Crystal 20L

No clarifying additives are needed because this is a wheat beer and should be cloudy. If you are not able to obtain any of the Bell's house yeast from a bottle I have heard that dry hopping with an oz of Cascade hops with give you some of the citrus that this beer needs. Also, although I haven't tried, I have herd using a deconation mash will really get you spot on. All in all this recipe is going to leave you with a great summertime wheat beer.


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