Nothing is more refreshing on a hot summer day than an ice-cold beer with the aroma and flavor of fresh lemons. Brewing with lemon peel can add a tart, spicy depth to your summer lagers and ales.
For 5 gallons of beer, add 1 to 2 oz of dried peel or fresh peels from 1-2 lemons during the boil’s last 5-10 minutes. This is one of 5 ways to brew with lemon peel. The bright, tangy flavor of lemon works well in light lagers, pale ales, wheat beer, and more.
Read on to discover how to use lemon peel in your next beer. Find out which types of beer work best, and when to add the peel for the best flavor.
What kind of beer uses lemon peel in the recipe?
Drinks made with lemon are often described as refreshing and thirst-quenching. The mildly tart, citrusy flavor stimulates salivation. The acidic properties of lemon also wet the mouth, which lasts long after the drink is finished.
It might not be as popular as brewing with oranges, but some beers are well suited for lemon’s citrusy aroma and tart taste. Lemon peel is an excellent addition to summer beers for its refreshing qualities.
The tangy flavor of lemon goes well with these flavorful beer types:
- Hefeweizen/Weissbier – is a German wheat beer brewed with Weizen yeast and 50% malt wheat. It is straw to amber in color with fruity aromas and complex flavors like clove, banana, and bubblegum. The ABV is generally 5-5.5%.
- American/Belgian IPAs – are ultra-clear to deep amber in color. They have a strong, hops-driven flavor with a higher ABV of around 6-8%.
- Saison/Farmhouse Ale – are gold to light amber with some yeast and high carbonation. They are low in bitterness and around 4.4-6.8% alcohol by volume.
- Berliner Weisse: a northern Bavarian-style beer that is cloudy. It’s often mixed with fruit and lactose milk sugar. It has a balanced, lightly sweet, and sour taste. Its ABV is around 5%.
- Pale Lagers: built for drinkability. These lagers are pale, straw-colored, and light-bodied. With a crisp, balanced flavor and little to no bitterness. Low hop and malt flavors, and a low ABV (3.2-4%).
There are many ways to add the flavor of lemons to your beer. Just experiment and find out what works best for you.
What kind of lemon should you use when brewing?
Many brewers start with recipes that use dried lemon peel. Dried lemon peel doesn’t impart as much flavor and aroma as fresh lemon peel or zest.
If you plan to use fresh lemons, here are the types of lemons you’ll find and which has the best peel for brewing beer.
Meyer lemons are smaller and more round than regular lemons. Smooth, with a deep yellow to orange skin and dark pulp. Meyer lemons look like a cross between an orange and a lemon.
These lemons make an excellent choice for brewing in beer. However, they may be a little harder to find.
They are slightly sweeter and less acidic than regular lemons and have a more floral and spicy depth to them. Meyer lemons are in season from late November to March.
Eureka lemons are the lemons you’re most likely to find in your grocery store. They are larger, tarter, and brighter in color than Meyer lemons. They also have pointed ends where the Meyer lemons do not.
Lisbon lemons are the most commonly planted lemons in California. The fruit of Lisbon and Eureka lemons are not outwardly visible, and their taste and tartness are similar. They are both the most common varieties sold in grocery stores.
How much lemon peel should you add to a homebrew recipe?
A few things to keep in mind before brewing with lemon peels. Many brewers recommend using the zest instead of the peel. As a result, there is no bitterness from the white pith under the rind.
Adding .25 oz (7.1g) of lemon zest per 5 gallons will add a slight flavor and aroma similar to a witbier. Adding up to 2.0 oz (28g) of lemon zest per 5 gallons will add a lot more flavor and aroma.
A balance between these two should be a good place to start. You will also want to experiment with the timing for the addition of lemon peel or zest to get the best flavor.
You’ll need to use more Meyer lemon peel or zest than regular lemons since they are smaller in size.
- One Meyer lemon = 2 teaspoons of zest.
- One Eureka lemon = 1 tablespoon of zest.
All estimates in the brewing options below are for Eureka lemons because they are more readily available.
How to brew with lemon peel
Experimentation is the key to adding any fruit, zest, or peel. The best ways to add lemon peel to homebrew are:
Option 1: Near the end of the boil
- Add 2 oz of dried lemon peel 10 minutes before the end of the boil.
- Or, add 2 oz of fresh lemon zest 5 minutes before the end of the boil.
The more time the peel or zest is boiled, the less potent the flavor will be in your finished beer. Using this method, you are likely to get only a hint of lemon flavor and aroma.
Option 2: At flameout
This recipe for a Strawberry-Lemon Saison is from Clawhammer Supply. It uses fresh strawberries and lemon peel at flameout with sugar, Lemondrop, and Citra hops.
- After mashing, bring the wort to a boil for 60 minutes. At flameout add the lemon peel and other ingredients.
- Let the fruit steep in the hot wort for a few minutes.
- Chill the wort to 65F and transfer with fruit to a sanitized fermenter and add the pitched yeast.
- Ferment for 10 days at room temperature.
If you use a different recipe, another alternative for this method is:
- Pull out a cup of boiling wort and steep the peels or zest in it for 15 minutes.
- Add the wort with the peel/zest back into the pot at flameout.
Option 3: During dry hopping
- Add zest or peel from 1-2 lemons in a hop bag with your dry hops a couple of weeks after the start of primary fermentation.
Option 4: During secondary fermentation
Adding lemon peel to the secondary fermentation is a good choice. It adds a brighter, fresh fruit flavor. Adding lemon peel during secondary fermentation may cause some concern about contamination. There are a couple of ways to add lemon peel at this stage that are safe.
- Make a tincture with vodka by soaking the zest of 2 lemons in a sealed container with 80-100 proof vodka for 2-3 weeks.
- Slowly add the tincture as you’re racking the beer into the secondary fermenter.
As a second method, you can:
- Soak the zest or peels in a few tablespoons of vodka for a few days.
- Add the zest or peels with the vodka to the secondary fermenter.
- Ferment for another week, then package the beer (either bottle or keg).
This method will give a fresher lemon flavor to the brew. Be careful how much lemon peel you use for this method. It can deliver a stronger lemon flavor to the finished beer than adding it during the boil or at flameout.
Option 5: Add to the keg after secondary fermentation
If you’re looking for a stronger lemon flavor, adding it to the keg after secondary fermentation is the way to go. This may take some experimentation with the amount of peel or zest you use.
Since you won’t lose any flavor to boil off, the peel of one lemon should be sufficient at this stage to keep it from being too strong or bitter.
- Soak the fresh peel or zest of one lemon into ¾ cup of vodka overnight then strain the peels out.
- Add the flavored vodka to your beer on bottling day after fermentation is complete.
When using lemon peels with beer, consider adding more carbonation. Carbonation seems to be important for these light, fruity beers as it provides a better body and mouthfeel.
Now you have several ways to add the juicy deliciousness of lemon to some of your favorite recipes. Start with 1-2 oz of lemon peel or zest for 5 gallons of beer.
Experiment with the timing and method to get the level of flavor you want. Enjoy!
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