With the springtime weather settling in (and dropping truckloads of pollen here in South Carolina) I thought it would be appropriate to share my experience with replicating a summertime favorite of mine...Bell's Oberon. Just a few fun facts about Oberon. Founded in 1985 by Larry Bell, Bell's Brewery first made Oberon in 1992 under the name Solsun. After some legal issues with another brewery Larry Bell changed the name to Oberon because he played the character Oberon in Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" when he was in 6th grade. Oberon is an American wheat beer and according to Bell's website it uses their signature house yeast, and spicy hops to give it a mild fruity aroma. It is an American wheat beer so it is less phenolic, and does not have the spicy clove aroma a Belgian wheat beer has. During the six months Oberon is available it outsells every beer in Bell's portfolio, even their year round beers. So needless to say, it has quite a following. Bell's even holds an "Oberon Day" every year to coincide with its springtime release.
Being a native Michigander (that is not a typo, that's really what people from Michigan call themselves) I always had easy access to this great classic summer wheat beer. When I moved to Philly, Oberon was harder to find so I let my inner cell biologist and homebrewer collide for the first time and cultured yeast from a bottle of Oberon for my clone. The product of my creation began as PhlOberon (Philadelphia – Oberon) and over numerous iterations has matured into what is now called WoodBeron.
If my blogs have taught you anything it is that grains and hops don't make a beer; yeast does. In fact, Bell's even suggests you use the yeast from their bottle if you attempt to make a clone. My foray into making a solid version of Oberon started and ended with culturing Oberon yeast from a bottle of the beer. Since they bottle condition with the same yeast they ferment with, it is quite an easy task. If culturing the yeast from this beer is not an option for you, don't worry. A quick search online indicates that using White Labs WLP001 (California Ale) is a great option as well.
Every batch I have ever made included the addition of crushed coriander to give it a hint of spiciness. While researching this post I came across a message from a brewer at Bell's that was insistent that Bell's Oberon does NOT include any spices and that any spiciness in the beer comes from the yeast. Yeast are so cool! I have noted this in my recipe below and will let you decide which option to choose for yourself....