posted by Scott Evans

In Search of the Holy Ale

In Search of the Holy Ale

Perfect title considering the subject of this post… A local Los Angeles home brewer, Tim McDonnell, threw his ‘brewers’ hat into the ring and won the right to have his beer brewed by Golden Road Brewery in Los Angeles, California and then distributed to southern California region Whole Foods markets. This was a program called “The Whole Collective.”   


Tim is the Beer Specialist at the Whole Foods Market on Arroyo Parkway in Pasadena, California. Fortunately for me, and the other regulars, there is a beer and wine lounge on level two of the store – and the lounge is appropriately named ‘Bar Level II.’ This is where Tim spends most of his time while at work.  


The brewing contest was limited to Whole Foods employees and the category of beer was Saison. Saison beers originated in Belgium, were stored and drunk by farm workers during the summer months.  Tim went to work and added a twist – he reached high up into the grapefruit tree in his backyard, squeezed them dry and added the fresh juice to his Saison. Here is a video clip of Tim picking and juicing his grapefruit.



But this post is all about Tim and his brewing up a huge local success in Southern California, winning a contest and having his beer distributed. Here are his comments about the experience and a video from his backyard describing the process and more 🙂


“The Whole Collective is a collaborative project between Whole Foods and Golden Road (GRB).


Whole Foods wanted to have GRB make a beer that would only be available at their stores. To make it even more their own, Whole Foods reached out to all the beer specialists in the region and came up with 5 approved recipes.


Each brewer had a few months to brew their batch at home, then we each brought growlers of our finished beer to a blind tasting of judges including the brewmaster, head brewer, and one of the owners of Golden Road. There were also several whole foods regional employees.


One of the contestants never showed up, apparently his batch didn’t turn out how he had hoped, so there were only four beers in the tasting.


Beer was tasted, notes were made, and scores were tallied. Mine had the highest score! So over the following weeks I worked on the recipe with Jesse Houck, the Brewmaster of Golden Road, and we scaled it up to their 50bbl system. We agreed to lighten up the beer from 6.7% ABV to 5.8% ABV. We also made it a little bit drier on the palate, and decided to leave it a little bit hazy since it is a rustic style of beer.


For the first batch, I brought in some hand juiced grapefruit juice from my grapefruit tree, and we hand zested and juiced about 300lbs of grapefruits, adding all the juice and zest to the whirlpool to capture the maximum flavor and aroma. We also added 20 lbs of Citra hops along with that. This is a very hoppy saison!  Not very bitter, but dry and hoppy for sure. There’s also some nice Cascade hops in there to compliment the grapefruit character.


All in all, it was a great experience and I learned first hand what it entails to brew on a 50 bbl system.”


Here’s my conversation with Tim in his backyard, where all the magic happens 🙂 🙂




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