The joy of cloning

Everyone has a favorite beer or if not one, maybe a half dozen or so that are consistently the best of the best by their palate. These beers can often be brewed at home with great success. In the end, whether your beer comes out the same, different or better, working up and modifying recipes is a great way to improve your mental palate and brewing skills in general. As you hone in on the prize with subsequent attempts or simple reboots, you may find that your version of Pliny is just a bit more to your liking than the original.

One of the simplest ways to start a clone is to buy a recipe kit online from a site like Homebrewing.org or from a local home brew shop like DIY Brewing Supply. Sometimes these are spot on and even come straight from the brewers themselves. Other times they are just reasonable facsimiles in need of further tweaking. A little research may help you glean the level of direct information available about a particular brew as some breweries are more than happy to share, while others are prone to secrecy. Most will in fact at the very least provide a basic grain and hop listing that can be compared to whatever you may be buying

In addition to pre-made kits, there are an abundance of blogs and discussion forums dedicated to posting, testing and correcting clone recipes. Again, the quality will vary but often these receive a lot of attention and comments that will make your brewing both more succesful and accurate. Homebrewtalk.com is a great place to start. If you follow the link for a particular beer you’ll see a detailed recipe for brewing as well as numerous comments on alternatives, contested ingredients and discussion on the source of the information.

As you gain experience and your palate improves you’ll begin to notice pieces of these recipes that you sense are not quite right. I often find myself going round and round on the hop bill for Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale. Although generally there is agreement about what’s used, based solely on flavor and aroma I’ve had better luck following my own instincts rather than treating anything posted online as infallible. If you think the beer tastes like it should have a higher lovibond Crystal malt or maybe Simcoe hops in the flavor addition instead of Chinook, try it out. Maybe you’re right, or maybe that’s more the beer you have envisioned in your head and it will be an improvement even if only to you. Don’t be shy about sharing these attempts with others as the real value of these recipes is in the feedback and updates from home brewers who try them.

Finally a few brewers have started to offer stove top clone kits of their own beers. Flying Dog Brewery for example, releases a different kit each month while staying mindful of the upcoming season and timing these releases accordingly.  Honestly, I’m not sure why this isn’t more prevalent as it can do nothing but build the brand. It also provides an opportunity for others to test and tweak your recipes sometimes providing valuable feedback.

My personal experience with cloning has for the most part been a success. I generally opt for working from a posted recipe and tweaking the grains and hops as I feel appropriate. I had great luck brewing a version of Slumbrew’s Flagraiser, although I suspect I used quite a bit more galaxy hops than they did in both the flavor addition and dry hop. I’ve also had failures, or maybe I should say great beers that were nothing like the beer intended. This happened the first time I attempted to brew Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale. The grain bill came out far to dark and malty leading to more of a black IPA. This can often be caught by more diligent use of a recipe calculator like the one at Brewersfriend.com and paying close attention to basic attributes like Original and Final Gravity, ABV, IBUs, and SRM (color).

Cloning your favorite beer is a fun way to test your brewing skills and hopefully rediscover a beer you already enjoy. If it comes out different don’t take that as discouragement but instead use the opportunity to hone your palate and spend some time figuring out what went wrong. In the case where your beer is better? Cheers, and welcome to the joy of brewing!

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About mrhopsbeertalk
Avid homebrewer and craft beer taster. I love all the hops I can get. #hops #ipa #iipa #ipl #porter #dipa #specialtyale #saison #craftbeer western mass · mrhopsbeertalk.wordpress.com

3 Responses to The joy of cloning

  1. Pingback: 14 batches of home brew later I’m a fiend for fresh beer @Slumbrew @Wyeastlab @Weyerbacher @sixpoint @SierraNevada | Mr Hops Beer Talk

  2. Pingback: What’s in a Name: Nelly Green’s Galumbus??? #namingcraftbeer #2014batch1 | Mr Hops Beer Talk

  3. Pingback: Starting 2014 with 3 unique homebrewed IPAs #drinkitfresh |

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