Clone Beers

Discussion in 'General Brewing Discussions' started by jeffpn, Jul 5, 2016.

  1. jeffpn

    jeffpn Well-Known Member

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    Here's a survey type thread. Does anyone here brew any clone recipes that are indistinguishable from their commercial counterparts? I've brewed a Spotted Cow clone recipe multiple times. While it may not taste exactly like the real thing, it is still a very enjoyable beer to me. I recently brewed a Longboard clone as well. I don't know how close it is either, but I like it, and I will brew it again. I guess for me, instead of saying they're clones, it'd be more accurate to use the phrase "inspired by." What say you?
     
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  2. J A

    J A Well-Known Member

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    I did a Fireman's #4 "clone". It's sort of the simplest recipe you can imagine - 2-row, a little Crystal 20 and Carapils, couple of ounces of Crystal hops. I'd say there was a family resemblance, but that's all. It was actually a little more like another Blonde Ale from a different Texas Brewery. And probably very similar to any number of basic low-hopped ales that are available.

    I think even the commercial stuff varies a certain amount from batch to batch. I've had some #4 that was fairly plain and some that had a really nice dry malt aroma and flavor. And I know I've had micro-brewed IPAs that are extremely different from one time to the next due to the influence of aging on the hop profile. When it comes down to it, it's hard to say exactly what one might be cloning. For that particular recipe, I decided to up the ante on the malt flavor and add a little Vienna for the next time I brew it. And because the hop profile is really low-energy, as The Donald would say, I'm putting an ounce of Sterling for a little subtle spice/citrus zip in the late flavor and aroma additions. I suspect it'll still be similar to both of those beers when it's said and done.

    I'd say if you come up with something that's definitely reminiscent of a particular beer and it tastes great and you enjoy drinking it, you'd have to call it a rousing success! ;)
     
  3. J A

    J A Well-Known Member

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    Oh, and house yeasts...
    Most breweries have a house strain that they develop to some extent by harvesting slurry. You can get close with most yeast strains available to us homebrewers, but there's always going to be a little difference. Not to mention mash schedules and fermentation temps.
    Ingredients are just part of the recipe. Even if you start with the exact grain bill and hop schedule, you could brew beers that are extremely different by changing the mash slightly or fermenting a few degrees warmer or cooler.
     
  4. Ozarks Mountain Brew

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  5. jeffpn

    jeffpn Well-Known Member

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    Funny you should mention that. My friend who convinced me to make lagers drinks nothing but Bud (and an awful lot of my homebrew!). Don't tell him about that recipe, because I'm not gonna brew it!
     
  6. J A

    J A Well-Known Member

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    Seems to me if he's sucking down your homebrew, there's not much reason for him to say he drinks nothing but Bud...I think he likes the taste of free beer! ;)
    I'd almost say that I never met a free beer I didn't like, but the truth is, I've been known to turn down Budweiser. :lol:
     
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  7. jeffpn

    jeffpn Well-Known Member

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    Free beer, free beer
    That's my favorite brand
    If I don't have to buy it
    It's the best beer in the land
    Warm, flat, funky
    It don't matter to me
    'Cuz my favorite brand in this whole world
    Is the one you'll buy for me


    Man, that song goes all the way back to 1995 or so. A fellow homebrewer emailed me that track. Did they even have .mp3 files then??
     
  8. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    Yes, we had MP3's in 1995 - the bitrate was a lot slower, though....

    My take on cloning: Don't. Go with "inspired by". You won't be disappointed as often. There are processes we can't reproduce at our scale, there are proprietary yeasts, there is temperature control and testing we just can't afford.... I can barely reproduce my own recipes, let alone copy anyone else's. So I consider a close approximation good enough.

    By the way, you can be off four IBUs - the human taste threshold for bitterness - and no one will ever know. That in itself makes cloning a bit of a misnomer for what it is we do.
     
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  9. Ozarks Mountain Brew

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  10. jeffpn

    jeffpn Well-Known Member

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    I'm not looking for clone recipes. I'm wondering how often we forum members brew a clone that is indistinguishable from its commercial counterpart. I'm betting very rarely, if ever at all. Nosybear mentioned something I've long thought of - that it's tough to reproduce your own recipe, let alone duplicate a commercial beer.
     
  11. Ozarks Mountain Brew

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    I agree with him on that but it can be done just not easily on a small scale like most home brewers, you have to be set up for just one beer and use the same ingredients bought buy the same vendor at the same time in a large scale then brew more often than once a week with the exact same water and the same weather out, and yes it does make a difference
     
  12. jeffpn

    jeffpn Well-Known Member

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    No one has come forward yet and said that they do brew or have brewed a beer that their friends thought was the commercial beer. That's really what I'm looking for here. Like I said, the clones that I brew may not taste accurate, but they are nonetheless enjoyable to me. That's why I brew them.
     
  13. Ozarks Mountain Brew

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    OK well I have lol, I have many recipes on my site that says cloned and I have fooled people before many times. but you just cant brew the recipe like "most home brewers" brew and it will be cloned, you have to be a detailed person and brew like the commercial brewers do and that can be challenging

    Ill give an example, bought some commercial beer, 2 -12 packs, drank it saved the bottles and packaging. brewed that clone, aged it properly then filled the case with home brew, at a family gathering I put the box next to the cooler and filled the cooler with my beer on ice, didn't tell anyone, it was all gone in a couple of hours and no body said anything. those are the tests that count lol
     
  14. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    Basically, I don't even try to clone. If I can buy a beer commercially, why would I go to the trouble and expense to make it? First, it will take several tries to get close unless there is information out there about how the producer makes the beer, if the ingredients are even available. Second, I have to source those ingredients, invest the time and effort.... It just makes more sense to buy a six-pack of the commercial beer then brew a whatever comes to mind. My two cents....
     
  15. jeffpn

    jeffpn Well-Known Member

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    In the case of Spotted Cow, it's only sold in the state of Wisconsin. That's one reason to brew a clone.

    Some breweries list the grains and hops they use. They give you an ABV and an IBU. You can write a decent recipe using that information. Doubtful that a novice like me could write the correct recipe, but even I can write a recipe that tastes good.

    As far as brewing what comes to mind, clones are what comes to mind for a lot of people. I've seen more than a couple books for sale in my LHBS that have clone recipes in them. I brew a couple clones (for lack of a better term) but I usually stick with recipes like Charlie P's and my own BIAB conversion recipes from my favorite Brewer's Best extract kits.
     
  16. jmcnamara

    jmcnamara Well-Known Member

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    I'd tend to side with nosy. The only real clone I've done was for Pliny the elder, which I've never had. The beer turned out pretty good I thought, and someone who had the commercial version said it was decent.
    Even recipes I get from other homebrewers I usually end of tweaking, either because I can't get that ingredient or to round off numbers when scaling a recipe.

    Plus, I am very much not a process geek. Not that there's anything wrong with that type of brewer, but I would get very bored doing the same thing over and over again to try to perfect a single recipe
     
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  17. jeffpn

    jeffpn Well-Known Member

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    A different topic, but ironic that you say you side with nosy, and then say that. I also would get bored brewing the same thing over and over until it was consistent. That's exactly what he recommends for new brewers. That never would've worked for me, although I'm sure it greatly helps out others to do that, when they choose so.
     
  18. jmcnamara

    jmcnamara Well-Known Member

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    i meant more from the cloning part of what he said. easier for me to buy it. if i've never tasted it, i wouldn't know how close / far it was. to your point though, that beer might not be available in your area, so cloning is the only thing you can do.

    as for the new brewing advice, i definitely agree to keep brewing as much as you can. but, i respectfully disagree on the importance of sticking to one recipe. at least for the "average" person starting out
     
  19. J A

    J A Well-Known Member

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    Since getting back into brewing this year I've done 31 batches - 2 1/2 and 5 gallon batches - and I haven't brewed exactly the same beer twice. A couple of times there was only a difference of yeast or hop variety. The one time I intended to exactly duplicate a recipe, I had to substitute because my LHBS was out of Melanoidin.

    That's been interesting and most of the beers have been good, some quite so, but I don't feel like I really know how to make beer yet. I think I need to choose one recipe - ideally something that turns around pretty quickly - and brew it back to back as many times as I can so I get a better handle on controlling the variables. Of course the problem with that is that I'm stuck drinking the same beer for months. Might get old. :? :D
     
  20. Rodbrew70

    Rodbrew70 Member

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    My guess is that, that separates the 'home brewers' from those that aspire to take it to the commercial level!
    we home brewers tend to experiment with brews endlessly rather than perfect a particular brew!
    I myself find that even though a brew might make it to the 'favourites' list, I'm already looking at the next variations before I've even tasted the current brew! Am I weird??
     

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