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Grainfather Blog - Week 113: Cloning a beer

By Grainfather - All Grain Brewing 20/04/2017 04:56 Comments

clone beers

Have you ever had a commercial beer that you really enjoyed and wondered, ‘how did they make that?’ Or have a beer you’re desperate to try that isn’t readily available? Or want to get a friend into brewing by helping them make a beer just like one of their favourites?

There might be many reasons you want to try and recreate a beer that already exists and brewing a clone beer can be a really enjoyable process, especially for a perfectionist as there is something quite satisfying in making those small tweaks to a recipe that make it perfect.

So where do you start when it comes to recreating a commercial beer?

Well step one would be picking your beer. You can recreate any beer really but it’s worth being aware that traditional mixed fermentation beers will require a little bit more planning fermentation side and can take a long time before they are drinkable. Something like a lager too will require the ability to cold ferment and can take months of preparation. None of this should put you off if these are the beers you want to make but it’s definitely worth considering.

Step two would be doing your research. You’ve picked your beer and now it’s time to learn as much about it as you can. If you are able to it does make it easier if you can drink the beer you want to recreate. Whilst it’s possible to try and make a beer without having tasted it you won’t know how close you got so really you could be making any beer. Online research has made cloning beers a whole lot easier – google your beers name and add ‘clone recipe’ and there’s a good chance you will find several forums and blogs that have people’s interpretations and attempts at clones which will give you a good place to start. For me, I like to look at as many recipes as possible and pick out the commonalities. What are the recurring ingredients? If you find the same ingredient across most recipes then there is a good chance that ingredient will give you some of the character of the beer you are trying to recreate.

After your research you should have some know some key aspects of your beer such as ABV, an approximate colour (even if it’s just ‘dark’ or ‘pale’), an approximate bitterness level, some key flavour descriptors (is it malty? Hoppy? Are there distinct malt or hop characters that stand out such as; toffee, chocolate, caramel, toast, grain, orange, grapefruit, earthy etc.) and a rough idea of some ingredients you can use to achieve these aspects.

The next stage then is to start using some brewing software such as our free online recipe creator to put a recipe together. A good tip here is to start with your base malt and try to get close to your target ABV so if your beer is 6% maybe start with 6 kilos of base malt. You can then swap out small percentages of the base malt for your specialty malts.

Once your grainbill is in place and you look close in terms of colour and potential gravity you can start thinking about hop additions. Aim to get your bitterness right but be aware that many hop forward beers will rely on large late boil additions for bitterness as well as aroma and flavour. The timing of your hop additions will have an important effect on your final beer. In general, the closer to the start of the boil you add your hops, the more bitterness you will impart and the closer to the end of the boil you add your hops the more aroma and flavour you will preserve. You can also dry hop for increased aroma and flavour so make sure you consider what the hops are adding to your chosen commercial beer and how you can achieve the same effect.

Many breweries will use a proprietary yeast strain that has been cultured for several generations but with all the yeast strains available to homebrewers now, you should be able to find something that works. What is the yeast adding to your commercial beer? Is there a lot of yeast driven character or is the yeast more neutral? How well attenuated is the beer? Think about what temperature you will ferment at to get the effect you want from your yeast.

After you’ve built your recipe and you’re happy with your parameters, it’s time to brew. Remember, cloning a beer requires a little bit of trial and error so make sure you take detailed notes of everything you did. This will make it easier to see what needs adjusting next time around and ultimately help you make better beer. Taste your beer compared to the commercial example if you can. Where is yours better? Where is it lacking? How could you improve next time? These are all questions that will help you brew better in general.

For my own clone beer I decided to try a clone for Beavertowns ‘Lupuloid’, a great easy drinking, fruity IPA. I’m cheating slightly as Beavertown post their ingredients on their website but the quantities and method are my own. You can see the recipe for my clone beer ‘Looperloid’ here.

 

How many of you have had a go at cloning beers? How did it go? Let us know in the comments below or by emailing us at info@grainfather.com

Post Comments

Yngve Holm

posted on 21/11/2017 23:05
Looking at the Looperloid clone makes me wonder, 5g citra boil 60 for bittering? And the beer ends in 61 IBU. Didnt think hopstand would give so much bittering from those hops.
Is it a typo or is it 5g Citra for boil only?

Alexander Broekhuis

posted on 30/05/2017 21:09
Hi Kevin,

I'd like to get the recipe for the Irish Red! Thanks!

Kevin Justesen

posted on 10/05/2017 16:25
I have cloned a few commercial beers. Luckily (but not all luck) was able to carry me very close. Usually it's a little bit better!
I recently cloned a Landshark and it's pretty much spot on!
My daughter asked for a Killians Irish Red. It's still in the primary. I think I came close on color at least for now. My OG came in at 1.060 instead of 1.052. I'm okay with that for the first try. I could have diluted it but what the hell? 6% Killians?
Also just kegged a Guinness but everyone probably does that one. Lol.
Good luck brewers!!! If you need my recipes, lemme know

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