Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Recipe of the Week: How to Build a Clone Recipe

This week I am going to stray from the norm. I will not be posting an actual recipe but I will help you with building your own clone recipe. If you brew your own beer I am going to make an educated guess and say that you have a few favorite beers that you would like to recreate. 

The internet is a great resource, I mean this blog alone must have filled your brain with knowledge right??? You can scour and usually find someone somewhere who has a clone recipe for that beer you want to recreate. Along with the internet there are some great magazines out there that have clone recipe sections where they have brewed and blind taste tested next to the real thing. 

Step #1: Search the internet, terms like "Boston Lager clone recipe" will usually turn up something that is usable. Try the recipe out, if it doesn't turn out how you want it, or you weren't able to find one proceed to the next step.  

Step #2: Taste and review the beer you want to recreate. Critique it and try to pick out every little flavor. Write these down so you have a basis of what you are looking for.

Step #3: Research the beer via bottle label and/or brewery website. Brewers will usually give the specific information including original and final gravities, IBUs, hops used, grains used, and maybe even a type of yeast. If you find 3 or 4 instances of this specific information you have a good basis to start building a recipe.

Step #4: If step #3 left you high and dry use your communication skills. Email the brewery and ask if they can give you any pointers to lead you in the right direction. More times than not someone will get back to you with some useful information. They probably won't be able to give you an exact recipe, nor really want that out there, but brewers are brewers and love other people interested in their craft.

Step #5: Ok so with all the information you have gathered you are ready to start formulating your recipe. We'll start on the grain bill. We'll use the above posted information from Sierra Nevada to guide us through the process here. 

So your tasting notes on malt flavor are as follows smooth maltiness with hints of caramel. Looking at the beer specifics you see that they use two row and caramel malts which would agree with your tastebuds. The color from your notes is golden amber so you can discern that that majority of the grain bill is the light two row malt with a slight bit of caramel for the amber color and the caramel flavor. 

Next would be determining the amount of grain to use. Sierra Nevada gave their gravity readings in plato, most home brewers use specific gravity readings so I found this nifty calculator to help convert the reading. Converting 13 degrees plato gives me a specific gravity reading of 1.053. This is where you will bring up your recipe calculator. I use promash, but there are others like beersmith and beertools, any will do. Make sure your efficiency percentage is entered into the calculator if you are an all grain brewer. If you are a extract brewer efficiency will not matter.      
Now it's time to play around with your calculator. If you are going for an extract recipe this is quite simple, add enough of light dry or liquid malt extract to bring you to a specific gravity of 1.053. You can go a little less because the crystal grain you will steep will add some sugar but for simplicity I would rather get to my targeted OG and know I may be a point higher from the small amount of crystal grain I will be steeping. 

While you are the the home brew shop getting your extract taste the different levels of crystal grain to decide which you want to go with. The shop owner will not care if you taste a grain or two just don't start shoving handfuls in your mouth. Since I have done this before I will conclude that you have the same taste as I do and have decided on a crystal grain with a lovibond of 60.  Buy enough to steep that will give you the color you want determined by your calculator. For this recipe it should be around 90-95% pale additions and 5-10% crystal addition.

If you are an all grain brewer the formulation is a little harder but not by much. Just like I had mentioned above you have concluded by your tasting and color matching that you will need a pale malt addition of 90-95% and 5-10% crystal. Play with your calculator until you hit an OG of 1.053 under the percentage constraints that you have determined. Remember that the OG calculation that the calculator gives you is directly related to your own systems efficiency. If you are an all grain brewer you will probably know how your system works. 

I am using an standard efficiency rate of 72%, I only call this standard because this is where a lot of the calculators are set at from the get go. To make the grain weighing simple and based on the efficiency this is where my grain bill ended up. 

9.5 lbs two row pale malt 92.7% of the grain bill
 .75 lb Crystal 60L malt 7.3% of the grain bill

This gives you an OG/SG of 1.053 based on a 72% efficiency rate. It has also concluded that your SRM (color) is 8.4 and with the promash calculator it shows a color sample. This looks exactly what you are looking for.  

Step #6: Next up, determining the hop bill. This works the same way for extract and all grain brewers. The calculations are also much like the grain bill calculations. Sierra Nevada has provided an IBU (bitterness units) level of 37. From tasting you know that there is a good amount of bitterness, so there will be a good amount of IBUs from the first (bittering) addition at the beginning of the boil. They have also given you the bittering hops that they use so for these first additions you know you are going to use Magnum and Perle hops. You also notice from tasting that there is a good amount of hop flavor and aroma in the beer which would tell you there is a good amount of hops for flavor and aroma additions. These additions are anywhere from 20 to 0 minutes left in the boil. The later in the boil the more aroma you will pull off the hops. Sierra Nevada has provided you with that information as well, they use cascade hops for this. 

Now time to play with the calculator again. As you will noticed the longer in the boil the more IBUs. Since you are looking for a good bitterness to this beer you should decide that most of the IBUs are going to come from the bitterness additions. Your IBUs are dependent on the alpha acid percentage of the hops and the time in the boil. Be sure to get the alpha acid % from your hop package and enter it in your calculator so you will come up with the correct calculations. Maybe from the tasting notes you detect a small bit of spiciness which would tell you maybe the perle hops were used somewhere mid boil. This is all on your taste perception though so if you don't taste it don't do it. Since there also is a lot of hop flavor to this beer more finishing hops towards the end of the boil will give you more flavor but not add a lot of IBUs.  

After you enter the alpha acid information into your calculator play around with the values until you hit on or around your IBU value of 37. The one thing to remember is if you are adding an aroma addition at 0 minutes left in the boil this will not (technically) add any IBUs, make a judgment call to how much hop aroma (also contributes some to flavor perception) you want.

So after you have done all this, you have come up with this hop bill and you are almost finished with the recipe.

.35 oz Magnum @ 14AA 60 minutes in the boil
.3 oz Perle @ 7.5AA 30 minutes in the boil
1.6 oz Cascade @ 5.75 AA  10 minutes in the boil
2 oz Cascade @ 5.75AA 0 minutes in the boil 

IBUs are right on the dot at 37 and you are comfortable with what you are getting from your hop additions. 

Step #7: Choosing your yeast is probably just about the easiest part of recipe formulation. For this recipe it is even easier because you can refer to the yeast guide I posted a few weeks back and search to see if the brewery you are trying to recreate has made their yeast available via White Labs or Wyeast. In this case we know that Sierra Nevada's yeast is WLP-001 or Wyeast 1056. For other clone beers that you may be developing you can use your taste notes and use your best judgment. All of the yeast companies provide profiles of each of the specific yeasts. For this specific example we know from tasting that the yeast leaves a very clean profile which would be describe in the yeast providers description.

Step #8 (for all grain brewers only): Decide your mash temperature. Estimating what your beer will end up at gravity wise is one hell of a science. I can lead you here and you can try to understand all that data but I prefer to take the easy route and not be a perfectionist. Yeast providers will also give you an attenuation range (how much sugar will ferment) dependent on the yeast strain. The only other factor to know is mashing lower will give you more fermentable sugars and mashing at a higher temp will give you more unfermentable sugars. 

Temperature Activity Duration Effects
95'F/35'C Phytase
up to 2 hrs. Lowers pH,
makes more acidic
122'F/50'C Proteolysis
15 min.- 1 hr. Proteins broken into
amino acids
140'F/60'C Beta-amylase starch conversion into
20 min. - 1 1/2 hr. Produces a highly fermentable wort
(thinner beer)
150'F/65'C Alpha & Beta-amylase equally active 20 min. - 1 1/4 hr. Produces wort with both fermentables and nonfermentables.
158'F/70'C Alpha-amylase
starch conversion into

20 min.- 1 hr. Produces a wort high in unfermentables
(more body)
168'F/76'C Amylase activity
5 - 15 min. Aids in liquefying wort for better run off.
170'F/77'C Sparge Water
30 - 60 min. "Washes" sugar from grain bed, but too high temp could extract tannins
* from 

For single infusion mashing (most common and easiest) you are only concerned with the Beta-amylase and Alpha-amylase. 

The final gravity after converting degrees plato is shown at 1.011. Using the attenuation rate from the yeast provider you can make a judgment call to ferment this around 150 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step #9 (optional): Decide a fermentation temperature. If you have somewhere that you can control your fermentation temperature I would recommend just choosing somewhere in the range that the yeast provider gives in the description. They have already done the testing so you know you will be good there. If you do not have temperature control, put your fermenter somewhere in the house that will keep you closest to the temperature range. 

Step #10: TIME TO BREW!!

I realize I said I was not going to post a recipe on this addition of ROTW but I figure hey we went to all this trouble...


9.5 lbs American 2-row malt
.75 lb Crystal 60L malt

Mash at 150 degrees Fahrenheit for 60 minutes

 .35 oz Magnum @ 14AA 60 minutes in the boil
.3 oz Perle @ 7.5AA 30 minutes in the boil
1.6 oz Cascade @ 5.75 AA  10 minutes in the boil
2 oz Cascade @ 5.75AA 0 minutes in the boil 

Wlp-001, Wyeast 1056, or Safale 05

Ferment at 65 degrees until completion


Replace the mashing step/grain bill:
5.5 lbs light dry malt extract or 7.2 lbs light liquid malt extract
.5 lb Crystal 60L (steeped before boiling)

I know this was a lot to take in...if you have any specific questions please do not hesitate to email or make a comment after this post.

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