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Review: Clone Brews by Tess and Mark Szamatulski

I suspect that most home brewers are drawn to the hobby when they taste a craft beer and wonder how it was made, or how it might taste if the recipe was altered slightly.  This kind of curiosity drives us to seek out recipes that come as close as possible to our favorite craft beers, so that we can reproduce or improve upon that brew.  Clone Brews by Tess and Mark Szamatulski is an excellent resource in that quest.  They run a home brew shop and spent many hours working out recipes to clone 200 of their favorite beers, sharing those recipes in this book.

Among the 200 recipes in this book, you'll find clone recipes for Grolsch Premium Lager, Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock, Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome, Traquair House Ale, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Moose Drool, Dragon Stout, Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, Lagunitas IPA, Aventinus Wheat Doppelbock, and more.

Being a fan of Belgian and Belgian-style ales, I was particularly impressed with that section of the book.  In it, I found recipes for clones of many classic Belgian beers, including Hitachino Nest White Ale, Affligem Abbey Tripel, Scaldis Noel, Chimay Red, Duvel, Gulden Draak, Unibroue La Fin Du Monde, Orval, Trappist Rochefort 8, and St. Bernardus Prior 8.

The book begins with a discussion of how you might go about cloning a beer that isn't covered in the book.  It talks about information sources that will help you nail down some of the ingredients in the beer.

For each recipe, the authors provide a description of the beer being cloned, followed by specifications for the beer (including its style, the recipe yield, original gravity, final gravity, IBUs, SRM, and ABV), serving notes and food pairing ideas, and brewing instructions.

Brewing instructions include the ingredient list and amounts, times and temperatures, and all the details you'd need to brew the beer yourself.  Recipes for all-grain, mini-mash, and extract brewing techniques are included as well.  Most of the recipes are simple to follow, much like those in common ingredient kits.  A few require the use of more-advanced techniques like roasting your own grain, caramelizing or reducing part of the wort, and so on.

For example, the following is their recipe for a Chimay Red clone:

  • Style: Belgian Dubbel,
    Yield: 5 gallons,
    Original Gravity: 1.070,
    Final Gravity: 1.014-1.015,
    IBU: 25,
    SRM: 18,
    ABV: 7.1%
  • Serving Notes:  This ale is ready to drink 1 month after it has carbonated. It will peak at 3 to 7 months and will keep at cellar temperatures for 9 months.  Serve at 50 degrees F in a goblet.
  • Food Pairing: Serve with bacon-wrapped red snapper, along with shiitake mushrooms and celery root in an herbed beurre blanc and Chimay Red sauce.
  • Steep:  Crush and steep in 1/2 gallon of 150F water for 30 minutes:
    • 4 ounces of Belgian aromatic malt
    • 8 ounces of Belgian Cara-Munich malt
    • 1 ounce of British Chocolate malt
  • Strain and Sparge: Strain the grain water into your brew pot. Sparge the grains with 1/2 gallon of water at 150F.  Add water to the brew pot for 1.5 gallons total volume.  Bring the water to a boil and add:
    • 4 pounds of Muntons light DME
    • 3.3 pounds of Muntons light malt extract syrup
    • 1.5 pounds of Belgian clear candi sugar
    • 1.75 ounces of Tettnanger 4%AA hops pellets
  • Boil:  Add water until total volume in the brew pot is 3 gallons.  Boil for 45 minutes and then add the following:
    • 1/4 ounce Styrian Goldings hops pellets (flavor hop)
    • 1/4 ounce German Hallertau Hersbrucker hops pellets (flavor hop)
    • 1 teaspoon Irish Moss
  • Cool and Pitch:  Boil for 15 minutes, then cool.  Strain the wort into the fermenter and add cold water to obtain 5 and 1/8 gallons.  When the wort is under 70F, pitch one of the following yeasts:
    • Wyeast 1214 Belgian Abbey yeast (Ferment at 68-75F)
    • Wyeast 1762 Belgian Abbey II yeast (Ferment at 68-75F)
  • Ferment and Bottle:  Ferment in the primary fermenter for 7 days or until fermentation slows, then siphon into the secondary fermenter.  Bottle when fermentation is complete, with 1 1/4 cups of Muntons wheat malt boiled in 2 cups of water.
So far, I've only brewed two of the recipes from the book.  My first was the Gulden Draak recipe, which turned out quite well.  I wouldn't say it's an exact match for the original, but then I wasn't able to get exactly the right malt for one of the malts and couldn't get one of the hops listed in the recipe.  That may have made the difference.

The other recipe I brewed was the Bush de Noel (Scaldis Noel) clone.  That beer requires at least seven months of bottle conditioning before it's ready, so I won't know until later this year how it turned out.  

I'm looking forward to trying some of the other recipes in the book, such as La Fin Du Monde.  Watch this blog for the results of those experiments.


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