Attack of the Clones: Clone Brews 2nd Edition Review

HomeBrewTalk.com - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Community.

Help Support Homebrew Talk:

A Review of CloneBrews, 2nd edition, by Tess and Mark Szamatulski
Paperback: 439 pages
Publisher: Storey Publishing, LLC; 2 edition (May 10, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 160342539X
ISBN-13: 978-1603425391
I bought the 2nd edition of CloneBrews in Kindle format in July 2013, soon after I restarted homebrewing following a nearly seven year hiatus, with the idea that I would brew some clone recipes which I could then compare with the actual commercial examples in order to calibrate my brewing skills. The fact that the book came in Kindle format, as well as its 4+ star Amazon review average were factors in buying it.
I like the Kindle format and some of the alternatives which I reviewed at the time of purchase, listed at the end of this review along with some others I've later found, were not available for the Kindle. My reasoning for buying a clone recipe book at all was that I thought that if I could brew beers that closely replicated 'known' commercial beers then I must be doing things right or at least not doing them wrong. I'll describe my actual experience with some of those recipes at the end of this review.
The book contains 35 Light Lager recipes, 9 Pilsners, 8 Amber & Dark Lagers, 5 Bocks, for a total of 60 lager recipes. There are 8 Light & Amber Hybrid recipes. There are 18 English Ale recipes, 7 Scottish Ales, 6 American Ales, 5 Brown Ales, 11 Porters, 18 Stouts, 10 IPAs, 6 Wheats, 29 Belgian & French Ales, 12 Strong Ales, and 12 beers described as Esoteric. I will not replicate the entire recipe list in this review but if you look at the books.google.com link later in this review it contains a preview of the book which includes all the table of contents pages.
I will say that the book contains a nice variety of styles however some of the recipes, particularly in the Light Lagers category appear to have little variation in their ingredients and procedures. Another quibble is that there are recipes, again principally in the Light Lager category, which are for exceedingly uncommon even obscure beers (e.g., Bintang Pilsner from Indonesia or Alamaza Pilsener (sic) from Lebanon) which I don't believe I'd ever feel the desire to clone, clearly though there may be disagreement on that point.
Each recipe starts with the name of the beer being cloned and the name and location of the brewery followed by a one or two paragraph description of the beer. Then there is a Brewer's Specs section with Style, Yield (all of which are 5 gallons), Original Gravity range, Final Gravity range, IBU, SRM, and ABV. I really liked the inclusion of the Brewer's Spec section though I did find some discrepancies between what the recipe stated and what the brewery specified for that beer. For example, one of the recipes I made was SNPA which the recipe states is 32 IBUs but the brewer claims is 38.
Each recipe also contains a Serving Notes and Food Pairing section. I found the Food Pairings section to be hunger inducing but not particularly valuable. Those areas are followed by the Brewing Instructions which are broken down into Steep, Strain and Sparge, Boil, Cool and Pitch, Ferment and Bottle sections. Appended to the end of each recipe is a paragraph containing the instructions for doing the Mini-Mash Method and All-Grain method.
One criticism I have of the way the recipes are described is that the hop additions in the All-grain section are specified as percentages of the previously listed extract version. For example a recipe might call for 1 oz (42 g) Fuggles @ 5% AA (7.5 HBU) (bittering hop) and then in the All-grain section the instruction might be to "add 6 HBU (20% less than the extract recipe) of the bittering hops for 90 minutes of the boil". The brewer must calculate that 80% of 42 grams is 33.6 grams of bittering hops for the all-grain recipe. This is further complicated if the Fuggles you actually have is something other than 5% AA, as you first need to adjust the extract amount then do the 80% calculation on that adjusted amount.
It should be noted that the printed book format for the recipes is a bit different than what is seen in the Kindle version with the primary difference being that the printed book presents some of the recipe information in two columns while the Kindle only uses one. You can get a look at what the printed version of a recipe looks like here:
And if you have a Kindle you can use the "Send sample now" on the Amazon webpage for the book to get a look at its formatting.
CloneBrews is not what I would describe as how-to brew guide. With the way the recipes are formatted, this leads me to believe that it was geared toward extract brewers as I feel the mini-mash and all-grain instructions that are appended to the end of each recipe are somewhat sparse and tacked-on. There is, however, in Part 1 of the book, which is called The Art of Cloning a Beer, information on Knowing Your Clone Subject which includes things such as calculating bittering units for a recipe. That is followed by sections on Determining the Amount of Grains and Malt to Use, How to Determine the Color of Your Recipe, Knowing Your Yeast and Knowing Your Water with a culminating section of Part 1 which puts all the previous sections in context. I thought there was quite a bit of valuable information in Part 1 but I think some of the criticism of the book I've seen could have been mitigated if more of it had also been incorporated into the recipes in Part 2.
Another minor criticism is that when brewing all-grain versions of the recipes you must parse out the specialty grain components which are embedded in the 'Steep' section as they are not repeated in the All-grain instructions. Similarly the hop additions are split between the 'Strain and Sparge' and the 'Boil' sections of the recipe. I interpreted and entered each of the recipes I brewed into Brewsmith as that made it clearer for me but I can see that someone, particularly a beginner, just using the book might be confused or miss something.
I read through the Amazon reviews for the book and confirmed a few other problems with the recipes which I had not noticed when I read them initially. The Orval recipe does not include any mention of Brett which seems like a rather large omission. There is an apparent typo in the suggested yeast for Jelain Biere de Garde, as Wyeast 1338 is suggested rather than what would appear to be the more appropriate 1388. For Rogue Old Crustacean the mini-mash recipe includes a protein rest which is omitted in favor of a single infusion in the all-grain recipe. The mini-mash recipe for Ballantine XXX Ale calls for the addition of flaked maize and rice hulls which are both omitted from the all-grain recipe. A couple of reviewers criticized the fact that due to the way each recipe is described there is no separate ingredients listing section at the beginning of a recipe which might cause someone to make a purchasing mistake if a needed ingredient was overlooked.
One reviewer pointed out that the Aventinius Wheat doppelbock recipe contains no protein rest which some brewers feel is essential for high wheat content beers however I'm on the fence as to the importance of this criticism.
One interesting thing I noted in an October 2012 Amazon review was a criticism that some of the information in the printed version of the book was omitted from the electronic version with an example given of an ingredient that was missing from the Duvel recipe. The publisher of the book, identified as Storey Digital Department, replied on Amazon in February 2013 with an acknowledgement of the errors and omissions for four recipes which they claim to have fixed in a new edition of the ebook that was uploaded to Amazon on February 8, 2013. Since I bought my copy in July 2013 I was able to confirm that those errors were corrected in the version I received.
A couple of reviewers criticized the recipes as being from outdated beers but they didn't give an example of what they considered to be an up-to-date beer which was omitted. Recipes for beer from well-known US brewers Dogfish Head, Stone, New Belgium, Brooklyn, Harpoon, Lagunitas, Boston Beer, Victory, and even Yuengling are represented in the book while some notables like Boulevard, Abita, Bell's, Great Divide, Pyramid, North Coast, and Deschutes are not. Probably not unexpectedly there are no BMC recipes to be found.
In the intervening year since I bought the book I have brewed seven of the CloneBrews recipes. All seven were brewed in ten gallon all-grain batches on my single-tier 3-vessel brew structure (pictures available in link in my signature for the curious) using either the 1st or 2nd choice Wyeast liquid yeast called for in the recipe or the equivalent White Labs strain. Mashing instructions were followed as closely as I could, including step mashes for the lager recipes when called for, given the limitations of my system. Fermentation was done at the recommended temperature range for the yeast used, in my temperature-controlled fermentation chest freezer. Only the Oatmeal Stout recipe was brewed more than once. All the beers were kegged, chilled to my preferred serving temperature of around 39 degrees, then force carbonated at 15 psi over a period of a week or so.
From Light Lager: Heineken
From Pilsner: Pilsner Urquell
From Amber & Dark Lager: Negra Modelo Dark Beer
From American Ale: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
From Stout: Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout
From IPA: Lagunitas IPA
From Belgian & French Ale: Chimay Red
All of the clone batches I made came out as what I would at least describe as 'close approximations' of their namesakes. In my opinion only the SNPA, the Negra Modelo, and the Heineken that I brewed tasted so close to their commercial products that I would venture to call them clones. The other four recipes I brewed were pretty close to their commercial counterparts and might fool someone who was not as familiar with the commercial version of the clone as I was.
Overall I feel the book was worth the $9.99 I paid for it and I plan to brew some additional recipes from it during the upcoming year. If I was writing an Amazon review I believe 4 stars would be appropriate for what that is worth.
Alternatives books I am aware of containing at least some clone recipes include:
250 Classic Clone Recipes by Brew Your Own Magazine
North American Clone Brews: Homebrew Recipes for Your Favorite American and Canadian Beers by Scott R. Russell
The Home Brewer's Recipe Database, 2nd edition by Les Howarth. http://www.lulu.com/content/paperbackbook/the-home-brewers-recipe-database/7297456
Brewing Classic Styles: 80 Winning Recipes Anyone Can Brew by Jamil Zainasheff, John Palmer
The Homebrewers' Recipe Guide: More than 175 original beer recipes including magnificent pale ales, ambers, stouts, lagers, and seasonal brews, plus tips from the master brewers by Patrick Higgins , Maura Kate Kilgore, Paul Hertlein
The Complete Homebrew Beer Book: 200 Easy Recipes, from Ales and Lagers to Extreme Beers and International Favorites by George Hummel
i recently participated in a thread about a "clone" recipe in which the finished beer (while supposedly good) was not anywhere close to being a "clone". i am a big fan of forum member scott's blog bertusbrewery.com because his clones are just that - clones. i understand that the word "clone" may have a lot of different meanings on this forum, but if you are buying a book that claims to have clone recipes that is what it should be - beers that you can do a triangle test to the original and they should stand up to it.
I have this book,
I found it some what confusing, the extract to all grain part and i also agree that there are alot of the lesser known beers here, i am sure they are great but in not going to spend my money on something ive never had before.
It is howerver a good read.
@roger_tucker: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is a good one in that book. Also liked the Stone IPA, but that was years ago when I first got into brewing and I think I wouldn't like it as much now. My IPAs are much hoppier now :). I was surprised when I looked at some of the recipes after I knew something about brewing and many pretty well known commercial brews are nothing like the known grain bills (Saison Dupont comes to mind). Good recipe book for a beginner.
I bought this book a couple years ago and only ended up doing a couple recipes. I should dust it off and give it another look.
I have some recommendations to add:
1. The BJCP style guidelines--always a good idea to read this first, especially if you're planning on entering a contest.
2. "IPA" by Mitch Steele (of Stone Brewing)--very detailed book with lots of good-looking recipes (haven't tried them), including several Stone IPA's, Goose Island, Ballantines, Meantime, etc.
3. Jamil Zainasheff's "Can You Brew It" on the Brewing Network. You can download any show as a podcast.
4. As you mentioned, go to the brewer's website & see what they have posted, read the label, etc.
Thanks for the suggestions. I'm going to put some of these on the list. I made a Gumball Head clone with my oldest son. I had high hopes for it coming out of the fermenter. The Amarillo Hops certainly made it smell like Gumball Head. In the end it didn't taste much like the original but it was still really good.
When I used to live in CT I went to the brew shop run by the authors (Maltose Express in Minroe, CT). Great shop - lots of wine & beer gear, big warehouse and they have the sweetest golden labs. Anyways, I'd call the recipes "inspirational" vs direct clones. As someone said on the Headdy Topper clone thread here on HBT, you'll never clone a beer without he same ingredients, water and equipment as the original brewery.
I've brewed 8-10 recipes from this book and find most of them to be good approximations of the original. Some are closer to the commercial versions than others (my guess is their level of research, communications with the brewers, adjustments to the ingredients). I do the AG versions and will do the math on the hops (or let BeerSmith do it for me.). Recipes don't usually have the most in depth mash schedules, but that's probably my biggest gripe.
The beers from this will be good. Cross-reference clones on HBT or BYO if you want more details. For $10 from Amazon, I found it worth it for inspiration.
I've brewed several of the recipes from this book with good results. Although I didn't do a side-by-side comparison with the commercial counterparts, the recipes do appear to be quality.
That said, I share all of the gripes noted above about the presentation of ingredients, etc. It is unnecessarily challenging to make sure you have everything you need, and in the correct amounts, when doing an all-grain batch. I think this would be very confusing, especially for a beginning brewer.
I believe the major flaw with the recipes is that no information is provided with regards to fermentation temperatures. It seems the common wisdom has it that fermentation temperature control is a MAJOR factor in the quality and character of the finished beer, and this book fails in this very important area.
Part 1
Thanks for purchasing our book, Clone Brews. When my wife Tess and I first wrote the book in 1998 the publisher wanted us to include beers from every country possible, that is why there are so many lagers in the book. The first version had 150 beers and we updated the book in 2010 to include 50 more beers. To get the 200 beers in the book we tasted and tested around 1000 beers, selected the ones we liked the most, created the recipes for them, brewed them, compared them to the originals and then brewed them again when necessary to tweak the recipe. We visited breweries both in the USA and in Europe and bought beers whenever we traveled.
We started our homebrew shop, Maltose Express, in 1991 and it has grown into the largest shop in the Northeast. Once the internet became popular, customers started showing up with recipes they downloaded off the internet, some of which were not very good. We started cloning beers so that customers had a good starting point for their brews.
More of our customers brew extract than all grain so the main recipe is based on extract. More advanced brewers who brew all grain just have to substitute pale malt or pilsner malt for the extract and adjust the bittering hops for a full boil. We brew these clones and our own recipes often and we always have two beers and two wines on tap at our store and sell over 4000 recipe kits a year of our clone recipes.
We have many more US beers and only a few lagers in our second book of clone recipes, Beer Captured. Since 1991 we have probably brewed over 2000 batches of beer. These have been extract with specialty grains, mini mash and all grain and we will be opening our brewery in Monroe Connecticut this fall after three years of changing zoning laws and working with the town of Monroe.
Locally we offer free home brewing classes and give all grain brewing demos throughout the year and teach classes at our store, at libraries and other locations around 20 times per year. We also run 4 or 5 homebrew contest each year to help brewers make better beer.
The main focus of our books is to help home brewers make better beer and to give them a starting point for a particular style. For our brewery we started all our recipes by taking great examples of the style and then making it our own. We are on our 16th version of our pale ale and our double IPA. Each time we tweak the hops or grain or yeast a little to see what result we get. We also make a lot of single hop beers to see what flavor and aroma come from each hop. We currently have a single hop El Dorado IPA on tap.
To address a couple of the issues people have with our books:
Each recipe does have the recommended yeast and the temperature the beer should be fermented at. Of course this is just a suggestion and home brewers are very creative and can adjust the temperatures for experiments.
Mark & Tess Szamatulski (end of part 1)
Part 2 (continued)
We did not put the Belgian Saison yeast in the Saison du Pont recipe for three reasons. The main being the fact that when we published the book the Belgian Saison yeast was a seasonal product and we were not sure it would continue being produced. The second is that we liked the outcome of the clone with the French yeast. The third is that the Belgian Saison yeast is difficult to use, requiring fermentation temps of 85F plus and most brewers get stuck fermentations at around the 1.030 gravity with this yeast and have to finish the fermentation with another yeast.
We have brewed quite a bit over the last 23 years and have not done step mashes with wheat beers. Our wheat beers have always come out fine with great body, mouth feel and head retention. However, home brewing is about doing things your own way so brewers can mash however they want. We will have our clone of Aventinius Wheat doppelbock on tap this fall so stop in and sample a single step wheat beer.
People have also said that many beers in the same style appear to have little variation in their ingredients and procedures. This is true but each change by each brewey is what makes their beer unique. For our brewery we change the hops by 1/4 to 1/2 oz each batch and sometimes the difference is quite large. We also split each brew into two 5 gallon batches and use different yeasts in each.
Some brewers find discrepancies between what our recipe stated and what the brewery specified for that beer. When we first brew the beer we taste it and often start with the IBUs that the brewery suggest. Many times however, we find that the IBU level stated does not work for the homebrew version of the beer. So we brew the beer again with the new bittering units until we like the clone.
With each recipe we have included a Serving Notes and Food Pairing section. Some people don't like this area but we often pair beer with food and have attended many beer dinners where the food is made with and served with the beer. We recently attended a beer dinner with Stone beers and it was great to see how the beers paired with the courses.
Recently breweries have been changing recipes a bit and our book does not reflect these changes. If you look on our website maltoseexpress.net we list all our 500 clone recipes and the year that we cloned them. Some of the beers are no longer brewed but we believe part of the beauty of home brewing is to be able to re-create a beer that is no longer brewed or no longer brewed well.
There are a few typos in Clone Brews which we or the editor did not catch.
If anyone has any questions about the recipes they can email us at [email protected] and we will get back to you. We have been helping brewers for over 23 years now and have enjoyed it.
Mark & Tess Szamatulski
Maltose Express