A Review of CloneBrews, 2nd edition, by Tess and Mark Szamatulski
Paperback: 439 pages
Publisher: Storey Publishing, LLC; 2 edition (May 10, 2010)
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