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Clone Brews -- useful recipes?

I just got a copy of the book Clone Brews and am excited to try some out since there are many recipes for commercial beers that I’ve enjoyed.

My question, “Has anyone had experiences on how helpful these recipes are in creating beers that are similar to the commercial beers, or at least provide recipes for good quality beers?”

I’m particularly interested in the recipes for English and Belgian ales.


I use the book more as a resource to create some of my own recipes which has worked out well for me and made the book worth buying. I did follow the Dos Equis Amber lager recipe very closely (added more hops and Wyeast 1007 German Ale Yeast) to make a simple German Ale and it came out tasting closer to the actual thing than I thought it would. Mine was more hoppy and maltier but everyone I gave it to said that it reminded them of Dos Equis Amber.

IMO, one of the worst homebrewing recipe books ever.

I agree as a straight recipe book it isn’t great, some of the steps make no sense and ingredients I question, which is why I only use it as one of my resources, plus it is only like $10 on amazon.

As a beginning all grain brewer, I’m looking for some guidance on creating beers that I like, so my thought was to look to “clone” recipes and that, in the process, I’d learn more about the use of various components. Is there some underlying theme in “Clone Brews” that is misleading regarding an authentic recipe or is it pretty much all over the map? Is there any way to use this book? As a resource, how does that work – to get you into the ballpark?

My frustration is that when I look to the web for ideas on a given beer or style, they’re so different as to make me wonder if there’s any hope. For example, I’m planning to use a yeast cake to make a dark strong Belgian like Kwak, but there’s a lot of variation on the web and most recipes seem to be based on the “Clone Brews” recipe. Is there any way to use the book or internet recipes to get close to Kwak or am I limited to clone kits by supply stores that offer very little choice? I realize that, in time, I’ll be familiar enough with all the ingredients that I can create a taste I’m looking for (or at least get close over a number of batches), but for now at my level of ineptitude am I better off brewing basic recipes (from “Brew Like a Monk”, “Brewing Classic Styles”, etc) and learning how all the factors play off each other?

I did a clone recipe of Leffe from a homebrew supply store and it wasn’t very close, so that wasn’t terribly helpful.

Designing. Great. Beers. Ray. Daniels.

In my mind, the best way to truly ‘clone’ a commercial beer is by first honing in your own brewhouse, particularly temp control, yeast pitch rates, and proper conditioning. DGB shows you how to build a recipe based on the flavors you want. Assuming you have good to great brewing practices and a good palette, you can build whatever you want.

If you want to get close without doing that, I believe the forums (NB, AHA, HBT) are a better source of tried and true recipes that mimic commercial beers. You can also read through posts and see what if anything is ‘off’ about a particular stab at a recipe.

This is one of the best recipe rsources around…

As great as DGb is, it’s getting a bit long in the tooth. There have been a lot of new ingredients and techniques introduced since it was written. A lot of those recipes would likely be different today.

I’ve used DGB for English ales and found it very helpful. However, there’s nada on Belgian ales – seems like an odd omission given the popularity of Belgians. Brew Like a Monk is good, but not great for beginners like me since it doesn’t have the organized approach as in DGB.

I suppose it’s all a matter of trial an error. At least that’s what it’s sounding like on this board. I was hoping there was a more direct, less expensive and time consuming approach. Maybe when (if?) I retire I’ll have more time and hopefully enough money. For now it’s a batch or two (rarely) a month.

I also liked DGBs and felt like I learned a lot from it (but agree with the drawbacks mentioned above). Brew Like a Monk is probably the best that you’ll find for Belgians but it’s more like a guidebook than a how-to.

One of the best ways to learn is to join a homebrew club. I moved to a town that didn’t have one but quickly met enough homebrewers to start one. That way, you can taste a bunch of homebrews each month even though you’re only brewing once and get a lot of back-and-forth feedback so you can learn collectively.

There are multiple ways to get a similar taste so seeing different recipes doesn’t mean one is “right” and the other is “wrong” necessarily. Ask comparison questions in those threads (or post both here) to help decide or just brew both and see.

IIRC BLAM has ‘clone’ recipes for some of the notable Trappist products, specifically I believe Rochefort, Westy, and Achel as well. But as stated above, not a how-to by any means.

[quote=“Denny”]This is one of the best recipe rsources around…

As great as DGb is, it’s getting a bit long in the tooth. There have been a lot of new ingredients and techniques introduced since it was written. A lot of those recipes would likely be different today.[/quote]
I agree on both counts. Would be cool to see an update of DGB some day. When building a recipe I’ll look at several sources I trust and often pick and choose ideas and then tweak to match my tastes and what I’m shooting for.

Check out Mitch Steele’s (relatively) new book if you want to make an IPA - lots of useful info in the text and the included recipes cover many of the top-ranked IPAs today.

AFAIK, there is an update in the works.

And I agree with your approach. That’s the same thing I do.

I always research the old Michael Jackson books when I want to clone a classic recipe. He gives a lot of insight into commercial breweries. He often lists special techniques used by the breweries, malts/hops that the breweries use, and the gravities and alcohol contents.

For more modern recipes, you can often check a brewery’s web site and many will list the hops and malts that they use. At that point, you just have to keep brewing and experiment with the levels of each ingredient.

Brew Like a Monk is an excellent source for Belgian styles.

Michael Jackson’s Beer Companion is the book I go to first when looking up classic recipes, it is full of useful info that gives you a great starting point. It’s hard to use just one resource when drawing up a recipe.

I still use Designing Great Beers when I want to review a baseline for a style, but it is long in the tooth as others have said, and has nothing about Belgian styles. Belgian beers are so varied though that you really need 4 or 5 books to cover them all. Brew like a Monk is great for the trappist syles (dubbels, trippels, strong darks, etc.) but has nothing on wits, saisons or lambics. Brewing with Wheat (Hieronymus) covers the wits pretty well, Farmhouse Ales (Markowski) for the saisons and bier de garde (some interesting thoughts about high temperature frementations with the Dupont yeast strain), and Wild Brews (Sparrow) for Lambics, fladers brown, etc.

Just using a program like Beersmith and entering a specific style helps you to see where your recipe is at in a general sense (Gravity, color, IBU’s,) in relation to the style guidelines.

I am extremely skeptical about the recipies in those clone books although I look at them all the time for ideas mostly. For instance, they have a clone in there from a brewery which is well known to use Ringwood yeast yet they recommend another strain (yeah, I know the commerically available strain is not exactly what the breweries are using but it’s as close as we are going to get unless we start yeast farming ourselves). Also, adding crystal malt to a dry stout strikes me as a good way to mess up what could otherwise be a good beer and if you want to make a clone of a rather famous London porter without brown malt, well forget it. Also, many of those recipes are also outdated because of newer and more available ingredients.

The longer I do this hobby though the less I am really all that interested in making clones per se. If I taste something I like, I may try to come close but really, I would rather come up with my own twist than make something that tastes exactly the same as the commerical example. Because of that, yeah I check out all the recipe books and have them all (some carved on rocks they are so old, I still have Papazian’s book) but I almost always screw around with anything I find in the books. It’s not a clone book but if you want to make a certain style of beer and need a clue I like the book written by the great Jamil. Anyway, after doing this for a while you will be able to just look at a recipe and tell if it will get you close to what you are trying to do, experience is a very good teacher.

I recently contributed to a book named “Commercial Beers for Homebrewers”. It should be published between this fall and next spring. I can guarantee you that every recipe in there came right from the brewmasters at the breweries.

:cheers: Will be grabbing that one for sure. Fun to see how varied the recipes can be from brewers making good beers.

If Odell IPA is not in it it’s worthless ! LOL J/K…

Really…The best place is just use the internet, I have a few books and the best one is my hop book. The Mitch Steele Stone one is not all the great IMO. I get my clones off the boards and have yet to ever use one from a book.

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