It’s been a movie plot line for years, the attack of the clones! But, having a few clone beers around could actually be a good thing. Have you ever traveled to another part of the country or abroad and tasted a fantastic beer? Then, when you get home you just can’t get your hands on it again.
This would be the perfect time to think about making a clone beer.
So, what exactly is a clone beer?
A clone beer is the attempt to replicate the taste, aromas, and appearance of a beer, either commercial or by a local brewer. By using the same ingredients and ratios the brewer tries to recreate a beer themselves. The clone beer may not be identical but is a very close match to the original.
In the past, cloning a beer required a very high level of skill. However, nowadays we have a lot more access to the vital information we need to brew almost any beer at home.
In the rest of this article, I’m going to take you along on my journey where I discovered exactly what I need to do in order to brew a clone beer of my very own.
What are the benefits of brewing a clone beer?
There is no doubt about it, brewing a clone beer is a very challenging but very enjoyable journey for any level home brewer.
The main advantage of trying to follow a clone beer recipe is that you have a clear example of what your own brew has to match up to. With many beginner kits, the triumph lies only in the beer not tasting too off. However, when you can stand the genuine beer and your attempt at it side by side, this is where you can really hone your skills as a brewer.
Clone beers enable you to expand your ability to taste and appreciate beer. As the subtle changes needed to perfect such a beer come from its aroma, taste, and appearance, you can improve your ability to recognize these things. For myself, I have come a long way in these skills but still, feel I have a lot to learn before I’d call myself an expert.
Do I need to have amazing beer tasting skills to do this?
There are some people out there who have an amazing pallet and can, so they say, taste all the little nuances in food and drink. In all honesty, I am not one of them. I just can’t explain flavor in such complex terms. I can tell you what I like more but probably not exactly why. My wife, on the other hand, is something of a wine connoisseur and is constantly telling me what I can taste in the wine we drink. I can only ever taste red or white.
So, if you are the same as me don’t feel downhearted, you can still successfully brew a clone beer. Gone are the days when you had to totally deconstruct the beer you were hoping to clone in order to reconstitute it yourself.
However, if you do have keen taste buds, then you can perhaps tweak your recipe over time to get even closer to your goal. As long as you start with the right ingredients and try to follow the process as closely as you can, you’ll be able to get something very close to the target beer (shop for your brewing ingredients on homebrewing.org).
The key thing here is trial and error. Brew up a few batches trying slightly different yeast brands or hops. Make sure you keep detailed notes of each step you take and don’t forget to record data such as timings, temperature, and specific gravity.
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Is it possible to get 100% the same taste in a clone beer?
In fact, the term “clone beer” should be called “close beer”. It’s going to be nigh-on impossible to get exactly the same product at home as the store bought or competition beer you covert.
This is because there are so many factors involved, and even the original producer of that beer isn’t going to be able to reproduce the same beer in every batch. In fact, commercial beers such as Budweiser or Heineken can vary a lot from year to year and batch to batch. (buy beer from local breweries) This is because ingredients change slightly each season and brewers have to make allowances for that.
I hate to go back to the wine example again, but it’s valid here. Even long-established vineyards can’t make their wine identical every year. It really depends on the harvest and subtle changes in the process each time. And as I have said, beer is no different.
Even if you can source exactly the same yeast, grains, hops and water (yep even this makes a difference) you may not actually use them in the same way.
Making a small home-brew of 5 gallons of beer isn’t going to behave in the same way as several hundreds of gallons which are brewed in a brewery. In the same way, the proportions you use the ingredients in will be different to those used in the brewery, even if the ratios are close (buy beer from local breweries).
In short, don’t be too strict with yourself; try to keep your standards realistic. If you can do that then there is nothing stopping you from brewing a clone beer which is like your target beer in 99.99% taste and appearance.
I really hope that this hasn’t put you off the idea of brewing your very own clone beer because it’s a really fun experience and takes you beyond the realm of the ordinary home brewer. So, keep reading to find out more.
What clone kit should I choose as a beginner?
If you are not quite confident about following a recipe where you have to source the ingredients yourself, then buying a ready-made beer making kit is the best bet. Once you cut your teeth on a kit that comes with all the ingredients, then it’s time to think about reusing that equipment for something a little more adventurous, like a clone beer recipe. Check out the best kits on our Recommended Gear page.
If you already have some equipment for making your beer at home, read on for some ideas about which beginner-friendly recipes you should try next.
Northern Brewer does a very good Sierra Madre American Pale Ale kit which will give you a yield of 5 gallons of great clone beer. This kit will give you all the ingredients you need but you will need to have bought your own equipment previously. Check out the latest offers on Amazon.
Another good option form Northern Brewer, although perhaps not a classic clone beer, is the Dead Ringer IPA. It’s a really tasty beer which goes some way to replicating the American Pale Ale style known in Michigan. Check out more details about this recipe kit on Amazon.
What recipe to choose for an intermediate homebrewer?
If you have already made several batches of beer successfully from prepared beer kits or by restocking your ingredients for those kits, then you are ready for a bit of a challenge.
Be warned, that as you go deeper into the mysterious world of home brewing you are going to be hit with a lot of new terms and vocabulary. I have tried to give a clue to what each abbreviation means before using it freely here. Also, be aware that you have to put on your scientist hat because there may be some exact measuring you need to carry out to get these recipes right. Honestly, it’s nothing that you can’t handle when you read through the instructions a few times.
It’s time to hit the local brew shop or get supplies online and really push your limits as a home brewer. Check out some of the most popular clone brews below as chosen by home-brew fans just like yourself
What are the most popular beers to clone?
(See my article on common beer terms and abbreviations if you get stuck with the meaning of any of the instructions).
Clone Beer Recipe #1
To produce a clone of 60 Minute IPA by Dogfish Head (Extract)
Batch Yield: 5 gallons
Boil size: 2.5 gallons
Estimated Original Gravity: 1.072 (specific gravity)
Estimated Color: 13.1 SRM
Estimated International Bitterness Units: 49.8 IBU
Boil Time: 60 Minutes
9.5 lbs of Pale Liquid Extract with a 8.0 SRM, Extract 90.83 %
1 lb of Caramel or Crystal Malt 40L, with a 40.0 SRM, Grain 9.17 %
1.25 oz Warrior (15.00 % alpha acid) Hops 26.7 IBU
1.00 oz Amarillo Gold (8.50 % alpha acid ) Hops 10.0 IBU
1.00 oz Simcoe (12.00 % alpha acid ) Hops 13.1 IBU
1.00 oz Amarillo Gold (8.50 %) (Dry Hop 7 days) Hops
0.50 oz Simcoe (12.00 % alpha acid ) (Dry Hop 7 days) Hops
This recipe is best made with Pacman yeast. However, if you can’t get hold of this any well-attenuating yeast can be used. Good alternatives would be WLP001, Nottingham or 1056.
Hops should be added continuously in this order:
Firstly, half the Warrior hops should be added at the boil and continue adding one pellet or so every 5 minutes until 35 minutes have passed. Next, mix in the remaining hops over the following 25 minutes
Hops were added as continuous first warrior for the first 25 minutes ( approximately half at 60 minutes, then a little bit at a time until 35 minutes was left in the boil). Then the rest of the hops were mixed together and added continuously at 35 minutes. A further phase of dry-hopping is done a week after the initial fermentation.
Note: If you aren’t able to use any liquid extract, you can use about 8 pounds of dry malt extract instead.
Step 1: Steep Crystal in a grain bag in 2.5 gallons of water at a temperature of between 150 -150 °F for 20 minutes.
Step 2: Remove the grains and place them aside to be thrown away later.
Step 4: Bring the wort to the boil and as soon as it reaches the boil remove it from the burner.
Step 5: At this stage, mix in the liquid malt extract and replace the wort back on the burner bringing it back to the boil.
Step 6: Upon boiling, add half of the Warrior hops pellets and set a timer for 60 minutes.
Step 7: Keep adding Warrior hops pellets every 2-5 minutes until 35 minutes remain on the timer. By this time you should have added all the Warrior hops.
Step 8: Mix the rest of the remaining hops (not Warrior) in a bowl.
Step 9: At 35 minutes in, start slowly adding the other hops pellets with the aim of adding the last one when your timer counts down to zero.
Step 10: Chill the wort rapidly (if you have a wort chiller this would be ideal). Then top up the 5 gallons with cool water.
Step 11: The wort should now be at an approximate temperature of 70 °F.
Step 12: Prepare a neutral yeast pitch such as American Ale (1056) or a similar dry yeast to Nottingham or Safale S05.
Step 13: Allow the beer to ferment before resting it (approximately 2 weeks).
Step 14: Rack the fermented beer into a clean 5-gallon carboy and dry hop it with the additional hops prepared. Either add them to the carboy first and pour over them or use a hops bag, without packing them too much in the bag to ensure better contact between beer and hops). Use up to 3 bags if necessary.
Step 15: After around 7 days, rack the beer to a bottling bucket and bottle the beers being sure not to add large pieces of hops to the bottles.
Step 16: Prime the beer to ensure good carbonation. Make sure to calculate your own Original and Final Gravity to get a good measurement for priming. 3.5 -4 oz is an approximate quantity that usually works for this recipe.
Step 17: After about 3 weeks your beer is ready for tasting.
Clone Beer Recipe #2
To produce Bell’s Two Hearted Ale Clone.
This is a classic American-style IPA. Expect aromas from pine resin right through to grapefruit notes. This recipe uses 100% Centennial hops.
Batch Yield: 5 gallons
Boil size: 2.5 gallons
Estimated Original Gravity: 1.065 (specific gravity)
Final Gravity: 1.011
Estimated Color: 13.1 SRM
Estimated International Bitterness Units: 60 IBU
Standard Reference Method (SRM) = 7
ABV = 7%
Boil Time: 75 Minutes
11 lbs. (5 kg) 2-row pale malt
3.25 lbs. (1.5 kg) pale ale malt
0.5 lb. (0.23 kg) caramel malt (40 °L)
12.5 AAU Centennial hops (45 min.) (1.25 oz./35 g of 10% alpha acids)
12.5 AAU Centennial hops (30 min.) (1.25 oz./35 g of 10% alpha acids)
3.5 oz. Centennial hops (dry hop)
White Labs WLP001 (California Ale) or Wyeast 1056 (American Ale) or Safale US-05 yeast
3⁄4 cup corn sugar (if priming)
Step 1: Heat 19.6 qts of strike water to 163 °F.
Step 2: Mix in the grains and stabilize the mash at 150 °F. Keep this temperature steady for 60 minutes. Add hops as indicated in ingredients.
Step 3: Raise the temperature of the mash to 168 °F after 60 minutes.
Step 4: Vorlauf (recirculate) the wort until it runs clear or thereabouts, ensuring no excess grain remains in it.
Step 5: Start the sparge process and collect around 7 gallons to bring it back to the boil. The total boil time for this recipe is 75 minutes.
Step 6: Take the wort off the heat and chill it to 68-74 °F. You should have approximately 5.5 gallons of wort available in the fermenter.
Step 7: Check your yield and top up with cold water as needed.
Step 8: Aerate the wort in the fermenter and add the yeast.
Step 9: Place the fermenter in a place with a stable temperature or around 68-74 °F.
Step 10: On day 5 of fermentation, add the dry hops.
Step 11: 3 days after dry-hopping, rack the beer and bottle or keg it as desired.
Clone Beer Recipe #3
To produce Three Floyds’ Zombie Dust Clone
Batch Yield: 6 gallons
Estimated Original Gravity: 1.065 (specific gravity)
Estimated Final Gravity: 1.018 (specific gravity)
Estimated Color: 8.5 SRM
Estimated International Bitterness Units: 65.9 IBU
Boil Time: 60 Minutes
11.75 lb 2 Row (2.0 SRM) Grain 81.7 %
1.13 lb Munich Malt – 10L (10.0 SRM) Grain 7.8 %
0.50 lb Carafoam (2.0 SRM) Grain 3.5 %
0.50 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt – 60L (60.0 SRM) Grain 3.5 %
0.50 lb Melanoiden Malt (20.0 SRM) Grain 3.5 %
0.75 oz Citra [12.40%] (First Wort Hop) Hops 17.0 IBU***
1.25 oz Citra [12.40%] (15 min) Hops 21.1 IBU
1.25 oz Citra [12.40%] (10 min) Hops 15.4 IBU
1.25 oz Citra [12.40%] (5 min) Hops 8.5 IBU
1.25 oz Citra [12.40%] (1 min) Hops 1.8 IBU
3.00 oz Citra [12.40%] (Dry Hop 5-7 days) Hops
SafAle English Ale (S-04) or London ESB 1968
Mash Temp: 154 F
See Recipe #2 for steps add hops in schedule as directed in ingredients.
source (adapted from homebrewtalk.com poll)
What are the best resources for learning more about clone beers?
Although there are many fine recipes online as well as tutorials on YouTube (check out our channel for the latest guides and “How to” videos), I still like to have something in my hands to pour over.
When of the best guides at the time of writing is produced by Brew Your Own magazine. It’s a book packed with 300 clone beer ideas and is the most up to date guide of its kind that I can currently see on the market.
If you are looking for some sold instructions as well as inspiration for your first clone beer, I highly recommend picking up a copy. Check out the latest version here on Amazon, I really enjoyed working with my copy.
Is it illegal to clone a commercial beer?
No, as long as the beer is for your own consumption and you are not selling the beer commercially or privately to anyone else. In most countries, there are no laws that prohibit the creation of clone or look-a-like beers.
However, make sure that you do not imitate or copy trademark logos or brands on any private beer labels you create as this would be a breach of copyright and if caught you could face prosecution.