Homebrewing is full of challenges, and zeroing in on a style or even a specific beer may be among the stickiest. But why even “clone” a brew at all? Many brewers find the notion rather silly, as in their own mind, brewing is about making something that cannot be defined. There is plenty of room for both schools of thought, and I suspect that most homebrewers engage in both. If recreating popular classic brews is on your agenda, then the new second edition of Clone Brews is well worth investigating.
This effort is far more extensive and informative than the first, rather elegant in its design, and serves up 200 recipes of commercially produced beers. Shrewdly outlined, it dedicates two full, condensed pages to each, detailing nearly everything one could want to know about the respective brew in an impressive, consistent format.
In the introduction, the authors immediately make it clear that the book is intended to be a guide and widely open to interpretation. They state that their recipes are merely a starting point and not a concrete blueprint, encouraging the brewer instead to be inquisitive and explore the myriad resources and their own personal brewing philosophy. Up front, there are a mere 15 pages of panoramic brewing advice and the critical calculative means (bittering units, color and gravity) necessary to craft a beer. They offer a solid foundation, and a succinct and practical manner in which to design a recipe.
The recipe section is organized into 17 loose beer family chapters such as pilsner, English ale, porter, wheat, French and Belgian ale, and one dubbed “esoteric.” With numerous entries in each category, it should be no problem finding something of interest for anyone to emulate. Each individual entry gives the beer and brewery name and location, a flowery paragraph illuminating the aesthetics of the brew, some background notes and history if warranted, and a thumbnail map of the brewery locale. This is followed, on page one, by the brewers specs, serving suggestions, and food pairings. Page two of each recipe is dedicated to an extensive outline of the clone as prepared via malt extract and steeped grains, with all the accompanying hop schedules and yeast recommendations. Finally, the recipe ends with substitutions for mini-mashing and all-grain for those who are transitioning or are already at that level of proficiency.
The final dozen pages are laid out in tabular form, with descriptive data appendices covering BJCP style guidelines, hops, grains, and adjuncts.
This tome is, above all, of most value to a beginning brewer, someone who is yet unsure about the intricacies and interplay of the ingredients and how to exact their measure. The instructions couldn’t be any easier to follow, given the simple step-by-step format, brevity and precision.
Homebrewing is about many things, but at its core, it is simply about putting together a recipe and making beer. Clone Brews cuts right to the chase in this regard. Focused and uncluttered, this book removes a lot of guesswork from crafting a brew and leaves tweaking to the individual—firm, base brewing with plenty of room for tinkering.