North American Clone Brews
The best and most rewarding thing about homebrewing is that you can make lots of your favorite beer. There is certainly no dearth of information on gadgetry, technique, ingredients and recipes. Enter North American Clone Brews, a new compilation of recipes by Scott R. Russell. As the name implies, the bulk of this book is a how-to manual detailing formulations for some of North America’s most famous and best brews.
Russell is a longtime homebrewer, homebrew shop manager, beer judge, author and columnist. His experience is extensive and eclectic and he specializes in cloning beer recipes–that is, scaling back commercial beer recipes to suit homebrewing-sized batches.
While Russell is well known and respected in his own right, his relationship with pioneer microbrewer and homebrew author Greg Noonan certainly has made for greater recognition. The book starts off with a short (eight-page), concise chapter on brewing basics. Not heavy stuff, but nonetheless a reminder of what is important and what is not in brewing decent beer. There is a short dictionary of brewing terms and another page or so describing standard homebrewing equipment. Basic and informative.
This is followed by 150 pages, one recipe per page, of clone brews. The recipes are arranged alphabetically by state in the case of US beers, followed by the same format by province for Canadian recipes. If you are unsure of the origin of the beer you crave, look in the index in the back of the book where beers are listed by style.
The name of the beer heads the page, followed by a paragraph describing the beer, followed by the specs (original and final gravity, alcohol by volume, and international bittering units). The main recipe for each beer is given in half-extract, half-grain guidelines, which is how I suspect most people brew these days.
It is apparent in the formulations that subtlety is important in cloning a brew. Yes, 2 ounces of black malt in a beer can make a difference, even if it is for the color effect only. Instructions are specific for each beer and are quite concise.
The author provides an all-extract and all-grain version for each beer. These variations refer to the main recipe and are merely substitutions. This gives the brewer a feel for comparing extract and grain in formulating recipes. Hop additions are given in alpha acid units, which is the easiest way to calculate such things. Hop schedules, yeast recommendations, fermentation conditions and, of course, serving suggestions, all find their way to the page. Lots of nice information, specific to each beer.
The diversity of the offerings covered in the book and listed in the index is impressive. Fifteen classifications are given. From German ales to English bitters to Canadian versions of Belgian beer, you can find them all. This is a shining testament to the breadth of the North American microbrewers’ interest and skill, and the parallel universe occupied by homebrewers.
This is an excellent book for homebrewers looking to fine-tune their craft, written by a real authority on the subject. Russell presents the finer points of recipe formulation in a thorough, no-nonsense format useful to any homebrewer.
Now, get back to the lab and start cloning!