Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Anatomy of a Clone - The Lost Abbey's Cable Car

There is always a lot of talk about cloning (copying) commercial beers in the homebrewing community. Personally I don’t care for cloning commonly available and relatively cheap craft beers (popular targets include Boston Lager, Guinness, Fat Tire, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, etc…). People often just take a recipe from a homebrew magazine, book, website, or homebrew shop and use it verbatim. This is all well and good, but if the beer is rare or obscure you probably won’t find a recipe for it, and even if you do, obscure clone recipes are often badly off the mark.

I enjoy the challenge of researching and designing a recipe almost as much as I enjoy the actual brewing process. I often clone beers that I have not had before, either because they are no longer produced like Courage Russian Imperial Stout, or because of their scarcity like Mo’ Betta Bretta. Trying to copy a beer that you have never had can be very tricky as you have to rely on other people’s accounts of the beer to help you develop the recipe.

So I thought I would post my method for going about researching and writing a clone recipe for a beer that I have never had. For this exercise I chose a beer that couldn’t be more complex or interesting, The Lost Abbey’s beer for the Toranado’s 20th Anniversary celebration: Cable Car. I thought it would highlight the various techniques I use when making a clone, many of which can be applied to any beer that you, the reader, are interested in developing a clone recipe for.

Finding general information on a beer:

A google search is often a good place to start. I found The Lost Abbey blog, which contains this snippet:

“Cable Car was a special blend of three oak barrels which was created for the Dave Keene and the world famous Toronado at 547 Haight Street.”

So we are dealing with 3 separately brewed and aged components which are then blended together.

I posted a question on to see if anyone knew the three components, luckily someone did:

“Its an american wild ale. 3 part blend of barreled/funked beers. majority was red barn, with avante garde and amigo blended in.”

Luckily I have had Red Barn and Avant Garde, so I have personal experience with two of the three component beers.

Like many great breweries the Lost Abbey/Pizza Port isn’t afraid to publish the ingredients of their beers on their website. This is probably your greatest asset when either trying to clone a beer or just take inspiration from a craft beer recipe.

Here is the ingredient list for each of the three components and a little more info I picked up in other places:

Red Barn (Formerly SPF 45, but the recipe is much less complex):

Malts- Two Row, Flaked Wheat and Flaked Oats
Hops- Phoenix and German Tettnang
Yeast- Belgian Saison Yeast
Adjuncts- Dextrose, Ginger, Orange Peel, Black Pepper and Grains of Paradise

OG - 1.065
TG - 1.012
6.7% ABV (This abv doesn’t match the OG/TG)

Amigo Lager (I have read that Tomme keeps a barrel aged version of this that he refers to as “Mellow Yellow” around for replacing beer that evaporates from the barrels during aging.)

Malts- Pilsner and Two Row
Hops- German Magnum and Czech Saaz
Yeast- White Labs German Lager

OG - 1.048
TG - 1.010
5.0% ABV

Avant Garde (A bit of research turned up a barrel aged version called En Garde that is aged in Meritage wine barrels for 3 months. Not sure if this is what was used or not, but it is certainly a possibility.)

Malts- Two Row, Honey Malt and Port Custom Toast (we make it ourselves in our Pizza Ovens).
Hops- German Brewer’s Gold, Strissespalt Spalt and Czech Saaz.
Yeast- House Lager strain with hybrid fermentation at ale temperature.

OG - 1.060
TG - 1.008
7% ABV (Again, this doesn’t match the calculation based on the OG/TG)

Now that we have a good idea of the component beers we can start looking at blending, let’s get an idea of what the ratio may be.

Again from the LA blog:
“We blended exactly 100 gallons of beer”

From the RateBeer profile (another valuable resource) I see the final beer is 7% ABV, heavily funky beers around that strength tend to finish out around 1.006-1.007 in my experience, if I had a bottle of the beer I could do a hydrometer reading to know for sure. From there I used the ABV calculator in ProMash to determine that I want this beer to start around 1.060-1.061 to hit 7% abv.

Another way we can try to determine the blend would be to look at the color descriptions in reviews of the beers involved. I tend to use reviews from BeerAdvocate because they are generally more in depth and descriptive, but some RateBeer reviews certainly contain good info as well. “Gold” seems to be a frequent word used to describe both Cable Car and Red Barn; Amigo Lager generally sounds a bit lighter than that, and Avant Garde a bit darker. Due to the fact that they all sound so close in color this doesn’t help much, but it confirms that these beers are logical components (we’d be in trouble if one was a stout and the blend was pale yellow).

The blend is a mainly Red Barn, so I would guess that Tomme used an entire aged wine barrel of the Red Barn. This would be around 62 gallons (62% of the 100 gallon batch). So for my 5 gallon batch about 60% (3 gallons) will be the Red Barn clone. To pull the average OG down to 1.060 I needed to figure out how much Amigo Lager clone to add, the rest will be Avant Garde since it has an OG of 1.060 we don’t have to worry about it.

(3 gallons * 65 gravity points + X gallons * 48) / (3 gallons + X gallons) = 60 gravity points

A bit of algebra and you get X = 1.25 (that is to say that you need 1.25 gallons Amigo Lager, to dilute 3 gallons of Red Barn to 1.060)

There are a number of ways that I could approach constructing this recipe. The most accurate would be to age each portion separately then blend to taste, as it sounds like Lost Abbey did. The least accurate would be to create a single amalgamated recipe and then brew/ferment/age it together; this would compromise the optimal temperature and time constraints for each component. I decided to take the middle route, brew/ferment separately and age as one.


60% Red Barn Clone
3.5 gallons (assuming I will lose .5 gallons before blending)

A basemalt, in this case 2-row, will generally make up the majority of the malt. The flaked grains need the enzymes from the malt to convert, so they cannot make up a huge proportion of the grist. I am going with more wheat than oats since that is a more common ingredient in Saisons, too much oat and the body would make for a slicker mouthfeel than I remember. I have read that the White Labs Saison yeast can have some attenuation issues, so I assume a little dextrose is added to ensure that the beer finishes dry.

7.5 lbs American Pale malt
.75 lb flaked wheat
.25 lbs flaked oats
6 oz dextrose (corn sugar)
OG 1.065

120 min boil, to get what should be light colored runnings dark enough to match the finished beer.

27 IBU (approximate IBUs for a Saison of this gravity according to the BJCP saison style guidelines and other sources.)
.5 oz Phoenix @ 60 min (enough to hit the IBUs)
.5 oz of Tett @15 min (looking to compliment the spices and yeast, without dominating or getting lost)

Spice blend ground up and added with 7 min left in the boil:
.75 g Ginger
2 g Orange Peel
1 g Black Pepper
.75 g Grains of Paradise

The spice amounts were taken from the spice advice in Farmhouse Ales, a great book about Saisons and Bier de Gardes by Phil Markowski, the brewer at Southampton Publick House. I want a subtle spice presence, which will be blend with the yeast and hop character.

White Labs Saison (I know from previous research that Tomme is a White Labs guy) fermented at elevated temps, optimally into the mid-80s.

25% Amigo Lager Clone
Basically this beer sounds like a standard American Lager that is made without adjuncts (corn/rice). I just split the malts 50/50, this should provide a bit more malt character than just plain pils while still keeping the beer pale. For the hops I went pretty easy, but gave it enough hop flavor to make it “craft beer” worthy.

1.5 gallons (assuming I will lose .25 gallons before blending)
1.5 lbs Pilsener Malt
1.5 lbs American Pale.

15 IBU (a bit higher than a standard American/Mexican lager, but not by much.)
.06 oz Magnum @ 60 min (enough to reach the IBUs I am targeting)
.20 oz Saaz @ 15 min (should provide a subtle spiciness)

75 minute boil, this should be enough time to drive off any DMS without darkening the beer much.

White Labs German Lager fermented at lager temps for 2 weeks followed by a month or so of lagering.

15% Avant Garde
Based on the info about Bier de Gardes in Farmhouse Ales. The basemalt again dominates with some home toasted malt for complexity, and just a touch of honey malt which can easily get overpowering.

1 gallon, (assuming I will lose .25 gallons before blending)
2.25 lbs American Pale
3 oz Toasted Malt (toasted in a pie plate on a pizza stone)
1 oz Honey Malt
OG 1.060

20 IBUs (Since the OG is on the low end of the style I wanted to keep the IBUs low as well, especially because I remember this being a malt focused beer.)
.125 oz German Brewer’s Gold @ 60 min
.05 oz Strissespalt @ 15 min
.05 oz Spalt @ 15 min
.05 oz Czech Saaz @ 15 min
90 minute, “standard” boil.

White Labs German Lager fermented in the low 60s for 2 weeks followed by a month or so of lagering.

Putting it all together:
So after all three beers are done fermenting I will combine them in one 5 gallon carboy. I may also add a splash of red wine to mimic the wine barrel aging that I believe the Avant Garde (En Garde) went through before blending.

Sadly, I don’t have a sample of the microbes used in the original beer, but I do have a starter I made from oak chips that Vinnie from Russian River inoculated with his house culture and passed out at this year’s National Homebrewers Conference. I’ll add a few cups of the funky starter and attach an oak topper on and let it age for a year or so. The wood and oxygen diffusion should help to mimic barrel aging. After the beer has aged adequately I will bottle condition it, aiming for medium-high carbonation (2.8-3.0 volumes) based on reviews on BA/RB.
Hopefully I’ll be able to give the true Cable Car a try at some point to see how close I come.

Post Script:
After writing all of this, I decided to employ one of the best tactics of the clone recipe writer, contacting the brewer. I emailed Tomme to see just how close my estimates were, being the kind man that he is he gave me the blend ratio, 3:2:1. That is to say 50% Red Barn, 33% Avant Garde, and 17% Amigo Lager. Amazingly this works out to an effective OG of 1.0605, literally right where I pegged it! The combined gravity after primary should be around 1.011. Assuming the 7% ABV number is correct, it should land right around 1.006 at bottling time.

The difference between the ratio I came up with and the actual ratio is all due to the bad assumption I made that a whole barrel of Red Barn was used in the blend, apparently they blended from kegs. The lower portion of Red Barn then knocked off my percentage of Amigo Lager, with a lower amount of the relatively high gravity Saison I will not need as much Amigo Lager to lower the overall gravity. All in all though I think I came pretty close, and I believe that brewers are more likely to help you if you show that you have already put some effort into it.

I will post the full details of each of the brews when I get around to making them over the next few weeks. I will rescale the recipes using Promash above to do a 3 gallon batch of Red Barn, 2 gallon batch of Avant Garde, and a 1 gallon batch of Amigo Lager. I am also going to make some substitutions based on what ingredients that I can get locally, such as using Wyeast strains instead of White Lab and changing some of the hops around based on what is available.

Look for the results of this one sometime around the start of 2009.

In early 2010 I got the chance to taste my clone along with an actual bottle of Cable Car (Batch #2). The color was spot on, but mine didn't have quite the sourness of the original. I wish I had added the wild yeast and bacteria along with the primary yeast at the start of fermentation as I do for most of my sour beers.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I'd like to see more on:

Well results are in, and the joke answer wins! Come on, 90% of what I post is beer related already, what more do you people want?

Kombucha (8%)

-Glad this one did poorly. I had gotten bored of the strong acetic acid component of the flavor, so I had been going too long in-between feeding it. As a result a nice big patch of mold grew on it. I probably could have saved it, but it didn't seem worth the effort.

I had passed some of it off to a friend already, so my culture will live.

Soon I may be replacing this with some Ginger Beer Plant.

Bread/Sourdough (6%)

-I should have an update to post soon about my homemade sourdough starter. Now that it is cold enough to use the oven without making my apartment 110 degrees I'll be baking a bit more often.

Fermented Vegetables (28%)

-Hopefully I'll be producing more variations on pickles and sauerkraut now that the ambient temperature in my apartment is reasonable.

Other Fermented Beverages (22%)

-There will be info on this year's batch of cider coming soon, and possibly a description of my first batch of mead (now 18 months old).

BEEEER!!! (63%)

-It's a given, but there will be plenty more beer info coming soon. A friend and I just brewed a beer inspired by Russian River Temptation, the really great part is that we got to use the house microbes from Russian River, which Vinnie had dried onto wood chips and passed out at last year's NHC. James Spencer of Basic Brewing Radio/Video got a bag and sent me some to play with. They will also be added to a beer I am basing on the Cable Car by The Lost Abbey.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Kosher Dill

After watching a recent episode of Good Eats called Dill-icious which describes how to make kosher dill pickles at home, I decided to try my hand at it.

On 10/26 I took 2.5 lbs of pickling cucumbers and cut off the ends, according to Alton this removes an enzyme which can damage the maturing pickles. In a 1 gallon plastic container I combined a bunch (literal) of dill, 1 tbls of black peppercorns, and 2 whole cloves of garlic (the ingredient that turns regular dill pickles into kosher dills). I then mixed 5.5 oz (by weight) of kosher salt (pickling salt would be easier because it dissolves faster, but I didn't have any) and dissolved it in about 1 gallon of water. I arranged the pickles vertically in the container and poured the brine over them. I took the excess brine and put it into a ziplock bag (so it won't dilute the brine i
f it leaks) which I placed on top of the cucumbers to keep them submerged. I used a rubber band to secure a paper towel over the top of the container just to stop bugs and dust from getting in.

Even though it looks like there are cucumbers/pickles in that ziplock, I assure you that it is an optical illusion (the water filled bag is acting as a lens).

This is a very similar procedure which will cause a very similar fermentation to sauerkraut. The only difference is that you add the salt already dissolved in water instead of counting on it to draw enough water out of the food to form its own brine.

Essentially at this level the salt will inhibit "noxious" microbes, while allowing "tasty" lactic acid bacteria to ferment. Another, simpler way to make pickles is to add acetic acid in the form of vinegar to the brine, and let the pickles soak for a few days. This way can produces good pickles, but they will have a harsher acid character that I do not enjoy as much as fermented pickles. Theoretically you could add food grade lactic acid to the solution as a short cut, but I'll leave that for someone else.

11/03/07 Tasted one of the pickles after about a week, not much sourness and the saltiness is a bit strong and there is still a bit too much "cucumber" flavor.

11/08/07 Moved into fridge a few days after a Pediococcus (?) pellicle formed (last picture). This will shut down fermentation and still let any CO2 out, nobody wants carbonated pickles.

11/12/07 Put the pickles into mason jars and then topped up with the strained pickle juice.

11/16/07 Pickles taste pretty good, and looks just like a commercial pickle. Full tasting soon.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Courage Russian Imperial Stout

Yet another clone of a beer that I have never had, the iconic Courage Russian Imperial Stout. The original Russian Imperial Stout, and a beer that is supposed to age gracefully for as long as 30 years.

We based the recipe on the one found in Brew Your Own British Real Ale at Home, and a brew log (below) for the Barclay Imperial Brown Stout from 1937, which evolved into Courage RIS, that was emailed to me by Ron Pattinson. I then made some changes based on other research, I used Dark Candi Syrup instead of the caramel that some recipes mention because I know it is a form of caramel and also highly fermentable. I also decided to add Some Brettanomyces and oak, both of which Michael Jackson mentions were found in the original. The Brett will hopefully provide the leather aroma that some people mention in reviews. I used Brettanomyces anomolus which Wyeast lists as originally coming from an English Stout in the 1950's (sadly this strain is now discontinued, but Brett C from white labs would be a good substitute).

This is also an interesting recipe because although it is a stout the only dark grain it has in it is Black Patent, which is generally associated with Robust Porters and a charcoal flavor. I was amazed how smooth both the wort and the uncarbonated beer tasted. I think this is in large part due to the adjustments I made to my water, adding plenty of (bi)carbonate to counteract the acidity of the BP. In fact Courage RIS is not the only stout made without Roasted Barley, both Sierra Nevada Stout and the new Imperial Oat Stout from Southern Tier get all their blackness from Black Patent.

One of the big procedural difference between this beer and my Funky Old Ale is that once it hit 1.020, I attempted to kill the Brett to prevent the wild yeast from making the beer too dry. First I chilled the beer to stop the Brett, then I fined the beer with gelatin and let it sit cool for a few days. Once the gelatin settled I transferred it to tertiary with 3 crushed up Campden Tablets (potassium metabisulfite). K-meta is often used in wine and cider making to kill wild yeast and bacteria before fermentation, but in this case I hope that it was able to kill whatever Brett was left over after the beer was fined. After waiting a few weeks for the SO2 to leave the beer I bottled with priming sugar and some rehydrated US-05 dry yeast. Hopefully the Brett is dead, or I may have some exploding bottles in a few months.

Courage Russian Imperial Stout Clone

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 4.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 15.94
Anticipated OG: 1.101
Anticipated SRM: 55.0
Anticipated IBU: 50.3
Brewhouse Efficiency: 68 %
Wort Boil Time: 95 Minutes

6.00 lbs. Golden Promise
4.00 lbs. Maris Otter
3.00 lbs. Amber Malt
1.50 lbs. Dark Candi Sugar Syrup
0.94 lbs. Black Patent Malt
0.31 lbs. Cane Sugar
0.19 lbs. Brown Malt

1.39 oz. Target @ 90 min.

.65 Oz Medium Toast French Oak Beans for 60 Days

WYeast 1028 London Ale

Water Profile
Profile: Courage RIS

Calcium(Ca): 58.0 ppm
Magnesium(Mg): 11.0 ppm
Sodium(Na): 81.0 ppm
Sulfate(SO4): 62.0 ppm
Chloride(Cl): 48.0 ppm
biCarbonate(HCO3): 247.0 ppm

pH: 8.34

Mash Schedule
Sacc Rest 90 min @ 155
Mash Out 10 min @ 166 (pulled 1 gallon of wort, heated to a boil, then returned to the mash)

Brewed 7/14/07 with James

Made a 3 pint starter the night before, probably not ideal but I've gotten by with worse, I won't be pitching until the morning after the brewday anyway.

Starting with DC tap water filtered through a Brita, 8 gallons of water with 6g Baking Soda, 1 g Chalk, 1g salt, and 1g Epsom salt.

6 gallons of 1.075 wort collected, including the sugars that were added while the sparge was going. Boiled down to about 3.5 gallons @ 1.115, with the starter and about 1 qrt of boiled and chilled water added the effective OG is 1.101.

The next morning, after a night of cooling in the freezer it was down to 65 degrees, I pitched the now mildly active starter and about a quart of boiled and chilled water.

Solid layer of krausen by 8 hours later, glad I made the starter.

Blow off tube needed by 12 hours, I needed it for about 24 hours.

Fermentation seemed to wrap up after about a week between 63-65 ambient.

Transferred to Secondary after 2 weeks, gravity around 1.030 (70% AA)

8/30/07 Added 5/8 oz of briefly boiled StaVin medium toast French oak cubes and a tablespoon of Brett A slurry (saved from my 2nd Mo' Betta clone). Left in a 5 gallon better bottle with airlock.

9/24/07 Down to about 1.025, mild Brett flavor/aroma

10/13/07 Down to 1.022, Brett seems to be very smooth.

10/28/07 1.020 (80% AA, 10.8% ABV) time to kill it.

10/29/07 Dissolved 1 packet of Knox gelatin in 1/4 cup of cold water, then mixed in 1/4 cup of boiling water. Added it to the beer and stirred/swirled to distribute, then chilled to 62 in the freezer to encourage precipitation of the yeast (not much did).

10/31/07 Racked to bottling bucket, cleaned/sanitized fermenter, then racked back with 3 crushed campden tablets. About 3 gallons of beer remain. No sign of the gelatin, no idea if I just don't see it or if I screwed up somehow. Slight foamy head, probably just from the campden releasing SO2. Left at room temp.

11/09/07 Bottled, yielded 3.25 gallons. Added 2 grams of US-05 rehydrated in warm water, and 2.5 oz of corn sugar. Aiming for 2.2 volumes of CO2. FG still 1.020 (80% AA, 10.8% abv), good sign hopefully all of the Brett really is dead.

5/01/08 Still has moderate carbonation, looks like the campden tablets did their job and killed the Brett.

1/29/08 1st Tasting

12/28/08 Christmas 2008 Tasting

1/02/10 Christmas 2009 Tasting

12/23/10 Christmas 2010 Tasting

12/27/11 Christmas 2011 Tasting

12/27/12 Tasting next to bottles of 2011 Courage RIS and 2009 A. Le Coq Imperial Extra Double Stout. Happy with how ours compared!

4/14/15 Delayed 2014 tasting. Really hitting its stride (caramel and dried fruit coming out), probably time to rebrew soon...

1/4/16 Christmas 2015 Tasting

1/11/18 Christmas 2017 Tasting

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Funky Rye Mild - Tasting

The accidentally funky Dark Mild
- Cherries in a musty cellar. It is starting to get a bit of that barnyard funk. There is also some toasty malt in the background. An interesting aroma, sort of like a minor league version of my Old Ale.

Appearance - Dark brown with an light-tan head. When held up to the light there are some nice ruby highlights.

Flavor - A smooth coffee flavor predominates, with a bit of funky cherry in the mid-palate. The toastiness from the aroma comes through as well, but it is a bit richer.

Mouthfeel - A bit thin, despite the "infection" there is surprisingly only a mild "cask level" carbonation.

Drinkability/Notes - Much easier drinking than it was in the months directly following when the infection showed up. I am starting to see that Brett goes through a "rough" stage before it smooths out. This style isn't without president, Pizza Port/Lost Abbey uses their mild as the basis for their kriek.

Rye Mild

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 3.80
Total Grain (Lbs): 7.63
Anticipated OG: 1.045
Anticipated SRM: 23.9
Anticipated IBU: 22.9
Brewhouse Efficiency: 61 %
Wort Boil Time: 105 Minutes

6.00 lbs. Golden Promise
0.75 lbs. Rye Malt
0.50 lbs. Crystal 120L
0.19 lbs. Pale Chocolate Malt
0.19 lbs. Chocolate Rye Malt

0.50 oz. East Kent Goldings @ 50 min.
0.25 oz. East Kent Goldings @ 15 min.

.50 Unit(s) Whirlfloc @ 15 min
.50 Tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min

WYeast 1275 Thames Valley Ale

Mash Schedule
Sacc Rest 60 min @ 154
Mash Out 15 min @ 168

Brewed 2/10/07 with James

Fox Point spring water used. Yeast pitched from swelled pack (nov 17 date makes me a bit worried).

Solid fermentation within 24 hours, so all seems to be well

2/17/07 Krausen has fallen and fermentations seems to be complete. 1.009, taste is nice and smooth, just a little yeasty. Nice bready character with just a hint of rye spice and hop bitterness.

2/25/07 Bottled 3.5 gallons with 47 g priming sugar. Aiming for low carbonation around 1.75 volumes.

2/28/07 Got impatient and opened a bottle. Already some mild carbonation although not much head. The beer is shaping up well with lots of dark caramel and toasted malt. Very smooth and drinkable.

Around the start of April a mild Brett infection appeared in every bottle I've tried (systemic, probably due to poor cleaning of the primary fermenter after an all Brett C beer), strangely the FG stuck around the same level. Not a bad beer even with the infection, but it certainly didn't end up being the session beer I intended.