All Grain Recipe Creation Primer

January 15, 2013 at 10:02 pm

My favorite thing about homebrewing besides drinking the delicious, fresh beer I brew is the ability the hobby provides for continual creative evolution. While brewing beer at its core is fairly simple, at a homebrew level there are a nearly unlimited number of variables that come into play in the brewing process. Successful navigation and integration of these variables and techniques, defines the craft of brewing beer for me. Over the past several years I have expanded my brewing knowledge base as it relates to technique, equipment, and recipe formulation, all in the quest of brewing the best beer possible.

One area that really defines a brewer is their approach to recipe formulation. While I don’t profess to be a brewmaster by any means my approach to recipe formulation has worked for me, and led me to brew many really enjoyable beers over the years. Below I will outline my general approach to all grain recipe formulation as well as some general things to consider during the process. It is worth noting that I use BeerSmith to assist with the calculations and the fine tuning of my recipes to my specific system. If you haven’t already I would highly encourage you to find the right beer software for you and fine tune it to your current brew equipment. This makes the world of difference and saves a whole bunch of time doing the basic calculations required of all grain brewing.

1. Style selection

The first thing I consider when developing my recipes is the style of beer I want to brew. I generally brew beers to season, for example wits and wheat in the summer, porters and stouts in the winter, but not exclusively. Next I consider the amount of time a particulart beer style requires to come into balance. For example I might brew an imperial stout sometime in the spring in preparation for consumption in the winter, so that it has the proper amount of time to age and come into balance. One thing I hate is drinking strong beers that haven’t been given the proper time to age and are riddled with over the top alcohol heat.

2. Background research

Once I’ve selected the style of beer I want to brew the next thing I do is a combination of Internet research and browse through the books in my beer library. I’ll usually start with the recipe database on, depending on the style I might also check out books such as Stan Hieronymus’ “Brew Like a Monk” or Ray Daniel’s “Desiging Great Beers.” I use these resources to get a general idea of common ingredients used for both the grist and hop varieties.

3. Recipe formulation

Once I have a basic idea of the types of grain required for a particular style the next thing I do is take a look at my ingredient inventory. I try to keep a mix of the essential grains on hand at all times the big three basemalts (American 2-Row, Pilsen,and Wheat) and a mix of some of specialty malts. When possible I try to avoid making trips to my LHBS for a specific grain, but in some instances styles are defined by a particular ingredient or combination of ingredients and there really is no way around it. I will substitute as much as I can with what I have on hand, as for the most part I think the differences are negligible.

Generally speaking I tend to brew beers within the style guidelines, but on occasion I do hybrids such as Unconventional Wit, a wit recipe brewed to an “imperial” style. For most beers I tend to use between 80-95% base malt with the rest being specialty or other adjuncts. I like to keep my grists fairly simple usually using an additional 3-4 grains in addition to the basemalt. For my hop additions I usually use a 60 minute addition with a higher alpha hop (I really like Magnum) followed by several late addition hops (20 min or less). Obviously these are highly generalized rules of thumb and depending on the style they might change dramatically.

Proper yeast selection as well as pitch rates are one of, if not the most important part of a successful recipe formulation. I like to use liquid yeast. I prefer Wyeast, but have used White Labs extensively as well. A stir plate is a small investment that makes a huge difference. Mr. Malty is a great resource to ensure the proper yeast pitching rates for your recipe. Pitching the proper amount of yeast can greatly reduce the chances of off flavors as a result of stressed yeast due to under pitching.

4. Things to consider

  • Sometimes less is more. Recipes with to many grains, hops, or spices can become convoluted and flavors become muddled. The more ingredients you introduce the more precise you will need to be.
  • Use restraint with specialty malts. These malts are powerful! A little goes a long way. While its might not seem like a few ounces will be noticed in the final beer they will. One the most common problems I see when looking at other people’s recipes online is the extremely high percentages of specialty malts, especially crystal and roast malts.
  • In vogue hops like Citra and Simcoe are awesome and they taste great, however there are tons of great hops out there that are often overlooked by homebrewers. I think its crazy to spend 2 to 3 times as much on the sexy citrus hops when proper use of some of the older less popular varieties (CTZ, Summit, Cascade) can contribute similar flavors to your beer.
  • IBU:FG Ratios: Good beers are balanced. The proper balance of bitterness to sweetness is essential. Charts such as this and this can serve as a starting point. Obviously they aren’t gospel and therefore shouldn’t be treated as such.
  • Flavor combinations that don’t work: Citrus and dark malts, Sour and Bitterness, Bitterness and Alcohol, Spices and Coffee. These flavor profiles tend to clash and can throw your beer out of balance, avoid these combinations if possible.
  • It’s rare that you will nail a recipe on the first try, not to say it will be bad but it might not be perfect. Don’t get discouraged! I have two recipes that I’ve been working on for several years that if I ever were to open a brewery would be my flagship recipes. Subtle changes to the recipe can make a big difference to the final beer but they are hard to pin down without multiple revisions to the original recipe.

Obviously this is an oversimplification of recipe formulation. Other factors that should be considered include water chemistry, mash temperature and duration, and cold side wort handling. In the future I plan on discussing some of these more advanced topics in further detail, but for the sake of this post I wanted to highlight a few topics that I feel can dramatically improve the quality of an all grain beer recipe.


Oak Aged EKG Single Hop Saison Tasting Notes

January 8, 2013 at 7:55 pm

For Christmas this year I received a beer tasting kit from my sister, inside was a tasting note card with a flavor profile wheel.  As I post the majority of my tasting notes on the blog, I thought it would be a nice addition to add my own take on the flavor wheel to all future tasting notes on the site.  My wheel consists of 16 unique flavors subdivided into three levels of intensity; slight, moderate, and intense.  I hope that you will find this addition to the blog helpful as it will add a visual component to the traditional tasting notes categories found on many other blogs.

During my peak brewing season (April-November) I brew roughly 30 gallons a month, which as you can imagine is far to much beer for me to drink no matter how much I love beer.  I do 10 gallon batches and will often put a fresh corny on tap as soon as possible and leave one for later.  I decided that I would like to do an oaked beer and thought a saision would be a good candidate as they can become more defined with age.  I decided to add .75 oz of medium toast Hungarian Oak, hoping for a moderate to strong oak presence in the final beer.  The tasting notes below were taken after the beer (recipe) had been aged on the oak cubes for 6 months.

Oak Aged EKG Single Hop Saison Tasting Notes:


Appearance: Pours a crystal clear deep yellow, with a frothy white head.  Head dissipates slowly with moderate lacing around the glass.

Smell: Strong Belgian yeast aromatics and fruit dominate.  Finishes with slight notes of vanilla, flowers, and pepper.

Taste: Starts with a crisp carb bite and moderate bitterness.  The taste transitions to notes of bubble gum, fresh flowers, and sweet malt flavors. Finishes with a warming alcohol presence,subtle vanilla and oak flavors to round out the beer.

Mouthfeel:  Highly carbonated, extremely dry.

Drinkability & Notes:  The contrast between the fruity belgian yeast notes and the oak in combination with the delicate floral notes of the Eastern Kent Golding Hops make this one of the more complex beers I have ever brewed.  The yeast is the real star of this beer in my mind, as the Belgian Saision II (WLP566) gave off flavors that I would deem comparable to many commercial saisions (I have not found this to be the case with some of the other saision yeast strains).  This beer has gotten rave reviews from all my family and friends who have tried it so far and is on my short of potential beers for my wedding later this year.

The non-oaked version of this beer was exceptional as well with the only notable difference being a much more pronounced hop aroma and floral flavors.  It lacked the added dimension of the Hungarian Oak which in my mind put this beer over the top making it on of my favorites to date



Emerging Beer Trends: The Future of Craft Beer in America

January 3, 2013 at 9:06 am

I recently came upon an article by Ken Weaver summarizing a statistical analysis he performed on the Ratebeer database.  While I’m no statistician it appears Mr. Weaver is, as he diligently sifts through the data to reveal the fastest growing beer styles over the past five years. The Ratebeer database consists of 73 unique beer styles and 168,000 commercial beers collected from 2000 to 2012.

Mr. Weaver’s analysis aggregated the roughly 69,586 commercial beers in the database from 2000 to 2007 by style and percentage by style of the overall beer market.  These figures served as the baseline for his analysis of the data from 2008-2012.  While I don’t frequently buy  commercial beers as I have more homebrew than my kidneys can handle, the results did not come as a surprise to me and I’m sure they won’t to you.

What’s Hot

IPA +4.7%
American Pale Ale +2.4%
Sour/Wild Ale +2.1%
Imperianl/Double IPA +1.9%
Black IPA +1.8%
Imperial Stout +1.8%

 What’s Not

Pale Lager -4.9%
Bitter -2.7%
Pilsner -1.9%
German Hefeweizen -1.4%
Premium Bitter/ESB -1.4%

As with most things over time innovation takes hold leading to radical transformations  from the original starting point.  The same thing appears to be occurring with the shift from traditional European style beers towards the more hop centric American styles.  To put it bluntly today’s beer landscape has moved a long, long  way from the Reinheitsgebot of yesteryear.

The innovation and creativity put on display by today’s brewers has been a pleasure to watch and especially taste.  Brewers of today are pushing the boundaries of our palates by masterfully blending unique ingredients and microbes to produce beers that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.  As a beer lover this makes me excited for what the future holds, but also cautious that we don’t lose sight of the importance of the classic beer styles and the role they have played in getting us to this point.


Beer of the Year 2012: Unconventional Wit

December 26, 2012 at 7:24 pm

While Lionheart Brewing is still in its relative infancy, I plan on sticking around for a while.  With that being said I thought it would be fun to have some annual posts highlighting some of the best blog related material of that particular year.   The first thing that came to my mind was beer recipe of the year. This year it will be my favorite recipe nominated by me. Hopefully over the years as the site continues to grow this can evolve into a nomination and vote by the site’s readers.

With that being said my favorite beer of 2012 was Unconventional Wit, my take on a Belgian Wit with an American twist.  I would describe this beer as an imperial Wit brewed with traditional Belgian spices and a strong dose of American hops.  This beer is best when consumed fresh, pronounced wheat and citrus flavors are balanced nicely by the subtle Belgian yeast aromatics.  To read the full tasting notes for Unconventional Wit click here.

Unconventional Wit

Batch Size: 11 Gallons
Original Gravity: 1.065
Final Gravity: 1.014
ABV: 6.7%
IBU: 18.7
Color: 7.4 SRM
Boil Time: 75 Min

54.8% Pilsner Malt
37.6% Wheat Malt
3.6% Biscuit Malt
2.7% Caravienna Malt
1.3% Crystal 15

.25 Oz Columbus (12.8% AA) at 60 min
2 tsp Irish Moss at 15 min
1.25 Oz Chinook (11.8% AA) at 5 min
1.58 Oz Citra (13.4% AA) at 5 min
1 Oz Crushed Coriander at 5 min
.66 Oz Orange Peel, Bitter at 5 min
2 Oz Columbus (12.8% AA) at 1 min
.5 Oz Chinook (11.8% AA) at 0 min
.5 Oz Citra (13.4% AA) at 0 min
8 grams crushed black pepper whirlpool
2 Lemon Grass stalks finely chopped whirlpool

3 Liter starter of Belgian Abbey II (1726)

Mashed at 149 for 60 min raised to 165 for a 10 minute mash out.

Keg and serve fresh after a one week primary fermentation for the optimum taste.

3.4 L Starter of Wyeast 1762 Belgian Abbey Ale II

Unconventional Wit Spices

DIY: Hop Screen Build

December 20, 2012 at 8:33 pm

One of my favorite parts about homebrewing aside from actually brewing and drinking the beer, is to constantly refine my brewing techniques and brewday process.  Over the past several years my brewing process has evolved from extract to all grain, mash tun cooler to direct fire mash, bottling to kegging.  You get the idea.  My process has become increasingly complex, yet with experience my brewdays have actually become more efficient than ever, and my beers continue to be quite tasty.

The initial additions to one’s brewing process can yield exponentially positive results to the finished beer. For example the transition from extract to all grain opens up a whole new flavor pallet to the brewer, and in turn can lead to more complex layered flavor profiles.  The addition of a stir plate to ensure proper yeast pitching rates and a clean and successful fermentations is another example.  Over time however, you run out of significant additions to the brewing process that provide the true “bang for your buck.”  This doesn’t mean the tinkering ceases, it just means that the results of the changes become much more subtle, yet they remain just as important to the finished product.

Every year I try to make at least one addition to my process, this year my most significant addition was the addition of a stainless steel hop screen.  One challenge many homebrewers face is how to handle hops in the brewing process.  There addition leads to extensive hop trub in the kettle that can be problematic to the post boil process.  Adding hops directly to the kettle can clog your pump or add significant volume to your primary fermentation if they go through unabated.  Adding hops in hopsacks is said to reduce hop utilization rates and can be quite the pain in the ass with multiple hop additions.  The addition of a hop blocker or false bottom can be a solution if leaf hops are used exclusively.

After researching all my options I finally decided to bite the bullet (and cost) and create a stainless steel hop screen that would allow me to leave all hops, pellet or whole leaf, in my kettle and not my fermenters where they belong.  Below you will find detailed instructions on how I built mine in addition to the specific parts numbers from McMaster Carr incase you would like to build one of your own.

McMaster-Carr part numbers:

1 Pack 97525A410 18-8 SS Blind Rivet w. 18-8  SS Manderl, Domed 1/8″ Diameter, .032″-.062″ thick
1 Pack 90183A311 Blind Rivet Flat Washer, 18-8 SS, Round for 1/8″ Body Rivet
1 Each 85385T519 Corrosion-resistant 304 SS Woven Cloth 30×30 mesh, .012 diameter 36×36 in sheet
1 Each SS 9″ x 2″ Round Cake and Pastry Ring

Step 1:

Cut the SS mesh sheet down to 30.25″ by 23.5″.  This assumes an additional two inches on the circumference which creates a nice seam for the rivets down the side of the hop screen.  I made my hop screen to stand high out of the kettle, you may consider making yours slightly smaller if you like to keep a lid on your kettle to promote faster boils or full boils in cold weather.

Step 2:

With the remaining mesh screen cut a 12″ to 13″ circle to create the bottom of the hop screen.  I used a large dinner plate as a template in my build.

Step 3:

Gently bend the mesh screen into the shape of a cylinder leaving a two inch overlap.  I used a set of clamps to hold my screen in place.  This is also a good time to make sure the baking ring fits around the circumference of the screen.  Next use a 1/8″ drill bit to make starter holes for the rivets approximately 2″ apart down the entire length of the seem.  Next secure the starter holes with the SS rivets and the blind washers.  I initially tried this without the washers but the rivet would not hold the screen, the washers are essential in order for the fasten to hold.

Step 4:

Take the circle SS mesh screen and make several small cuts along the edges (6-8 total).  This will allow the screen to mold better to the outside of the cylinder as you begin to rivet it together.  I wrapped the bottom of my screen around the outside of the main cylinder as best I could and again started with the 1/8″ drill bit to create the starter holes followed by a rivet and washer.  I put a ton of rivets on the bottom of my screen (roughly a half inch apart, I figured why skimp when I bought a box of 100 rivets).

Step 5:

Place the cooking ring on top of the cylinder, I left mine about a half inch higher than the SS mesh as it was kind of sharp and had some SS threads hanging off that could cut my hands.  This creates a smooth top decreasing the likely hood of cutting your arms if you have to reach into the screen for any reason during a brewday.

Final Thoughts:

At the time I thought I might have been crazy to spend nearly a 100 dollars on a hop screen, but I have to say after a year of use and no aggravation it was some of the best money I have ever spent.  The hop screen has succeeded my expectations as I have loaded it up with upwards of a pound of hops and it worked great.  No noticeable hop particles get through the mesh screen, while it also allows the wort inside the cylinder to come to a rolling boil increasing the hop utilization rates.  Overall I love the addition of the hop screen to my brewing process, and the only regret I had was not building one earlier.

Craft vs. Crafty: My Take

December 14, 2012 at 8:48 am

This past Thursday the Brewers Association, the not-for-profit trade association dedicated to small and independent American craft brewers, released a statement that called into question the marketing practices of the large brewers and the products they sell. The article sent a strike across the bow of the usually tranquil landscape of today’s beer industry, when is accused the large brewers of “deliberately attempting to blur the lines between their crafty, craft-like beers and true craft beers from today’s small brewers.” The article continues with a call to action for all craft beer drinkers to educate themselves about the products they are purchasing to ensure they are not being duped into purchasing a “crafty” beer from the big three. The article set off a virtual firestorm in the twittersphere, and ever since brewers themselves and craft beer drinkers alike have been offering up their opinions to the #craftvscrafty twitter tag. If you haven’t had a chance to read the full article yet, I would encourage you to read it here and join the debate.

After thinking about the article for the passed few days and reading some of the related banter on the internet a few thoughts come to my mind on the Brewers Association’s accusations, as well as a simple solution to the craft vs. crafty problem. First of, as an avid homebrewer and a person who considers themselves to be slightly more in tune with beer related issues than the average Joe, I can attest that the problem of less than transparent marketing practices is out there. One example that comes to my mind is Goose Island, which until fairly recently I thought was a craft brewer out of Chicago. Little did I know that it was actually owned and operated by the corporate beer conglomerate we’ve come to know as Anheuser-Busch InBev. On first glance Goose Island has all the characteristics of a good craft beer; good tasting beer, multiple varieties offered, speciality releases in 22oz bottles, etc. Hell they even had tap takeovers in some of the better Philadelphia beer bars when Goose Island first became available for distribution in Pennsylvania.

The problem for me lies in the decision of what to do with all my impressions of Goose Island prior to finding out it was owned and operated by InBev. I thought their beers were solid, they had a presence in some popular beer bars, cool marketing, I even bought a few of their specialty ales and stashed them away for a special occasion. I never had a bad beer from them or any experience with the brand that would lead me to not like it.

However when I found out that it was owned by InBev my feelings towards the Goose Island brand almost immediately turned negative. Is this fair? Probably not, but I often compare the craft beer industry to the music industry. When a band is underground it is “cool”, but when that same band becomes popular to a certain point they are more often than not labeled as “sell outs”, and in turn less desirable and sometimes intolerable to those original fans for no other reason than that. As a craft beer lover, my “sell out” moment came when I found out that Goose Island was owned by InBev, they rightly or wrongly became uncool in my mind.

I believe that it is this very kind of thought process that the large brewers are hoping to avoid by blending in with the other craft brewers. They know that their status as the Big Three is a stigma that those within the craft beer community do not wish to be apart of, therefore they seek to disguise themselves in their product placement and marketing as a craft product, in the hopes of capturing a share of the ever increasing craft market place. After all, this is America and we live in a capitalist society, and they are publicaly traded companies that have a fiduciary responsability to their shareholders to maximize profits. Like many large companies their methods are often times less than desirable, and sometimes border on unethical, this instance is no different in my mind.

While I do agree that their should be a healthy debate amongst those who have far more experience and insight into the beer industry than I as to what constitutes a craft brewery, I do think that the consumer has a right to know who brewed the beer they are purchasing, be it is from a craft brewer, one of the Big Three, or a homebrewer’s driveway. In my mind there is a fairly simple solution to this problem, that being the creation of a an authentic craft brewer designation icon or logo that would be required on all beer labeling.

This is not a new concept in the beer industry as the Trappist breweries of Europe have instituted an “Authentic Trappist” labeling on their products for the very same reasons mentioned in this debate. Similar examples of this kind of product awareness can also be found in the food industry, specifically the Certified Organic moniker. This approach would provide the craft beer consuming public and craft beer advocates such as the Brewers Association, with the added level of transparency they desire. From there it would be up to each individual if they want to buy craft or crafty beer with their hard earned money.

Authentic Trappist

Too Many Taps a Bad Thing?

December 12, 2012 at 8:07 pm

Last week I read an interesting article tweeted out by the highly acclaimed beer author Stan Heironymus, about the growing concern amongst some of the leading craft brewers that the current diversity of beer offerings is actually detrimental to the future growth of the industry as a whole. The crux of the article is that craft brewers opened up pandoras box by adding seasonal beers to their existing rotations, and over time the expectations from the craft beer consumer have been steadily raised to the point were they now expect new beer offerings more frequently than ever before. These expectations have been fanned by the rise in popularity of craft beer in general and in turn the proliferation of the “beer bar”, whom often times offer upwards of 30 to 40 beers on draft at any given time.

The article goes on to argue that this diversity, particularly at beer bars is actually damaging to the brewers as many of the bars are constantly rotating their drafts and do not allow brewers to get designated tap handles at their bars. This rotation, it is argued, doesn’t allow the brewers to build their brands with the craft beer consumer as the bars and consumers themselves continuously seek out the newest and most exclusive beers available to date. The article goes on to say this rotation of taps, and lack of tap real estate is even more detrimental to newer less established start up brewers who have less brand recognition than some of the bigger household names. To read the full article click here.

While I’ll have to admit the topic of the article never really crossed my mind while enjoying a pint at my favorite beer bar, I would have to refute some of the claims made in the article, and chalk them up to jockeying amongst craft beer owners and beer distributors over potential profits in an ever growing and competitive market place. For one when I go to a beer bar one of the first things I usually do is scan through the draft list looking for a new brewery that I have not yet had the opportunity to try.  It is the variety that attracts the connoisseurs of craft beer to the beer bar in the first place, and it is these very same people who are also passionate enough about the beer to promote the new brewer to their friends, co-workers, and on the internet.

This old fashioned word of mouth advertising coupled with a modern day blitz of social media will do more to build and promote a brand than a permanent tap handle ever would.  In my mind beer bars are the place for new up and coming brewers to break into the market, and while I admit the lack of tap stability might be problematic to some, it is essential for any business this day and age in addition to offering a great product, to take advantage of effective marketing, design, social media, etc. in order to build a lasting brand in a hyper competitive market place.

Furthermore the argument that the Dogfish’s or Brooklyn’s of the world need permanent tap space to build brand recognition is laughable. These companies have been able to rise to the top of the competitive beer market through a firm understanding of the consumers demands and an ability to meet and often times exceed them. They are champions of marketing, social media, and varieties offered, they have also broken into new non-traditional markets such as restaurants, stadiums, bowling alleys, etc that the smaller brewers are unable to. The big craft brewers prominence in these more main stream venues has provided them with a greater competitive advantage in both sales and brand building potential than any permanent tap handle at some beer bars ever would.

At the end of the day the beer business is just like any other, it comes down to having a good product people want and the ability to overcome all barriers, however small or large to fulfill the created demand. The rotation of taps and highly diverse offerings found at many beer bars are not a detriment to growth and branding, but in fact a benefit.  That is if the beer is great of course, because at the end of the day thats what its all about.

Book Review: A Brewer’s Guide to Opening a Nano Brewery

December 9, 2012 at 8:48 pm

I recently purchased “A Brewer’s Guide to Opening a Nano Brewery” written by Dan Woodske, owner and operator of Beaver County Brewing Company, a nano brewery outside of Pittsburgh. Throughout the book the author chronicles his experiences on his way to opening a nano brewery. He covers topics ranging from licensing and distribution, time and space considerations, equipment, all the way through to marketing and promotion. He also provides his thoughts and sometimes his approach to handling nano related topics such as taxes and accounting for example.

Throughout the book he also is constantly asking you questions and giving you things to think about that may have never crossed your mind while you were dreaming of opening your very own nano brewery. Unfortunately for me, this coupled with a smattering of other informational tidbits relating to the nano brewery start up process, were the only real valuable take aways from this book. The fact that the book is littered with typo’s and in my opinion overly optimistic and often times simplistic assumptions about starting a business lead me to question the author’s credibility to some degree.

In his defense, Mr. Woodske often makes light of his writing style and some of the alternative ideas in the book by saying that they are not for everyone and that there is not a one size fits all approach to starting a nano. With that being said to charge $15 dollars for this book, when there are many more informative and well written brewing related books available for less, albeit not nano related, left me somewhat disappointed with my decision to purchase this publication.

I do not mean to come down so hard on the author and sound like a hater, in fact from all accounts it sounds like Mr. Woodske is running a successful nano brewery that is in the midst of expanding which is great for him, however with some cursory research on the internet I believe many of the information he provides in his book could be found for free, and in fact might be more up to date and realistic. In summary I feel the book has some value in that it got me thinking about the bigger picture of starting a nano brewery, however this wasn’t enough for me to justify spending $15 dollars for a book that I read in two hours and left me wondering if anything I just read was really a viable option in starting a successful nano brewery.

Great Lakes Christmas Ale Clone Tasting Notes

December 2, 2012 at 8:10 pm

After some delay I was finally able to track down a bottle of the 2012 Great Lakes Christmas Ale at a local bottle shop in Philly.  Unfortunetly Great Lakes, along with many other fine Midwestern craft brewers do not distribute to New Jersey, but thats a topic for another post.

For this set of tasting notes I will be comparing the Great Lakes Christmas Ale Clone (clone) to the original Great Lakes Christmas Ale (GLCA) and highlighting the biggest perceived differences between the two.  After tasting the first sips of the original in close to a year I quickly remembered why this has become one of my favorite Christmas beers and I decided to brew a 10 gallon clone batch in the first place.

Tasting Notes Comparison:

Appearance: GLCA pours a dark orange, copper with a swiftly dissipating white head.  Clone pours a deeper shade of orange, bordering on brown with a much thicker head that dissipates just as quickly.

Biggest difference:  GLCA pours much lighter and has a subtle head that lasts well after the initial pour while the clone appears at least two shades darker and the head is non existant after a few minutes.

Smell: GLCA: swift pungent aroma of sweet malt and honey dominate.  Clone: subdued honey notes mixed with mild caramel and malt undertones.

Biggest difference: Depth of flavors, the GLCA is much more pungent most likely because it is fresher than my clone.

Taste: GLCA: Starts thin with a bready malt notes.  Finishes sweet with lasting notes of honey.  No hop flavors or bitterness present, mild carb bite.  Extremely sweet.  Clone:  Starts much thicker, strong malt backbone dominates initial sip, English malt notes are evident.  Carb bite about the same as the original with restrained  honey flavor lingering on the palate after the finish.

Biggest difference:  GLCA is much, much, sweeter with a malt profile that is much more defined and bready.  When the clone was younger the sweetness was much more defined but I do not think it ever reached the level of the original.  I prefer the clone in this regards as the GLCA is so sweet it boarders on being cloying.

Mouthfeel: GLCA:  Moderate carbonation, thin mouthfeel extremely sweet finish.  Clone:  Moderate carbonation, much maltier, much less residual sweetness.

Biggest Difference:  Mouthfeel and sweetness

Drinkability & Notes:  Both beers are extremely enjoyable and drinkable and they do a great job of masking the 7.5%-8.2% alcohol content.  I think the clone recipe is pretty close to the original, the substitutions I made to the original clone recipe are part of the reason some of the differences in my opinion, specifically the addition of the Golden Promise malt.  Furthermore the honey and spice flavors of the clone have faded over time and are much less than they were originally at the time of this tasting and comparison.  Overall I think the clone is very close to the original, especially if consumed fresh, as I remember the honey and spice being much more pronounced when fresh as they are in the original.

Biggest Difference:  GLCA is brewed by a top notch professional brewery, however because of that it also is quite pricey.  While the clone recipe has its short comings it still produced a hell of a beer that I have thoroughly enjoyed drinking over the past few weeks.  When you take into consideration the fact that you can brew a 10 gallon batch for the price of a case of the original, if you can find it that is, the clone becomes that much more attractive in my mind.


Philadelphia Crab Soup

November 25, 2012 at 9:01 pm

After spending the last few days eating and drinking in excess I wanted to prepare a dish that was light on carbs and full on flavor. I also wanted to use up the last of the leftovers from our Thanksgiving meal. This healthy crab soup is full of flavor, the IPA blends in well with the sweetness of the crab and adds a subtle complexity to the already spicy broth.  A delicious soup perfect for any cold winter afternoon.

Crab Stock:

6 Cups Water
1 Lb Blue Crab Claw Shells
1/2 Carrot Diced
1 Celery Stalk Diced
1 Small Onion Diced
2 Parsley Stems Chopped
3 Black Peppercorns
Touch of Butter

Add all ingredients to a large saucepan and bring to a boil, once liquid comes to a boil reduce heat and simmer for about an hour. When time is reached strain ingredients and return to the saucepan.

Crab Soup:

6 Cups Water
1 12 oz Great Divide Rumble IPA
2 Carrots Diced
3 Stalks Celery Diced
2 Small Onions Diced
1 Large Sweet Potato Cubed
1 Can Sweet Corn
1 28 oz Can Whole Peeled Tomatoes
3 tbsp Worcester Sauce
2 tbsp Old Bay
3/4 tbsp Dry Mustard
Dash of red pepper flakes
1 lb Blue Crab Claw Meat

Add water, IPA, carrots, celery, onions, potatoes, corn, worcester, Old Bay, and mustard to crab stock. Smash tomatoes by hand and add to soup along with the remaining sauce and bring to a boil. Once boil is reached reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Next add the crab meat and simmer for an additional 45 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately with an your favorite amber ale.