Friday, April 11, 2008

A curious case of accidental cloning

I'm not really into cloning commercial beers when I brew my own, but I have attempted to replicate a style or more likely a particular flavour character that I enjoyed. I had this in mind when I brewed the golden ale that graces the top left of my blog. I was tired of the gassy, listless golden ales that were inflicted upon me in last autumn's CAMRA beer club delivery so took matters into my own hands with a decent golden ale packed full of flavour. The beer upon which I based the idea was Harpoon IPA, which isn't a golden ale in the same sense as the disappointing ones I had tried, but it had the colour and more importantly the glorious hop flavour I sort. So with this beer in mind I put together a recipe with pale malt and cara pils to keep the colour to a minimum and added to these a heroic amount of hops. All I planned to emulate from the Harpoon ale was the colour and hop flavour but thanks to an unexpected jump in my mash efficiency and more vigorous than normal boil, the original gravity strayed into the low side of the IPA scale. At the end of it all the beer came in stronger than expected and almost matched the IPA I had tenuously based in on.

My memory of Harpoon’s IPA was hazy, it being quite a while since I had tasted it, but the recent influx of American beer to our shores has brought this beer along with it. I spied it in Mc Hugh’s the other week and thought it a good opportunity to try it once again. I have fond memories of this beer because I visited the brewery a couple of years back and enjoyed one of the best brewery tours to date. It was very intimate with only three or four punters coupled with a very enthusiastic brewer who splashed the free samples about with gusto. The bottled beer is inevitably less fresh than the one I tried in the brewery, with a considerable drop off in hop character, but I still find it very tasty and hope to see it more readily available in Ireland. It was upon sampling this most recent bottle that I realised how much my home brewed beer tasted like the commercial brew. It packed the same hop flavour and slight residual sweetness, and the rocky foam clung beautifully to the glass. The commercial beer was perhaps a shade deeper, but they were otherwise quite comparable.

The funny thing is, if I had attempted to clone this beer from the outset I am sure I wouldn’t have got nearly as close to its flavour and character. More than likely I would have over thought the whole process trying to imagine what American brewers put in their beer and opted for Vienna or Munich malts and a dry hopping regime. This would have thrown the whole thing out of kilter, and highlights the difficulty of cloning beers. I'm happiest randomly putting my own recipes together, and this is one of the very best things about brewing at home.

1 comment:

The Beer Nut said...

Interesting. I never would have associated those two beers, but reading back over what I wrote about Harpoon it gels pretty well with my opinions on your golden ale.

It just goes to show how limited my vocabulary is :P