Cloning, Beer Styles, and Brewing Your Own
January 16, 2012
Since I began writing this blog, tweeting and meeting people in my capacity as Lead Brewer for Starr Hill, I have been asked frequently about clone recipes of our beer by fellow home brewers. I feel like addressing this issue because it gets to the root of why I and others began making beer at home in the first place.
In short, I cannot give out our recipes on principal. I, for one thing, don’t own them. For another thing, I would be doing a disservice to everyone involved, including the homebrewer asking, by providing the information.
I and every other brewer making beer at home are tinkerers by nature; we love exploring things and mastering the process of making things of our own creation. I know this because, unlike many others in the industry, I keep in touch with the homebrewer part of me by continuing to brew at home, though not as often as I used to. I never picked up brewing to do something like someone else, I and the others I brewed with were looking to create something we liked or wanted to explore. This is not to say I never found inspiration from large-scale production beers, I did. I identified what it was I liked about those beers and used it to improve what I was doing. Every time I am asked for the recipe for Northern Lights, I could just give it out, but that would be missing the point—find what it is you like about the beer and apply it to your own art. Brewing is art, it is a medium of self-expression, and its product should belong to the artist who made it, not be an imitation of someone else’s. I am always happy to answer questions from other brewers, and I am as responsive as I can be (I have a life, too) to them. So fire away on Twitter or in the comments section of our blog, ask me about the process or formulation questions, and let’s just not talk about clones.
What I do think would be helpful is talking about beer styles. The seminal text in this regard is “Designing Great Beers,” by Ray Daniels. Having used it for years, I can tell you there is no better guide when you are trying to nail down a style at home. There are some brewers who don’t care about styles. That is great; make the beer you like—I am sure it will be good if your process is good. Some of the best brews I have been involved in at home have been brews that just used up all the oddball leftover malt. No concern with style there, just brewing and trusting that the process will produce great beer. Notice how important the process is, don’t overlook that part.
I am in the business of doing my part to deliver The Gift of Great Beer to our customers; at home I just want to make great beer. Sermon over, Brew On!