Beer Copying: Tips for Beginners
Repeating your favorite variety is much more difficult than just brewing beer at home (although in both cases you will need some basic skills). But you should not set a goal to create an exact copy – it’s enough to brew a more or less similar drink, and who knows, you might even be able to improve the classic variety!
The Beer Judges Certification Program (BJCP) Style Guide (BJCP) contains a copy of the beer category, which is often misunderstood. If you, for example, welded an exact copy of the Firestone Walker Union Jack, perfectly fitting into the style, then its place is in the same category as the original: your perfect FWUJ will be classified as American IPA.
Moreover, it is not intended to assess how accurate the copy is, because for this you would have to provide the judges with a bottle of the original drink, so that they had something to compare with.
So why do you need the category “Copies of Beers”? The answer is simple: to serve as a support for those who seek to repeat the basic characteristics, style and (or) impression of beer, which does not fall into any other category of this guide. Today we’ll talk about how to brew one obvious example of this style (Belgian pale ale from Florenville) to get a general idea of what beer copying is.
Having selected the beer variety that you would like to copy, make a short list (of no more than two, three, and, possibly, one position) defining features of this sort that could be called “style characteristics”. These, of course, include the components of taste, but it is not necessary to dwell on them – you can also take into account the strength (high, low or medium), color, level of carbonation, etc.
So, for example, our not-so-standard Belgian pale-ale is usually characterized by a golden color, high white foam and the characteristic notes of dried fruits and horse blankets that he gets as a result of fermentation. These are our key characteristics, because without them a real copy would not work. But if you manage to repeat them, you will get something similar, albeit not identical (I repeat, in our case this is not the goal).
Creating a recipe for a copy is much more complicated than for a “regular” recipe or style, because you have to decide for yourself how you can come to those key elements of the style that you have determined for yourself. You can look for reliable recipes, but in the case of not very well-known varieties, you have to act blindly.
Trust in your experience or try to find a similar variety or style and build on it.
The variety we selected is notable for its rather high strength, but at the same time it should not have a bright, saturated color, so start with 4.5 kg of Pilsner malt. Add 0.45 kg of Munich 10L malt and 0.23 kg of Caramunich malt to it. If it were a German lager, my further actions would be different, however, bearing in mind that we are brewing a copy of Belgian Trappist beer, I add only a little (0.23 kg) of cane sugar or Belgian candy syrup.
This will provide a strength of about 6.5%, pleasant notes of grain and cookies, a taste of melanoidin and fried bread, as well as create a light body. For this variety a little tough, but spicy, aromatic alcohols perfectly complement the characteristics obtained as a result of fermentation.
Hopping in this case is not at all complicated. 25 IBU from any hops at the beginning of cooking, then Saaz and Styrian Goldings hops in equal amounts 10 minutes before the end and before turning off the fire (28 g each addition). Hops do not play a decisive role in this variety, so any floral and Bohemian hops can be used.
For many Belgian varieties, and especially for this, the choice of yeast and microorganisms is of utmost importance. To obtain a product that is equal in quality to the original, use a mixture of Wyeast Trappist Style Blend strains (3789-PC), which will give the drink an island aroma and farm character.
Most importantly, the recipe for your “copy” should reflect your previously defined characteristics. Do not try at all costs to get the exact recipe from the creators of the variety (although this may work) – just try to choose the ingredients that will allow you to reproduce the taste and aroma of the original. This is much more interesting than just getting “insider” information about the recipe of your choice of variety. Does it matter which hops they use, Tettnang or Hallertau?