You may not realise this but I have not always been into ‘craft beer’. In fact, when I first started drinking I didn’t like beer at all. It wasn’t until I turned 18 and realised beer was cheaper than spirits that I ‘forced’ myself to like beer. Back then my drink of choice was VB and one carton of Coronas on christmas as a special treat. From there I tried Hahn Super Dry, Toohey’s Extra Dry and anything else that was reasonably priced.
It was about this time Dan Murphys was becoming a thing and my roommates and I set out to try different beers from all over the world. I recall the Samuel Adams Boston Lager was tried and was really enjoyed. I subsequently had this beer many times and in particular, when I lived in Canada. For this reason, this beer holds a special place in my heart as the beer that introduced flavour into the beer equation.
With Christmas approaching I was looking for a lager that would appease my family members but that would be interesting enough for me to really enjoy finishing it off later. With this in mind I thought, why not brew a Boston Lager?
Fortunately for me, the ‘Can You Brew It’ series on the Brewing Network did a clone recipe of Samuel Adams Boston Lager. My recipe was based off that and was as follows:
Barrett Burston Pale Ale Malt 5.52kg 94.7%
Bairds 60L Crystal Malt 310g 5.3%
Tettnang 4% 60g @ 60mins (40mins adjusted for no-chill) 25.4IBU
Hallertauer Mittelfrüh 18g @ 20mins (cube adjusted for n0-chill) 4.7IBU
Dry Hop: 14g Tettnang, 7g Hallertauer Mittelfruh
Yeast Bohemian Lager 2124 2.5L starter
It was this brew that I started to get my efficiency situation a bit sorted and went back to 63%. This meant that the OG was 1.057. I watered it down with 2.9L to meet my gravity which in turn likely reduced my bitterness. The good news was that I had a keg AND a couple of tallies.
I intended to pitch onto 10 degree wort but became impatient as it hit 16 degrees so ended up pitching at that and just letting the temp go down in my fermentation fridge. Not optimal but it seemed to work. At 8 days the gravity was at 1.011 so I dry hopped and increased the temperature to 19 degrees. I cold crashed at 12 days, added gelatine and then kegged.
Like all good lagers this took about 12 weeks to really find its form which placed it right in Xmas. A lot was had over christmas and everyone seemed pretty happy with it. I also at this time figured out how to fill growlers so this beer was a hit at a lot of parties.
I thought it might be interesting to compare it to the original Samuel Adams Boston Lager and bought a bottle from Dan Murphys. This bottle had been likely mistreated in the way only Dan Murphys knows how so I was interested to see what different flavours there would be compared to one that remained cold and in the keg the entirety of its life.
Unfortunately, with the christmas period, by the time I tried this I was nearing the end of the keg and getting some cloudy pours. I can say that when the beer was at its prime they had a pretty similar colour although I suspect my clone was a touch darker. This was likely due to the different malts available in Australia as they are all different.
My first pour was a little cloudy making it a touch darker. It was likely darker already though.
I found the aromas to be quite similar and mine had a stronger, fuller flavour. This was likely added to by the yeasty cloudy pour, so I repoured and found beers that were far more similar (although mine was still a bit cloudy). It was clear mine was better having been treated better and this became very apparent as they warmed up. The Samuel Adams had some pretty serious case of light strike which my wife described as “tasting like a Heineken.” By the way, the taste of Heineken is light strike which is a pretty serious off flavour.
I found the head dissipated quite quickly on the Boston Lager whereas the clone held a full foamy head. That being said, whilst the beers were both cold, I would not have noticed if I had finished drinking one and was handed the other. I would have assumed they were the same beer and the differences were subtle.
The second pour was less cloudy. The head difference was quite noticeable though.
I find with my lagers in particular that by the end of the keg, there is a lot of cloudiness. Next time I might give them more time in the fermenter so I can rack off the yeast as much as possible.
So was it cloned? I would say it was pretty close. I could bottle it in green bottles and then leave it in a 40 degree shed for 2 months and maybe I would get an exact clone but its probably not worth it. What I can say is that I was just a bit excited that I am able to brew a beer equal to or better than a beer I once held up as the pinnacle of beer (including its flaws). It got me really enthused about the hobby and all the possibilities as I further explore it.
I look forward to making a few more clones and comparing them to their originals to get a really good gauge of where my brewing is at. As always, if you have any tips or comments, leave them below.