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THA Cloning

The penultimate attempt, IPA #17, at right.

I love Bell’s Two Hearted Ale. So much so that I’d drink it on a regular basis, if I could afford it ($10.49 a six pack currently). Hence my long flirtation with clone recipes. There are quite a few out there, none of which quite sparges my grain bed, if you know what I mean. I’ve brewed enough IPAs, though, that I felt I had reasonable odds of success, and after a few iterations the clone is pretty much dialed in.

The recipe for Two Hearted is actually pretty straightforward. The base is regular domestic two-row pale malt, with a fairly significant dose of light Munich, and a small addition of light crystal malt. Some allegedly authentic sources suggest that Bell’s actually uses Vienna malt, but the Munich I use is rated 4-8 Lovibond, overlapping the typical range for Vienna considerably. Consult your maltster’s specifications and act accordingly. Hopping is 100% Centennial, of course, with more or less equal quantities for bittering, aroma, and dry-hop additions, doubled for the flavor addition. I like to split that between 20 and 10 minute doses, rather than a single addition at 15 minutes, because I feel that it gives a smoother and more complex hop flavor, at least in theory. Whether or not the difference is actually detectable, or which technique Bell’s uses, I couldn’t say.

In order to be 100% accurate, you’ll need to culture the yeast from a bottle; any of Bell’s American ales will use their house strain, so Oberon is probably the easiest source. Having brewed with both, though, I’ve found that I actually prefer Wyeast 1272. The differences are subtle, but its slightly fruitier esters seem to prolong the Centennial hop flavor, which is a plus if you won’t be finishing the keg for a couple months. I pitch at the standard 0.75 billion/L-°P, starting at 17°C/63°F, then let the beer rise on its own to 20°C/68°F and hold it there for the remainder of fermentation. Dry-hopping is conducted for 10 days at the same temperature.

I have to dilute my tap water 2:1 with reverse osmosis water to brew a beer this pale, then add gypsum and calcium chloride. The combined effect is to reduce the residual alkalinity to about 20 ppm CaCO3 and brings the pH to a perfect 5.3.

  • Ca2+: 103 ppm
  • Mg2+: 9 ppm
  • Na+: 7 ppm
  • SO42-: 144 ppm
  • Cl: 29 ppm
  • HCO3: 119 ppm

The last time I tasted the two beers side by side (pictured), they were extremely close, but I could still differentiate them, even tasting blind. The clone was a hair too dark, and also a little too malty. For this last revision, I reduced the Munich malt and increased the bittering charge slightly, and the two are now basically indistinguishable. About the only way I can reliably tell the difference is to finish a glass; the homebrew has better lacing.

IPA #18 recipe (PDF)

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