To Clone: A Sin…?

The idea of cloning a beer dates back to the earliest days of home brewing. I mean, ever since it’s been possible to brew your own beer at home, we have done so at least in part to try to replicate something we tried and liked that someone else brewed. The late Dave Line, a British beer writer of the 1970’s, is the guy I credit with the most influential pioneering work on the subject, simply called “Brewing Beers Like Those You Buy” (1978 Argus Books). Line researched and developed recipes for over 100 different beers from around the world (primarily British, to be honest, but..) and fostered the idea that a home brewer could not only save money by making his or her own at home, but could also make it as well as, if not better than, the big breweries… Dangerous concept!

I began writing for Brew Your Own a few months after the magazine’s inception in 1995. The original editor, Craig Bystrinski, was a college classmate of mine, and I signed on to do the occasional feature article and a monthly column, eventually titled “The Replicator”. Each month I offered a recipe for reproducing a personal or a reader’s favorite beer. The column grew out of an early feature which we called “Clone Your Own”, replete with pictures of Dolly the Sheep… In 1998, Storey Books brought out Mark & Tess Szamatulski’s Clonebrews, and I was asked to do the follow-up, North American Clonebrews, which came out in 2000. I will devote a post some other time to the method I use for cloning a beer, but I wanted to get the history out of the way before launching into the recipe for the beer I brewed yesterday.

My good friend Rick (aka the Webmaster) and his wife Sarah went up to Montreal a few months back and while there hit a brewpub called “Dieu Du Ciel”, “God In Heaven” – a vaguely Belgian inspired place, with a nice variety of beers, cool atmosphere, etc… and they also bottle. Rick tasted and apparently fell in love with one of their beers, and brought a bottle back to me to see if I could help him brew it. The beer was called “Péché Mortel”, “Mortal Sin”, and it was/is delicious. A big Imperial Stout, about 9.5% abv, brewed with coffee. Rich, dark, dangerously smooth, a wow of a beer. So naturally I set out to devise a recipe. I brew all-grain, so my recipe is not extract-based. Rick is gently being nudged in that direction, but still brews mostly with extracts and some steeping grains. I had to work out an equivalent recipe for him. So what follows are two different versions of the same beer. Rick brewed his last week, I brewed mine yesterday, they’ll both be ready about the same time (in June or July?) and we look forward to tracking down a bottle of “the real thing” and opening ours and comparing.

Mortal Sin
5 gallons, all-grain

Ingredients:

  • 12 lbs. Maris Otter 2-row pale malt
  • 1 lb. torrefied wheat
  • 1/2 lb. chocolate malt
  • 1/2 lb. roasted barley
  • 1 lb. dark crystal malt (120°L)
  • 1/2 lb. coarsely ground French roast coffee beans
  • 21.2 IBU’s Northern Brewer hop pellets (2 oz. @10.6% aa)
  • 12.5 IBU’s Galena hop pellets (1 oz. @12.5% aa)
  • 5.1 IBU’s Tettnang hop pellets (1 oz. @5.1% aa)
  • 3 cups Dieu Du Ciel yeast slurry (recultured)
  • 2/3 cup dry malt extract for priming
  • 3 tbsp. dark roast instant coffee

The night before brewing, crush grains. On brew day, heat 18 quarts water to 165°F, mash in grains and coffee, hold 90 minutes @153°F. Heat another 14 quarts to 170°F. Begin runoff, sparge, collecting approximately 26 – 28 quarts of sweet wort.

Bring to a boil and add the Northern Brewer hops. Boil 30 minutes, add the Galena hops. Boil another 25 minutes, add the Tettnang hops. After 5 more minutes (60 total), turn off heat.

Chill the wort to 80 – 85°F, take a hydrometer reading, pour with some splashing into your sanitized primary fermenter. Pitch the yeast slurry, seal up and ferment at 65 – 68°F for 2 weeks or until bubbling in the airlock slows down to once or twice a minute. Rack to secondary and prepare to be patient. Age at 50° – 55°F for 6 weeks or so (check to make sure your airlock doesn’t dry out at any point!). Bottle, priming with the DME and adding the instant coffee at the same time. Bottle condition for at least a month; longer is better.

OG: 1086 – 90
target TG: 1018 – 22
expected abv: 8.5 – 9%
IBU’s: 125 (not really – see note)

Note on hops: the hop utilization factors I use (see earlier post) are calibrated for worts with an OG around 1050. In higher gravity worts like this one, hop utilization diminshes by as much as 20%. This beer probably ends up with more like 100 IBU’s, but it’s a very complicated calculation and not really all that important!

Note on yeast: Hopefully, one of the keys to getting this one “right” is  the yeast. I saved the dregs from the bottle Rick gave me (it is a bottle-conditioned beer), and gradually over a couple weeks fed the yeast and built up a culture big enough to brew with. I brewed a 2-gallon amber ale just to further grow the yeast colony, then put it aside. I will post about yeast-saving and reculturing at a later date… Anyway, I built up enough of a slurry that I could divide it and give Rick some to use, and I also used it yesterday. If you want to brew this beer and can’t get the DDC yeast, you can probably get close enough results with any fruity Belgian ale yeast, or even an Irish yeast, in a pinch.

Extract-based version:
Instead of mashing the 12 lbs. of pale malt, start by steeping 1/2 lb. each malted wheat, cara-pils, chocolate malt and roasted barley, all crushed, and the crushed coffee beans, in 3 gallons of water. Use a mesh bag to hold the grains for easier removal later. Raise the heat gradually to 165 – 170°F, cover, turn off the heat and hold for 30 minutes. Remove the grains and coffee, turn the heat back on. Bring to a boil, and add either 10 lbs. amber dry malt extract or 12.5 lbs. amber malt extract syrup. This is a lot of extract for 3 gallons of water, so be careful to stir it in and not let it stick/burn on the bottom of the kettle. When it comes back to a boil, add the hops as in the all-grain recipe. After the hop and boiling schedule, chill and add to your sanitized primary fermenter along with enough chilled pre-boiled water to make a little over 5 gallons. Mix gently and take a hydrometer reading. At 80 – 85°F, pitch the yeast, seal, ferment and condition as above.

11 Replies to “To Clone: A Sin…?”

  1. I love this brewery and, in particular, the Peche Mortel. Big, but the alcohol heat doesn’t come through the rich roasted coffee flavor. I’m eager to see how this comes out, and also to hear more about growing yeast starters.

  2. Very excited about trying this recipe. We love this beer, but at about $4 for a small bottle at our local specialty beer store we can’t love it that often. I am curious as to your thoughts on the recipe so far? What did it taste like post-boil? Transfering to the secondary? At bottling? Would love some progress reports and any tweaks to the recipe you might think wise. Cheers! Jason

    1. I will definitely keep everyone posted on this – I should be bottling it in the next few days… Then of course it needs to bottle-condition for a little while… We plan to do a side-by-side tasting with the extract-based version Rick brewed and the original… I can tell you that when I racked it to the secondary it tasted right – warming, rich, etc. so I am very optimistic.

  3. Jason did some research and found out (as I probably could have guessed…) that Dieu Du Ciel does not use the same yeast when bottling as they did when fermenting – standard procedure in a lot of breweries, particularly Belgian and Belgian-inspired… So by using the recultured DDC yeast, this clone is slightly off the mark.
    Nevertheless, at this point, 6 weeks in the bottle, it’s not far off the mark – quite nice, a little green perhaps (a big beer like this needs a long aging period), but rich, tasty, warming – waiting for Rick’s to be ready before we make a more formal tasting and comparison to the real PM, but I think it’s very close. I’m please with the roasted barley notes, pleased with the coffee, and overall I think the yeast profile is very similar.
    Jason suggested he might try to brew this himself, using an Abbey yeast (he’s chosen Wyeast 1762, of which I approve); I could see it being done with an Irish ale yeast as well…
    It will probably be late June or early July when we have more substantial results and comments, but so far the prognosis is excellent.

    1. Still evolving, Don – every time I try one (about every ten – twelve days) it’s a slightly different beer. I got a chance to sip the real thing again last week (Thanks, Rick!) – much more coffee in it than I remember. Mine is good, the original is still better…

  4. I FINALLY bottled my extract clone the last week of October 2010. I tried one 3 weeks after bottling; while it is still very sweet it is delicious. I am going to wait a few months before trying another, and eventually will invite The Guru to taste mine, his and an original Péché Mortel I have in the beer fridge. Thanks for the recipe, and all the help!

    1. ANY yeast will work, of course, the London Ale yeast will just give it a slightly different spin… that is a nice yeast for malty dark beers, so it’s probably a good choice.

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