Thursday 20 December 2012

Brewing a Smuttynose Finestkind IPA clone

Smuttynose Brewing Company is probably one of the more well-known craft breweries in New England. Located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, they are the sister company of Portsmouth Brewing, and have been brewing great beers since 1994. They brew several seasonal beers each year, monthly to bi-monthly editions of their "Big Beer" series, and, of course, their regular-release beers, my favorite of which is their Finestkind IPA.

Finestkind has often been described as the East Coast's version of a West Coast IPA. With what West Coast IPAs are now, this may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it's definitely a very tasty beer. Quite piney, with some complementing citrus, and a very firm bitterness in the finish, it still manages to be very drinkable, and is easily an IPA that you could drink in quantity. The Smuttynose website page for Finestkind provides some helpful information to brewing a clone at home: OG and FG, IBUs, as well as the types of malts and hops used. However, there aren't percentages or amounts listed, which are obviously needed if you want to have a good chance at replicating the beer. Luckily for me (and other homebrewers), Mitch Steele's (of Stone Brewing Co.) latest book, "IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes and the Evolution of India Pale Ale", has plenty of additional information to help.

In addition to an extremely thorough history of India Pale Ale, Steele's book has a large recipe-section (probably at least 40 recipes), with information and notes provided by many breweries. Some recipes have more-detailed info than others, and, happily, the Finestkind recipe is one of these. With my Alpine Duet clone completely gone, and my Kern River Citra DIPA clone dwindling fast, attempting this recipe was an easy decision.

The Finestkind grist is quite simple, with the majority being 2-row malt, a small portion listed as "Pale ale malt" in the book (the Smutty website specifically mentions Crisp brand), and a tiny bit (3%) of Crystal 60 L. My personal experience has shown that simple malt bills like this typically make a more-drinkable IPA. What sets this apart from a lot of other IPAs is the high mash temperature: 155 F. However, the FG is still listed as 1.010, which is quite dry (as an IPA should be), so maybe the small proportion of specialty malts isn't enough to provide too many unfermentable sugars. I didn't have any Crisp Pale malt, so I subbed with Maris Otter (both have the same Lovibond rating and are fairly interchangeable).

Now, the important part for any good IPA: the hopping. Like a lot of other recipes in Steele's book, the hops are listed in percentages, specifically here 41.2% Magnum at the start of the boil, 24% Simcoe in 5-minute increments for the last 30 minutes, and 19.9% Centennial and 14.9% Santiam during the whirlpool. This approach makes it a bit tricky when trying to make your own recipe, since you don't know the final weight of all the hops, so you have to play with your brewing software a bit to a) come up with the correct percentages, and b) make sure your final IBUs come in correctly (since AA% will play a role). I did have to sub for the Santiam; Tettnanger and Hallertau are listed online as possible substitutes, so I went with Hallertau since I had it on-hand. Finally, after crash-cooling, the beer is to be dry-hopped with Amarillo for 7-10 days at a rate of 0.13 oz/gallon, or about 3/4 oz for your typical 5 gallon homebrew batch.

Other tips for the recipe include treating your brewing water with gypsum at 2.16 g/gallon (of course, your source water profile could cause varying results), and fermenting the beer with an American Ale yeast at 68 F. I had a packet of US-05 on hand, so used that. Otherwise, that's mostly it. For the recommended whirlpool, I stirred the wort at flameout and whirlpooled for 10 minutes before starting chilling. So, the IBUs will likely be a bit higher than calculated.

I'm a little confused by the listed color of the beer in the book; at 10.6 Lovibond, it seems higher than what the beer actually looks like, and Beersmith figures a color of 6.4 SRM from the recipe. From what I understand, Lovibond and SRM are close to interchangeable, but you normally see Lovibond reserved for malt color, and SRM for beer color. Either way, 6.4 SRM sounds closer to the real thing to me.

Luckily, for this clone, the actual commercial beer isn't impossible for me to find. Houlton, Maine isn't TOO far from here, and has a first-rate beer store (I know... in Houlton!), so I'll try to buy some Finestkind (and hopefully, fresh) to compare.

Recipe targets: (5.5 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.060, FG 1.010, IBU 73, SRM 6.4, ABV 6.6%

4.64 kg (84%) Canadian 2-row
727 g (13%) Maris Otter
159 g (3%) Crystal 60 L

Magnum - 49 g (10.25% AA) @ 60 min
Simcoe - 24 g (11% AA), 4 g each @ 30, 25, 20, 15, 10 and 5 min
Centennial - 21 g @ 0 min (for 10-min whirlpool)
Hallertau - 14 g @ 0 min (for 10-min whirlpool)
Amarillo - 13 g dry-hop for 7-10 days
Centennial - 8 g dry-hop for 7-10 days

1/2 tsp yeast nutrient @ 15 min
1/2 tab Irish moss @ 5 min

Yeast: US-05 Safale (1 package, rehydrated)

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; treated with 16 g gypsum (11 g mash, 5 g sparge)

- Brewed December 17th, 2012, by myself. 60-minute mash with 16 L of strike water, mashed in at 155 F. Mashed out for 10 minutes with 6.5 L of boiling water, resulting temp 168 F. Sparged with ~3.5 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~7 gallons in the kettle.

- SG 1.048 (target 1.049). 60-minute boil. 10-minute whirlpool at flame-out. Chilled to 62 F in about 20 minutes with immersion chiller. Poured and filtered into Better Bottle. OG a touch low at 1.059. Pitched rehydrated yeast at ~62 F, aerated by shaking for several minutes before and after pitching. Placed BB in room with ambient temp set to 68 F.

18/12/12 - Temp was only at 64 F, and airlock activity was low. Turned on a space heater in the room to bump the temp up some.

19/12/12 - Better airlock activity, temp up to 68 F, now. Continued for several days before stopping.

2/1/13 - Racked beer to secondary and placed in fermentation chamber with temp set at 45 F.

6/1/13 - Added dry hops. Realized that I didn't even have 21 g of Amarillo as the recipe calls for, so I made up the difference with Centennial.

15/1/13 - Bottled with 98 g table sugar, aiming for 2.25 vol CO2 for 4.75 gallons, with a max temp of 74 F reached (due to being in warmer environment with Saison). Also added ~1/4 package of Nottingham yeast, rehydrated.

29/1/13 - Some early tasting notes... drinking nice, but the hop aroma/flavor is too subdued compared to the real thing (from what I remember). Maybe an issue with hop freshness?

5/2/13 - Oddly tasting much better now... the hop flavor/aroma is coming through quite well. I definitely see the similarities to Finestkind.


  1. Thanks a mill. for the post! Been thinking of a clone for a while, but didn't see much on line.

    1. No problem! Hope yours turns out if you give it a go. I'm starting to enjoy it more, now that I've been drinking it for a couple of weeks.