Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Tasting : Maine Beer Co. Zoe clone vs. Zoe

Ok, here we are about 7 weeks after brewing this Maine Beer Co. Zoe clone, and the beer has been bottled about 4 weeks. I was lucky enough to snag a couple of bottles on a recent trip to Portland, ME (straight from the source, at Maine Beer Co.'s new brewery in Freeport), so that I could do a direct comparison. This was done last week, when both the clone and the commercial beer were about 3 weeks bottled. I didn't hit my target FG (which doesn't surprise me; MBC has some crazy attenuation going on, according to their numbers!), so my beer is about 0.4% lower in alcohol than the commercial one.

I started drinking the clone about one week after bottling, and carbonation was already in the right zone. I have to say, I was really impressed with how it came out. I've had Zoe probably 8-10 times now, and without comparing directly, I felt that not only was the clone an excellent hoppy Amber, but it was quite close to the real thing. However, I had one main caveat, based on a couple of Zoes I had drank a few months ago...

At that time, I had two bottles of Zoe. One was only 7 days old, and the other was a month old. The 7-day-old Zoe was very tasty, but it had a fairly-prominent chocolate/rich malt character in both the aroma and flavor that I didn't remember from other Zoes. When I cracked the 1-month-old bottle, oddly enough it struck me as HOPPIER. It's not that it was FRESHER; it was just that the hops were more prominent in the aroma and flavor compared to the younger Zoe. Not sure if this was due to batch variation? Maybe once Zoe ages for a little bit, the hops take over? Not what I would expect in a hoppy beer, but Ambers ARE different from IPAs in that they have a more complicated malt profile, generally.

So, getting on to the actual comparison. I didn't take any official notes, but jotted down the important things. Basically, it was damned close. The two beers looked EXACTLY alike. Held to the light, whatever, there's no way you could tell them apart. Deep red color, very good clarity, moderate-sized white head that held at about 1/2-finger, leaving some nice lacing on the glass. As for the aroma and flavor, they were really close, but the commercial version again had a stronger chocolate presence, which kind of hid the hops a bit. My beer was still slightly sweet and malty, but more in a bready way. The hops come through great - fruity, slightly dank and piney. Very delicious. Mouthfeel for both beers was about very similar: medium-bodied, medium carbonation.

I'd say the beer I brewed is ~95% cloned (I know you can't really measure that in a number!), at least when compared to the Zoe I'm more used to. I wish I had had some on tap at the tasting room at MBC in Freeport, but I stuck with their two Pilot beers (which were amazing, by the way). If you wanted to get this beer closer to the more-malt-forward Zoe, I guess you could increase the Chocolate malt slightly, but I'd be worried the beer would get darker, and maybe more roasty as well.

Regardless, I'm extremely happy with the beer as-is. Attempting to clone a beer is a lot of fun, but in the end, if you get a really delicious beer in the style, it's a good thing, right? I've now found an American Amber recipe that I'll be sure to re-visit in the future!

No comments:

Post a Comment