Wednesday 8 January 2014

Brewing a Maine Beer Company MO clone (No. 4 in the Maine Beer Clone series)

While I've been brewing clone recipes left, right and center the last year, it's been quite a while (about 8 months) since I last brewed one for my Maine Beer Clone series. It's not that I ran out of ideas of beers from Maine to try to clone; on the contrary, it seems that every time I go back to Portland, I discover a new Maine beer/brewery that really impresses me. That being said, now that I'm taking the time to brew another entry in the series, I just can't help but attempt another beer from my favorite Maine brewery, Maine Beer Company.

Back in May, I brewed my first beer from MBC, a clone attempt of Zoe, their excellent hoppy American Amber Ale. I put together the recipe based on notes from their website, tasting experience on my part, and some help from brewer/owner Dan Kleban. I was very happy with how the beer came out; it's still up there with some of the best beers I've brewed. I've always been a big fan of Zoe, but now that MBC has a larger selection of beers, it takes a back seat to a couple of their other products.

I'd have to say my all-time-favorite beer from MBC is MO, an American Pale Ale that comes in at 6% ABV. I'd even go so far as to say it may be my current favorite APA of all the ones I've tried so far. If you think their Peeper is a fresh, hoppy beer, you'll be blown away by MO - it's a super-hoppy, delicious beer that you could drink pint after pint. Here's the more-eloquent description by the brewery:

"Flavors and aromas of zesty citrus, passionfruit, and pine present themselves throughout. A very subtle malt sweetness for balance, but this is intended to finish dry." 
Photo courtesy of
I've wanted to try to brew something along the lines of MO for awhile now. When I looked at the ingredients for the beer (MBC lists these for each of their beers on their website), the grist looked completely doable; it consists of "American 2-row, Carapils, Caramel 40 L, and Red Wheat". However, when I looked at the hops, one of them stood out as unrecognizable to me - the hops listed are Warrior, Falconer's Flight, and Simcoe. Any guess as to which one I didn't recognize?

Looking into it a little more, Falconer's Flight has only been around commercially for a few years. Developed by Hopunion, FF is a high-alpha acid aroma hop described as having an aroma of "distinct tropical, floral, lemon and grapefruit characteristics". Apparently it's actually a blend of hops from the Pacific Northwest, including experimental hops. Does this mean that what you buy as FF hops will differ from year to year? Not sure, but it sounds interesting, if a little inconsistent. Either way, I know they work fantastic in MO, and I finally bought a half pound of them, specifically for use in brewing this beer.

Ok, so, finally time to approach how to put the recipe together for this beer. As with the Zoe clone, I took the ingredients that I knew were in the beer, and plugged them into my brewing software (Beersmith), playing around with the percentages and such until it "looked right". In this case, my main concern was the hopping... obviously, Warrior was most-likely to be used for bittering. I knew that it probably wasn't a large amount at that; I've seen a homebrew Peeper recipe from Dan Kleban that is extremely detailed, and he said then that half the IBUs for that beer were from the flameout addition. I assume this would apply to MO, and maybe even more so. The IBUs for MO aren't listed on the MBC website, but with a 6% beer that isn't painfully bitter to me, I assumed about 60. Therefore, I initially went with a small addition of Magnum at the beginning of the boil, to about 30 IBUs.

As for the aroma and flavor hops, I knew they were FF and Simcoe, but how much of each? Equal amounts? Or is it more FF, or more Simcoe? For the Simcoe, Centennial and CTZ of Zoe, I went with equal amounts, but I really wasn't sure this time if it would work as well for a MO clone. So, I ASSUMED equal amounts for the recipe, going with a flavor addition at 10 and 5 minutes, and then a big flameout and dry-hop addition.

I then took this recipe and emailed Dan Kleban again, as I did for the Zoe clone. This is what I told him I'd probably be going with:

"~88% 2-row, 5% wheat malt, 3.5% each Carapils and Crystal 40 L. Mash in the high 140s. 60-minute boil, Warrior at the beginning to about 30 IBUs, then equal amounts Falconer's Flight and Simcoe at 10 and 5 minutes to bring the IBUs to a total of ~60. Lots of equal amounts of FF and Simcoe at flameout for a hop-steep, then lots in the dry-hop (maybe even a 2-stage DH). Ferment with a neutral American strain at ~68 F. Not sure if you use equal amounts of FF and Simcoe, or if one is higher than the other...?"

I waited for a few weeks for a response, and then shamelessly emailed him again, swearing to myself I wouldn't bug the poor man; if he didn't reply, I'd just go with it as-is. He did respond, however, with the following:

"Hey, Shawn - Grain looks good.  I would stick to equal amounts FF and Sim. Also, way less IBU from Warrior and more from late hop additions (don’t forget, you get isomerization at whirlpool too)."

The obligatory hop photo shoot
As with the Zoe clone, basically very few changes to make. From his advice, I decided to decrease the 60-minute hop addition in half to ~15 IBUs (I also had to sub Magnum for Warrior based on what I had on-hand). I also dropped the 5-minute addition and bumped the flameout hops even more. The calculated IBUs come to 43, but with the large flameout addition, it should be closer to my target of ~60. In the end, I'll be using 13 oz of flavor/aroma hops in this beer... quite a lot for an APA. But, I know that Peeper calls for a lot of hops, and MO is definitely hoppier than Peeper, so I don't think I'm overdoing it.

A word about the grist for this recipe. I aimed for an OG of 1.057, even though MBC lists their OG for MO at 1.051. I discussed this in the post for the Zoe clone; MBC obviously has crazy-high attenuation to be able to get a 6% ABV beer with an OG of 1.051... that would put their FG at about 1.005. That ain't gonna happen for me, even with using US-05 Safale for my yeast, and mashing low (about 148 F). I'd be happy seeing a beer of this size finishing at about 1.010-1.011, so 1.057 would put me in the range of 6% ABV. Your system may be different than mine, so adjust accordingly. I also added a bit of acid malt to drop the mash pH, as I've been doing lately for pale beers.

I unfortunately don't have any plans to be in Portland in the near future, but I'm hoping I'll somehow be able to get a bottle of fresh MO to compare to this beer when it's ALSO fresh.  

Recipe targets: (5.5 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.057, FG ~1.011, IBU ~43 (calculated), SRM 6, ABV ~6%

4.54 kg (86.1%) Canadian 2-row

254 g (4.8%) Wheat malt
191 g (3.6%) Carapils
191 g (3.6%) Crystal 40 L
100 g (1.9%) Acid malt

Magnum - 11 g (10.8% AA) @ 60 min

Falconer's Flight - 28 g (10% AA) @ 10 min
Simcoe - 28 g (12% AA) @ 10 min
FF, Simcoe - 42 g each @ flameout, 20-minute hop steep
FF, Simcoe - 42 g each when started chiller
FF, Simcoe - 35 g each dry-hop for 4 days
FF, Simcoe - 35 g each dry-hop for 3 more days

Misc.: 1/2 tab Irish moss @ 5 min

Yeast: US-05, 1 package, re-hydrated

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 7 g Gypsum added to the mash

- Brewed on January 7th, 2014, by myself. 60-minute mash with 17.5 L of strike water, mashed in at target temp of 148 F. Sparged with ~4.75 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~6.75 gallons.

- SG 1.045, a bit below target of 1.047. 60-minute boil. Final volume 5.5 gallons. Chilled down to 62 F, then poured/filtered (lots of hop sludge) into Better Bottle. OG low at 1.055. Aerated with 75 seconds of pure O2, pitched rehydrated yeast. Placed BB in laundry room, ambient temp about 68 F.

- 8/1/14 - 11/1/14 - Lots of activity over the first few days, temp rising from 64 F to 70 F over 4 days. By the 11th, activity had pretty much stopped in the airlock.

- 13/1/14 - Gravity reading of 1.010.

- 19/1/14 - Racked to secondary, added first dry-hops.

- 22/1/14 - Second dry-hop addition.

- 26/1/14 - After cold-crashing in beer-freezer for one day, bottled about 1 gallon with 25 g table sugar, aiming for 2.5 vol CO2 with max temp of 70 F reached. Racked the rest into a keg, purged with CO2, and set at 14 PSI (set in cellar, temp 46 F).

- 25/2/14 - Tasting notes... despite being a very tasty APA, the beer isn't near as hoppy or tasty as the real thing. Dang.


  1. when you steep hops post boil, is there a reason? I typically get my immersion chiller in at about 15 min left int he boil to sanitize, and I start the cold water flow almost immediately after moving the kettle off the burner. I don't whirlpool, so when I see whirlpool hops in a recipe/process, I typically move those hops in to the last 5-10 minutes of the boil. Just curious if you're steeping to mimic the whirlpool addition and if you find that a better method than in the boil.

    1. Yeah, I've seen other brewers do the same thing (including Jamil back when he was doing the Can You Brew It? podcast); seems like a good way to mimic a whirlpool addition to me.

      However, I think of a hop steep as a bit different... specifically trying to let the hops steep in hot wort when the boil is complete, to still extract SOME bitterness, but to hopefully keep more aroma and flavor components in the wort. While a 5 or 10-minute addition would of course still contribute some flavor and aroma, my understanding is that a hop steep contributes even more. Maybe that depends on your system, though. Guess the best way to find out would be to brew two identical recipes, but stagger the final hop additions to compare.

  2. You should be able to get some MO from The Thirsty Dawg in Houlton. Can't say as how fresh it would be, but he usually has it, as well as a few other varieties from MBC, as well as many other to choose from.

    1. Yep, I've been there before. Great selection... although the dating on their hoppy beers can often be pretty frustrating.

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