Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Tasting : Maine Beer Co. MO clone

I've probably said this before, but it's often the case that the homebrews you look forward to the most are the ones that let you down. Of course this is inevitable with homebrewing as much as it is with everything else in life - the more you want something to be great, the more you over-analyze it and stress over the shortfalls. I've had a few homebrews where the beer actually came out as good (or even better) than I wanted it to, but usually it's the opposite.

And with this beer, my clone attempt of the fantastic Maine Beer Company MO (an APA), unfortunately it came out below my expectations. I should say right now that this doesn't mean it's a BAD beer... not at all, actually. If I had an APA that looked, smelled and tasted like this, and didn't know what I was drinking, I'd really enjoy it. But MO is just so over-the-top delicious that, unsurprisingly, my clone attempt disappoints me. But hey, I'm not a professional, right?

There's a good amount of hop aroma and flavor to the beer, and it's quite fruity and tropical. I loved the smell of the Falconer's Flight hops when I opened the package, and it seems to have carried over well into the beer. What surprises me is that I was really expecting a HUGE hop punch... with 6 oz combined of Falconer's Flight and Simcoe at flameout, and then two dry-hop additions of 2.5 oz each time... maybe there IS a limit to what late-addition hops can offer . IS there a ceiling-effect?

Or, was my method flawed? The recipe certainly isn't saturated with specialty grains. With only ~7% of the grist being Crystal malt (half of that Carapils), I'm also surprised at an odd caramel-flavor in the beer. Fermentation was fast and clean, and I've never had issues with US-05 in the past. It's supposed to be a clean, neutral yeast, and that's always been my experience with it.

As an extra disappointment, this was my very first kegged beer, so I was REALLY hoping for a huge hop punch, what with all the CO2 blanketing and such! For my next hoppy beer, I'll definitely try keg-hopping. With this beer, I transferred to a secondary carboy, because I hadn't yet received my kegging system; maybe the transferring actually caused some early oxidation of the hops?

Ok, enough speculating. The beer is very good, if you want to try the recipe. Do what you can to avoid oxygen exposure after fermentation has begun. Make sure your hops are as fresh and well-stored as possible... the usual stuff. And let me know how it turns out for you.

Note: I should mention that a friend who lives in Freeport, ME was nice enough to mail me two bottles of MO. I had full intentions of doing a side-by-side of the two beers, but both bottles of MO were 5 weeks old, and were not a good representation of what MO should taste like. Ironically, they had a huge caramel sweetness to them; kind of oxidized, too. Too old, or maybe something to do with shipping issues? Either way, it wouldn't have been fair to compare the two, so I decided against it.

Appearance: Pours with a thick, moderate-large white head that has excellent retention. Finally fades to 1/2-finger. Body is a burnished gold color, with fairly good clarity (some haze).

Aroma: A strong tropical fruit hop character, mixed with a bit of pine and a larger-than-expected caramel presence.

Taste: As the aroma... lots of hops, but the caramel/sweetness part of it doesn’t seem to really fit. Not really sure where that’s coming from; their certainly isn’t a large amount of Crystal in the recipe. Finishes with a very firm, moderate-high bitterness; quite dry.

Mouthfeel: Medium-low carbonation, medium-bodied.

Overall: A pretty good APA... but definitely no MO when it's at its freshest. With the large amounts of hops added, I’m surprised the beer isn’t hoppier, and the caramelish part of it throws me off every time. Needs work if it wants to approach the real thing.


  1. Hoppy beers, man... always chasing perfection down the rabbit hole! I know the feeling.

    I'm curious to see if you think dry-hopping under CO2 in a keg starts to make a difference. My attempt is promising so far, and I used up a lot of old hops for it that I felt comfortable getting rid of even if I totally botched my first kegging attempt. But I might feel differently in another week or so, when it's not ludicrously fresh.

  2. I think you might be onto something with the oxidation theory. I've suspected it in one of my double IPA's. That beer in particular should have been bone dry, but had a caramely sweetness to that was totally unexpected. Since using a keg as a secondary to dry hop in, I've never had the issue again. I'm also getting much better aroma on my hoppy beers.

    I actually got the idea from following the Bertus blog, which also has some great brewing info (i see you are aware of his site too)

    Anyway, thanks for taking the time to put out some great info and recipes. I plan to try this recipe as well as your Duet clone soon, so I'll let you know how they go.

    one more thing....are any other brewing blogs that you've found to be particularly good? I'm already a big fan of Bertus and the Mad Fermentationist.


    1. Yes, I'm quite convinced now it's two things: minor oxidation, and over-expectations on my part. I've had two beer people try it, and they both loved it... and said that it definitely reminded them of the real MO.

      I have a few other homebrewing blogs listed on the main page ("Beer-related blogs I read) that are really good; I encourage you to check all of them out.

      Keep me updated on your results for this beer!

  3. Shawn,
    Just brewed up a small batch of this recipe on Monday night. It smelled great...and I can't wait to try it. Thanks for the recipe and your blog is great!

    1. Thanks for the kind words, glad you enjoy the blog! Let me know how the beer turns out for you!