Isolation Ale Clone

20161119_204044Another winter beer! Thumbing through the November 2016 issue of Brew Your Own, I ran across a clone recipe for Odell Brewing Company’s Isolation Ale. I can’t say I’ve ever sampled the beer myself, but the description of a rich, malty British strong ale (which isn’t a complete alcohol bomb) had me intrigued. This is the perfect brew to balance out my winter line-up!

The recipe I am brewing here is pretty similar to what was in BYO, with a few minor changes to account for my system’s efficiency and the ingredients I have on-hand. I decreased the amount of Maris Otter by a quarter pound, increased the mild malt by a quarter pound, and decreased the Vienna malt by a half pound. Additionally, I opted for an all-Cascade hopping, which better accommodates my hop stash (I really, really don’t need to buy any more hops!). Finally, I swapped out liquid yeast (WLP007) for dry yeast (SafAle S04), because my local shop had just run out of WLP007 on the day I stopped by.

Isolation Ale Clone

  • 4 lbs. Maris Otter pale malt
  • 3 lbs. mild malt – Ashburne (Briess)
  • 2.5 lbs. Vienna malt (Weyermann)
  • 1 lb. Munich malt
  • 0.75 lb. 90°L caramel 6-row malt (Briess)
  • 0.5 lb. 10°L caramel malt (Briess)
  • 0.25 lb. 120°L caramel malt (Briess)
  • 0.25 lb. 45°L crystal light malt (Crisp)
  • 1 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.1% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Cascade whole hops (5.1% alpha), 40 minute boil
  • 1 WhirlFloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 2 pkg. SafAle English Ale dry yeast (S-04)

Target Parameters

  • 152° mash, 60 minutes
  • 1.062 o.g., 1.016 f.g., 6.1% abv, 30 IBU, 15 SRM, 5.5 gallons into the fermenter


  • I mashed in with 4.8 gallons of water at 168.5°, to hit a mash temperature of 153°. I let it sit for 60 minutes (at which point it had declined to around 150°), and added 0.86 gallons of water at 185°. After 10 minutes, I vorlaufed and collected the first runnings. Then, I added another 3.5 gallons of water at 185°, let sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the second runnings.
  • In total, I collected 6.8 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.050, for 75% mash efficiency.
  • During the 60 minute boil, all hop and other ingredients were added per the schedule above.
  • After flame-out, I chilled the wort to 76°, transferred to the fermenter, and pitched the yeast. I will ferment at 67° for the first three days, and then raise the temperature to 70° for the remainder of fermentation.
  • Starting gravity was 1.061. This was a great brew session, in terms of how closely I hit my targets! I consider this well within the margin of error for my measuring equipment. I brewed this up on 19 November 2016.

Honey Fuggle Ale

I recently ran across a fun-looking recipe in BYO (December 2015 issue), for a clone of Firestone Walker’s 805. I was in the mood to make a blonde ale, and particularly in the mood to make a new recipe of blonde ale. With a few minor modifications (US Fuggles instead of Willamette for the hops, and a touch less wheat malt, to use up my stash without having to buy more), I had everything in order.

The original recipe suggested building up from RO water; given the highly mineralized nature of our tap water, that seemed like a good idea. I’ve noticed that many of my lighter-flavored beers come across as a bit “flabby”, and suspect that the water is behind it. So, I bought a bunch of distilled water and some more brewing minerals. For the 3.75 gallons of mash water, I added 7 g of calcium chloride and just under 1/4 tsp. of 10% phosphoric acid. The 4.9 gallons of sparge water were treated with just 1/4 tsp. of 10% phosphoric acid.

I have to say that I really enjoy the honey malt addition in this one–it adds a deliciously sweet and distinct character to the wort. Although it certainly isn’t a malt for all occasions, it’s a nice ingredient to keep in the back of my mind for other batches. I’m intrigued to see how the honey malt plays out in a blonde ale like this one.

I had planned to use my culture of Conan (Yeast Bay’s “East Coast Ale” yeast), but when growing up the culture I noticed the aroma was a bit “off” from the first few generations. It wasn’t awful–just not quite right. So, I made a decision to toss it and go with dry yeast instead. The yeast didn’t really owe me anything–I got three good batches out of it, so that seemed to be plenty fine. I’m not sure if it was a contamination issue, or if the yeast had just drifted genetically.


Grains ready for the mash tun.

Honey Fuggle Ale

  • 8.25 lbs. 2-row malt (Great Western Malting Co.)
  • 0.75 lbs. honey malt
  • 0.5 lb. white wheat malt
  • 1 oz. US Fuggle hops pellets (4.5% alpha, 3.1% beta), 60 minute boil
  • 1 oz. US Fuggle hops pellets (4.5% alpha, 3.1% beta), 5 minute steep after boil
  • 1 tsp. Irish moss (10 minute boil)
  • 1/4 tsp. yeast nutrient (10 minute boil)
  • 1 pkg. Nottingham dry yeast (Danstar)
  • Brewing water prepared as follows:
    • 3.75 gallons of mash water, with 7 g. calcium chloride and 1/4 tsp. 10% phosphoric acid
    • 4.9 gallons of sparge water, with 1/4 tsp. 10% phosphoric acid

Brewing Targets

  • Mash temperature = 156°
  • Original gravity = 1.045 (actual = 1.048)
  • Color = 5 SRM
  • IBU = 19


  • I mashed in with 3.75 gallons of water at 167.9°, to hit a mash temperature of 157°. The mash was down to 152° after 60 minutes.
  • I collected the first runnings, and then added 4.9 gallons of water at 185°, to bring the mash bed up to right at 170°. I let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the rest of the wort.
  • I collected 7.2 gallons of wort at a gravity of 1.039, for 81% efficiency! Wow! I am not sure if this was the result of my water treatment, or something else, but it was certainly unexpectedly high.
  • I brought the wort to a boil, and added the various ingredients per the schedule in the recipe.
  • After 60 minutes, I added the final dose of hops and chilled the wort down to 80°. After transferring it into my carboy, I let it cool in the fermentation chamber for an hour or two, down to 68°, and then sprinkled the yeast on the wort.
  • The starting gravity was 1.048, and I am fermenting the beer at 68°. This beer was brewed on Saturday, 21 May 2016.

Beer Tasting: Clonal Common

With a little over a month in the keg, it’s time to test out the Clonal Common! The recipe is intended as a clone of Anchor Steam, in the California Common (steam beer) style. For the sake of comparison, we also picked up a 6-pack of commercial Anchor Steam beer.

Clonal Common

  • The Basics
    • Original gravity = 1.049; final gravity = 1.012; abv = 4.8%; estimated IBU = 35
  • Aroma
    • A sharp woody/minty aroma is prominent (I can only assume this is from the Northern Brewer hops), but not overwhelming. I also pick up a caramel malt aroma in the background. Overall, a clean and pleasant aroma.
  • Appearance
    • Very clear, but not quite bright, with a medium-gold color. The off-white head is moderately fine and prominent when poured, and sticks around for awhile.
  • Flavor
    • The flavor is nicely balanced between the hops and malt–both have a light and pleasant touch. The bitterness is there, but not over the top. The malt character is a combination of caramel with a bit of toastiness faintly at the rear. There is a very light apple/pear fruitiness on the finish, which is pretty pleasant.
  • Mouthfeel
    • This is a beer with medium-light body, moderate carbonation, and a medium-dry finish.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • As this beer has matured, it has turned into a very quaffable drink. I wouldn’t say this is my favorite style of all time, but it definitely is a very solid recipe and one that I’ll brew again. There’s not much I’d really change on this.
  • Overall score: 7 / 10


Beer vs. Beer (homebrew on left, commercial version on right)

Anchor Steam

  • The Basics
    • abv = 4.9%; additional data not available
  • Aroma
    • Malty with a caramel-forward note; some fruity esters in the background. No noticeable hops to my nose.
  • Appearance
    • The head is low and moderately-fine, with an off-white color. Head retention is reasonably good. The beer itself is a light amber or medium gold color.
  • Flavor
    • Prominent caramel malt flavor, almost butterscotch-like. The bitterness is subdued and most evident on the finish, rather than being hops-forward. The hops finish is slightly woody.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Medium-light body, with moderately high carbonation. Moderately dry finish.
  • General comments
    • A good beer, and I suppose the epitome of the California Common style, but I like mine a bit better, in terms of its more subdued malt. Both my wife and I agreed that my homebrewed version was more to our tastes. The commercial version was just a little too fruity and cloying.
  • Overall score
    • 6 / 10
Overall Comparisons
The commercial Anchor Steam has a far more prominent caramel aroma and flavor than my homebrew version, which is slightly more prominent in the hops and toastiness of the malt. Anchor Steam itself is slightly more carbonated, too. However, the body, color, and abv match up quite closely. In all, I like my clone quite a bit (and actually prefer it), even if it’s very definitely a different beer from the commercial product. I suspect the differences come down to process and ingredients. This has been a fun exploration of a beer style–I’ll have to try one of these side-by-side comparisons again with another style!

Beer Tasting: Old Speckled Hen Clone

After a month of keg conditioning, it’s time to do a taste test of my Old Speckled Hen clone attempt!

Old Speckled Hen Clone

  • Basics
    • Starting gravity = 1.055; final gravity = 1.011; abv = 5.8%; estimated IBU = 37
  • Appearance
    • The beer is a rich amber color with orangish hints; a modest bit of chill haze. Head is low, creamy and ivory-colored; fairly persistent.
  • Aroma
    • Light caramel notes, with a bit of maltiness at the core.
  • Flavor
    • Lightly malty, with a lingering bitterness on the finish. Very hop-centered. Unfortunately, I think the bitterness overrides the maltiness more than I like. This becomes a better beer as it warms up a bit, though.
  • Mouthfeel
    • In the mouth, the carbonation has an almost creamy effect that is quite nice. The overall body, though, is moderately thin and a bit thinner than I prefer in this type of beer.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • In it current incarnation, probably not. The aroma is delightful, but the bitterness:body ratio is just a too high for my preference. I attribute this primarily to the fairly low mash temperature called for in the recipe, as well as use of the highly attenuative Nottingham yeast strain. If I were to do this again, I would mash higher (maybe 156°), use a different yeast strain (perhaps WLP002), and cut back the bittering addition just a touch. As it is, the current iteration just doesn’t hit the round, malty notes that the original OSH does.
  • Overall rating
    • 4/10
Note (19 July 2015): After a few more weeks in the keg, this is a much better beer. The bitterness has rounded out quite a bit, and more balanced relative to the maltiness. So, I would up it to 6/10; brew again, with modifications to the mash temperature and a longer conditioning time (probably 6 or 7 weeks).

Brewing Update: Old Speckled Hen Clone and Red Oak Ale

Red Oak Ale sample

Tonight I transferred the Old Speckled Hen Clone and the Red Oak Ale (right) out of their respective primary fermenters and into their kegs. Visible fermentation had long since ceased for both.

Old Speckled Hen Clone
This beer had been in the primary fermenter for 10 days, with a reasonably vigorous fermentation. The Nottingham dry ale yeast was a little slow to start relative to the liquid yeasts I’ve been using lately, and didn’t display signs of active fermentation until nearly 24 hours after pitching.

This beer had fermented down to 1.011, and is still a little hazy. I’m expecting that should settle out as the beer chills. The beer has a nice toffee color, and was a little more bitter than I expected. I think it is mainly because I had memories of a much more malt-forward beer; I expect this will come back to the fore as the beer conditions and the yeast continues to drop out. The distinct hops flavor is also probably due to the “spicier” English hops (where I usually have been using American hops in my other beers–I had forgotten how big the difference was!). Starting gravity was 1.055, which works out to 5.8% abv.

The kegged beer (~4.5 gallons) went directly into the keezer, where it is force carbonating under 13.5 psi at 42°.

Red Oak Ale
This beer showed vigorous fermentation within 9 hours of pitching the yeast. I agitated the beer a bit after 3 days (and once or twice more after that), following notes from yeast reviewers that the WLP041 strain tended to slow or stall out if left alone. I figured this was a good idea given the relatively high starting gravity, too (1.070).

The beer had fermented down to 1.015 over the past 18 days, with a gorgeously clear burn umber color (see above picture). This works out to 7.3% abv, one of the “bigger” beers I’ve done in some time. So far, I’m pretty happy with how it is turning out.

Before sealing up the keg, I added a mesh bag with 2 oz. of Willamette hops pellets for dry hopping. They’ll stay in for ~14 days (or maybe even permanently). Tomorrow, I’ll add 2 oz. of French oak chips (medium toast), boiled in water and contained in a mesh sack. Those will stay in for just a week before being pulled. I’m leaving the keg at room temperature for at least the next week.