Thursday, November 17, 2011

Autumn Maple Clone(s) Tasting

From left to right, '09 Clone, '09 Bruery's Autumn Maple, and '10 Clone
Although I brewed my first attempt at an Autumn Maple clone over 2 years ago and my 2nd attempt about 1 year ago, in all that time never once did I taste either side by side with the real thing.  I also never compared my two versions to one another at the same time.  It’s crazy to think that I allowed that much time to pass without conducting the tasing, but after realizing this, I decided it was time to put them to the test. 

Last week I hosted our monthly homebrew club meeting and it ended up being the perfect opportunity to present the three-way comparison.  Since only a few of the members had previously tasted my versions and not everyone had had the chance to try the Bruery’s Autumn Maple, I thought it would be fun to make it a blind tasting.  Since my first batch was nearly 2 years old, I was afraid to open up a fresh commercial bottle of Autumn Maple in fear that the alcohol and spicing intensities might be different.  Luckily enough, I happened to have a bottle from '09 that I squirreled away in my cellar that was perfect for the occasion.

Appearance:  Even though I poured the glasses and knew which beer was in which glass, it was clear to see which one was not like the others.  The Bruery’s beer showed significantly more carbonation, which resulted in a small layer of foam that lingered around the edge of the glass long after all the others had faded.  The two versions that I brewed were crystal clear with a slightly more orange hue than the commercial beer.  What really surprised me though was that my two clones were practically identical looking even though I used nearly twice the amount of yams in my '10 clone.  I'm not sure whether it was due to them bottle conditioning their beer or not, but the commercial version was slightly cloudy (mine were force carbed and bottled with a counter-pressure filler).

Aroma:  The differences here were very subtle.  I’d say my original clone attempt (’09) smelled nearly identical to the Bruery’s ’09, but my ’10 clone maybe had a bit of a milder spice composition. 

Taste:  I was extremely surprised at how similar the flavors were between my ’09 clone and the Bruery’s ’09 Autumn Maple.  Comparing the two, the spices in the Bruery’s version might have been a little more round with maybe a touch more molasses cookie flavor, but if so, the differences were extremely subtle.  With the '10 clone, the spices seemed even a bit more subdued and more importantly, it had this very nice warm, caramelliness/toffeeness to it.  Maybe it's due to the lower alcohol than in my first clone or maybe it's from the addition of yams in the boil, but regardless, the flavors in this beer seemed to blend together in a smoother manor than all the others and for me it was the most enjoyable to drink.

Mouthfeel:  Although the Bruery’s beer showed more signs of carbonation, I’m not sure if I really felt a difference in my mouth.  One member of our group mentioned that they thought the Bruery’s version had a slightly fuller mouthfeel maybe from less attenuation. 

From left to right, '10 Clone, '09 Bruery Autumn Maple, and '09 Clone
Overall:  Overall I was shocked at how close my two beers came to the original.  When you have them all in front of you and you're trying to determine ways in which they differ, yes, you can find minor variations.  However, between the '09 clone and the '09 commercial version, those differences were so subtle that I would be willing to bet that if I were to hand someone familiar with Autuman Maple my own ’09 clone and tell them that it was the Bruery’s beer, they'd never even suspect that it was anything but the original (aside from the clarity).  The same thing might happen with the ’10 clone, but because it had the nice rounder spice and toffee note, I wouldn't feel as confident. 

Since the above notes are more of a comparison between the beers and not actual descriptions of their components, you can see what some BJCP judges wrote about them by clicking here:  ’09 Autumn Maple Clone and ’10 Autumn Maple Clone

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