Sam Adams Utopia Clone
July 24, 2006 9:59 AM   Subscribe

Homebrew Filter: I am looking to homebrew a Samuel Adams Utopia clone, but I am having difficulty finding a clone recipe. Do any metafilterites have experience of ideas about how to do this?

I believe i know how to make a beer this high gravity, but I cannot determine the proper type and amount of hops used and I'm wondering about other flavor profiles that I can include in my homebrew. Should I use oak chips to approximate the barrel aging? I know there are several questions here, and any help would be appreciated since there does not seem to be a lot of guidance on a beer of this type at several of the homebrew sites that I visit. I'm brewing 5 gallon batches and I'm looking to use malt extract with steeping grains. Thanks!
posted by battlecj to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Regarding some of the flavor profile, this is from the Samuel Adams website:
"Samuel Adams Utopias was brewed at a very high gravity using a wide variety of malted barley and a touch of maple syrup. It was then fermented and conditioned in a blend of scotch, bourbon, port and cognac casks for up to ten months using a pair of proprietary yeast strains we developed at our Boston Brewery."
posted by ericb at 10:26 AM on July 24, 2006

The high gravity is only the start of your challenge. Your yeast is going to be the toughest part about making this.

Utopias is 25 percent alcohol, a level that is exceptionaly difficult to achieve through fermentation because high alcohol kills yeast. Even experienced brewers typically must experiment with a combination of yeast strains to gradually raise the alcohol level, fermenting and then refermenting the batches. Champagne yeast is often used in high-alcohol brews. (Of course, you could cheat and simply add plain alcohol to your batch.)

Oak chips are not going to match the barrel aging because Utopias was actually aged in used port, bourbon, scotch and cognac barrels, all of which provide distinct flavors to the final product.

I believe you'll also find you must use at least a small portion of smoked malts, which are not widely available (but you can do it yourself with a backyard smoker).

One final note: 5 gallons of this is going to last a VERY long time (it's not like you can pound a Utopias after mowing the lawn). So think very carefully about how you're going to store it for the next 5 years. From my experience, homebrewers often have problems adequately oxygen-proofing their bottles.
posted by sixpack at 10:26 AM on July 24, 2006

I don't know anything about brewing, but this sounds like a fun challenge. Trial and error is probably what it's gonna take, and I would urge you (from my own experiences doing different but similar things) to keep good notes of what you do with each batch.

Soak the oak chips for a while in some of the spirits listed, then maybe dry them before putting them in the brew.
posted by OmieWise at 10:35 AM on July 24, 2006

To formulate a recipe like this, i definitely suggest using an app like Promash (windows) or HomeBrew Formulator (mac os x). They will let you tinker with ingredient amounts to give you approximate values for everything from potential alcohol/gravity to hop bitterness.

I've never had the Utopia, but a quick check reveals that you will need about 30 pounds of liquid extract, or 25 pounds of dry malt extract, to even push you into the 25% range. I've heard about using oak chips to simulate barrel-aging, but have never tried it myself. As far as hops go i suspect you will have to use your own judgement about the flavors in the Utopia.

If you haven't, I suggest picking up John Palmer's How to Brew, Charlie Papazian's New Complete Joy of Homebrewing, and/or Ray Daniel's Designing Great Beers. All of these books have a wealth of info about developing different flavors in homebrew, avoiding common pitfalls when using certain ingredients, and how to plan a recipe for a successful brewday.

Feel free to holler at me off-line (or ask more specific questions in-thread) if you want to know more.
posted by casconed at 10:35 AM on July 24, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks, sixpack. i hadn't considered whether or not my currently bottling set-up would allow for a two year aging of the beer.

I have some of the Utopia at home and I don't plan on having more than a few ounces at a time if I make this beer.

I was planning on using some simcoe hops not only for their bittering and aroma contributions, but also since they seem to add to the smokiness i'd be missing out on by not going through the full-mash process.

As far as the fermenting goes, I am thinking i'll use a couple of different yeast strains. My initial strain will likely perish once the higher alcohol levels have been reached, but I thought that I could do two things after this. Re-pitch using the champagne yeast and also, having reserved a portion of the wort, I could add wort as the sugars are fermented. Hopefully, reserving then later adding the wort, I can avoid some of the stalling the people seem to encounter with extremely thick worts.

I'm now really wondering how to increase the complexity of flavors here. I'm not interested in making a 20 percent alchohol beer that is not enjoyable. Maybe i need to learn more about brewing before attempting something like this. I'm really just trying to challenge myself to I can learn more quickly.
posted by battlecj at 10:45 AM on July 24, 2006

Charlie Papazian's recipe for Sam Adams Triple Bock (18 percent alcohol) in his book, "Microbrewed Adventures" throws some light on your challenge.
Among other things, it uses 20 pounds of light malt extract syrup, 3 pounds of maple syrup, 2 pounds of crystal malt.
The beer is actually made with three separate worts.
It also uses ale yeast, lager yeast "White Laps Super High Gravity ale yeast WLP099," distillers' yeast and Pries de Mouse champagne yeast.
Apparently and gets around the oak-aging problem with 1.5 cups of toasted oak chips which are soaked in the beer for 6 months to a year. During the final months, add 2 cups of bourbon whiskey, port and sherry.
posted by sixpack at 10:53 AM on July 24, 2006

Response by poster: OmieWise, you've captured the aim of my task and provided a good idea for the flavoring.

Casconed, thank you for your offer to discuss this. I think I'll start using the Homebrew Formulator since it looks great.

ericb, thanks to you too, I've read that on their site and have been hoping that they eventually just post the recipe, but I feel I could be waiting a long time. Anyway, the trial and error with making beers it a lot of the fun unless I just make something that is undrinkable.
posted by battlecj at 10:55 AM on July 24, 2006

I'd suggest a smaller batch. You can put together a mini-carboy from one of those large, cheap wine jugs you see at the liquor store. Use that to tune your recipe, then build up to the 5 gallon level.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:10 AM on July 24, 2006

Thanks for the thread battlecj. I may have to do some experimenting on some high gravity brews next season myself. No fair bringing this up now though when it's four or five months before I can start brewing again and I've only got three pints left from last winter's batch.
posted by octothorpe at 11:15 AM on July 24, 2006

You're on the right track with cascading yeast strains, pitching one after the other, but you should probably not use champagne yeast as it's known for contributing lots of icky fusels and other weird flavors.

I would suggest starting the yeast on a 1.040-ish wort, and then pouring in tons and tons of sugar every day or 2 as the ferment continues. Pitch a high-tolerance yeast after you figure you're at about 7-8% abv. I've heard good things about WLP007 getting up into the 15+% range, but not 25%.

Also, be sure to control your fermentation temperature as this will be quite a vigorous fermentation and could go nuts with esters and fusel oils if you're not extremely careful.

As to exactly what goes into Utopias, I haven't the foggiest. I'm guessing you'll want to stick primarily to base-malt type flavors with boatloads of strongly flavored American hops, but that's going under the assumption that it's a turbo barleywine and I'm not sure that's exactly correct. If you have any more questions I would also be glad to hack it out with you via email; I can provide more links later when I'm not at work. If I forget to post them, feel free to bug me.
posted by rkent at 11:37 AM on July 24, 2006

More info on Utopias from the Samuel Adams website:
Malt Type and Varieties: Two Row Pale, Caramel 60, Munich, 2 Row Moravian, Bavarian smoked malt

Hop Varieties: Spalt-Spalter, Tettnag, Hallertauer, Hallertau Mittlefruh, Czech Saaz

Yeast Strain: Two special proprietary yeast strains
have been hoping that they eventually just post the recipe, but I feel I could be waiting a long time

Have you considered sending a letter to Boston Beer Company Founder Bill Koch (75 Arlington Street, 5th Floor, Boston, MA 02116) to see if he/they would share the recipe for your homebrew use?

BTW -- Boston Beer/Samuel Adams is currently hosting their 2006 Longshot Homebrew Contest.
posted by ericb at 12:18 PM on July 24, 2006

posted by ericb at 12:19 PM on July 24, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone for their input. There are some really great ideas that I am going to try to incorporate into my recipe and brewing for this clone.
posted by battlecj at 1:34 PM on July 24, 2006

Good catch ericb. Looks like my instinct ("turbo barleywine") was close but wrong in some key ways. If you go looking to fill this grain bill, here are some tips:

* "two row pale" and "moravian" are both just "regular" for your purposes, and since you said you are interested in making an extract version, both can be replaced with extract.
* Keep the Caramel 60 under about 2 pounds. although this is a huge beer, so who really knows.
* Bavarian smoked malt is also sold as Rauchmalt in many homebrew stores; for a normal beer I would recommend like 4 oz but in your case maybe as much as a pound would be appropriate. Don't go nuts though.

As to the hops, looks like I was way off. All 4 of those should be readily available at any homebrew store so that's nice.
posted by rkent at 8:35 PM on July 24, 2006

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