Cloning Yuengling

It’s been a while, hopefully I haven’t lost my dozen or so followers.  If you’re still around, thanks for bearing with me.  Life has been crazy.

I’m still brewing!  In the near future I’ll be showing off my new electric brewing system but for now, I wanted to talk about an experience I had cloning Yuengling’s classic lager.  The backstory:  My daughter’s boyfriend has a friend, a chef we know at a rather nice restaurant, that loves Yuengling.  Unfortunately it’s not distributed in Colorado so we can’t get it.  The friend, I’ll call him Chef, had some of my beer at a party.  We talked and the subject of Yuengling came up.  Long story short, I said I’d try to clone it.

A few notes on cloning:  You can’t.  I really prefer the term “inspired by” to cloning simply because I can’t reproduce a large brewery’s processes, my equipment is orders of magnitude smaller.  Also there’s the issue of ingredients.  Larger breweries contract for malts and hops, I take what’s available at the local homebrew store.  And another comment on ingredients:  If you’re brewing a lot of beer, you can’t formulate a recipe using “the best ingredients.”  You want the average, the ingredients that will most likely be around from season to season.  We can, because if we can’t get the specific brand or quality of malt, no big deal.  Yuengling can’t get the malt they need for the classic lager, their business suffers.  So when you go to clone a commercial recipe, keep in mind that you might actually be using better ingredients than the original brewer.

Okay, now to the cloning process.  First step, taste it.  Yuengling is dry, minerally, medium-light bready malt (European bread, not Wonder) with some crust-like flavors, balanced between hops and malt with a bit of late hop finish, more Bohemian like than American, meaning herbal-spicy rather than citrus-pine.  Good place to start.  Next is to go and see what Yuengling themselves say about the beer.  Quoting from their website:

Famous for its rich amber color and medium-bodied flavor with roasted caramel malt for a subtle sweetness and a combination of cluster and cascade hops, this true original delivers a well-balanced taste with very distinct character. Born from a historic recipe that was resurrected in 1987, Yuengling Traditional Lager is a true classic.

Not much help, but it did tell me about the hops used.  When I checked, they had some information on the grist that tells me it is primarily two row and Munich, with some Caramunich.  Being a “traditional American lager”, corn must be in it, validated by my taste tests noting a light body and “corny” flavor.  It’s 4.5% ABV, giving me an idea of what the gravity should be, and it’s not very bitter.  So here’s the recipe I came up with:

Amount Fermentable PPG °L Bill %
5.5 lb American – Pale 2-Row 37 1.8 50.3%
3 lb American – Munich – Light 10L 33 10 27.4%
0.75 lb German – CaraMunich II 34 46 6.9%
1.5 lb Flaked Corn 40 0.5 13.7%
3 oz German – Acidulated Malt 27 3.4 1.7%
10.94 lb Total

Amount Variety Type AA Use Time IBU
0.6 oz Cluster Pellet 6.5 Boil 60 min 13.6
0.3 oz Cascade Pellet 7 Boil 20 min 4.43
0.3 oz Cascade Pellet 7 Boil 10 min 2.65
 Show Summary View

Mash Guidelines
Amount Description Type Temp Time
21.6 qt Infusion 150 °F 60 min
Sparge 170 °F 10 min
Starting Mash Thickness: 2 qt/lb

Other Ingredients
Amount Name Type Use Time
2 g Gypsum Water Agt Mash 1 hr.
1.2 g Whirlfloc Water Agt Boil 15 min.

Attenuation (custom):
Optimum Temp:
50 – 55 °F
Fermentation Temp:
53 °F
Pitch Rate:
1.5 (M cells / ml / ° P) 414 B cells required
Yeast Pitch Rate and Starter Calculator

The links are to the recipe on Brewer’s Friend.

So I brewed it.  Fermented at 50 degrees until complete, lagered a month at about 32 degrees, bottle-conditioned, then tried side-by-side with one of the precious cans of Yuengling.  The color was close to spot-on, coppery red with a persistent off-white head.  The flavors were close – the original was drier and much more mineraly than mine, malt was very close, there was some finishing hop flavor in the original that mine did not have, likely a bit of Cascade in the last ten minutes of the boil.
Quite a few of the “clones” I could find on the Web included Crystal malts, mine did not.  Crystal has a sweetness not present in the beer and to me seemed inappropriate.  So I came up with Caramunich instead, and got a pretty close copy.

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