Jul 6 2009

Gumballhead and My Homebrewed Clone Review

So here’s a little side-by-side comparison between Three Floyd’s Gumballhead and my homebrewed cloned version.

Three Floyds Brewing began distributing their beers to Virginia years ago, but then cut us off again after what seemed like less than a year later. I assume that they couldn’t keep up on the production side of things, and I don’t blame them for that. But it was cruel deed when they snatched away their Alpha King from me after it had, in no short order, become my favorite IPA.

Another of the many casualties of the withdrawal was Gumballhead. Gumballhead is an American wheat beer that had been aggressively hopped with Amarillo. American wheat beers had always underwhelmed me, and I think I can write some of that off to a younger palate that was still hoppy-crazy. I only had one bomber of this beer, and it was many years ago, but it was an eye opener and it made me think about that style from a whole other angle.

Fast forward to 2009, spring was rolling into Virginia and that was the time that I usually brewed a nice, refreshing hefewiezen. Since it was a yearly brew, I had tweaked my hefe recipe down to the point where it was a perfect summer brew. I kept the fermentation cool, to keep out the bubblegum flavors, and the balance of cloves and bananas was a teetering wonder.  But a six pack of that sounded great, but I wasn’t in the mood for 5 gallons this time.

Long story short: Gumballhead was the answer. A cool, wheat beer with the floral and citrus bite of late- and dry-hopping sounded perfect. I did some research on the web and looked at what some other brewers had done. I tweaked a recipe for my system, and I was ready to go. I even had a name for it: Fritz the Cat. Gumballhead is named after an underground comic book character that I had never heard of, but I had to make a small tribute to an artist I knew and loved: R. Crumb.



The added bonus was that a friend of mine rolled back into town from a roadtrip and brought me back a few beers from Michigan and Indiana. One of them was a Gumballhead, and so it seemed like a good idea to compare the two.

Right from the first pour, the carbonation was clearly different. GBH had a thick bubbly head, while my FTC had a thinner, but creamier, head.


Gumballhead Clone close
Fritz the Cat (clone)

Once you get past the bubbles, these two beers are amazing similar looking. Both were deep oranges with straw highlights. My FTC might have been a hint darker, but not in a way that was glaringly obvious. I’m painfully impressed with myself.

Gumballhead Clone -

Aroma: The GBH had a dump truck of grapefruit aroma with a hint of orange in the median. Mine was reversed in that the orange was in front and the grapefruit was in the backseat.  (Yeah, I’ll mix my metaphors.  Wait, do dump trucks have backseats?)

Taste: This is where the two beers clearly separated, but remained similar. The GBH gave me a slight wheat flavor with a hint of cloves. The more it warmed, the more fruity it became as it reclaimed the grapefruit and slid into apricots. My FTC had more wheat character and a bit more bitterness. It had a deeper and thicker mouthfeel, and it rolled to the side of a tangerine sweetness.

The biggest difference between them seemed to be the carbonation. The GBH, as you could tell by the head, was more bubbly and refreshing. Downright sessionable. My was good for a hot summer day, but the density made it more replenishing than refreshing.

Next time? I’d up the carbonation a hair and I’d probably try to mash it at a higher tempature in order to lower the final gravity.  As I mentioned in my note to friends about FTC, but before this tasting, I would not bitter it with amarillo just for the minor cost savings and I’m just not a fan of that hop for bittering.  Also, I’ve been playing around a lot with Golden Promise, and this one might be closer to style with an American 2-row, or lighter base malt.

Is this one clone?  No, but it is a nice, kissing-cousin to the Gumballhead.  My Fritz the Cat is a light and clean brew…..until you put it up against the work of some professional brewers, but I’m happy with it all the same.


The stripped down recipe:

Golden Promise 2-row 48%
Wheat Malt 48%
CaraVienne Malt 4%

0.25 oz Amarillo Pellets (8.0 AA) – First Wort
0.25 oz Amarillo Pellets (8.0 AA) – 60 min
0.50 oz Amarillo Pellets (8.0 AA) – 15 min
0.50 oz Amarillo Pellets (8.0 AA) – 5 min
0.25 oz Amarillo Pellets (8.0 AA) – 0 min
2.00 oz Amarillo Pellets (8.0 AA) – Dry

S.G. – 1.046
F.G. – 1.010

Yeast- Safale-05 fermented at 68°F

Primary – 2 weeks (dry-hopped the last 7 days)