A local spoogebeerian recently sidled up to me and asked if I'd been to Brew Wharf lately. Brew Wharf is/was a joint venture beer-themed restaurant near Vinopolis in Borough which opened in 2005 with its own 5-barrel plant inside the premises.
I hadn't, though I was aware that the brewing plant, which had suffered several false dawns since test brewing commenced in the Autumn of 2005, was now turning out some drinkable and well-regarded beers. The spoogebeerian told me that the current brewer, Phil Lowry, had brewed a clone of RRBC's Blind Pig IPA.
I chewed this over. Cloning of craft beer isn't unusual. The large number of homebrewing clubs in the USA are a vast repository of recipes belonging to commercial brewers, which they use to attempt their own versions. However, I believe it's rare for anybody to commercially brew clones. In the end I didn't make the trip, but Matt Wickham from the Evening Star did, pronouncing the beer as very good, and he would know since he spends a week a year drinking the real thing locally around SF and Sonoma County.
For me, I'm curious and a bit split down the middle. Not too many drinkers here would know Blind Pig, so they'll be judging Brew Wharf's on its own merits. But, is it right to use another commercial brewer's recipe in this way? The name of the beer, Hopfather, is also, I believe the name of a different RRBC beer. I'm pleased that somebody is at last making a go of the Brew Wharf plant. I can remember when they were test-brewing and sold (bloody SOLD!) some very sub-par batches. But part of me thinks that using the recipe in this way might be encroaching onto thin ice. Or is there no harm when the original Blind Pig isn't available outside the US?