If you want to compete with, or best an opponent, you need to know what you are up against. Observation can only provide so much information. Ideally you want to obtain - purchase, steal or capture - the machine of your opponent and break it apart. Open it up, get inside, put it back together, operate it, determine its limits. Then make yours BETTER. The aircraft is the Mitsubishi A6M Zero. For eighteen months it dominated the skies over the Pacific in World War II, but in fact the Zeros doom was sealed within 8 months of Pearl Harbor. Captured and exploited, the Akutan Zero enabled the generation of American naval fighters that would sweep one of the most famous and dangerous - not to mention beautiful and graceful - planes in history from the skies.
Such practices were nothing new - it is as old as competition itself. In August of 1812, England was shocked when a Royal Navy frigate lost a ship-to-ship duel for the first time in nearly 30 years.
Within 5 months, two more of England's vaunted frigates had been taken on the high seas. The stark reality had set in that the Royal Navy was facing a superior class of ships in the American "heavy frigates" and they adjusted their operations accordingly.
The Royal Navy would not capture a heavy frigate in time to exploit it before war's end, but they would capture one nonetheless, and implement some of the innovative design elements of these ingenious ships into their own fleet.
I had decided to brew an Australian-style ale for ANZAC Day. As my wife is Australian, April 25th is an important day in our house. As luck would have it, the latest issue of Brew Your Own magazine is almost completely devoted to Australian brewing styles and techniques, recipes included. The most promising is a Cooper's Sparkling Ale clone recipe that I decided to brew. I have scoped the ingredients, everything looks like it can be put in place for brewing.
There were two sticking points, however, and they are related. First, the recipe states the best way to brew it is to use yeast activated and re-pitched from an original bottle. Second, the best way to judge if your clone is true is to actually DRINK some of the beer you want to clone.
Vindication on these points came last week in my usual "haunt" (as far as liquor stores go). Coming upstairs from their basement (and restroom), I popped out near the cooler in the back and lo! Three different Cooper's beers inside! Could they? Do they? YES!!! Sparkling ale! I finally have my capture.
Needless to say, I have been doing a lot of research. The beer itself is beautiful, light bodied, and crisp. It's a highly attenuated beer, with an initial aroma of yeast and bread. A hint of malt on the tongue, followed by an assertive (but not overwhelming) bitterness from the Pride of Ringwood hops, that lingers for a second or two before a clean, dry finish. Some fruitiness (pear). Very refreshing, and it will go down great on a hot day. It is also a "fast" beer. The recipe cited 16 days from brewing to drinking - bottling it for conditioning after less than a week (6 days) in primary to ensure plenty of yeast for conditioning and high carbonation. I've enjoyed it both clear and "mit hefe" and it is fabulous both ways. I cannot wait to brew this at the end of the month, and I plan to use a different technique than I have been using recently - an "Australian" method, as it is called, in BYO.
To be continued...