Monday, December 27, 2010

Pliny the Younger Clone Recipe

I first sampled Russian River's Pliny the Younger at a BeerAdvocate American Beer Fest about five years ago.  I've had samples of it a couple more times since that night, mostly from growlers, but that first sip left an indelible stamp on my tongue.  The hop flavor was dominant, with complex citrus and fresh pine, while the beer was still remarkably smooth and easy to drink.  Over the last few years I've made a handful of attempts at replicating PtY using information gleaned from talks, articles, and emails from Vinnie; the beers were good, but not quite there.

Adding the first of two HopShots to the boil.After I finally bought a kegging system last year, my hoppy beers got considerably better.  I credit a couple techniques that kegs allow me to do for this improvement.  The ability to flush the keg with CO2, which reduces oxidation preserving a fresher hop character.  Keg hopping, which allows the beer to remain in contact with the dry hops until second before serving.  Force carbonation, which enables quicker, more reliable carbonation of strong beers.  With the kegs (not to mention the moratorium on Younger growler sales this year) I thought it was time to give a clone another shot.

I've learned to anticipate 20% lower efficiency when brewing a big IPA as a result of the huge amount of wort lost to the hops.  I used half a sack of Great Western 2-row (paler than their pale malt) along with a small amount of carapils (for added body).  I mashed just under 150 to ensure the targeted 85% attenuation of the original.  The high attenuation keeps this beer firmly in the DIPA category where a sweeter beer would come across as an American barleywine.

The other big change I made was switching to hop extract for part of the bittering addition.  Extract adds IBUs without contributing vegetal matter to the kettle, which steals wort and can give grassy flavors at high levels.  I was originally planning to derive all the bitterness form extract (20 ml), but right before brewing I realized that the two Northern Brewer HopShots I purchased were 5 ml each not 10 ml; I decided to add 2 oz of Columbus to augment the bitterness from the extract.

Small bowl of bittering hops, big pot of flameout hops.For hop aromatics I added a total of 9 oz of Amarillo/Centennial/Simcoe at the end of the boil (with 3 oz of the blend at flameout, at the start of chilling, and three minutes into chilling).  I stirred the wort continually as it cooled to speed up the cooling process, reducing the amount of hop aromatics driven off.  I've had the best luck using pellets for late additions since they contribute their flavor quicker than whole hops, and don't suck up quite as much wort.

With the wort cooled I pitched a decanted starter of White Labs 001, the same strain Vinnie uses for his hoppy beers.  He has suggested not pitching "too much" yeast as the cells will strip out some of the bitterness from the beer.  Not knowing exactly what this meant and not wanting to stress the yeast, I made a 2.5 qrt starter, a bit short of the 4 qrt starter that yeast pitching calculators suggest for a beer this gravity.  Luckily fermentation started after 12 hours, and was going strong after 24.  My basement is in the high 50s this time of year, perfect for keeping the strong fermentation just below 70 degrees. 

To help boost the attenuation, Pliny the Younger includes some easily fermented refined sugar.  I could have added this to the kettle, but I wanted to cut the yeast a break and give them time to reduce the gravity of the wort significantly before adding the cane/corn sugars.  Too much osmotic pressure from concentrated sugars can put a lot of stress on yeast (enough sugar can exert so much pressure that it make a liquid shelf-stable, as in the cases of honey and maple syrup).

The original dry hops schedule (at the bottom of the post) calls for four separate dry hop additions.  That sounds like too much time/effort/risk for me, so I simplified to one dry hop addition and one keg hop.  The same amount/timing worked well on the great Double IPA I brewed last winter, so it seems like a good idea for this one.

Hoping to have a party when this one is ready since this is a beer best consumed quickly (and for safety reasons not all by me).

Even after straining you can see the hops in the chilled wort.
Pliny the Younger Clone

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 5.25
Total Grain (Lbs): 27.19
Anticipated OG: 1.094
Anticipated SRM: 6.6
Anticipated IBU: 199.5
Brewhouse Efficiency: 48 % (65% including second runnings).
Wort Boil Time: 95 Minutes

92.0% 25.00 lbs. American 2-row
3.7% 1.00 lbs. Corn Sugar
3.5% 0.94 lbs. CaraPils
0.9% 0.25 lbs. Cane Sugar

10 ml HopShot @ 90 min.
2.00 oz. Columbus (Pellet 13.00% AA) @ 60 min.
4.00 oz. Amarillo (Pellet, 6.90% AA) @ 0 min.
3.00 oz. Centennial (Pellet, 8.80% AA) @ 0 min.
2.00 oz. Simcoe (Pellet, 12.20% AA) @ 0 min.

Dry Hops
1.00 oz. Amarillo (Whole, 10.00% AA) 
1.00 oz. Centennial (Whole, 10.50% AA)
1.00 oz. Simcoe (Whole, 14.00% AA)

Keg Hops
1.00 oz. Amarillo (Whole, 10.00% AA)
1.00 oz. Centennial (Whole, 10.50% AA)
1.00 oz. Simcoe (Whole, 14.00% AA)

0.50 Unit Wirlfloc @ 12 min.
0.50 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 12 min.

White Labs WLP001 California Ale

Water Profile
Profile: Pliny the Water

Mash Schedule
Sacc Rest 15 min @ 143
Sacch II 60 min @ 149
Sacch III 5 min @ 156

12/14/10 2.5 qrt starter made, crash chilled to 37 three days later

Brewed 12/19/10

Mash water 4.5 gallons filtered DC plus 3 gallons distilled, 7 g gypsum.

Initial mash temp was a bit low, heated up some water and boosted the temp closer to the 150 I was initially aiming for. 2.5 gallons (inc 1 gallon distilled and 3 g gypsum) added before the wort was run off.

About 1 gallon short on pre-boil wort, so I stole 1 gallon of runnings from the small beer.

Totaled 8 gallons pre boil ~1.065.

3 oz of hops at flameout, waited 5 min before starting the chill, added 3 oz more hops after about a minute, waited 3 minutes added final dose of 3 oz of hops. Cold ground water ~50 F, lots of stirring, cooled quickly.

The mash was capped and I used the second runnings to make an American Bitter.

1.084 post-boil, pre-sugar.

Chilled to ~64, strained, pitched the decanted room-temp starter, and gave 60 seconds of oxygen. Left at ~63 ambient to start fermentation.

Good fermentation after 24 hours, moved to ~59 ambient.

12/21/10 Measured fermentation temp at 68, which is spot on for what Vinnie suggests.

12/22/10 Added the sugars boiled in 1 pint of filtered water for a few minutes to dissolve.  Cane/corn sugar represent 11% of the fermentables by extract.

12/28/10 Down to 1.014, 85% AA, 10.6% ABV.  Right on target.  Krausen already dropped, but I'll give it a few more days to ensure the fermentation is complete before racking.  Nice lingering bitterness, nice aroma, but despite the huge late hop addition the citrus/pine/tropical aroma isn't as powerful as I expected (the dry hops will fix that).

12/31/10  Flushed a sanitized keg twice with CO2, pumped the auto-siphon in the keg, then flushed the keg again.  Racked to ~4.75 gallons of the beer into the keg, then sealed it up and flushed the headspace two more times.  Left at cool room temp for a day or two more before chilling.

1/2/11 Moved the keg to 35 degree fridge to help the yeast flocc out before adding the first dry hop addition.

1/10/11 Moved keg out of the fridge, allowed to warm for a few hours, drained 1 pint of yeast/trub through a tap, added the first addition of dry hops (weighed down by marbles).  Left at room temp ~64 F.  Beer tastes good, firm bitterness, but not nearly enough hop aromatics.

1/26/11 Removed first dry hop addition, added second dose.  Moved to kegerator and hooked up to CO2, vented, and left to carbonate.  Hopefully ready for a sample in two weeks.

3/1/11 About as close as I could expect to get without getting the exact details from Vinnie. Could be slightly drier, and a bit danker, but it has a hugely complex pine/citrus nose and loads of bitterness.  Well worth trying if you have an iron liver or lots of hophead friends.

Actual dry hop schedule per Vinnie.
DH 1 Simcoe, Amarillo, Centennial for one week and remove
DH 2 Amarillo, Centennial for one week and remove
DH 3 Simcoe for one week and remove
DH 4 Simcoe, Amarillo Dry Hop in Keg

I think an ounce of each of the hops at each addition would be about right if you want to go this route.


  1. I'm looking forward to hearing how this one turns out.

    Do you think Vinnie whirlpools his hops? On a bunch of the Can You Brew It? podcasts, many of the brewers of hoppy beers will whirlpool their flame-out hops in hot wort for 30 minutes before chilling (Firestone Walker Union Jack, Epic Pale Ale, Nebraska Pale Ale, Stone Old Guardian) for flavor and aroma. I wouldn't be surprised if Vinnie did the same.

  2. Looks cool Mike, hope it turns out well. I am also thinking along the same lines as Arpit, that as counterintuitive as it may seem, you can get a lot of hop impact from a longer steep at the end of the boil. Any craft brewery is going to have a much longer contact time than a homebrewer, even if the whirlpool is short, just due to the transfer time it takes to chill and transfer the beer to the fermenter.

    I am not taking this to extremes in my homebrewing, but I usually do a 10 minute rest at the end of the boil to set up the plate chiller, and then a 10-15 minute chill/transfer. Most breweries would spend at least 45 minute doing the whirlpool & transfer.

  3. Arpit, this is one of the things I thought about as well. I left the first flame out addition in there for ~5 minutes before chilling to give some of that steeped not boiled character. Part of the problem is that with an immersion chiller I can't replicate the near instant, enclosed chilling of a commercial plate chiller. We'll see, luckily it still has the dry hop to come.

  4. Looking forward to seeing how this comes out. Did a PtE clone back in August that turned out really well. I think I used a whole 5lb cylinder of C02 ;-)

    Actually I think mine was a bit too bitter. Been thinking about using the hop extract myself.

    Besides being really dry, I think over the top dry hopping is what makes this beer. Only time I've had a beer where people have told me that my breathe smells like hops!

  5. Too bitter? Heresy! I'm really excited to see how this one is now that fermentation looks complete. I'm also excited to see if fermentation got the beer as dry as I was aiming for.

    I think I'm low of CO2, hoping it doesn't run out right after kegging. I get it filled up preemptively.

  6. Thanks for the recipe! I'm going to brew this as soon as I can afford all that simcoe :)

  7. Mike, any chance you could post the profile you were aiming for with "Pliny the Water"?

  8. This isn't exactly what I used for this batch (I didn’t write down the final estimates), but it would be a good spot to aim for on a big American IPA. It’s based on the municipal supply for Russian River, with the addition of some gypsum.

    Profile: Pliny the Water
    Calcium(Ca): 90.0 ppm
    Magnesium(Mg): 13.0 ppm
    Sodium(Na): 9.0 ppm
    Sulfate(SO4): 150.0 ppm
    Chloride(Cl): 56.0 ppm
    biCarbonate(HCO3): 26.0 ppm

    The high calcium and low biCarbonate keep the pH of such a pale mash from climbing too high. Sulfate is favored over chloride to help refine/accentuate the hop bitterness. High levels of sodium can clash with that much sulfate so it is held low.

    You certainly don’t have to be that extreme, but some gypsum is a good idea if either your calcium or sulfate levels are low. Having some acid on hand wouldn’t be a bad idea if you had more bicarbonate just in case the mash pH gets too high.

  9. Thanks. I look forward to your tasting notes. It'll be awesome to have a solid PtY homebrew recipe, your legwork on it is appreciated.

  10. I hope it turns out well. I was looking to do a similar brew with the hopshot. You almost had your release day coincide with this year's release of the Younger on Feb 4th. Since they release it over 2 weeks you could almost try it side by side if you were around Santa Rosa, CA.

  11. I like doing a really hoppy beer each year after the new hop harvest is available, just a nice coincidence it lines up with the actual release. Certainly would be fun to try them together, but it would probably just illuminate where my version falls short. I got to taste the last DIPA I brewed next to a growler of Younger, and it actually stood up to it pretty well (so maybe this one would fare better than I think). A friend will be getting some fresh Elder to bring for a side-by-side, should be interesting.

  12. Looks great! Let us know how it turns out!

    I was just up in Santa Rosa for PtY and I have to say it is an amazing beer. I like hops but I hate it when a bushel of them is dumped in without considering the malt balance. RR pulled this balance off perfectly with PtY and inspired me to try to replicate it. Glad I wasn't alone!

  13. I am going to give this a try. I have just one question. What is the sugar addition in fermentor on 12/22 for?

    Thanks for the post

  14. It is really hard to get a really strong IPA that doesn't taste so sweet that it comes across as a barleywine. You can add the sugar at the start, but the really high original gravity puts osmotic pressure on the yeast cells. If you wait it makes the whole thing much easier on the yeast, giving a cleaner/drier beer in the end. Probably not a big deal with a relatively small addition like this if you don't want to add it to the boil. Hope it turns out well!

  15. Brewed this with some slight alterations about two months ago now, and while it is good beer, I was severely under-impressed with how it turned out. We also ended up with a "strawberry fruit roll up" aroma with the piney, citrusy aroma that is so massive in the original taking way more of a back seat than I would have liked. We had lowered the amarillo to two ounces in the aroma steep, and .75 ounces in each dry hop addition while compensating for the loss with more centennial and simcoe in order to avoid that specific aroma and bring out more citrus/pine, but it was still very present. Assuming that the amarillo is causing that aroma (as some of our previous IIPA's would also indicate), do you have any suggestions on what amount of amarillo to use in this recipe? Just got some more simcoe in, and really want to nail this sucker! :-)

    We also had some issues with the hops in the keg, as no matter how many marbles or various pieces of stainless steel we put in the paint strainer bag, 3 oz of whole leaf hops would just not sink! How do you weigh the damn thing down?

    Thank you for all your help, and doing all the background work you've done to piece this beer together. We all appreciate it!

  16. I’m actually surprised that your modification didn’t solve the problem. Maybe it is some other difference in the process that isn’t recipe related, such as late-boil hopping technique. Maybe go to a 30 minute rest for all of the flame-out hops, that should better replicate a commercial whirlpool addition. You can back the Amarillo down as well, maybe 1 oz at flame-out, and .5 oz for the dry hop addition? It isn’t in the original, but I think getting some Columbus in there would really help cut the fruit as well.

    Hope that helps, good luck!

  17. We did a 30 minute stand for the 9 ounces of flameout hops we used, but have heard that it is optimal to get the wort under 185 before adding in order to preserve as much aromatics as possible, so we may try that. Columbus may help as well, add some danker, spicier notes rather than the fruit. Excited to give this one another try!

  18. why not keep 1st & 2nd runnings together and maybe boil a little longer but still end up with a larger volume. Then the amounts lost to all that hopping will bring you back closer to your intended volume. There may be a little more caramelization from the longer boil, but that'll enhance the flavor profile. Just a thought.

  19. Certainly an option, although the five gallons of second runnings I collected were only 1.033. For each gallon of them I’d added I would have had to extend the boil by about 35 minutes to hit my target gravity. Honestly I’d rather have the four gallons of American Bitter than an extra two gallons of DIPA with an extra three hours tacked onto the boil! The last thing I need is more ~11% DIPA on tap!

  20. Given the time that has passed, would say that you'd target a specific temp for the "whirlpool" hops? Or continue on with the schedule you did?

    Also would wonder what it'd be like if the first addition of dry hops was during fermentation, and then the remaining charges of dry hops were post fermentation.

  21. I generally only pre-cool the whirlpool if I'm worried about over-bittering. That wouldn't be possible here! I don't find that I preserve more/better hop aromatics from a cooler whirlpool.