Pliny the Elder Clone

Pliny the Elder is probably one of the most highly regarded and sought-after beers in the US, but I think I’ve only had it once. I remember it being pretty good, but not mind-blowing…but then again, that was awhile ago. Even so, I thought it would be fun to make a clone to fill the “high ABV beers” space for a little while.

The clone recipe is from the Brew Your Own Big Book of Homebrewing, although various versions are fairly readily available elsewhere. I scaled it down to ~3 gallons, because I didn’t really want a massive quantity of something around 8 percent abv.

Pliny the Elder Clone

  • 7.75 lb. 2-row Xtra pale malt (Viking)
  • 4 oz. Carapils malt (Briess)
  • 3 oz. caramel 40L malt (Briess)
  • 9.6 oz. corn sugar (added to boil)
  • 2.55 oz. Magnum hop pellets (10.1% alpha), 90 minute boil
  • 0.3 oz. Chinook whole hops (13.1% alpha), 90 minute boil
  • 0.65 oz. CTZ hop pellets (15.8% alpha), 45 minute boil
  • 0.6 oz. Simcoe hop pellets (12.7% alpha), 30 minute boil
  • 1.35 oz. Centennial hop pellets (8.1% alpha), 15 minute whirlpool
  • 0.6 oz. Simcoe hop pellets (12.7% alpha), 15 minute whirlpool
  • 1 pkg. Safale American ale yeast (US-05)
  • 2 oz. Columbus (Tomahawk) hop pellets (14.2% alpha), dry hop in keg
  • 1 oz. Centennial hop pellets (8.1% alpha), dry hop in keg
  • 1 oz. Simcoe hop pellets (12.7% alpha), dry hop in keg

Target Parameters

  • 1.071 s.g., 1.010 f.g., 8.2% abv, 276 IBU (100+ IBU at best!), 5 SRM
  • Claremont tap water with Campden tablet to remove chloramine
  • Infusion mash at 150° for 60 minutes, with pour-over sparge

Procedure

  • I mashed in with 3.75 gallons of water at 159° and 4 mL of 88% lactic acid, to hit a mash temperature of 150° for 60 minutes, with recirculation after 10 minutes. Then, I heated to 168° and held there for 10 minutes. Then, I removed the grain basket, and sparged slowly with 1.6 gallons of hot water.
  • After the mash, I collected 4.75 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.054, for 79% mash efficiency. Sparging seems to be the ticket for great efficiency in these high gravity small batch mashes.
  • I brought the runnings to a boil, adding hops and finings per the recipe.
  • After a total of 90 minutes on the boil, I chilled down to 70°, transferred to the fermenter, and pitched the yeast.
  • I brewed this beer on 10 April 2021. Starting gravity was 1.072, right about where I wanted it! I fermented at 66°.
  • I kegged the beer on 23 April 2021, and dry hopped with a sack of hops in the keg. There was quite a bit of trub on the bottom of the fermenter!

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • The beer has a rich gold color, with a slight chill haze. It took about two weeks in the keg before it dropped fairly clear. There is a low ivory head that is fine and fairly persistent.
  • Aroma
    • The aroma is hop forward, with an initial citrus and very slight tropical fruit character, and a light caramel malt quality. Fermentation profile is pretty clean.
  • Flavor
    • The flavor is very hop forward, with a high level of bitterness (no surprises). The bitterness has a citrus pith character, with slight grapefruit, and fairly clean. The bitterness is not quite as complex as I might like. The malt character is fairly low, with a slight doughy character.
  • Mouthfeel
    • The beer has a medium body with moderate carbonation, and an extended bitter finish that isn’t overly dry. I feel that the body could be a bit lighter on this one.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • The beer is okay, but the hops feel a bit one-note. This is a surprise, given the quantity of hops involved as well as the dry hop in the keg. I might switch in some more aggressively tropical hops next time, to make this a bit more interesting. I would also mash this at a slightly lower temperature, to dry out the final product a bit. Finally, I would adjust my dry hop strategy–this quantity of hops really generates a lot of detritus, even after sitting for awhile, and I think it would be better served by dry hopping in the fermenter with a careful transfer under CO2.
  • Overall
    • 5/10

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