Beer can commemorate life events and the passage of time…meeting new friends and saying farewell to old. A dear friend and neighbor is off to new opportunities with their family, and it’s definitely a beer-worthy event. He loves Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (SNPA), and we’ve shared a few in his driveway (as well as a few homebrews) over the years. So, I decided to brew something SNPA-inspired…and by coincidence, this year’s “Big Brew Day” recipe is right in that wheelhouse.
The original recipe was in the March/April 2023 issue of Zymurgy, under the name of “Nearly Nirvana Pale Ale.” It’s pretty similar to the Miss’ippi #BIGCASCADE recipe from the September 2013 BYO issue, too! My recipe is a good match for “Nearly Nirvana,” except I lowered the gravity a touch (1.056 vs. 1.060), to more closely match SNPA. This batch is also special in that I used only whole cone Cascade hops from the Farke family farm in South Dakota, all representing the 2022 crop year. I made some minor adjustments in the grist — the original called for Simpsons Crystal Light malt, and I substituted in Briess’s Caramel 40L.
I elected for a quick mash on this one, with just 30 minutes for the main rest of 156°. The goal was to shave a few minutes off of the brew day!
I did something a little different for the tasting, in doing a head-to-head with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Although my beer isn’t precisely a clone, I thought it would be good to make a comparison nonetheless. The intent was to help me more clearly evaluate my own version, and think about what the ingredients delivered.
Full volume mash, 156° for 30 minutes, 168° mash-out for 10 minutes
Claremont tap water adjusted with lactic acid and mineral additions, to achieve calculated water profile of 142 Ca, 6 Mg, 84 Na, 83 SO4, 120 Cl, 156 HCO3, RA=23 ppm.
I mashed in with 7.75 gallons of water at 163°, to hit a target rest of 156°. I added 5.5 mL of 88% lactic acid to adjust the pH.
I recirculated during the mash, raising it to 168° for a 10 minute mash-out.
After the mash, I removed the grains. In total, the mash yielded 7 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.046, for 70% mash efficiency.
On the way to the boil, I added 2.5 g of gypsum to accentuate the bitterness a bit more.
Once the runnings were boiling, I added hops and kettle finings per the recipe. After 60 minutes, I turned off the heat and chilled to 68° and transferred the wort to the fermenter. I pitched the yeast, and held the fermenter at 67° for the primary fermentation.
I brewed the beer on 18 March 2023. Starting gravity was 1.053.
I kegged the beer using a closed transfer, on 15 April 2023. Final gravity was 1.013, for 5.3% abv.
Just for fun, I tasted the beer on its own and also did a side-by-side with a can of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
The beer is very clear, gold in color, and pours with a white and moderately persistent head.
Versus Sierra Nevada: Mine is slightly lighter in color, with less head and less head retention. The latter might be a result of a pour from draft versus the can? I’m not sure. The SNPA is slightly clearer, but also has what looks like some minor hop particulates at the bottom.
Winner: SNPA, by just a small margin, due to the better head and head retention.
Sweet malt aroma and light caramel, with a light and citrusy hop aroma. The hops definitely have a mandarin quality.
Versus Sierra Nevada: SNPA lacks the light caramel aroma, and doesn’t have as much hop character (at least in the can I poured).
Winner: It’s a draw! I don’t have a preference either way.
Medium level of citrusy mandarin orange and grapefruit, with a light resin quality in the hops. Light caramel in the malt character, medium bitterness, and clean yeast character.
Versus Sierra Nevada: SNPA is slightly more bitter, with more resin/pith character to the hop flavor. It’s definitely hop-dominated, with the malt to the back end, unlike mine.
Winner: Draw! I like aspects of each. They’re just different beers.
Medium carbonation, medium-light body, off-dry and smooth finish.
Versus Sierra Nevada: SNPA has a medium body profile and is slightly dryer on the finish.
Winner: I like SNPA slightly better, for having just a touch more body.
Would I brew this again?
Yes! “Beam Me Up Pale Ale” is by no means a clone (nor is it intended to be), but it’s a tasty and very drinkable beer! The mandarin quality on the hops in my version is super enjoyable. My main adjustments would be to up the bitterness slightly, and perhaps bitter with Chinook or another more resiny hop, using the Cascade for later additions. Or maybe I would leave it the same! It’s not a clone, after all.
It’s the cooler season here in SoCal, so I like a higher strength beer every once in awhile. To that end, I wanted to do an old-school double IPA–something with big malt and piney hop character. So, I returned to the Maharajah Imperial IPA recipe from Craft Beer for the Homebrewer, with my own paleontological spin on it. I made some malt and hop substitutions for what was on-hand, but overall it has the same feel as my previous version. I also added some dextrose to dry out the beer a touch; with the combo of darker malts, I didn’t want it to end up feeling syrupy. I aimed for a batch volume of around 3.5 gallons–firstly, because I don’t want 5 gallons of a beer with this high of alcohol, and secondly because I figured I would lose a bit of volume to the heavy hopping level.
Mahajanga Imperial IPA
11 lb. 2-row malt (Rahr)
6 oz. Special B malt (Dingemans)
4 oz. Aromatic Munich Malt 20L (Briess)
12 oz. dextrose
1.5 oz. Centennial hop pellets (8.1% alpha), 60 minute boil
1 oz. Amarillo hop pellets (10.5% alpha), 30 minute boil
0.5 oz. Amarillo hop pellets (9.5% alpha), 30 minute boil
1 tsp. BruTanB, 10 minute boil
1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
1.75 g yeast nutrient (WLN1000, White Labs), 5 minute boil
1 oz. Centennial hop pellets (8.1% alpha), 5 minute whirlpool
1 oz. Talus hop pellets (6.2% alpha), 5 minute whirlpool
2 pkg. American West Coast Ale yeast BRY-97 (Lallemand)
1 oz. Centennial hop pellets (8.1% alpha), dry hop in keg
1 oz. LUPMAX Chinook hop pellets (17.0% alpha), dry hop in keg
1 oz. Talus hop pellets (6.2% alpha), dry hop in keg
1.083 s.g., 1.011 f.g., 102 IBU, 12 SRM, 9.6% abv
Full volume mash at 149° for 60 minutes, 10 minute mash-out at 168°
Claremont tap water adjusted to hit target of 68 ppm Ca, 7 ppm Mg, 92 ppm Na, 108 ppm sulfate, 110 ppm chloride, 156 ppm bicarbonate
I mashed in with 5.25 gallons of water at 158° and added 5.5 mL of 88% lactic acid, to hit a target rest temperature of 149°. I held it here for 60 minutes, before raising the temperature to 168°.
After the mash, I pulled the grains and sparged with about 0.75 gallons of hot water, to rinse the residual sugars out.
In total, I collected 5 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.060, for 70% mash efficiency. This is good on the one hand, but it meant I had to boil a little harder and longer to get the volume down.
I added 2 g of gypsum to the boil, to hit my water target, and also added the corn sugar at this time.
I boiled for around 75 minutes, adding the hops and finings per the schedule. After the boil, I chilled a few degrees and then added the whirlpool hops, recirculating for 10 minutes during this process.
I chilled the beer the rest of the way, down to around 68°, before transferring to the fermenter and adding the yeast.
Starting gravitry was 1.074, a bit short of my goal; I should have boiled a bit longer, because I had plenty of volume. I brewed this beer on 20 November 2022, and fermented at 68°.
I kegged the beer on 10 December 2022, with a final gravity of 1.012 and 8.3% abv. I’m pretty happy with that! I bagged the hops and added them to the keg. It didn’t take long for the beer to drop clear at serving temperatures!
Gorgeous! This is a beautifully clear beer–one of the quickest and best I’ve gotten for an IPA–that pours with a tall, persistent, fine, and off-white head.
Pine and resiny hop aroma, with a hint of deep caramelly malt behind that. There is a very slight bit of alcohol apparent when warmed.
High level of piney hop bitterness at the front, with a bit of citrus pith.
Medium body, medium carbonation. The beer has a very slightly dry finish, but not over the top dry.
Would I Brew This Again?
Yes! This beer is incredibly drinkable; a little too much so, in fact. It goes down smoother than its ABV allows, and there is no solventy alcohol character that sometimes happens in these kinds of homebrews. The end result was a classic “old school” IPA.
Another year, another brew of the excellent Ill-Tempered Gnome clone recipe! This version is identical, except I swapped in BRY-97 for US-05. Without any further introduction, all of the details are below.
Ill-Tempered Gnome Clone
12 lb. 2-row pale malt (Rahr)
11 oz. crystal 15° (Great Western)
5 oz. coffee malt (Simpsons)
5 oz. honey malt (Gambrinus)
5 oz. special B malt (Dingemans)
4.5 oz. special roast malt (Briess)
3.5 oz. chocolate malt (Bairds)
1 oz. Nugget hop pellets (13.0% alpha), 60 minute boil
0.5 oz. Centennial hop pellets (8.1% alpha), 20 minute boil
0.5 oz. Crystal hop pellets (4.5% alpha), 20 minute boil
Full volume mash at 154° for 60 minutes, with 10 minute mash-out at 168°
Claremont tap water, adjusted to reach estimated profile of 75 ppm Ca, 11 ppm Mg, 93 ppm Na, 149 ppm sulfate, 105 ppm Cl, 156 ppm bicarbonate; RA 68, 128 ppm alkalinity; 60 ppm effective hardness.
I heated 7.5 gallons of water to 162°, adding a Campden tablet to remove chloramines. Then, I mashed in with the grains to hit a temperature of 154°. I added 7 mL (1.5 tsp.) of 88% lactic acid to adjust the pH of the mash, and recirculated at 154° for 60 minutes. Then, I raised the mash temperature to 168° and held it there for 10 minutes, before removing the grains.
In total, I collected 6.5 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.054, for 68% mash efficiency.
As I brought the runnings to a boil, I added 5 g of gypsum to adjust the water profile.
The Foundry had some issues with turning on and off, but I approximated a 60 minute boil, adding hops and kettle finings per the recipe.
After the 60 minute boil, I chilled to ~75°, transferred to the fermenter, and chilled down to 65° in the fermentation chamber. Then, I pitched the two packages of yeast.
I brewed the beer on 2 October 2022, and fermented at 65°. Starting gravity was 1.060.
On 8 October 2022, I removed the beer from the fermentation chamber and let it free rise to ambient to finish out fermentation.
I kegged the beer on 30 October 2022. At this point, its gravity was 1.015. This equates to 5.9% abv.
Thick, creamy, persistent tan head. Brilliantly clear, reddish-brown beer. Very pretty!
Dark caramel and coffee malt aroma.
Resiny hop bitterness at a moderately high level is very prominent, with a coffee and dark chocolate malt character behind that. There is a very very faint fruity character in the yeast, barely detectable. The bitterness lingers on the finish, quite pleasantly.
Medium body and moderate carbonation, with a smooth finish.
Would I Brew This Again?
Yep! This is a nice recipe; my memory of last year’s version is that it was a touch better, although I think that’s in part the keg. I split the beer into two 2.5 gallon kegs, and I suspect the one I’m sampling from (the less filled one) may have had a touch of oxidation due to the head space. Either way, it’s enjoyable!
I recently brewed a Pliny clone, which turned out pretty well. By fortunate coincidence, a local store (the amazingLiquorama) regularly has Russian River products, including Pliny. As an aside, if you are in the general Claremont/Upland/Rancho area, and if you are a beer (or liquor) geek, I absolutely encourage you to check out Liquorama. They have an amazing local and regional craft beer selection, and they properly store their beer at cold temperatures. They very consistently have fresh Pliny (and other great RR beers like Blind Pig and STS Pils), which is an incredible treat. I always end up walking out with waaaay more than I intended to purchase.
In any case, I thought it would be fun to do a head-to-head comparison of my Pliny versus the actual Pliny. The real Pliny was bottled on February 4, which is three weeks before this tasting. My beer was kegged on 21 January, so mine is slightly older, but not by much.
So, let’s do a direct comparison!
My version is very slightly darker, and clearer. The Russian River (RR) version had a slight bit of hop debris (a common issue with their bottled beer if it has been agitated, as happened when I transported it home). My version had a slightly more persistent head.
Appearance Winner: The Clone
The RR version is absolutely better, with a more “fresh” orange/citrus hop aroma at the forefront. I definitely pick up the Simcoe hops, which I don’t get from my version.
Aroma Winner: RR
Both beers are equally smooth. Mine has a touch more malt character, but the RR version has a touch more citrus/Simcoe flavor.
Flavor Winner: RR (but it’s very close)
Both are pretty equivalent, in terms of body, carbonation, and mouthfeel.
Mouthfeel Winner: A draw
RR’s authentic Pliny has just a touch better hop aroma and flavor, so I give a slight edge to the “real deal.” It’s most apparent in the aroma (and slightly in the flavor), where the Simcoe is more prominent. If I were to do mine again, I would swap the quantities of CTZ and Simcoe. My version had 1 oz. Simcoe, 3 oz. CTZ and 1 oz. Centennial; for a future version, I would do 3 oz. Simcoe, 1 oz. CTZ, and 1 oz. Centennial, to (hopefully) better match the original.
There is a reason why Pliny the Elder is a classic, and it’s super apparent when I do this tasting. It is just a nice beer! My clone comes close, but doesn’t quite hit the mark. Time to rebrew, I suppose!
I don’t often get beer kits, because I usually find it easier and cheaper to assemble a recipe on my own and also because kits tend to sit around on store shelves with pre-milled grains and old hops. However, I couldn’t resist getting the Pliny the Elder clone kit from MoreBeer, when it went on sale recently. I did a “homegrown” Pliny clone awhile back, and it was OK but not outstanding. So, I decided to give this recipe family another try.
I augmented the kit slightly, because the provided packages of Magnum were ridiculously low alpha–only 2.3% according to the package! I didn’t know that this variety even came so low, and I needed some “real” Magnum from my personal stash to augment things.
For this batch, I also decided to really pay attention to my handling of the beer. Every transfer was closed, and everything was kept either cool or cold, depending on the stage of the process. The end results were definitely worth it!
Pliny the Elder Clone: The MoreBeer Edition
13 lb. 2-row malt (Briess)
1 lb. Carapils malt (Briess)
4 oz. Caramel 40L malt (Briess)
2 oz. Cascade hop pellets (7.3% alpha), added to mash
2 oz. Magnum hop pellets (2.3% alpha), 90 minute boil
2 oz. Magnum hop pellets (10.1% alpha), 90 minute boil
1 oz. Simcoe hop pellets (12.9% alpha), 45 minute boil
1 oz. CTZ hop pellets (14.4% alpha), 30 minute boil
1 lb. corn sugar, 10 minute boil
1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
1 tsp. yeast nutrient (WLN1000), 50 minute boil
2 oz. Centennial hop pellets (9.9% alpha), 5 minute whirlpool
1 oz. Simcoe hop pellets (12.9% alpha), 5 minute whirlpool
2 pkg. American West Coast ale yeast BRY-97 (Lallemand)
3 oz. CTZ hop pellets (14.4% alpha), dry hop in keg
1 oz. Centennial hop pellets (9.9% alpha), dry hop in keg
1 oz. Simcoe hop pellets (12.9% alpha), dry hop in keg
1.073 o.g., 1.011 f.g., 8.3% abv, 165 IBU
Claremont tap water, adjusted to achieve target water profile of 66 ppm Ca, 22 ppm Mg, 91 ppm Na, 204 ppm SO4, 85 ppm
Full volume mash, with 90 minutes at 151°.
I mashed in with 7.1 gallons of water at 159°, to hit a mash temperature of 151°. I added 8 mL of 88% lactic acid, to adjust the pH. I held at 151° and recirculated for 90 minutes, before mashing out at 168° for 10 minutes. Then, I pulled the grain basket and sparged with 1 gallon of hot water.
In total, I collected 7 gallons of runnings at a gravity of 1.055, for 74% mash efficiency. For high gravity beers, a small sparge really makes a difference on the Anvil.
I added 5 g of gypsum and 5 g of epsom salts to the kettle, to hit my target water profile.
I boiled the runnings for 90 minutes, adding hops and finings and such per the recipe.
After 90 minutes, I turned off the heat and chilled to 65°, before transferring to the fermenter.
I pitched the yeast, and set the beer to ferment at 66°.
I brewed the beer on 27 December 2021. I pulled it to ambient (58 to 60°) on 8 January 2022.
On 15 January 2022, I did a closed transfer of the beer into a purged keg for dry hopping quickly popping the lid to throw in the loose hops. I used a hop screen on the floating dip tube.
On 21 January 2022, I transferred from the dry hopping keg into a purged serving keg, and then carbonated. I lost probably close to a gallon of hop sludge.
The beer started out fairly hazy, but was reasonably clear within a few weeks.
Starting gravity was 1.070, and final gravity was 1.013, for 7.7% abv.
Pours with a creamy, off-white and persistent head with very nice lacing. The beer is gold, with a very slight haze.
Citrus at the front, with a light herbal and grassy character behind that.
Hops! Bitter! There is a real orange hop quality, with in-your-face bitterness. Hops are quite high (as expected), with not much for malt character against the hops. The yeast character is very clean; I’m happy with the fermentation on this one.
Medium body, off-dry extended finish with very slight astringency. Moderate carbonation.
Would I brew this again?
Yes! I am really pleased with this…it’s a great double IPA. The hop character is excellent. I could do without the slight chill haze, but otherwise the beer is awesome, and not a bad approximation of Pliny. I could probably reduce the dry hop length to only two or three days (rather than six), to hopefully reduce the slight astringency.