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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Alta California Lager 2021

One of the best beers I have ever made was the 2019 edition of Alta California Lager, a Mexican-style light lager. Although I can buy excellent commercial examples easily enough at the grocery store, it is a fun challenge to make this somewhat unforgiving style. The 2020 version was okay, but not quite as good. That round used flaked corn instead of cereal-mashed grits, and I also had to use tap water (because I brewed it near the start of the pandemic, and wasn’t going out much) instead of mineral-light water built from RO.

My main changes for the 2021 version were to modify slightly for my Foundry system parameters, build up from RO water, throw in some BruTanB for clarification/oxidation mitigation, and use gelatin at the time of kegging for fining. I also went back to a cereal mash instead of flaked corn, in order to up the corn flavor and also hopefully get slightly better clarity. It’s also just a bit fun to do a cereal mash (sometimes)!

Alta California Lager 2021

  • 6 lb. Pilsner Zero malt (Viking)
  • 2 lb. Vienna malt (Weyermann)
  • 2 lb. corn grits
  • 4 oz. rice hulls
  • 0.45 oz. Magnum hop pellets (10.1% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 0.5 tsp. BruTanB, 10 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • 0.8 oz. Sterling hop pellets, 5 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Fermax yeast nutrient, 5 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. Mexican Lager yeast (WLP940), prepared in 1.75L starter

Target Parameters

  • 1.046 s.g., 1.011 f.g., 4.6% abv, 21 IBU, 4 SRM
  • 6.5 gallons of RO water with 1.5 g CaCl to hit target parameter of 17 ppm Ca and 29 ppm Cl
  • 60 minute full volume infusion mash with cereal mash, 152°

Procedure

  • I made a 1.75L starter with 175g of DME, on March 4 (two days before brewing). I cold crashed the starter on the morning of the brew day (March 6), because fermentation had slowed greatly, but not quite stopped.
  • For the cereal mash, I used 2 pounds of corn grits plus 0.5 lb. pilsner malt. I had to add ~1 gallon of water to get the right consistency. I added another ~0.5 gallon due to absorption over the course of the cereal mash. I held the mash around 158° to 160° for 5 minutes before bringing it to a boil. It was closer to a 40 minute boil instead of the planned 30 minutes, to compensate for the fact that the boil stopped as I added cold RO water.
  • For the main mash, I added 6.5 gallons of RO water with 1.5 g CaCl in the main mash tun. This was heated to 150°. I added the hot cereal mash first, and then added the dry malts and stirred them. After adding the cereal mash, it hit around 146 to 148°; not bad! I let the mash settle for 10 minutes before recirculating at 152°. I did a 75 minute mash, just to be safe with full conversion. An iodine test showed full conversion after 65 minutes. Then, I raised the mash to 168° for 10 minutes, before removing the grains.
  • In total, I collected 6.75 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.039, for 70% mash efficiency.
  • I boiled for 15 minutes before adding the hops, to bring down the volume and bring up the gravity a touch. So, this meant a 75 minute boil total. Everything else followed the schedule in the recipe.
  • After the boil, I chilled the beer down to ~70°, transferred to the fermenter, and chilled down to 48°. I oxygenated for 40 seconds and then pitched the yeast.
  • I brewed this beer on 6 March 2021.
  • Starting gravity was 1.045, and I fermented at 50°.
  • I raised the beer to 54° on 12 March 2021, and then to 60° on 15 March 2021. On 29 March 2021, I cold crashed and let it sit near freezing until kegging on 5 April 2021.
  • I did a closed transfer, and then briefly opened the lid to add 1 tsp. of gelatin in 1 cup of water, for fining.
  • Final gravity was 1.012, for 4.3% abv.

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • Brilliantly clear, light yellow beer with a persistent and fine white head. Gorgeous!
  • Aroma
    • Very clean and crisp, with a subtle, slightly sweet note (probably from the corn) along with a grainy malt note.
  • Flavor
    • The flavor profile is pretty subtle and unobtrusive on this one, making it a very easy drinking beer. There is a very light corn (not DMS!) note, layered on top of the grainy malt character. Bitterness is pretty low and very clean.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Medium-light body, moderately high carbonation, smooth and light finish.
  • Would I Brew This Again?
    • Absolutely! This is a really delightful beer, and I’m so glad that I made it again. It drinks so easily, especially on a warm afternoon, and is just about a perfect beer. The extra work for the cereal mash was perhaps worth it? The gelatin certainly helped the clarity, and I think the fact that I used BruTanB, did a closed transfer, and then purged the keg before adding the gelatin, followed by additional purges, probably helped stave off early oxidation. I’m so impressed by this beer! I might try it next time with flaked corn, and gelatin. My only other very minor note is that I could mash a touch lower, to lighten up the body a bit more…perhaps a 90 minute mash at 145° or so? That’s the only reason I gave it a 9.5 instead of a perfect 10!
  • Overall
    • 9.5/10
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Dance Party IPA

This one was a total experiment for me! Experimental hops, experimental yeast, and experimental fermentation. My local homebrew shop had a new variety called Samba, with tropical characters that sounded pretty neat! So, I picked up a few ounces for a batch. I also had been meaning to try out Lallemand’s new dry Voss kveik strain, so grabbed some of those packets.

For this beer, I wanted a tropical/citrus character and fairly light drinkability, alongside a “full-strength” IPA. So, I combined Centennial, Samba, and Simcoe for a whirlpool as well as a dry hop addition.

Dance Party IPA

  • 12.5 lb. 2-row Xtra Pale Malt (Viking)
  • 0.75 lb. Carapils malt (Briess)
  • 1 oz. Magnum hop pellets (10.6% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Centennial hop pellets (8.1% alpha), 15 minute whirlpool
  • 1 oz. Samba hop pellets (11.6% alpha), 15 minute whirlpool
  • 1 oz. Simcoe hop pellets (12.7% alpha), 15 minute whirlpool
  • 1 pkg. Voss Kveik Ale dry yeas (Lallemand)
  • 1 oz. Centennial hop pellets (8.1% alpha), dry hop in keg
  • 1 oz. Samba hop pellets (11.6% alpha), dry hop in keg
  • 1 oz. Simcoe hop pellets (12.7% alpha), dry hop in keg

Target Parameters

  • 1.059 s.g., 1.013 f.g., 6.1% abv, 62 IBU, 4 SRM
  • Claremont tap water, with Campden tablet and 5 g of gypsum added at the boil, to bump up the bitterness
  • 60 minute full volume infusion mash, 152°

Procedure

  • I mashed in with 7.25 gallons of water at 159°, to hit a mash temperature of 152°. I added 6 mL of 88% lactic acid, to adjust the mash pH.
  • After a 60 minute mash with recirculation at 152°, I bumped up the temperature to 168° for a 10 minute mash-out.
  • Following the mash, I removed the grain basket and brought the kettle to a boil.
  • In total, I had 6.3 gallons with a gravity of 1.050, for 66% mash efficiency. I added 5 g of gypsum to the boil, to bump up the sulfate.
  • I boiled for 60 minutes, adding finings and hops per the schedule.
  • After the boil, I did a 15 minute whirlpool at around 195°, and then chilled down to 90° and transferred to the fermenter.
  • Starting gravity was 1.050. I brewed this beer on 27 March 2021.
  • I pitched the packet of yeast directly, and began fermentation at 90°. After 18 hours, I raised the temperature to 95°, and then raised to 100° at the 24 hours mark after yeast pitch. After 72 hours, I lowered the temperature to 90°.
  • I kegged the beer on 7 April 2021, with the dry hops floating loose in the keg and a screen on the floating dip tube to filter out hops.
  • Final gravity was 1.013, for 5.8% abv.

Tasting

I didn’t have time to do a formal tasting on this one before the keg was kicked, but have a few general perceptions. First, the fermentation had a super clean character, and the kveik lives up to its reputation. I would totally do this fermentation profile again! Second, I really enjoyed the hop combo, but think that I probably overbittered it a bit, and the hops drowned out any potential malt character. There was a touch of astringency from the dry hops also, at times, which I think also detracted from the final flavor. So, if I redo this kind of IPA I might use a more character-rich base malt such as Vienna or Maris Otter and maybe a touch more of a crystal malt (e.g., crystal 20 or even crystal 40). That aside, the Samba hops did live up to their tropical reputation, and played well with the rest of the hops. It might be interesting to switch up the hop combos; I think this beer would be great with any combo of Samba, Citra, and/or Mosaic.

So…I would probably do this again, but modify things significantly. It was definitely worth the experiment, and I’ll likely dive into more kveik fermentations this summer! I give the beer itself a 5/10…not awful, but not quite where I want it to be either.

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What’s Brewing? April 2021 Edition

April brewing updates! At the last possible minute!

Beer Batch Updates

  • My “Dance Party IPA” has been kegged, consumed, and kicked! It was a kveik-based tropical-type IPA.
  • I brewed an experimental light ale on 16 April, called “Easy Days Ale.” It’s intended to be a relatively light, flavorful, drinkable brew.
  • On 24 April, I brewed a California common lager, and it’s fermenting along as expected.
  • I kegged the Belgian quad for my club’s barrel project. The beer tastes super good! I had enough left over to set up two bottles, which are now conditioning and will be popped open in a few weeks.

What’s On Tap?

  • This year’s edition of the Alta California Lager is on tap, drinking really nicely.
  • I now have a Pliny the Elder clone on tap, brewed as a 2.5 gallon batch.
  • Twisted Schwarzbier has been a quaffable, enjoyable dark lager.

What’s Coming Up?

  • I have a whole string of lagers planned…on May 1, I’ll be doing a Schell’s Pilsner Clone, and on the following week I hope to do another brew of Mow the Damn Lawn.
    • I plan to rebrew Dunkel-Osteus (Munich Dunkel).

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Twisted Schwarzbier

I have brewed schwarzbier once before, and it came out pretty good. I wanted to revisit the style as a warmer-weather dark beer, and so picked out a second recipe from Brewing Classic Styles. This version differed from the last in that it emphasizes pilsner malt more than Munich.

I am contractually obligated to use Space Balls references in any schwarzbier name, with zero apologies from doing so. Thank you.

Twisted Schwarzbier

  • 9 lb. Viking Pilsner Zero malt
  • 1 lb. Munich I malt (Weyermann)
  • 11 oz. Carafa Special II malt (Weyermann)
  • 1 oz. Vanguard hop pellets (6.5% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 0.5 oz. Mt. Hood hop pellets (4.6% alpha), 15 minute boil
  • 0.5 oz. Mt. Hood hop pellets (4.6% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Fermax, 10 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • Repitch of Harvest lager yeast (Imperial L17)

Target Parameters

  • 1.049 o.g., 1.013 f.g., 4.7% abv, 30 IBU, 24 SRM
  • 60 minute infusion mash at 152°, full volume
  • Claremont tap water, treated with Campden tablet

Procedure

  • I mashed in with 7.5 gallons of water at 158°, to hit my mash target of 152°. After adding 5 mL of 88% lactic acid, I held the mash at 152°, with recirculation, for 60 minutes. I then raised the mash to 168°.
  • After the mash, I removed the grain basket and collected 6.75 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.041, for 69% mash efficiency.
  • I brought the wort to a boil, adding hops and finings per the recipe. After 60 minutes, I turned off the heat and chilled it down to 70°, before transferring to the fermenter and chilling down to 52° in the fermentation chamber.
  • After the wort hit fermentation temperature, I oxygenated with 30 seconds of pure O2, and then pitched the yeast.
  • I brewed this beer on 6 February 2021. It had a starting gravity of 1.048.
  • I started fermentation at 52°, held it here for three days, raised to 54° for three days, and then finished at 56° for three days, before cold crashing.
  • I kegged the beer on 27 February 2021. Final gravity was 1.014, for 4.5% abv.

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • Brilliantly clear, deep brown beer, pouring with a persistent tan head.
  • Aroma
    • Roasty and coffee aroma, at a moderately high level.
  • Flavor
    • Roasty malt and coffee flavor, with a bready malt character in the background. Moderately high level of bitterness. Clean yeast character. Extended bitterness on the finish.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Medium-light body, moderate carbonation, off-dry finish.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Perhaps? It’s a good, clean beer, but if feels like I could dial back the roast/coffee character a touch and move the base malts (especially the Munich) more to the forefront. I think if I were to rebrew this, I would add a bit more Munich, or maybe add in some Vienna, and reduce the percentage of pilsner malt. That said, this beer is very drinkable, so I wouldn’t make it too heavy for the base malts. Based on the BJCP written descriptions, it seems to be a great example of the schwarzbier style, but just isn’t to my taste.
  • Overall
    • 9/10
Posted in lager, Schwarzbier, tastings | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments