Pliny the Younger, if you are not familiar with it, is one of Russian Rivers most elusive beers and by many, considered to be one of the worlds best examples a West Coast IPA \ Triple IPA. Many of you may be familiar with Pliny the Elder. Well, Pliny the Younger is the Elder’s bad ass offspring. Where Pliny the Elder is a double IPA clocking in at 8% ABV, Pliny the Younger is a tripple IPA with an ABV of 10.25%. Pliny the Younger is not sold in bottles, you can not get a growler of it, and to make things worse it is only distributed by keg to a limited number of breweries; most of those are located in California. Ohhhh and did I mention that they only brew it once per year? The good news for me is that one of my local breweries, Tustin Brewing Company, out of Tustin, California is one of the distribution points in California for Russian River beer and Pliny the Younger. That being said, I have been trying to get the beer for 8 years now and not until yesterday had I succeed. The problem is that as it turns out, I am not the only person interested in having a glass. Every year at about this time the Tustin Brewery celebrates Russian River week! They bring in a wide array of Russian River beers including some of their most prized sour and wild beers like Consecration and Supplication. They also offer some of Russian Rivers best pale ales and IPA’s like Blind Pig and Pliny the Elder; but the crown jewel is Pliny the Younger. In order to secure yourself a pour of Pliny the Younger, you must line up in the parking lot at approximately 9-10:AM on a Wednesday morning. If you are one of the approximately first 70 people in line, you are provided with a wrist band that will entitle you to a 8 oz pour of Pliny the Younger once the brewery opens at 11:AM. Unfortunately for me, I have a job with a not so flexible work schedule that has not allowed me to take the time off for this event. This year was no different. As my hopes had all but faded, the Tustin Brewery sent out a tweet late yesterday afternoon. It turns out that they received not 1 but 2 kegs of Pliny the Younger this year. If you were one of the first 70 to claim a ticket, and could reach the brewery by 6:PM, you could receive a pour from their 2nd Pliny the Younger keg. The process was a little confusing, and I was not certain that I had properly claimed my ticket, so I raced to the brewery. It felt as though I was competing in some form of craft beer Olympics. I had to accomplish a variety of tasks, and only the fastest participants would receive the prize.
When I finally arrived at the brewery, the parking lot was a mad house. It was packed with beer lovers and moms dropping off kids with colorful belts to Taekwondo practice. I drove to the furthest reaches of the parking lot and found one of the only available parking spots. It was hidden away behind all the buildings far from the brewery. I speedily walked towards the Tustin Brewery entrance with other middle aged men all thirsty for a taste of this rare beer. I narrowly avoided being struck on the sidewalk by a man apparently not familiar with how to park his over sized truck in a sub compact parking space; I was almost to the door. This was clearly one of those situations where nobody was going to hold the door open and let you go in ahead of them. I entered the brewery behind a chubby man who was huffing and wheezing from his long brisk walk from his parking space. The brewery was packed and energized with the voices of hundreds of patrons reveling in the atmosphere and drinking their beers.
At first I was a little overwhelmed. Trying to take it all in, I thought to myself; shit, this is a lot of people, how do I get my Pliny the Younger and I hope this ticket thing worked. Thankfully a couple of the girls who work at the brewery, Krystle and Rachel were kind enough to help me figure out where to go and what to do. I proceeded to go to a table where they verified my name on their list, collected my cash and provided me with a red ticket!
From there I was directed to a sign hung high on the wall of the brewery near the bar exclaiming “Redeem Ticket Here, Pliny the Younger, Tustin Brewery Loves You”! I walked through the crowded bar, and stood behind another man as we waited for them to tap the Pliny the Younger keg and begin serving. Finally I could begin to relax; my beer was nearly in hand. I heard one pub patron complain about Russian River Week as he awkwardly tried to move around the crowded bar to get a refill of his mug with Golden Spike Blonde Ale. He was clearly not impressed by the rare keg that was now being connected just feet from him. Others were just happy that Friday was upon us and that there were so many hard to find and great beers available this week. I stood silently, waiting in anticipation. Finally, after 8 years, the moment had arrived. The man in front of me, received his Pliny the Younger and it was my turn. I handed the bartender my ticket and he pulled back the tap handle, like some form of epic beer slot machine and filled my glass!
I grabbed my beer securely and began to walk to the patio. I took a quick sip; just in the off chance that an earthquake would strike and cover me in falling beams, I was at least going to get one mouthful of Pliny the Younger first! I did my best to move through the brewery, avoiding the mobs of people and avoid spilling even a drop of this rare and special beer. Thankfully there was no earthquake, but there was Juan. Juan is one of the best things about the Tustin Brewery, he is always wearing a smile, cracking a joke and slapping you on the back with the strength or Hercules and Oden combined as his way of saying, great to see you, let me rearrange your vertebrae for you. As he turned and saw me approaching, I remember thinking f#&k, here comes Juan. A smile came to Juan’s face and I knew exactly what was next. I grabbed my Pliny the Younger as securely as I could with both hands; all I could do was hope that the collateral damage would not be too severe. WHAPPP, the shock of Juan’s hand on my shoulder sent reverberations down my arm, to my elbow and finally to my hands. As hard as I tried, I could not stop the glass from bucking. A small wave of the cold beer rolled over my hand and slapped the hard tile floor. Juan just smiled and laughed as he saw dismay form on my face. He was right, it was a little funny. After all, I still had a nearly full glass and this was a time for celebration. After saying hello to Juan, I quickly made my way to the patio before he could shake any additional beer from my glass.
There was a small table available on the crowded patio; I set my beer down and took a seat. This was it. I braced myself for disappointment. Recently I had watch the movie Dunkirk. I had heard so many wonderful reviews and yet when I watched it I was left so disappointed. It looked great, but there was not much to it. Was Pliny the Younger going to be the Dunkirk of beer I wondered? 8 years is a long time to wait for something, I have had Pliny the Elder probably 40 times in that time period, was this really going to be any better? Often times, Triple IPA’s are terribly unbalanced and sometimes painful to drink, would that be the case with Pliny the Younger?
I am not one of those people who likes over the top beer reviews. You are no going to hear me say things like it washed my taste buds with the pleasant essence of virgin pine drippings, or the mouthfeel is reminiscent of water from pristine deep water brackish caves. So here it goes. I rate Pliny the Younger a 100 out of 100. I was not let down in anyway. I had extremely high expectations and it exceeded every one of them. Pliny the Younger is hands down the most well balanced triple IPA I have ever had and more importantly the most well balanced beer I have ever had. Simply put, it was perfect. This sounds a little lame as I write it, but the mouth feel was exceptional. As I slowly drank it, trying to appreciate every sip, I analyzed it; wondering if they added salt to the mash and how much; what hops were in the boil and what did they dry hop it with. I wanted to make it or myself! The volume of my glass kept being depleted with each taste and I just kept hoping I would not have to wait another 8 years for my next glass. If you have the chance to get some, even if it will be a pain in the ass, in my opinion it would be well worth it.
I just finished up my latest batch of NEIPA, North East IPA, Vermont Style IPA, New England Style IPA, Juicy IPA or Hazy IPA; however you chose to label it and it turned out incredible so I wanted to share the recipe in case anyone else out there was interested in brewing one. The basis for this recipe is MoreBeer’s Haze Craze IPA which can be purchased in either an Hazy IPA Extract Beer Recipe Kit or Hazy IPA All Grain Beer Recipe Kit. I just made a couple of small tweaks to mine. Although the West Coast was slow to latch on to the NEIPA trend, we have sunk our teeth in and they are currently all the rage. The haze of the yeast, hops and yeast esters pushes the boundaries of what an IPA is and can be. In order to fully enjoy them you need to discard your expectations of what an IPA is and embrace the haziness and sometimes juicy and tropical flavors that are created by new varieties of hops and unconventional yeast strains.
|Beer Name:||Hoptic Thunder Hazy IPA / More Beer Haze Craze IPA|
|Beer Style:||New England Style Hazy IPA|
|Recipe Type:||All Grain|
|Batch Size:||5 Gallons|
(60 Min) 152F
(10 Min) 169F Mash Out
1 tsp Calcium Chloride
.5 tsp Gypsum / Calcium Sulfate
|Grain Bill:||11 LBS Pale 2 Row US
1 LBS Flaked Oats
2 LBS Flaked Wheat
8 oz Carapils Malt
8 oz Wheat Malt
4 oz Honey Malt
|Hops:||.5 oz Warrior – 60 minutes
1 oz Citra – 10 Minutes
2 oz Mosaic – 0 Minutes
1 oz Citra – 0 Minutes
|Other:||DO NOT USE A CLARIFIER|
|Yeast:||London Ale III Wyeast #1318|
|Fermentation:||2 Week Primary @ 70F
– I ferment this at a slightly higher that usual temperature to increased ester production
and to create a more active fermentation)
On day 3 of active fermentation make the following hop additions
2 oz Mosaic
1 oz Citra
On day 7 of fermentation make the following hop additions
1 oz Mosaic
2 oz Citra
Once fermentation has completed or on day 10, cold crash and transfer to keg or bottle.
|Notes:||The More Beer Haze Craze IPA Beer Kit can be purchased here:|
The Kegerator has been filled to capacity once again thanks to lots of holiday home brewing. I am carbonating a hazy New England IPA and MoreBeer’s Hop Gatherer IPA. I plan on reviewing them in a week or two once they are fully carbonated and have some time to condition.
I dry hopped both of these batches, but what was unique about the Hop Gatherer IPA beer kit is that it came with something I had not previously used, Chinook distilled Hop oil. It comes in a tiny vial but smells incredibly potent! It is used as an alternative to dry hopping but I decided to use it in conjunction to help really develope the aroma in this West Coast IPA!
As you can see from the photo above, the vial is tiny and only holds about 10 drops or so of the distilled Hop oil. I dumped it right in to the keg immediately prior to putting the hatch on the keg to carbonate. The oil smelled strong to say the least. I put the empty vial on a shelf and my garage still smells like hops, which makes me happy; talk about aromatherapy!
Getting some liquid inspiration at Greek Cheek Brewery in Orange, California. They are making some of the very best Hazy IPA’s in Southern California and if you have the chance to check them out, I highly recommend that you do! They typically have 8+ beers on tap and are constantly rotating in new beers. If you are a fan of New England style Haze IPA’s, this is a great destination.
So I started doing some research and decided that I was going to start with the “HAZE CRAZE IPA” all grain hazy IPA beer kit from More Beer. The name did not sell me on the kit, but the recipe and hop additions certainly did. I made a couple of small tweaks to the recipe, but they were pretty insignificant. Here is what I ended up with:
1 tsp Calcium Chloride (Mash 60 min)
1/2 tsp Gypsum (Mash 60 min)
Grain Bill: (Mash at 150F)
12 lb Pale Ale Malt
1 lb Flaked Oats
1 lb Flaked White Wheat
8 oz Flaked Barley
4 oz Honey Malt
60 min .5 oz Warrior
5 min 1oz Citra
0 min 2oz Mosaic
0 min 1oz Citra Bavaria (I love this hop)
Whirlpool 15 min
Whirlpool 15 min
Dry Hop Additions:
I know this is not typical, but add the dry hops about 3 days after the start of fermentation. Begin fermenting at 65F and then boost the temp to 70F when adding the dry hops.
1oz Citra (Did I mention I love this hop?)
7 days after the start of fermentation
London Ale III (This is important for fruity ester and haze production)
The beer came out fantastic! If you are considering brewing up a Hazy IPA, I highly recommend this recipe. Homebrew Supply also has a extract version of the recipe available for extract brewers. The beer kits can be found here:
Dry hopping your beer is one of the easiest ways to make a good beer great and is supper simple to do! At this point I dry hop any Pale Ale or IPA that I brew. It does not make the beer more bitter but instead gives the impression of hoppyness and freshness with fragrant hop aroma. To dry hop your beer, wait until fermenation has completed and CO2 is no longer being generated. The reason for this is so that the escaping CO2 does not carry away the hop aroma with it because you want those odors to stay in contact with the recently fermented beer. I use either whole hops or pellet hops for dry hopping but prefer to use whole hops if available. Depending on the beer I will add between 2oz to 6oz per 5 gallon batch ( I typically go with 2oz, but my Pliny the Elder recipe calls for 5oz). I leave the hops in contact with the fermented beer for approximately 5-7 days and then either transfer to keg or cold crash for another 2 days. The process is that simple and I encourage you to try it on your next hoppy beer batch. When you pour your first pint focus on the aroma and if possible compare it to a batch of homebrew that you did not dry hop to see the difference!
For anyone who is interested in brewing an all grain homebrew batch of Pliny the Elder, I have posted the recipe that I brew. It is a great recipe and tribute to one of the most famous and hard to get Double IPA’s out there. In fact it is so hop packed that this home brewing recipe even calls for a hop addition to the mash!
Beer drinkers and home brewers rejoice! I am happy to announce that I have updated my homebrewing beer recipe archive and will be adding additional recipes shortly including my Pliny the Elder All Grain Beer Recipe and my Squanto Pilsner Homebrew Recipe. So please check back often and let me know if you have any suggestions!
Lately, with the trend of craft breweries moving towards ultra hoppy, high IBU IPA’s; home brewers need to be on their game if they want their home brewed beer to stand up to what the breweries are releasing. One of the greatest advantages that a home brewer has over a craft brewery is freshness. As beer ages the potency of hop bitterness and aroma diminishes and that is accelerated by heat and oxidation. Since a home brewer does not need to contend with their beer sitting in a hot warehouse during distribution or having the sun beat down on their bottles in a stores showcase, you should do your best to take advantage of your beers freshness. Always do your best to store your beer in a cool dark place if possible.
Another way to make the most of your IPA’s freshness is to dry hop. The reason a brewer dry hops their beer is to impart the beer with fragrant and fresh hop aroma. Since the beer is cool when the hops are added, the oils from the hops will not be infused with the beer and they will pass on little to no bitterness. Dry hopping is typically conducted once primary fermentation has completed and the hops are typically left in contact with the beer for between 7 and 14 days. The hops are usually added after primary fermentation has completed so that less CO2 is being produced and the hop aroma can stay in contact with the beer as opposed to being carried out of the fermentor with the escaping CO2. I personally like to use whole hops for dry hopping, but pellet hops can be used as well. When the beer is ready to be transferred to a keg or bottle, the beer is siphoned as normal and the hops are left behind in the fermentor to be discarded. I typically add about 2 ounces of hops for every 5 gallons of beer, but more can be added if desired.
Recently I came across a great article (5 Tips for Better IPAs) from the American Homebrewers Association where they interviewed Vinnie Cilurzo (Owner and Brewer at Russian River Brewing) and he gave 5 recommendations on how fellow brewers can improve their IPA’s. I thought that I would take some of Vinnie’s fantastic advice and expand on it a bit with a few of my own suggestions!
1) Every Beer Starts with Water!
Never under estimate the importance of beers primary ingredient, water. The water that you are using to make your beer is critical, especially when it comes to all grain brewing. Water plays an important part in everything from the taste and the mouth feel of a beer to the sugar conversion and acidity in a finished beer.
If you are using city water that has been treated with chlorine, always make sure that you are removing the chlorine with a carbon filter or alternative method. It is also a good idea to check your city’s water report to see if you are lacking or have an over abundance of minerals in your water that may be impacting your beer. Vinnie suggests treating your water with gypsum in both your mash and your boil to heighten the hop flavor of your beer. You can also use low level sodium additions to have a similar effect. Before making these additions you should first examine your existing levels to make sure that it will not detract from the quality of your finished beer.
2) Dry Hop Until You Just Can’t Dry Hop Anymore!
Unlike adding hops early in the boil, dry hopping adds little to no bitterness to the finished beer but what it does add is a strong and fresh hop aroma! When dry hopping beer, I always recommend adding the hops after the airlock has stopped bubbling in fermentation. That ways the escaping CO2 will not carry the hop aroma out of the fermentor along with it. Vinnie suggests adding multiple dry hop additions at different times which may deliver additional hop aroma to your finished IPA!
3) Do Not Rush Your Fermentation!
We all want to try out our latest beer as quickly as possible, but there is allot to be said for patience in home brewing! If you have the ability to temperature control your fermentation, set the temp between 65F to 67F. Yeast loves a low stable temperature and produces far less off flavors than at higher temps. It will take longer to ferment at a lower temperature but your beer will come out cleaner tasting so that your robust hop profile can really shine in the finished beer! Also, cold crash your beer once your fermentation has completed. Try to crash at around 36F for 2 weeks if possible. This will help force any residual yeast out of suspension and leave you with a cleaner tasting and clearer beer!
4) Don’t Skimp On the Yeast!
Now a days home brewers have a huge variety of options when it comes to yeast. If you want your beer to be as good as possible, then you are going to have to use the best and most suitable yeast for the style of beer that you are brewing. A great West Coast IPA yeast strain is the White Labs WLP001 Ale Yeast, available here.
Make sure that you create a yeast starter, insuring viability and that you pitch a sufficient quantity of yeast for the strength of beer that you are brewing.
5) Do Not Overload Your Beer With Crystal or Malty Grains!
Vinnie suggests that you add crystal malts sparingly to your grain bill. He remarks that the sweet flavors and aromatics derived from those grains can compete with the flavors and aromas of your hops. An IPA is a showcase for the hops and the other ingredients should complement them not detract from them.
6) Consider Adding Hop Resin Extract to Your Boil!
Pure hop resign extracts can be a great way of boosting the bitterness of your wort with out having to add an extreme amount of hop additions to your boil. Just like with actual hops, in order for the bitterness to be captured by the wort, the hop resign still needs to be boiled in the wort for a sufficient amount of time.
7) Opt For a Dryer Beer!
A dryer beer can really help the hops in your IPA stand out! Vinnie suggests supplementing approximately 5% of your grain bills sugars with dextrose. Dextrose is a very simple sugar that yeast can easily ferment. Another option would be dropping your mash temp down by a degree or two in order to create less complex sugars during the mashing process.
If you are looking to try your hand at one of Russian River’s IPAs, you can find a couple of excellent kits available here:
Good luck and happy brewing!
Just wanted to let everyone know that MoreBeer is currently having a sale on their Pliny the Elder Extract Home Brewing Recipe Kit. It is a limited quantity offer and is for today only. It sells out each time they have one of these so act fast if you want one!
This is a fantastic Pliny the Elder clone kit. If you are like most of us and can not easily get Pliny where you live, then this is a great alternative.
Here is the link: