Crafting a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale Clone: An In-Depth Guide for Home Brewers

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale has earned its iconic status among craft beer enthusiasts for its perfectly balanced flavor profile. Its harmonious blend of malt and hops delivers a refreshing and unmistakable experience that home brewers worldwide seek to emulate.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll dive deep into crafting a 6.5-gallon batch of this legendary beer with our Sierra Nevada Pale Ale Clone recipe, providing insights into the style’s history, ingredients, brewing process, and brewing tips that will help you perfect this classic brew.

Understanding the American Pale Ale Style

American Pale Ale (APA) is a beer style that emerged in the United States in the late 1970s and 1980s as a response to the craft beer movement. Inspired by British pale ales but adapted to suit American ingredients and tastes, APAs feature a moderate hop bitterness and a clean, refreshing finish. Key characteristics include:

  • Flavor: Citrusy, piney, and floral hop flavors are balanced with a malty backbone.
  • Aroma: Prominent hop aromas with hints of citrus, floral, pine, and sometimes tropical fruits.
  • Appearance: Golden to amber in color, often with good clarity and a frothy white head.
  • Body: Medium-bodied with moderate carbonation, offering a smooth mouthfeel.
  • Bitterness: Typically ranges from 30 to 45 IBU, providing a noticeable bitterness that doesn’t overwhelm.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is often considered the epitome of the American Pale Ale style. It paved the way for other craft breweries, introducing consumers to the world of hop-forward beers.

Recipe Overview

  • Style: American Pale Ale
  • Batch Size: 6.5 gallons (into fermenter)
  • Expected Original Gravity: 1.054
  • Expected Final Gravity: 1.013
  • ABV: 5.5%
  • IBUs: 44
  • Color: 8.5 SRM


  • 11 lbs 2-row Pale Malt: The primary malt in this beer provides a clean, slightly sweet base for the hops to shine through. The neutral flavor complements the hop bitterness without overwhelming it.
  • 1 lb Crystal 60: This specialty malt adds color, a hint of caramel sweetness, and enhances the beer’s body and mouthfeel.
  • Magnum (0.5 oz, 15% AA, Boil 60 min, 22.95 IBU): Magnum is a popular bittering hop due to its high alpha acid content and clean bitterness.
  • Perle (0.5 oz, 8.2% AA, Boil 30 min, 9.64 IBU): Perle contributes a subtle spicy, floral aroma, providing complexity to the beer’s hop character.
  • Cascade (1.5 oz, 7% AA, Boil 10 min, 11.65 IBU): The quintessential American hop known for its grapefruit and floral notes. Adding Cascade late in the boil emphasizes these aromatic qualities.
  • Cascade (1.5 oz, Boil 0 min): Added at flameout for a burst of fresh hop aroma without significantly increasing bitterness.
  • Cascade (2 oz, Dry Hop 4 days): Dry hopping with Cascade further intensifies the beer’s bright, citrusy aroma.

Brewing Process

  1. Mash grains at 152°F for 60 minutes to achieve a balance between fermentable and non-fermentable sugars. This temperature will yield a medium-bodied beer that is not too dry or too sweet.
  2. Use about 3.5 gallons of water for the mash.
  3. Sparge slowly with 170°F water to collect a total of about 8 gallons of wort (depending on your system – this post will help you work out the best water-to-grain ratio).
  1. Bring the wort to a boil and follow the hop schedule:
    • Add 0.5 oz of Magnum hops at the start of the 60-minute boil to establish the beer’s primary bitterness.
    • Add 0.5 oz of Perle hops with 30 minutes left in the boil for subtle flavor and aroma.
    • Add 1.5 oz of Cascade hops with 10 minutes remaining for a burst of citrusy aroma and flavor.
    • Add another 1.5 oz of Cascade hops at flameout for an immediate infusion of hop aroma.
  1. Cool the wort quickly to around 68°F and transfer it to a sanitized fermenter.
  2. Pitch yeast: American Ale Yeast, such as Wyeast 1056 or Safale US-05, is recommended for its clean fermentation profile.
  3. Ferment at around 68°F for two weeks, or until the specific gravity stabilizes near 1.011.
  4. Dry hop with 2 oz of Cascade for the last 4 days of fermentation. Dry hopping imparts vibrant hop aroma and flavor.
  1. Rack the beer off the sediment into a clean secondary fermenter or keg, allowing it to clear.
  2. Carbonate the beer to approximately 2.4 volumes of CO2 for a refreshing, effervescent finish.

Brewing Tips and Tricks  
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  1. Water Chemistry: The water used in brewing can significantly impact the beer’s final flavor. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale benefits from balanced sulfate-to-chloride ratios, which emphasize the hop bitterness while maintaining a smooth malt character. Consider using water with a similar profile to Chico, CA. More about water chemistry here.
  2. Yeast Health: Healthy yeast is critical for fermentation. Make a yeast starter if using liquid yeast, or rehydrate dry yeast before pitching to ensure it can handle the full batch.  Learn how to make a yeast starter here!
  3. Temperature Control: Maintain a consistent fermentation temperature of 68°F to prevent the development of off-flavors. Using a temperature-controlled fermentation chamber or even a water bath can help.
  4. Oxygen Management: After fermentation begins, avoid oxygen exposure to maintain hop freshness. Minimize air contact during transfers, and purge kegs or bottles with CO2. (Learn Wort Aeration Essentials for Crafting the Perfect Beer on this post)
  5. Dry Hopping Schedule: Add the dry hops once primary fermentation has slowed to capture the most aromatic compounds without risking volatile losses. (All you need to know about mastering dry hopping here)

Crafting Your Own Legacy

Brewing a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale clone is not just about recreating a beloved beer—it’s about understanding the balance of ingredients and processes that make it special.

Take detailed notes during your brew day, and don’t be afraid to make adjustments based on your personal tastes and brewery conditions.

With each batch, you’ll refine your techniques, gain a deeper appreciation for brewing, and discover new ways to put your spin on this iconic American Pale Ale. Cheers to the adventure of brewing your version of this beer and the joy of sharing it with others!

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