Crafting a Pliny the Elder Clone: The Quintessential Imperial IPA

Pliny the Elder, brewed by Russian River Brewing Company, is often hailed as one of the pioneers of the double or imperial IPA style. This beer is renowned for its bold hop character, balanced malt foundation, and its clear, golden appearance.

Our Pliny the Elder Clone Recipe will walk you through the process of creating a 6-gallon batch of a Pliny the Elder, perfect for any home brewer seeking to tackle this legendary beer.

The Essence of Imperial IPA

Imperial IPAs, also known as Double IPAs, are distinguished by their intense hop flavors and higher alcohol content. These beers are not just about the bitterness; they also showcase complex aromas and flavors from hops, ranging from citrusy and piney to floral and fruity.

The style demands a balance that can support the hop load with a sturdy malt backbone without overshadowing the hop profile.

Pliny the Elder Clone Recipe Specifications and Ingredients

  • Batch Size: 6 gallons (fermentor volume)
  • Boil Time: 90 minutes
  • Original Gravity: 1.067
  • Final Gravity: 1.011
  • ABV: 7.4%
  • IBUs: 176.2
  • SRM: 5.8
  • Efficiency: 75% (brew house)
  • 12 lb US – Pale 2-Row: The base malt provides a neutral canvas to highlight the hops.
  • 0.50 lb American – Caramel / Crystal 40L: Adds a touch of sweetness and color.
  • 0.50 lb American – Carapils (Dextrine Malt): Enhances body and head retention.
  • 1 lb Corn Sugar – Dextrose: Used to increase the alcohol content without adding extra body, helping maintain the beer’s crisp finish.
  • Columbus, Simcoe, and Centennial: A blend that creates a complex hop profile:
    • 2 oz Columbus (90 min): Provides a robust bitter foundation.
    • 1 oz Columbus (45 min), 1 oz Simcoe (30 min): Build on the bitterness while adding unique flavors and aromas.
    • 1 oz Centennial and 1 oz Simcoe (0 min): Contribute bright, aromatic hop notes.
    • Dry hopping with Columbus, Centennial, and Simcoe: Enhances the aromatic complexity essential to the style.

Dry Hopping Schedule:

  • 1 oz Columbus, 1 oz Centennial, 1 oz Simcoe (Dry Hop for 12 days): These three hop varieties are added as the first round of dry hops to infuse the beer with their complex range of flavors and aromas.
  • 0.25 oz Columbus, 0.25 oz Centennial, 0.25 oz Simcoe (Dry Hop for 5 additional days): A second, smaller addition towards the end of the fermentation process enhances the aromatic profile, ensuring a burst of fresh hop aroma in the final product.

These dual dry hopping stages are critical in achieving the intense, layered hop character that Pliny the Elder is famous for.

  • Fermentis – Safale – American Ale Yeast US-05: A clean fermenting yeast that lets the hop flavors shine through without significant ester production.

Brewing Process

  1. Mashing: Heat water to 152°F and mash the grains for 60 minutes to convert the starches into fermentable sugars.
  2. Boiling: Adhere to the hop addition schedule meticulously, starting with the Columbus hops for bittering and ending with flameout additions for aroma.
  3. Fermentation: Cool the wort to about 68°F, pitch the yeast, and ferment until the beer reaches a final gravity of 1.011.
  4. Dry Hopping: Add the first round of dry hops for 12 days, followed by a second, smaller addition for the last 5 days to maximize hop aroma.

Tips for Brewing a Successful Clone

  • Water Chemistry: Adjust your water profile to have a higher sulfate to chloride ratio to accentuate the hop bitterness.
  • Temperature Control: Maintain a consistent fermentation temperature to avoid unwanted yeast-derived flavors.
  • Freshness of Ingredients: Use the freshest hops possible to capture the essential oils and aromatics that define this style.

Pairing and Enjoyment 
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Food Pairing:

  • Grilled Meats: The bold flavors of Pliny the Elder pair well with grilled steak or barbecue chicken, where the hop bitterness can cut through the fat.
  • Spicy Foods: Try it with spicy Thai or Indian dishes; the intensity of the hops complements the heat and spices.
  • Sharp Cheeses: Aged cheddar or blue cheese can stand up to the robust nature of this beer.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: Can I substitute another hop for Simcoe or Centennial if they’re not available? A: Yes, while the unique characteristics of these hops are ideal, you can use alternatives like Amarillo or Cascade for a similar citrusy profile.

Q: How important is the water profile in brewing a clone? A: Very important. The right water chemistry can significantly impact the perception of hop bitterness and flavor.

Q: What’s the best way to ensure clarity in my IPA? A: Use finings like Irish moss during the boil, and consider cold crashing before bottling or kegging.

Final Thoughts

Brewing a Pliny the Elder clone is about embracing the extremes of hop usage while maintaining balance and drinkability. This recipe challenges the brewer to skillfully manage a high hop load without overwhelming the palate. The result is a beer that is both bold and balanced, offering a complex array of flavors that are sure to impress any hop lover.

As you refine your brewing process, take the opportunity to tweak elements like water chemistry and fermentation temperature to dial in the exact character you desire. The journey of recreating such a renowned beer can greatly enhance your brewing skills and deepen your appreciation for craft beer brewing.

Enjoy the process, and when you finally pour that first glass of your homemade Pliny the Elder clone, savor the fruits of your labor—a beer that not only challenges but also delights the senses with every sip.

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