Recipe for 5 gals (18.9L):
9 gals (34.1L) Water
~17 LBS [7.71 KG] of Grains
- 90% 2 Row
- 10% Corn Sugar [ ~2lbs]
- 2 Hop Shots @90 mins
- 2oz (~57g) CTZ @60 mins
- 4oz Amarillo (~113g) @ Flameout
- 3oz Chinook (~85g) @ Flameout
- 2oz Simcoe (~57g) @ Flameout
- 1oz Amarillo (~28g) @ Day 2 DryHop
- 1oz Chinook (~28g) @ Day 2 DryHop
- 1oz Simcoe (~28g) @ Day 2 DryHop
- 1oz Amarillo (~28g) @ Keg DryHop
- 1oz Chinook (~28g) @ Keg DryHop
- 1oz Simcoe (~28g) @ Keg DryHop
- SafAle US-05
- Mash @ 143ºF (~62ºC) for about 15 min
- Mash @ 148ºF (~64ºC) for about 15 mins
- Boil for 90 mins
- Ferment around 67ºF (~19C) for ~10 Days
Original Gravity: 1.090
Final Gravity: 1.010
This is the most hyped beer in the US, and people are willing to wait three hours or more just to have a taste. I love beer as much as the next guy, but you’ll never catch me in a line that long.
You might have heard of this beer, the famed Pliny the Younger. Is it worth all that hype and the wait?
That’s up for debate, but what if you could skip the line and have some of your own Pliny on tap at home? That’s what I’ll attempt to find out today.
Let’s back up a bit and set some background to what Pliny the Younger is for the uninitiated. Younger is brewed by Russian River Brewing Company out of Santa Rosa, California, and Russian River is probably most famously known for commercially brewing one of the first double IPAs known as Pliny the Elder.
Head brewer Vinny Charo went on to win dozens of awards, and that beer really helped put them on the map. Having been to Russian River and having Elder on tap and also having several bottles before, I can tell you this is a must-try beer if you ever get the chance, and it’s usually easier to find.
Elder was first brewed in 1999, and in 2005 Vinny followed it up with Pliny the Younger, the first triple IPA commercially brewed.
While Elder is about 8%, Younger has more malt, more hops, and comes in around 10.25%. It’s bigger, bolder, and thanks to its clever release strategy, it’s harder to find since they only brew it during a select and small window early in the year.
That means a limited supply.
Luckily, I live in California, so Russian River distributes a few kegs of Younger around the state, and I’ve been lucky enough to get a pint, which I feel like people don’t realize.
You can actually get tickets to these Younger day events, and you don’t have to wait in any lines, so keep an eye out for them if you live in Cali.
But while it’s certainly a fantastic beer, I still wouldn’t wait in those lines for a taste. So let’s try to brew one of our own so we can have it on tap anytime we want some.
Now, before we get too ahead of myself, I do want to state that it’ll be nearly impossible to clone Younger as they keep the recipe pretty tight to their chest, and they also change out the hops just about every year.
But Russian River has released the Elder recipe before, and there are also several blogs and recipes for Younger out there, so hopefully, using all this, we can get pretty close.
I’ll mainly be referencing Michael Tonsmeire’s recipe on his Mad Fermentationist blog, but there’s also a great episode on Experimental Brewing Podcast about homebrewing an homage to Younger, and I’ll be sure to include links to both in the description.
With that in mind, here’s the recipe. I brewed up 90% two-row, which for a triple IPA was about 17 pounds, and 10% corn sugar to help dry out the beer.
This is one thing I did notice about the Pliny beers. They have a very dry finish, which helps the hops shine and makes the beer quite crushable despite its higher ABV.
Big thanks to the partners that made this brew day possible: Northern Brewer for providing all the ingredients, and Clawhammer Supply for providing the 120-volt electric brewing system.
If you’re in need of more ingredients or looking to go electric, I’ll leave links to both of these companies in the description.
So, I decided to follow Tom Myers’ mash schedule, starting with a step mash at 143°F for 15 minutes to help break down the complex starches a bit more to make a more fermentable, or meaning a drier finish.
Alternatively, you could look to use some enzymes to help with this instead, which I’ve done before in my American Light Lager with great success. Be sure to check that one out if you haven’t.
After the 15 minutes, I raised the temp to 148°F for 60 minutes for the main mash.
Let’s talk hops and bitterness. IPAs are bitter, and double IPAs are really bitter. So, triple IPAs must be extremely bitter, right? Well, it’s all kind of relative.
Since we’re using more malt, the perceived bitterness won’t be as intense as you would expect, so don’t be too surprised when I tell you that the calculated IBUs for this beer are 150. I mean, technically if you look at Tom Myers’ recipe, he says 199 IBUs, but it doesn’t feel like that when you taste this beer.
It certainly has a strong punch of hoppiness, but it’s balanced out by all that malt that we’re using. Any less hops, and this beer might feel too sweet.
So, in order to get us started on the right foot, we’re gonna need a big punch of bitterness right at the top of the boil.
In order to achieve that, I’m using two hop shots, which are basically CO2 extracted hop oils that are very concentrated. They work best for bittering, although you could use them for flavor and aroma additions, I suppose.
But there is a trick to getting the hop oils to mix with the wort. Otherwise, they tend to float on top of the boil and eventually just stick to the sides of the kettle.
First step is to place the hop shots in some warm water to get the oil loosened up. Next, you want some high proof alcohol to help make the oil more soluble. I’m using Everclear, and I just add a little bit to the glass and then shoot the hop shots into it while the mash is going.
I occasionally stir this up to help it dissolve and mix in a little better, and when the mash is done and the wort is boiling, I start a 90-minute timer and add in this Everclear hop oil tincture.
There are some charts online that help estimate how much bitterness you can expect from hop shots, but this should get us about 66 IBUs.
Then with one hour left, I add in the next bittering hop, two ounces of CTZ, and that’s pretty much it for the boil. Near the end of the boil, I added a Whirlfloc tablet for clarity and some Fermaid to boost nutrient content to help out the yeast.
At the very end of the boil, I turned off the heat and then dropped in the corn sugar, giving it a stir to mix in, and then finally added in all the flavor and aroma hops, which are four ounces of Amarillo, three ounces of Chinook, and two ounces of Simcoe.
As I mentioned, Russian River changes out what kind of hops they use, so you can totally swap things in for your preference. I think this year they used some Elixir and Nectar hops, so give it a try and let me know what you use.
I chilled the beer down and then added in a nice big starter of US-05, but something like San Diego super yeast could work great here.
Any solid, well-fermenting strain would be a good option. The wort had an original gravity of 1.090 with the yeast in. I let the beer ferment at 67°F, and a couple of days into fermentation, I added in the first charge of dry hops: one ounce Amarillo, one ounce Chinook, and one ounce Simcoe. I put the hops into a bag and tossed it into the fermentor.
Then, a little over a week later, the beer was done, and the final gravity came in at 1.010, meaning the final ABV on this was about 10.5%, just about on the money and pretty dry too, which was pleasing to see.
Before kegging it up, I added in another load of dry hops, same as before: one ounce Amarillo, one ounce Chinook, and one ounce Simcoe.
This time, I opted for just tossing them loose into the keg, but if you do go this way, make sure you install a floating dip tube. Otherwise, you might get hops stuck in your regular dip tube.
Ask me how I know.
Anyways, I closed the keg purge with CO2 and transferred the beer in, then carbonated it up until it was ready to drink. This beer is a definition of golden with a nice steady head that really lingers for quite a while.
It’s still a bit hazy despite all the findings that I threw at it, but this is probably due to the sheer amount of hops I had in it. The aroma is amazing, loads of citrus, pine, and very resinous, much like you would expect from a great West Coast IPA.
When I take a sip, the first thing that hits me is the strong bitterness but not overly bitter. It bounces against the malt sweetness, and as it sits on your palate, it definitely mellows out. There’s a big punch of grapefruit, and it’s very piney, almost sticky.
With all those hop oils, the hoppiness really coats your mouth, but it doesn’t drink like you would expect for a 10 plus percent beer. It really does go down quite easily. That is until you have a few, and you remember just how strong 10% can be.
I think if I were to brew it again, I would love to try some other hop varieties for the dry hops, maybe even use some cryo to minimize the hot matter, which I know will be an issue when I get to those later pints in this keg.
You could also try doing all the dry hops in the fermenter to help with that issue, but overall, I’m super pleased with this one. It’s not a direct replica of Vinny’s famed Pliny the Younger, but it is pretty damn close and pretty damn good in my opinion, and I have no problems drinking or sharing this one.
Plus, the only time you have to wait is the time it takes to fill up a glass. Better than any line, I’d say. Cheers and happy brewing. Thanks for watching.
If you’re looking for another great West Coast IPA recipe, I’ve got an awesome one right here that’s loaded with dank aroma and flavor. Check it out.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Difference Between Pliny the Younger and Pliny the Elder Beers?
Pliny the Younger is a triple IPA with a higher alcohol content and more hops compared to Pliny the Elder, which is a double IPA. Pliny the Younger has an ABV of around 10.25%, while Pliny the Elder is about 8%.
How Often is Pliny the Younger Brewed?
Pliny the Younger is brewed during a select and small window early in the year, making it a limited supply beer. This scarcity adds to its hype and makes it harder to find.
Can You Really Clone Pliny the Younger?
While the exact recipe for Pliny the Younger is closely guarded, it’s possible to get close to the original by following available homebrew recipes. The Pliny the Elder recipe has been released before and can serve as a reference.
What Does “Pliny” Mean?
The names “Pliny the Younger” and “Pliny the Elder” are inspired by historical figures. Pliny the Elder was an ancient Roman author and naturalist, while Pliny the Younger was his nephew and also a writer. The beers are named to honor these figures and their contributions to history.
How Can You Enjoy Pliny the Younger Without Waiting in Long Lines?
In California, where the beer is distributed, you can actually get tickets to special events and skip the long lines. Alternatively, you can try brewing your own Pliny the Younger at home.