My Fiance and I had been planning a trip up to Northern California to tour Sierra Nevada, Russian River, and any other breweries we had time for (Lagunitas, Bear Republic, etc). It just so happened that US Airways had some disgustingly cheap flights ($80 round trip from PHX) during the second week Younger was to be released. Seemed sort of like destiny.
We flew up Friday after work, and stayed with some family before making the long drive up to Chico on Saturday morning. Sierra Nevada’s brewery is beautiful. Everything in sight is copper-clad and magnificent. The staff was beyond helpful. Aside from that, the average employee was exceptionally knowledgeable and excited about beer. If you ever have the chance, go here.
I screwed up, since I didn’t realize how packed their tours would be. Thankfully one of their employees was understanding, and squeezed us in. It’s nice to see companies that still go the extra mile. Definitely one of the best brewery tours I’ve been on. After a quick history of Ken Grossman and Sierra Nevada, the first stop was the hop freezer. They walk you right into the freezer (a massive room), encourage you to grab a handful of hops, and give them a rub. Fucking awesome.
From there you get to go out on the brewery floor, where (for us at least) a batch of beer was being brewed. I got to stick my head over the kettle immediately after the brewer dumped a boat-load of hops into Pale Ale, which was pretty cool. Very informative tour for those that don’t brew. They have you taste wort straight from the mash tun, and thoroughly describe all the parts of the brewing process.
The hour-long tour wraps up in everyone’s favorite place, the Tasting Room. They handed out generous pour after generous pour, and really spent the time to answer everyone’s questions. After tastings, we grabbed some goodies from the gift shop, and headed over to the taproom for dinner. They have something like 20 beers on tap, many of which don’t make it out of Chico.
Seriously, I can’t say enough good things about these guys. Great beer, great food, great people. Make the trek up there; it’s worth it.
We drove down to Santa Rosa early Sunday morning. From what I heard, the lines at Russian River had been growing really long all week, so our goal was to get there around 8:30-8:45. Unfortunately, that meant getting up at 5:30 to leave Chico by 5:45. A little coffee goes a long way, and we were in line at the brewery around 8:50.
The two hours waiting went pretty quick. Everyone in line is in a great mood, and really chatty. By around 9:30 the line was already around the corner on D Street. Thankfully we (barely) made it in the door with the first group at 11:00, and although we had to wait about an hour for a table, I had a glass of Younger in my hand.
Younger is pretty amazing. Massively hoppy without any grassy, catty, or harsh flavors. Just big, clean hops. The alcohol is there (it’s hard to hide 10.8%), but it isn’t hot or harsh. The beer finishes remarkably clean and smooth though. Anyway, once we got a table, we ordered the sampler (14-16 beers), and eventually a pizza. Row 2 was really good, and all of the sours are fantastic. We stayed until about 3 or 4, and had a blast. While I don’t plan to ever wait in line for beer again, I can totally see why people do it. The vibe at RRBC during the Younger release is pretty awesome.
We decided take a nap before driving down to Lagunitas, but woke up at 8PM and realized that wasn’t going to happen. Oh well, there’s always next time.
On Monday we took a little detour to drive down the coast, before heading back to the airport. With a the aroma and flavor of both Younger and Elder still fresh in my mind, I sat down on the flight home to organize my thoughts.
– Younger is fruitier than Elder, but still had plenty of pine and dank
– Younger had roughly the same fruity/dank ratio that my Elder clone had
– My Younger clone was too fruity/citrusy.
– Elder always seems danker than I remember. Every. Time
– My Elder clone was also too fruity/citrusy
So with that in mind, I started crunching numbers. I grouped the dry hops into two categories: Pine/Dank (CTZ, Simcoe, Chinook) and Fruity/Citrus (Amarillo, Centennial). Those are gross generalizations, but it made the math easier. The dry hops in my Younger clone were 54% fruity, 46% pine. My Elder clone was 47% fruity, 53% pine. I’d like to see even more pine than that, so I revised the dry hop schedule for my Younger clone, and came in at 42% fruity, 58% pine.
For the elder, I had two goals. Get the ratio back around 30/70, and increase the amount of CTZ compared to the other hops. The reasoning here is two fold. First, Elder simply had more Pine and Dank to it than my clone did. Secondly, I tried Row 2, Hill 56 (100% Simcoe) alongside Elder. While it’s obvious Elder has quite a bit of Simcoe in it, CTZ was really prevelant. I’d say more-so than Simcoe.
I’m going to re-brew both recipes at some point this year. Younger first, probably in a month or two. No major adjustments to the hot-side of either recipe.Younger, I’ll cut the C40 to 2%, and no changes to Elder. Here are both proposed dry hop schedules.
DH1: .5oz ea: Simcoe/Amarillo
DH2: 1oz ea: CTZ/Centennial
DH3: .5oz ea Simcoe/Chinook
DH4: 1oz ea Simcoe/Amarillo
DH1: 1.25oz CTZ + .75oz ea Simcoe/Centennial
DH2: .5oz ea CTZ/Simcoe + .25oz ea Centennial/Amarillo
I almost forgot about the spoils from the trip. I bought a couple of the new IPA glasses that Sierra and Dogfish developed together. Also bought a bottle of Hop Harmony from Sierra (Chico-exclusive), as well as Pig and Supplication from RRBC.
That wraps up a pretty lengthy post. I’ve got the Younger re-brew in the on-deck spot, so I should have some results posted in about 2 months.