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Sierra Nevada, Russian River, and Pliny the Younger

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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.
DSC_7294.jpgI 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.
DSC_7307.jpgFrom 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.
DSC_7335.jpgSeriously, 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.
photo+2.jpgThe 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.
DSC_7349.jpgWe 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.
IMAG0304.jpgOn 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.


Younger:
DH1: .5oz ea: Simcoe/Amarillo
DH2: 1oz ea: CTZ/Centennial
DH3: .5oz ea Simcoe/Chinook
DH4: 1oz ea Simcoe/Amarillo
Elder:
DH1: 1.25oz CTZ + .75oz ea Simcoe/Centennial
DH2: .5oz ea CTZ/Simcoe + .25oz ea Centennial/Amarillo

photo.jpgI 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.

15 thoughts on “Sierra Nevada, Russian River, and Pliny the Younger”
  1. KGBrews 02.13.2013 on 2:11 PM Reply

    Jealous….

  2. Kyle Leddy 02.13.2013 on 5:48 PM Reply

    That's awesome that you got a chance to come to Norcal and check things out. My buddies and I went to RR last Friday, got there at 8:45 AM and were 15th or so in line. It's always worth the wait, for the beer, the food and the service. I'm always blown away at how great the service is at RR, even during The Younger's release. They're never bothered to get merch for you, or an entire mixed 24 pack of Pliny/Blind Pig, lol.

    I noticed you address both Pliny recipe changes, but not Blind Pig. Does that mean you feel like your clone is pretty dead on? Would you change anything? Mine batch is half-way through the dry-hop and I can't wait to get it in kegs and subsequently, my belly. I'm looking forward to trying my hands at your Younger clone if I can track down anymore Amarillo, its getting pretty hard to find.

  3. Scott 02.13.2013 on 6:00 PM Reply

    Nice! Ya, we got a T-shirt and some bottles. They were out of Elder bottles by Sunday.

    Palate fatigue had set it. Pig still tasted great (Kristen ordered a pint), but I wasn't in any shape to taste the nuances. We brought back a super fresh bottle (Bottled 02/07), so we'll see in a few days.

    To be honest, the hopping scheme Brett posted in the comments of that post look pretty good. Vinnie mentioned in Stan H's hop book that he uses Amarillo extract mid-boil on Pig, so it seems to fall right in line. Both hop schemes will make a similar beer in the end though. If/when I brew it again, I'll probably do something similar to that. The malt bill I still stand behind though.

  4. Scott 02.13.2013 on 6:01 PM Reply

    If you ever have the chance, do it. Blast of a weekend.

  5. Justin 02.13.2013 on 7:24 PM Reply

    great write-up of your hop schedule planning and adjustment. as i get into creating some IPAs, resources like this are really helping me.

    i brewed your black rye IPA last fall and it was massively popular. though the aroma was fairly muted, i think it was due to my use of a crappy orange cap instead of a drilled rubber stopper. i'll be ditching those now!

    trip sounds awesome. i live in norcal and am planning a big loop with four friends – chico, eureka and then back down 101 through anderson valley, bear republic, RR.

  6. Scott 02.13.2013 on 7:32 PM Reply

    That'll be a blast! Plan on more time than you think. We really wanted to hit Bear Republic and Lagunitas, but we drank too much. It's hard to leave one great brewery to go to another =)

  7. bagendbrewery 02.14.2013 on 2:44 PM Reply

    Looks like an awesome trip, basically like Mecca. I'll be interested to see how your Elder changes end up tasting, I still feel like my 2nd brew of PTE is fairly dank, the citrus and pine are definitely behind the dank CTZ flavors at least from my perception – where my first version had a lot more citrus & fruitiness which I think was just from vastly different crops of CTZ that I got.

  8. Scott 02.14.2013 on 2:58 PM Reply

    When I crunched the numbers, the additional .5oz of Amarillo really skewed the percentages. So I'm cutting back on Centennial to add some Amarillo. Secondly, I'm working with the same hops as last time (buy in bulk). I probably wouldn't have changed it as much had I bought different columbus

  9. Paul Blatz 02.14.2013 on 10:03 PM Reply

    Unbelievable Scott – very jealous – I need to make that trek soon. How are you liking the IPA glasses? I ordered a set last week and have yet to receive them. Cheers!

  10. Scott 02.14.2013 on 10:29 PM Reply

    It was awesome. Kristen travels for work, and accumulates a ton of points. I'm spoiled, as we typically stay for free when we travel.

    The glasses are really nice. Much thinner than you'd imagine; more akin to a wine glass. They make a nice 'tinngggg' when you flick them with your nail. The ridges definitely work, something you'll notice when you go to pour a beer into the glass. I am a little concerned that I'll break them though. I'm used to the durability of beer glasses, not the fragility of wine glasses. We'll see

  11. Bobby Fields Jr. 02.19.2013 on 7:03 PM Reply

    Man,
    I am so jealous of all the things you do… lol… seriously.
    Tonight I've dreamed about trying PTY. And that's definetely not going to happen anytime soon.

    I am also really jealous that you have at your disposal pretty much everything you need in terms of ingredients and stuff. Since I'm from Brazil, I have no idea when I will be able to brew with Amarillo or Citra, for example.

    Nonetheless, I am a big fan of your blog and all your well put techniques.
    Keep brewing and sharing your experiences!
    Regrets

  12. Scott 02.19.2013 on 8:03 PM Reply

    Ya, I'm pretty spoiled, as I can almost always get the harder-to-find hops. I'm glad you like the blog. Thanks for the feedback!

  13. Chadwick C. DeVoss 03.02.2013 on 5:40 PM Reply

    Great write-up, looks like a blast! I'm assuming you have seen this old article in Zymurgy: https://www.homebrewersassociation.org/attachments/0000/6351/doubleIPA.pdf by Vinnie himself explaining his process for Elder/Younger?

  14. Chadwick C. DeVoss 03.02.2013 on 5:46 PM Reply

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. Scott 03.02.2013 on 6:38 PM Reply

    Thanks! Yup, I got a lot of info from that article.

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