Russian River Pliny The Elder (Double IPA)

Russian River Pliny the Elder Double IPA

 

Introduction

Pliny the Elder is an American style Double IPA (sometimes called Imperial IPA or simply IIPA) commercial beer that has proven very popular amongst the homebrew community.

It all started when Vinnie Cilurzo (head brewer at Russian River Brewery in Santa Rosa, California) first handed out a homebrew scale recipe of Pliny the Elder at the 2004 National Homebrew Competition, approximately four years after its debut. At the time few homebrewers had heard of, let alone tried the beer, and the Double IPA style was mostly unknown. (Vinnie is credited for having invented the style back in 1994 when he was the head brewer at Blind Pig Brewing Company in Temecula, California).

Pliny is well-balanced with malt, hops, and alcohol, slightly bitter with a fresh hop aroma of floral, citrus, and pine. It sits near the bottom end of the Double IPA ABV range and lacks the roughness or booziness that plague many DIPAs. Pliny is far softer than you might expect with a flavour profile that would fit right in with most regular IPAs, almost tame by today's standards. It's this balance between the beautiful aroma, juicy flavours, and perfect mouthfeel that allows this beer to still dominate 19 years after its introduction.

Pliny has won numerous awards over the years:

  • Gold Medal, 2006 World Beer Cup (Double IPA Category)
  • Gold Medal, 2005-2006 GABF (Double IPA Category)
  • Bronze Medal, 2004 GABF (Double IPA Category)
  • #1 beer in America 8 years in a row, 2009 - 2016 American Homebrewers Association's Zymurgy magazine. (It was dethroned by Bell's Two Hearted in 2017).

It's also one of the few beers that has scored a perfect 100% at both RateBeer.com and BeerAdvocate.com.

Pliny the Elder bottling day at Russian River Brewing CompanyPliny the Elder bottling day at Russian River Brewing Company. Image (c) San Francisco Chronicle

So where does the somewhat odd name come from? Pliny the Elder was a Roman naturalist, scholar, historian, traveller, officer, and writer who lived in the first century from 23-79 A.D. (he died while watching Mount Vesuvius erupt). Although not considered his most important work, Pliny and his contemporaries created the botanical name for hops, hence the naming for the beer.

The malt bill is fairly simple and results in a slightly orange colour. Some sugar is added to produce a dryer beer which supposedly the customers of Russian River Brewery preferred. Like most Double IPAs however this beer is all about the hops. Hop aroma and flavour are at a level that is hard to describe. Less bitter than you think, with a fresh hop aroma of floral, citrus, and pine.

Because of the huge hop profile, Pliny is best consumed fresh (like all other hop forward beers). It even says so right on the outside of the label, over and over again:

Russian River Pliny the Elder Double IPA bottle label

The commercial beer has undergone changes over the years, so you'll see variations of the recipe posted all over the internet. We offer two here: A 2004 version that is based on the original handout, and a 2019 version that produces something closer to the beer as it's sold today. Which to brew? Why both of course! That's the only way to properly compare them for yourself! 😉 That said, don't expect wild differences. While the recipes may appear quite different (especially in the hop rates and schedule) the two versions are more alike than different.

One thing to consider when brewing either version of this beer is that there are lots of hops. Be prepared to lose a considerable amount of beer in both the boil kettle and the fermenter to hop absorption (this why we start with 12 gallons post-boil and end up packaging approximately 10 gallons). Below are a few pictures of the boil kettle after draining the 2004 version. The hop material is over 2" thick in spots. The Hop Stopper had no issues filtering this extreme amount of hops:

kettle hops after brewing Russian River Pliny the Elder Double IPA

kettle hops after brewing Russian River Pliny the Elder Double IPAKettle hops after brewing Pliny the Elder (2004 version)

Pliny is a definite must-brew for any hop-head. It was one of the first beers we brewed in 2009 on our electric all-grain setup. Brew up a batch and let us know how you like it!

This beer is available as an extract kit or all-grain kit from More Beer. (Unsure which of the two versions the kit is, but most likely the most recent as there's mention of it being "directly from the brewery"). 

 

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Russian River Pliny the Elder (Double IPA) - original 2004 version

This version is based on the homebrew scale recipe that Vinnie Cilurzo (head brewer at Russian River Brewery) first shared at the 2004 National Homebrew Competition.

Size: 12.0 gal (post-boil @ 68F)
Mash Efficiency: 95%
Attenuation: 81.8%
Calories: 260 kcal per 12.0 fl oz
Original Gravity:
1.078 (style range: 1.070 - 1.090)
Terminal Gravity: 1.014 (style range: 1.010 - 1.020)
Colour: 8.4 SRM (style range: 8 - 15)
Alcohol: 8.5% ABV (style range: 7.5% - 10%)
Bitterness: 261 IBU (style range: 60 - 120) (Best to ignore as it's only theoretical)

Mash:
23.7 lb Domestic 2-Row Malt (83.7%) 
0.5 lb Crystal Malt 40L (1.8%)
1.7 lb Carapils or Carafoam (6%)
4.1 oz Chinook Hops (11.5%) - added during mash* 

Boil:
6.7 oz Warrior Hops (15.4%) - added during boil, boiled 90 min [160.9 IBU] 
1.3 oz Chinook Hops (11.5%) - added during boil, boiled 90 min [22.8 IBU]
2.4 oz Simcoe Hops (11.9%) - added during boil, boiled 45 min [38.3 IBU] 
2.5 oz Columbus Hops (14%) - added during boil, boiled 30 min [38.5 IBU] 
1 Whirlfloc Tablet (Irish moss) - added during boil, boiled 15 min
2.4 lb Corn sugar (dextrose) (7%) - added during boil**, boiled 10 min (sprinkle in slowly)

Post-boil:
6.1 oz Centennial Hops (8%) - added immediately after boil 
2.4 oz Simcoe Hops (11.9%) - added immediately after boil 

Yeast:
52g Fermentis Safale US-05 dry yeast*** (or an appropriate starter)

Dry hop: 
7.8 oz Columbus Hops (14%) - added to brite tank, steeped 7-10 days
4.2 oz Centennial Hops (8%) - added to brite tank, steeped 7-10 days
4.2 oz Simcoe Hops (11.9%) - added to brite tank, steeped 7-10 days

*If using pellet hops break them up before adding them to the mash, otherwise they will clump up and you won't get much out of them. I find the easiest way to do this is to add the hops to 2-3 cups of hot strike water in a bowl and let them soak for a few minutes to allow them to break up. Then stir until it's an even soup (no clumps) and dump and mix well into the mash. You may find that your mash will foam up a bit more than usual with hops in there. This is normal.

**It's been said that moving the addition of simple sugars like corn sugar to the end of fermentation can help if you have attenuation problems. (We've never had issues so we always add to the boil per our recipe). If you prefer to add at the end of fermentation, heat up some distilled water to near boiling (above 180F) and stir in about 1lb of corn sugar. Let it cool and add directly to the fermenter. Keep doing this every 2-3 days until all of the corn sugar is used up. Why is this said to help with attenuation? Yeast likes to eat simple sugars (like corn sugar) first before it attacks the more complex ones produced by the grain. By giving the yeast only the 'less tasty' stuff (complex sugars) first they're more likely to finish it all before moving on the 'tasty stuff' (simple sugars). Giving them both at the same time is like giving your kids dinner and desert at the same time. They'll eat desert first and then be too full to eat their dinner. Given them dinner first, and there's always room for desert. 😉

***If you prefer to use liquid yeast, Wyeast 1056 American Ale or White Labs WLP001 California Ale are excellent choices as they are the same clean fermenting Chico strain as US-05. You'll need to use 8 packs/vials or make an appropriate starter.

Purchasing through our affiliate links helps support our site at no extra cost to you. We thank you!

 

Notes / Process:

  • Add 500mg potassium metabisulphite to 20 gallons water to remove chlorine / chloramine (if required).
  • Water treated with brewing salts to our Hoppy flavour profile: Ca=110, Mg=18, Na=16, Cl=50, SO4=275 (Basically Randy Mosher's ideal Pale Ale numbers with slightly less Sulphate). For complete details on how to adjust your water, refer to our step by step Water Adjustment guide.
  • 1.25 qt/lb mash thickness.
  • Single infusion mash at 150F for 90 mins.
  • Raise to 168F mashout temperature and hold for 10 mins.
  • ~90 min fly sparge with ~5.6-5.8 pH water (measured at mash temperature). Collect 14.9 gallons.
  • Boil for 90 minutes, adding Whirlfloc and hops per schedule. Lid on at flameout, start chilling immediately.
  • Cool the wort quickly to 66F (we use a one-pass convoluted counterflow chiller to quickly lock in hop flavour and aroma) and transfer to fermenter.
  • Aerate well. Pure oxygen from a tank may be used at a rate of 1 litre per minute for 120 seconds per 5 gallons.
  • Pitch yeast and ferment at 66-68F (wort temperature) until complete. We use modified stainless fermenting buckets in wine fridges.
  • Add dry hops to brite tank (we use 5 gallon glass carboys) and purge with CO2 to avoid oxygen pickup. Rack beer on top of hops and allow to steep for 7-10 days at 70-72F room temperature (this longer dry hopping is somewhat 'old school' but we include it here for historical reasons - today we do not tend to go more than 3-5 days). Gently swirl a few times a day.
  • After 7-10 days of dry hopping optionally add 1 tsp of unflavoured gelatin dissolved in a cup of hot distilled water per 5 gallons of beer, and let clear for an extra 2-3 days. Gelatin may "round off" some hop flavour / aroma so we do not tend to use it on hop forward beers like this.
  • Package as you would normally. We rack to kegs that have first been purged with CO2, and then carbonate on the low side (around 2 volumes of CO2) to minimize carbonic bite and let the hop and malt flavours shine through. We chill the kegs to near freezing while carbonating at the same time in a 6-keg conditioning fridge. After ~1-2 weeks at serving pressure the kegs will be carbonated and ready to serve. Like all hop forward beers this Double IPA is best consumed fresh so feel free to raise the CO2 pressure temporarily to 30-40 PSI to carbonate fast over a 24 period, and then turn back down to serving pressure. Some hop bits will have invariably made their way into the keg during transfer so we use a Hop Stopper Keg Edition filter to ensure that hops do not clog the dip tube and/or end up in the glass. Force carbonating at high pressure and using a Hop Stopper filter allows us to serve this beer 24 hours after kegging. There's no need to wait a few days for any hop bits that made their way into the keg to first settle out.

For detailed brewing instructions, see our Brew Day Step by Step guide.

 

Shop control panel kits and parts

 

Russian River Pliny the Elder (Double IPA) - revised 2019 version

This version produces something closer to the commercial beer as it's sold today. While the Carapils / Carafoam are gone (and mash temperature raised to compensate), the biggest changes are in the hop rates and schedule: Mash hops have been removed (it's rumoured that the cows that were fed the spent grains did not like it), bittering hops are reduced, some Cascade and Amarillo are added, and dry hopping is done in two steps. Russian River is said to use hop extract for some of the additions to help with yield, but we're sticking with pellets all the way through.

Size: 12.0 gal (post-boil @ 68F)
Mash Efficiency: 95%
Attenuation: 87.1%
Calories: 228 kcal per 12.0 fl oz
Original Gravity:
1.070 (style range: 1.065 - 1.085)
Terminal Gravity: 1.009 (style range: 1.008 - 1.018)
Colour: 5.4 SRM (style range: 6 - 14)
Alcohol: 8% ABV (style range: 7.5% - 10%)
Bitterness: 109 IBU (style range: 60 - 120)

Mash:
22.5 lb Domestic 2-Row Malt (93.5%) 
0.4 lb Crystal Malt 60L (1.7%)

Boil:
2 oz Apollo Hops (17.7%) - added during boil, boiled 90 min [55.2 IBU] 
0.75 oz Columbus Hops (15%) - added during boil, boiled 90 min [17.6 IBU] 
1 oz Amarillo Hops (7.7%) - added during boil, boiled 45 min [10.3 IBU]
2 oz Simcoe Hops (11.7%) - added during boil, boiled 30 min [26.3 IBU] 
1 Whirlfloc Tablet (Irish moss) - added during boil, boiled 15 min
1.15 lb Corn sugar (dextrose) (4.8%) - added during boil*, boiled 10 min (sprinkle in slowly)

Post-boil:
1.5 oz Cascade Hops (6.3%) - added immediately after boil 
1.5 oz Centennial Hops (10.8%) - added immediately after boil 
1.5 oz Amarillo Hops (7.7%) - added immediately after boil 
1.5 oz Simcoe Hops (11.7%) - added immediately after boil 

Yeast:
48g Fermentis Safale US-05 dry yeast** (or an appropriate starter)

Dry hop: 
7.8 oz Columbus Hops (14%) - dry hop #1 (added to primary fermenter near end of fermentation, steeped 3 days)
4.2 oz Centennial Hops (8%) - dry hop #1 (added to primary fermenter near end of fermentation, steeped 3 days)
4.2 oz Simcoe Hops (11.9%) - dry hop #1 (added to primary fermenter near end of fermentation, steeped 3 days)
7.8 oz Columbus Hops (14%) - dry hop #2 (added to brite tank, steeped 3 days)
4.2 oz Centennial Hops (8%) - dry hop #2 (added to brite tank, steeped 3 days)
4.2 oz Simcoe Hops (11.9%) - dry hop #2 (added to brite tank, steeped 3 days)

*It's been said that for recipes that call for simple sugars like corn sugar, that adding them near the end of fermentation instead of in the boil can help if you have attenuation problems. To do this, heat up some distilled water to near boiling (above 180F) and stir in about 1lb of corn sugar. Let it cool and add directly to the fermenter. Keep doing this every 2-3 days until all of the corn sugar is used up. (We've never experienced this so we always add them to the boil per the recipe). Why is this said to help with attenuation? Yeast likes to eat simple sugars (like corn sugar) first before it attacks the more complex ones produced by the grain. By giving the yeast only the 'less tasty' stuff (complex sugars) first they're more likely to finish it all before moving on the 'tasty stuff' (simple sugars). Giving them both at the same time is like giving your kids dinner and desert at the same time. They'll eat desert first and then be too full to eat their dinner. Given them dinner first, and there's always room for desert. 😉

**If you prefer to use liquid yeast, Wyeast 1056 American Ale or White Labs WLP001 California Ale are excellent choices as they are the same clean fermenting Chico strain as US-05. You'll need to use 7 packs/vials or make an appropriate starter.

Purchasing through our affiliate links helps support our site at no extra cost to you. We thank you!

 

Notes / Process:

  • Add 500mg potassium metabisulphite to 20 gallons water to remove chlorine / chloramine (if required).
  • Water treated with brewing salts to our Hoppy flavour profile: Ca=110, Mg=18, Na=16, Cl=50, SO4=275 (Basically Randy Mosher's ideal Pale Ale numbers with slightly less Sulphate). For complete details on how to adjust your water, refer to our step by step Water Adjustment guide.
  • 1.25 qt/lb mash thickness.
  • Single infusion mash at 154F for 90 mins.
  • Raise to 168F mashout temperature and hold for 10 mins.
  • ~90 min fly sparge with ~5.6-5.8 pH water (measured at mash temperature). Collect 14.9 gallons.
  • Boil for 90 minutes, adding Whirlfloc and hops per schedule. Lid on at flameout, start chilling immediately.
  • Cool the wort quickly to 66F (we use a one-pass convoluted counterflow chiller to quickly lock in hop flavour and aroma) and transfer to fermenter.
  • Aerate well. Pure oxygen from a tank may be used at a rate of 1 litre per minute for 120 seconds per 5 gallons.
  • Pitch yeast and ferment at 66-68F (wort temperature). We use modified stainless fermenting buckets in wine fridges.
  • Add dry hops #1 once fermentation is nearing completion (i.e. 5 points from terminal gravity) and raise the temperature to 70-72F. In our case we simply turn off the fermenting fridges and allow the beer to naturally rise to room temperature. Steep for 3 days while fermentation finishes.
  • Add dry hops #2 to brite tank (we use 5 gallon glass carboys), purge with CO2 to avoid oxygen pickup, then carefully rack in the beer on top of the hops. Allow to steep for 3 daysat 70-72F room temperature, gently swirling a few times a day. We do not recommend using hop sacks or other containers as you'll get the best flavour extraction from the hops if you let them roam free.
  • After 3 days in the brite tank package as you would normally. We rack to kegs that have first been purged with CO2, and then carbonate on the low side (around 2 volumes of CO2) to minimize carbonic bite and let the hop and malt flavours shine through. We chill the kegs to near freezing while carbonating at the same time in a 6-keg conditioning fridge. After ~1-2 weeks at serving pressure the kegs will be carbonated and ready to serve. Like all hop forward beers this Double IPA is best consumed fresh so feel free to raise the CO2 pressure temporarily to 30-40 PSI to carbonate fast over a 24 period, and then turn back down to serving pressure. Some hop bits will have invariably made their way into the keg during transfer so we use a Hop Stopper Keg Edition filter to ensure that hops do not clog the dip tube and/or end up in the glass. Force carbonating at high pressure and using a Hop Stopper filter allows us to serve this beer 24 hours after kegging. There's no need to wait a few days for any hop bits that made their way into the keg to first settle out.
  • We do not recommend using finings such as unflavoured gelatin as it may "round off" hop flavours / aromas.

For detailed brewing instructions, see our Brew Day Step by Step guide.

Enjoy!

Questions? Visit our Russian River Pliny the Elder Double IPA forum thread

Interested in seeing what we're brewing right now? Follow us on Instagram for pictures and videos of our brewing activities as they happen.

 

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