#11 – The Student (a Pliny the Elder clone) – Planning


For beer number #11 I decided that I wanted to see who well I can make a beer.  My last couple of beers have come out good to me, but I have no idea if they came out like they were supposed to.  So for beer #11 I’ve decided I’m going to do a clone recipe and then try to do a side by side comparison to see how I have done.  With that decided, I also want the beer to be ready fairly quick and I’ve been thinking about a hoppy beer since #6 Imperial Red IPA.  So what to pick.  I took a look through the beers that I’ve marked on Untappd for some motivation.  I really liked Shipwrecked by Mission Brewery, but after scouring the internet I couldn’t find any recipes for it and I certainly cannot make up one on my own.  When doing this I ran across several links for Pliny the Elder by Russian River Brewery (RRB).  I’ve had this a couple of times, once at the brewery and another time at Naja’s, and I think I’ll be able to get this again either at the Store or through a visit to Rollie.


Recipe Notes

So after looking at a few pages I’ve discovered that this is going to take a bit of research as there is no definitive recipe.  I’ve done as much research as I can stand and have looked for articles and interviews about Vinnie Cilurozo (RRB owner and PTE recipe inventor) where he might give hints about the recipe.  Secondly, I’ve also looked for others that have cloned this beer and their direct comparisons to the real Pliny the Elder.  Lastly, I’ve taken some notes from those that do a comparison of their clone to their recollection of the Pliny the Elder which in most cases is probably suspect.  There are a ton of posts about that the recipe is great, which I imagine is the case, but I’m looking to hit PTE on the head if I can.

The starting point for the recipe is from an article from Zymurgy by Vinnie  in 2009.  In this article Vinnie gives a recipe for Pliny the Elder.  Apparently there was a typo in the first release that had the amounts sized for 5G instead of 6G, but the attached PDF is the corrected version.  Also on EC Kraus there is a reference to a recipe in Brewing Classic Styles by Jamil Zainasheff that may have had input by Vinnie.  I can see that the OG is much higher, the grain bill and hop schedule are different.  So at this point I think this recipe is not a clone, but rather just a good DIPA.

There is a rather good interview on the Sunday Session by the Brewing Network.  In this I’ve noted (as many others have reported)

  • generic extract is used, no pellets, for the 90 min and 45 min addition
    • The original recipe used a mix of CTZ and Warrior extract, but is now only generic
    • Sometimes they use pellets to dial in the right amount of hops as only whole cans are used.  Thought this didn’t seem significant
  • When Amarillo was added no other hop additions were reduced
  • All hop additions are pellet hops, ie no whole leaf additions
  • Crystal has been reduced.  No indication of how much

There is also a rather lengthy forum on HomeBrewTalk.com that I’ve gotten a few notes from.  #63 by RichBenn says this is pretty spot on, but maybe the comparison wasn’t side by side since the PTE he has is at a bar.  The quote below is one of the few direct comparisons that I’ve come across.

#431 by D-Train I had the opportunity to try my execution of this clone side by side with a bottle of Pliny tonight. Keep in mind that I’m fairly new to brewing and maybe experience would change the results. They were close, but there are a few things I would change next time.

1. Add Amarillo to the dry/late addition hops. The real Pliny was definitely weighted more to the citrus side. The clone had more dank/pine. I’ve read that Pliny now includes Amarillo.
2. Use only 2 hopshots for the first addition. I used 3 hopshots and the clone was more bitter. Earlier I posted that I was using hop extract for the recipe.
3. Make it lighter in color by reducing the crystal and/or boiling for 60 mins instead of 90 and/or increasing the dextrose. I scaled up the recipe and went with 14lb 2row, 0.6lb carapils, 0.6lb crystal, 12 oz dextrose. The clone was more orange and the Pliny more yellow.
4. Switch to RO water and the additions in the chemistry primer on this site. So far I’ve ignored water chemistry in my brews. I have high pH, high alkalinity tap water with chlorine and I think it’s limiting the full potential of my brews.

All said the above differences were not significant. With a few tweaks I don’t think a blind test would pick the real Pliny. Again it could simply be my execution of the recipe. Caveat emptor.

Some thoughts on this.

For #1, a look at the RRB website of Pliny the Elder and as the Sunday session interview notes that Amarillo is now in the recipe which wasn’t in the original.  Since I’m trying to do a taste comparison I’ve added Amarillo where I think it might go.

#2 shows he used hop shots.  In other articles (#85, 5 tips for better IPAs by Vinnie recommends extracts, and oldschool hints that a Sunday Session recording states the real PTE uses extracts too), it is noted that that the 90 and 45min additions of PTE are extract additions, so this is some good information.  Its also worth pointing out that the Vinnie recipe shows the AA values for each hops.  When looking online it seems that the AA levels are a bit higher that noted by Vinnie.  I don’t think I’m going to adjust for this now except for in the extract additions, but it might be something worth tweaking if I do this again.  Now there is the issue of converting the hops to extract amounts.  To do this I partially used two websites.  The first, from brewer’s friend,  I user to convert the hop additions to an IBU calculation.  The second I use to convert the IBU calculation into an extract amount.  The extract calculation uses a utilization faction which is more or less a function of the amount of time the extract is in contact with boiling wort and the amount of wort it can be in contact with.  I’ve noticed that it doesn’t quite account for the volume right, so I’ve looked at the html source to get the calculations and have made the needed adjustments.  The adjustments are slight and probably won’t make a difference in the end, but being an engineer I wanted to see the math done right.  My calculations show that 18.75mL and 4.34mL of extract is needed for the two additions.  From what D-train recommended 2 hop shots instead of 3 (I’ve translated this to be 10mL instead of 15mL) whereas I’m going to be even higher.  I think I’ll stick to my calculations for now and see what I think too, but it is probably that not only has Amarillo been added, but that the extract has gone down too to please more pallets and/or to reduce the cost (though RRB  does seem to make too many recipe decisions on cost).

#3, color, is interesting.   It seems to have been repeated by VTCCbrewer (#295) though one note on this one is that he mentions is volume is slightly low which would affect the color too. bobbrews (#131) has a similar suspicion as I do that perhaps crystal 40 is used rather than crystal 45 and MMjfan (#161) suggests 1/2 the amount crystal 40 at 0.3lbs.  After adjusting the recipe to this the OG sits at 1.071.  When looking at the PTE website is states an OG of 1.070, but if you look back through the web archives it can be seen that this was 1.071 circa 2005 (and 1.073 circa 2004). So I think this is on the right track and I’ll go with it.  Funny thing is that after making the adjustments I come up with a grain bill almost the same as Scott (bertusbrewery.com) on his PTE 3.0 review.  Aside from the fast that his reviews are a recollection of his tasting it at least feels nice that I’ve ended up with what one person thinks is pretty good after adjusting twice.

Water.  As noted in #4 water should be addressed.  My first attempt at water adjustments was on #10 Irish Red.  I didn’t quite have a handle on things then, nor do I really know what I’ve doing now, but I’ve been reading a lot since then and think I can at least do better.  Another HBT forum discusses PTE water which concludes by saq (#5) that the water profile should be:

  •  Calcium (CA) 76
  • Magnesium (MG) 13
  • Sodium (NA) 9
  • Bicarbonate (HCO3) 26
  • Sulfate (SO4) 133
  • Chloride (CL) 56

 Process Notes

per Vinnie’s article.

  • Mash will be at 151 (or the closest I can do this)
  • Stir in the dextrose at the start of the boil
  • ferment at 67
    • last two days drop to 60F to get yeast out then transfer to secondary
      • I won’t keep the yeast, but think I’ll cool to 52 to help clear things up as best as possible prior to mucking things up again with dry hops.
  • dry hop at 68F
  • Vinnie notes that he does a C02 blast every day or so to keep the hops in suspension.  I don’t have C02 for this, but will swirl like paradoc suggests in this post.
  • last 2 days of dry hopping is at cold crash temps
  • purge with CO2 if you have it….I don’t

In a (need to find link) Vinnie notes that PTE takes 21-24 days.   This is up to kegging so for me I need to add 3 days for fining and 3 weeks for bottle conditioning.  My schedule at 25 days, not counting conditioning, is pretty close to Vinnie’s schedule

  • 8 days fermenting
  • 2 days cool crash to 52
  • 7 days first dry hop, 12-5 days
  • 3 days second dry hop
  • 2 days cold crash
  • 3 days gelatin
  • 21 days conditioning

The yeast, Cal Ale WLP001, normally has an attenuation around 76.5% and according to White Labs attenuation ranges from 73-80%.  With the corn sugar, many people have noted that they can get near the a FG of 1.011 which places the attenuation around 85%. to get to 8.0% with the grain bill I’ve selected I’ll need to get 86.1% which seems within reason.

Finally, the name for my clone.  As is pointed out by RRB and many other sources, Pliny the Elder gave the name or at least recorded the name for hops as he was an author of many books.  From Wikipedia, it notes that:

He (Pliny the Elder) published a three-book, six-volume educational manual on rhetoric, entitled Studiosus, “the Student”

Just maybe my blog has enough rhetoric where you think I have the best plan possible to clone Pliny the Elder.

Rhetoric: the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, especially the use of figures of speech and other compositional techniques.

With that beer #11 will be called The Student


Here are the list of links I bookmarked while researching this recipe.

 Recipe:  The Student



  • 13.25 lb Two-Row pale malt
  • 0.3 lb Crystal 40 malt
  • 0.6 lb Carapils (Dextrin) Malt
  • 0.75 lb Dextrose (corn) sugar


  • 90 min boil
    • 3.5 oz Columbus (US)
    • replaced with 18.75mL of extract
  • 45 min boil
    • 0.75 oz Columbus (US)
    • replaced with 4.34mL of extract
  • 30 min boil
    • 1.0 oz Simcoe (US)
  • 20 min whirlpool
    • 2.5 oz Simcoe (US)
    • 1.0 oz Centennial (US)
  • 12 days Dry Hop
    • 1.0 oz Simcoe (US)
    • 1.0 oz Centennial (US)
    • 1.0 oz Columbus (US)
    • 1.0 oz Amarillo (US)
  • 5 days Dry Hop
    • 0.25 oz Simcoe (US)
    • 0.25 oz Centennial (US)
    • 0.25 oz Columbus (US)
    • 0.25 oz Amarillo (US)
  • *Tomahawk/Zeus can be substituted for Columbus


  • White Labs WLP001 California Ale Yeast
    • attenuation at 86.1% due to corn sugar

for 6.0 gallons into primary, Hopefully, net 5 gallons after hop loss

Original Gravity: 1.071
Final Gravity: 1.010
Efficiency: 75 percent
ABV: 8.0%
SRM: 4

Directions (mostly from Vinnie’s article)

  1. Mash grains at 151-152° F (66-67° C) for an hour or until starch conversion is complete.
  2. Mash out at 170° F (77° C) and sparge.
  3. Collect wort, bring to a boil for 90 mins
  4. Stir in dextrose
  5. Add hops as indicated in the recipe.
  6. After a boil and whirlpool, chill wort to 67° F (19° C)
  7. Transfer to fermenter.
  8. Aerate well
  9. Pitch yeast starter
  10. Ferment at 67° F (19° C) until fermentation activity subsides, then rack
    to secondary.
  11. Add first set of dry hops on top of the racked beer and age
  12. Then add the second set and age
  13. Then bottle after adding priming sugar.


Tags: , , , ,


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *