Brewing Update: Big Things Happening

As a boy, occasionally my Grandma used to take me to the Santa Rosa Mall. In the mall, the white and black See’s Candy store beckoned shoppers from behind paned glass displaying chocolate nirvana. Unlike most mall shops, See’s always had a closed door, because of its cool, air conditioned climate perfection. Upon opening the door and stepping inside, you would experience a wave of the most delightfully cool chocolate fragrance anywhere. For a lover of chocolate, few places can supply the same heavenly aroma as the inside of a See’s store.
Now that I’ve grown and my palate has changed a bit, I want to live in the “hop room” — the climate controlled place in a brewery where hops are stored under controlled temperature and humidity conditions. One of my favorite things about homebrewing is smelling and working with hops.
IMG_5530A pilgrimage to Russian River Brewing Company this past Monday netted two growlers of Pliny the Elder (and a number of bottles) for careful evaluation and comparison against my first attempt at brewing 10 gallons of this “Double IPA” myself. An in-depth review of the process is forthcoming.

I’ve been serially obliterating my palate by drinking my Elder clone at every possibility.

What makes Pliny so good is the AROMA. IBUs just mean bitter. But hops, while making beer bitter, impart the most expansive spectrum to the flavor and aroma profile of beer, notwithstanding how flavorful and aromatic good malts can be on their own.
Pliny the Elder is a transporter not to the Oktoberfest beer garden of your dreams, but to the center of a thriving verdant hop field, teeming with air-kissed lupulin. If the coffee drinker seeks a brew that evokes the shade of the tree in the better-than-fair-trade Guatemalan coffee plantation, then the beer drinker reaches similar heights with Pliny. Even if it’s not the beer drinker’s favorite style (in my case, it is), it must be respected.

Sadly, despite going to Russian River Brewing during the annual release of Pliny the Younger, I could not justify standing in the 4-hour-plus line to taste their famous “Triple IPA”.

IMG_5533Oh well. Maybe next year, although based upon the results from this first Elder clone, I might just brew some myself and leave the hype alone.

Regarding other developments, I’ve undertaken another brewing upgrade by gradually upgrading to all new stainless steel home-brew kegs, replacing out the “reconditioned” Cornelius soda kegs. I’m doing this because I think my brewing has reached the level where I can be concerned about refinements like reducing potential “off flavors”. This is the first year that I’ll be submitting entries in the National Homebrew Competition, and I’m planning that these new kegs will hold at least one of my winning entries.


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