Extract This: The Secret to Bitterness Without Muddiness

BYOB by | Jun 2016 | Issue #113
Illustration by Ellen Crenshaw

Pliny the Elder, the unbeaten champion of Zymurgy magazine’s “Best Beers in America,” has won seven of 12 years. If this were Little League, they would have invoked the mercy rule by now. What’s Pliny’s secret to clean bitterness without green muddiness? Simple, they toss the pellets and use hop extract.

Getting rid of the bittering addition reduces the vegetation aromas and flavors. It reduces the volume of wort wasted by thirsty hop pellets. And it adds less tannin.

Extracts are a good thing, unless you find “processed” ingredients inferior to wholesome, absolutely unprocessed hop pellets. Just think of extract as liquefied concentrated hop pellet—it still needs to be boiled to work.

Until recently, the only extracts commonly available to homebrewers were small syringes designed for modestly bitter 5-gallon batches. Not terribly exciting, budget-friendly or practical for majorly bitter brews. Yakima Valley Hops sells 100-gram cans.

So just open the can and pour the goo into your roiling kettle, right? Not quite. It turns out this stuff doesn’t want to dissolve. It sticks to your kettle stubbornly refusing to cooperate, bitter or do anything but mock you.

My fellow brewer, Craig Shapland, measures hop extract for his Pliny the Clone into an oral syringe and adds it to a few ounces of Everclear, stirring to completely dissolve. The resulting sludge goes into the kettle achieving supreme bitterness with minimal fuss. His Pliny (Elder and Younger) clones sing bitter odes. And don’t worry purists: There’s still a metric ton of regular hops in the recipe!

PLINY THE CLONE
(courtesy of Craig Shapland)
For 5.5 gallons at 1.071
161.3 IBU
5.5 SRM
7.5% ABV
90 minute boil

Grain Bill
10.5 lbs Domestic 2-row malt
0.75 lbs Carapils malt
0.25 lbs Crystal 40L
0.50 lbs wheat malt
1.25 lbs cane sugar

Mash
Strike 145°F 60 minutes
Saccharification rest at 155°F for 20 minutes
Mash out at 168°F for 20 minutes

Hops
1.25 oz hop extract | 90 minutes
1.25 oz hop extract | 60 minutes
0.50 oz Columbus | 15% AA | 60 minutes
0.50 oz Simcoe | 13% AA | 15 minutes
1.25 oz Centennial | 10.5% AA | 1 minute
0.50 oz Simcoe | 13% AA | 1 minute
0.67 oz Amarillo | 10% AA | 1 minute
0.50 oz Amarillo | 10% AA | dry hop for 7 days (2 days before end of fermentation)
0.50 oz Columbus | 15% AA | dry hop for 7 days (2 days before end of fermentation)
0.75 oz Centennial | 10.5% AA | dry hop for 7 days (2 days before end of fermentation)
1.00 oz Simcoe | 13% AA | dry hop for 7 days (2 days before end of fermentation)
0.67 oz Amarillo | 10% AA | dry hop for 4 days (3 days after first dry hop)
0.50 oz Columbus | 15% AA | dry hop for 4 days (3 days after first dry hop)
0.75 oz Centennial | 10.5% AA | dry hop for 4 days (3 days after first dry hop)
1.00 oz Simcoe | 13% AA | dry hop for 4 days (3 days after first dry hop)

Yeast
WLP001 California Ale, Wyeast 1056 American Ale or Safale US-05 

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