Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Brewing a Russian River Row 2, Hill 56 clone

Ah, summer. The season of warmer weather, vacations, and of course, beer! Also, fortunately or not, weddings. And next month, my older brother Geoff is getting married. I'm in the wedding party, but luckily I'm not responsible for making any speeches or really doing much of anything, other than standing there and looking pretty. There IS a big party the night before the wedding, however, and I was happy to volunteer to make a batch of beer to go with it.

Like me, Geoff is a big beer fan. He's not into homebrewing, but still loves trying new beers. Also like me, his favorite beers are hoppy ones, especially American Pale Ales and IPAs. I gave him some options of beers that I could brew for the party, and we both decided to settle on an APA - it's always a great style, because if you brew it right, beer geeks can love it, but it can also be fairly accessible for people who aren't necessarily into beer. Think of a hoppy Pale Ale, but not an overly bitter one. There's tons of APA recipes out there, and I have a lot of hops on hand that it would have been pretty easy to throw together a new recipe of my own, but I wanted to brew something that was tried and true, since the opinion of many beer drinkers was weighing on it. After doing a big of digging, I came back to a recipe I had come across a few months ago, a clone of a fairly new APA by Russian River Brewing Company.

The beer is called Row 2, Hill 56. Kind of an odd name for a beer at first glance, but when you read into it a bit, it makes perfect sense. The beer is brewed with 100% Simcoe hops; Row 2, Hill 56 is the location in an experimental hop yard in Yakima, WA, where Simcoe was first created. Now, anyone who is a fan of hoppy beers has experienced Simcoe. Released back in 2000, it's a dual-purpose hop that is mainly used for flavor and aroma purposes, as it gives a very unique profile of both citrus and pine. Russian River uses it in a lot of their hoppy beers (it's very prevalent in Pliny the Elder), as do a lot of breweries and homebrewers.

You don't need me to tell you any more about Simcoe; pretty much anyone reading this is already bored. The clone recipe for this beer was originally posted here, on the popular HomeBrewTalk forum. The recipe and beer stuck out for many reasons: I'm a big fan of Simcoe, but have never brewed a beer using it all on its own; a mid-5% ABV beer with ~40 IBUs sounded perfect - not too high to be accessible only to beer geeks or hop heads; and the recipe appears to have been brewed by many people that stand by its deliciousness. Perfect! Let's get started.

As far as APA grain bills go, this one struck me as a little odd, strictly because the majority of it is made up of Pilsner malt. Most APA recipes incorporate 2-row as the base malt; I'm not sure how much of a noticeable difference there is using Pilsner, but after brewing this recipe, several homebrewers commented on how much they enjoyed the malt bill, so I'm more than willing to give it a shot. There's also a good amount of Pale Malt used (I had Maris Otter on hand); the rest is a fairly small proportion of light Crystal (15 L and Carapils). The mash is performed at a fairly high sacc rest, 154 F, I'm assuming to provide the beer with some body, due to the light use of specialty grains and lower gravity (compared to IPAs, anyway).

Now, look at that hopping schedule below. I will admit, I was hesitant at first. I've brewed a lot of hoppy beers over the past few years, including some APAs with 3/4 lb of hops (or more) per 5 gallon batch. This recipe calls for a comparably scant amount of ~4 oz for a 6 gallon batch; luckily, the majority is used at flameout and for the dry-hop, but 1 oz at FO and 2 oz for the dry-hop is still low when you look at a lot of other APA recipes out there. That being said, I've questioned in previous posts whether there may be a ceiling effect when it comes to hop aroma/flavor; of course we all know there is for perceived bitterness, but what about the aspects that count? I think this will be a good test of that, and again, this recipe has received rave reviews, so I'm more than happy following it as-is, before tweaking it.

The wort is fermented with a neutral American strain (as usual for me lately, US-05) in the high-60s F. For water treatment, I chose not to go too heavy on anything - I didn't add any acid malt to the grain bill to fiddle with mash pH this time. I DID add a very small amount of gypsum and calcium chloride, but that's it. I won't be kegging this beer, unfortunately; the wedding is in our home province of Prince Edward Island, and I likely won't have the room to take a keg and 10 lb CO2 tank with me, so bottles it is!

A lot of Geoff's friends are beer drinkers, so unlike all of my other homebrews, I don't expect I'll get to really consume much of this batch. However, I'll be sure to set a bottle aside to do an official tasting, to post on the blog. Look for that sometime next month!

Recipe targets: (6 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.056, FG ~1.014, IBU 41, SRM 5, ABV ~5.6%

Grains & Sugars:

3.325 kg (60.5%) Pilsner malt
1.782 kg (32.4%) Maris Otter
225 g (4.1%) Crystal 15 L
165 g (3%) Carapils

Simcoe - 14 g (12.4% AA) @ 60 min
Simcoe - 15 g @ 30 min
Simcoe - 28 g @ 0 (with a 5-minute steep)
Simcoe - 56 g dry-hop for 5 days

Misc.: 1/2 tab Irish moss @ 5 min

Yeast: US-05 Safale, 1 package, rehydrated

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 3 g Gypsum and 2 g calcium chloride added to the mash

- Brewed on June 10th, 2014, by myself. 50-minute mash with 15 L of strike water, mashed in at 153.5 F, slightly below target temp of 154 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 6.5 L of boiling water. Sparged with ~4 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~7.75 gallons.

SG a bit high at 1.046 (target 1.044). 60-minute boil. Added flameout hops for a 5-minute steep, then turned on chiller. Final volume ~6 gallons. Chilled down to 66 F, then poured into Better Bottle. Gravity quite above target at 1.061. Aerated with 60 seconds of pure O2, pitched rehydrated yeast. Placed BB in room with ambient temp at 68 F.

- Over the next few days, fermentation gradually got going until reaching maximum activity in the airlock, bubbling every second, with the temperature getting as high as 72 F (warmer temps made it a bit tricky to keep it down to 68 F). The activity and krausen eventually settled after about a week.

- 24/6/14 - Gravity reading of 1.014, right on target. Added dry-hops directly into primary.

- 2/7/14 - Bottled with 115 g table sugar, aiming for 2.5 vol CO2 for 5 gallons, with a max temp of 72 F reached.

- 30/7/14 - Tasting notes up... a delicious beer. Lots of hop presence with low bitterness; a fantastic beer to introduce non-beer drinkers to hoppy craft beers.


  1. When I see pro-brewer advice on their recipes, I take into context that their hops are of significantly better quality than what we can obtain as home brewers. I'll usually make some adjustments on hoppy beers to up ratios on late additions and also for dry hopping. The hops homebrewers get access tend to have significantly less AA% and flavor/aroma. I was on a tour of a west coast brewery and saw a package of Columbus hops that was 19% AA (usually we see 14% for home brewers). If the suggestion for dry hopping was .40oz p/gal (giving you 2 oz for 5 gal), I'd probably shoot for .60oz or .75oz p/gal on the dry hopping. Just something I've noticed.

    1. I think that's a fair assessment. In this case, though, I don't think the recipe came straight from the brewery; I believe a homebrewer developed it on their own, and other homebrewers brewed the same recipe with apparently great results... so I just went with that recipe. But you're definitely right about them having (hopefully) the freshest hops possible, not to mention better techniques for avoiding oxygen during transfer, dry-hopping, etc.

  2. You're definitely correct on homebrew shop hops. I stopped buying those a long time ago after comparing them in sensory analysis to some Hop Union hops. I now buy all of my hops in Hop Union bulk (lb) packages. As far as AA of hops is concerned, that's a good argument for giving recipes as IBU for bittering additions and weight/volume for aroma additions.

    1. Yeah, I try to buy my hops online, too, but sometimes it doesn't work out that way. I've definitely been getting them more often that way, though... Yakima Valley Hops have taken a lot of my money over the past year.

  3. When I checked out the homebrew talk post, it does appear that the person who posted the recipe got their hop addition advice from Vinnie. That's what sort of made me think that up'ing the hop ratios a bit would help. I'm sure it would only make a tiny difference. I mean, how can this not be a great recipe ?! Looking forward to seeing the tasting review !

    1. Ah, didn't realize that... makes sense, though! We'll see how this turns out... when I took a gravity reading the other day before dry-hopping, it certainly didn't strike me as very hoppy when I tasted it. I'll keep you updated!

  4. any updates on this one?

    1. Just bottled it today, so no tasting notes, yet. However, I can say that I wasn't originally super-impressed with the aroma/flavor of the beer when I took a gravity reading a week ago, but after dry-hopping it, it really improved (had a small sample today)! I hope to get the review of the beer up within a couple of weeks.

  5. I'll second that on the qualty of hops Shawn. I've started purchasing in lbs as well and have been pretty pleased with the quality. I order them right after they're harvested, and into the freezer they go. I have started increasing my addtions by 10% or so as time goes by for a different reason (my hops are now roughly 8 months old from the 2013 Harvest) and my understanding is that their potency falls off fairly quickly. This decrease in potency would be the same for a professional brewer as well though.

    I actually just brewed this recipe up about a week ago as well, for about the 5th time. Changed the hops up a bit, 85% mosaic/15%, and upped all the hop amounts by roughly 10%. not really sure what the difference will be, but my gravity sample sure did taste good!

    1. That new recipe sounds pretty tasty! Don't think you can go wrong with 85% Mosaic in... well, almost anything.

  6. Agreed. The other 15% was simcoe, guess I left that out....

    All the other times I've brewed it, I stuck to the recipe.

  7. Hi Shawn,

    Any tasting notes on this, I've been holding off till I hear your thoughts?

    1. I'm pretty close to posting the tasting notes, but I can tell you it came out very tasty. Pretty big hop nose and flavor, despite the additions not being extreme. I'd definitely recommend brewing the recipe!