Brewing a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale…

The Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. is a legend of the microbrewing industry. It was at the forefront of the microbrewing revolution that took place in the early 1980′s that sought to give beer drinkers a quality alternative to the light American lagers that dominate the market. It helped lay the foundation for all the amazing craft breweries that we have today. Of all the incredible beers that Sierra Nevada brews, one stands as a true classic, it’s Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. By adapting a classic English Pale Ale to the domestic ingredients that were available, it brought to the forefront that uniquely American ability to take something and make it their own. What made this beer stand out at the time it was released, was showcasing the now famous Cascade hop. It’s highly recognizable citrus and floral flavour and aroma changed the way people think about pale ales. Now, 30 years later, it still stands as the preeminent example of the American Pale Ale style.

There are only a handful of places that I’m able to get my hands on a bottle up here in Toronto, if there are even that many. After my recent visit to Maui, where I enjoyed a bottle anywhere and everywhere I could, I decided I had to try and create something as close to it as I could.

There’s no shortage of information on making this beer. Question is, which information is correct? The Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s website gives the following specs:

  • 5.6% ABV
  • Original Gravity of 13° Plato (1.053* S.G.)
  • Final Gravity of 2.8° Plato (1.011* S.G.)
  • 37 IBU’s
  • 2-row pale malt, caramel malt
  • Bittering hops: Magnum, Perle
  • Finishing hops: Cascade

* S.G. can vary by +/- 0.002 per ° Plato

Seems simple enough right? Well, not so fast. One of the key characteristics of a good American Pale Ale is the hop flavour and aroma. So how do you get that? You could dry hop, but apparently Sierra Nevada doesn’t dry hop their pale ale. Ok, well, you could add flavour additions, but that happens anywhere between 30 minutes and 10 minutes left in the boil. You could add aroma additions, but again, that’s anywhere between 10 minutes left in the boil to flame out. Plus, how long does the wort sit before chilling? Is there a whirlpool step? There’s also the issue of how big should these additions be to get the character we want? As for the grain bill, that might be a bit easier. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale has a nice caramel taste to it, so I would assume that there is more crystal malt in there than I would usually add to my recipes. You could also just go by the color and keep adding the crystal malt into your brewing software until you reach the desired colour.

To answer some of these questions, the article I found to be most helpful was on the Northern Brewer Homebrew Forum. In it, a homebrewer named ‘Beerfan’ says he took it upon himself and called the brewery in the off chance he might obtain some useful information to update a clone recipe he had been working on. Sierra Nevada kindly offered some changes, mostly to the timing of the hop additions and the amount of crystal malt, to bring it closer to the original. Hats off to the people at Sierra Nevada for being so open and helpful to us home brewers, it only makes us respect them more!

A good pale ale should normally mash at around 152F, so somewhere in that range should be sufficient. Yeast-wise, I would assume a good American Ale yeast like Wyeast #1056 would be the one. (From what I’ve researched, it sounds like this is the strain the brewery uses.) It’s the first time I’ll be using liquid yeast, so I’m curious to see what difference that makes. I’ll also be making a starter to beef up the number of yeast cells as per the advice of Jamil Zainasheff in his Brewing Classic Styles: 80 Winning Recipes Anyone Can Brew book. I think I read somewhere that Sierra Nevada uses leaf hops for their beer. I only have pellets at the moment, so I’m going to have to use those.

So, adding this all up, here’s what I’ve got:Carbonation and Storage

Hoptomology’s Sierra Nevada Pale Ale Clone – (Revised)

American Pale Ale

Type: All Grain Brewer: Hoptomology
Equipment: 7.5 Gallon Stainless Steel Pot + 5 Gallon Coleman Cooler Mash Tun
Est Original Gravity: 1.053 SG Measured Original Gravity:
Est Final Gravity: 1.010 SG Measured Final Gravity:
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 5.6 % Actual Alcohol by Vol:
Bitterness: 37.0 IBUs Bitterness Ratio: 0.699
Est Color: 7.0 SRM Calories: 0.0 kcal/12oz

Ingredients

Ingredients

Amt Name Type # %/IBU
8 lbs 7.7 oz Pale Malt (2 Row) Cdn (3.0 SRM) Grain 1 93.8 %
9.0 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt – 45L (45.0 SRM) Grain 2 6.2 %
0.518 oz Magnum [10.00 %] – Boil 60.0 min Hop 3 24.2 IBUs
0.750 oz Perle [4.30 %] – Boil 30.0 min Hop 4 7.7 IBUs
0.50 oz Irish Moss (Boil 15.0 mins) Fining 5 -
1.000 oz Cascade [5.50 %] – Boil 10.0 min Hop 6 5.1 IBUs
1.750 oz Cascade [5.50 %] – Boil 0.0 min Hop 7 0.0 IBUs
1.0 pkg American Ale (Wyeast Labs #1056) [4.20 oz] Yeast 8 -
Total Grains Used: 9 lbs 0.7 oz Total Hops Used: 4.018 oz

Mash Profile

Mash Style: Single Infusion, Medium Body
Brewhouse Efficiency: 85.00 %
Mash Steps

Name Description Step Temperature Step Time
Mash In Add 2.83 gal of water at 170.6 F 150.0 F 60 min
Mash Out Add 1.59 gal of water at 208.9 F 168.0 F 10 min
Sparging: Fly sparge with 2.85 gal water at 168.0 F to achieve 6.18 gal

Boil Profile

Boil Size: 6.18 gal Boil Time: 60 min
End of Boil Volume: 5.48 gal Estimated pre-boil gravity: 1.045 SG
Batch Size (into fermenter): 5.00 gal Measured pre-boil Gravity:
Final Bottling Volume: 5.28 gal

Fermentation Profile

Fermentation: Ale, Single Stage
Primary Fermentation: 10.00 days at 68.0 F
Secondary Fermentation: 0.00 days at 0.0 F

Carbonation and Storage

Carbonation Type: Keg Volumes of CO2: 2.3
Pressure/Weight: 10.10 PSI Age Beer for: 3.00 days
Keg/Bottling Temperature: 40.0 F Storage Temperature: 40.0 F

Notes

Taste Rating: 0.0 / 50
Taste Notes:
Other:
 Download the recipe:

Hoptomology’s Sierra Nevada Pale Ale Clone- All Grain

Hoptomology’s Sierra Nevada Pale Ale Clone- Extract

www.hoptomology.com – A little about life, a lot about beer.

You can read the review here: Reviewing my Sierra Nevada Pale Ale clone

Cheers!

37 Responses to Brewing a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale…

  1. I heard somewhere that Sierra bottle conditions their beer, which may account for a couple of points on the ABV, but how they get 5.6% on a brew with 70% attenuation from 53 OG, is a mystery.

  2. Ok, mystery solved. 15 plato = 1.061.

    • Hoptomologist,

      Thanks for the Sierra Nev. all grain recipe, I’m going to try it this weekend. One ques. I’m kind of lazy, Can I skip the mash out step without compromising the recipe? thanks

      • Hi John,
        Thanks for stopping by! I love this recipe, I’m constantly making this beer because I can’t buy it here in Toronto.
        I think skipping the mashout step would still produce an excellent beer. But let me ask you this, are you going to batch sparge or fly sparge? If you’re batch sparging, it certainly won’t make any difference, with fly sparging, if you sparge too long, it may thin out the body a little, but after sitting at the main rest temp, the enzymes that function at lower temps may mostly be degraded anyways.
        I don’t think it’s something that will significantly change things. If you find that the body ends up too thin for your liking, try adding the mashout step.
        Just couldn’t be bothered? or are you limited by your mash tun size?

        Cheers, I hope you enjoy it!

        btw, be sure to use the freshest cascade hops you can get, it’s the only way to get that amazing aroma and flavour!

      • Thanks for prompt response, I will be fly sparging and I am just being lazy, my MLT’s size is adequate. I think I will man-up and mash out:) I was unable to get raw cascade, so I settled for pellets, I hope it turns out.

        • haha, no worries. As long as the pellets are relatively fresh you should be fine. That’s what I usually use. Having said that, I did make a batch where I threw in my homegrown cascades, and it was by far the best version so far…

  3. ah, yes, the bottle conditioning! I forgot to keep that in mind! Good call.
    Your right on the 1.061. For some reason I thought I got 1.053 on my BeerSmith calculator, must have screwed it up somehow, I’ll make the changes. thanks for pointing it out!

  4. I wish I had these hops in stock and I would brew as well. Perhaps this weekend… No Magnum or Perle on hand. No acceptable sub for Magnum either. Challenger is listed as a sub for Perle, so maybe I’ll do a Challenger/Cascade version with the same hopping schedule. Can’t get a more simple grain bill. I am thinking this would make a great house ale. I’ve been looking for a basic recipe to work out my brewing system and get some consistancy. Thanks!

    • Another nice thing about this hop bill is that it doesn’t use the “main” IPA hops that are now so hard to find (at a decent cost).

  5. No worries! I agree, I’m looking to have something like this in stock in my fridge at all times as well. Just a good smooth tasty brew to sub between more extreme styles. I also looked into seeing if I could sub something for the magnum, but like you said, no can do, so I ordered some from Brewer’s Pantry (first time). (http://brewerspantry.com/index.php?route=common/home) Spencer’s got good prices and he actually personally delivered them to me the next day as he was driving by my work anyways, very cool.
    I corrected the post to reflect the proper O.G. I must have picked the1.053 from somewhere else by accident. I’m going to try and brew this one up soon. Let me know how it goes if you get to it first!
    Cheers!

  6. Oh man, I was just taking a peak at the Sierra website and they have a SG of 1.053 or 13 degrees plato (not 15 as originally stated). The FG is 2.8 plato or 1.011, for an ABV of 5.6% Hope that clears things up.

    • lol, that’s crazy! I swear 100% that I just looking at the site this morning and it said 15P/4P!!
      that makes more sense now because my estimated final gravities were a few points lower which looked like it was going to give me 0.3% more ABV.
      haha, always learning something! thanks for the heads up….

  7. So I attempted a clone of my own this past weekend. Here are my numbers:
    OG – 1.053
    SRM – 7
    IBU – 37

    91% – CDN 2-Row
    9% – Muntons Crystal 110 (42L)
    Mashed 153F for 60 minutes

    Columbus @ 60′
    Challenger @ 30′
    1 oz Cascade @ 10′
    2 oz Cascade @ Flame-out

    Pitched US-05 @ 62F

    • Not having any Magnum or suitable subs, I went Columbus. Similar AA% and Cohumulone %. Challenger is listed on my subs chart for Perle.

      • I’m sure it’ll still be good.
        I’m curious to try the Magnum because I’m reading everywhere people praising it for it’s ‘clean’ bitterness…
        btw, my bad on getting the Magnum from Brewer’s Pantry, he didn’t have any, I had ordered some other types, but not the Magnum.
        I’ve ordered those from Zack at http://www.torontobrewing.ca

    • sweet! Let me know how it turns out!
      I have to wait to brew this one. My brewing buddy is off to India for a few weeks.
      He wants to brew it too, so we won’t get to it until after New Years unfortunately….

  8. 17 days later, looks done @ 1.010 (81% attenuation, US05). Hydro sample is really nice. I’ll post some pics and thoughts on the finished product in a few weeks (bottle conditioning). I’ll be priming using the spiesegabe method:
    http://www.deadyeast.com/spiesegabe.php

    Craig

    • Sweet!
      I look forward to hearing your thoughts and seeing some pics. I’m jealous because I’m not going to be able to brew this until the end of the month when my brewing partner gets back from India!
      Interesting, I’ve never come across the “Spiessegabe method’ before. Sounds interesting, have you ever tried it?
      I notice that US-05 does attenuate high. I’m going to split my batch in 2 and use Us-05 on one and Wyeast #1056 on the other and see if there’s any difference. (I did read someone say they are the same strain, but I’m not sure about that)
      keep me posted….

      • I was a little worried because after the first 7 days, it looked like the yeast quit at 1.014. I gave the primary a swirl on day 8 and 9, I saw some additional air lock activity but thought perhaps it was just the CO2 being released from the solution. Turns out the US05 wasn’t done because it continued to drop another 4pts over the next 10 days.

        This is the second time using US05, I’d like to use it a few more times before forming an opinion but so far I find it slow. My benchmark is some Pacman yeast which I harvested from a few bottles of Rogue beer and this stuff fully attenuates and drops in under a week. Seems as though 15 days is more the average for US05.
        If I do this recipe again, I’ll increase my mash temp to 154 in attempts to hit the 1.011 FG.

        This will be the second time I’ve used the Spiessegabe method for bottle priming. The first time was with an Irish Ale. I reserved 2 litres of 1.054 gyle which I boiled down to 1.5L @ 1.060. Once added to my bottling bucket it raised the beers total gravity by 3pts. The carbonation was near perfect after 7 days. 14 days later, the beer is my best bottle carb to-date! There’s something satisfying about knowing the brew is 100% barley. No corn sugar, nothing.

        WRT the Pacman yeast, after 7 generations, the yeast had become so flocculent, it was no longer suitable for bottle conditioning! The yeast was dropping so fast and so clear, there was nothing left in the solution to prime the bottles. With a recent 100% Galaxy Hop IPA, I Krausened the finished beer using an actively fermented starter. It worked ok but not as good as the Spiessegabe method

        • That’s strange on the US-05. I usually just let it sit for 10 days and then rack it off and it’s usually fully fermented. (down in the 1.010 – 1.012 depending on the beer) I find it to really chew things down.
          Although I haven’t used liquid yeasts much yet, I’m curious to see what the wyeast 1056 does. Apparently it’s Sierra Nevada’s strain.
          That Spiessegabe Method sounds interesting. I’m a little lazy and am happy to keg it up and force carb my beers, but once I have a few that I feel are the best they can be, perhaps I’ll try messing with this method as Sierra Nevada bottle primes like you mentioned before…

  9. Bottled 21 litres last night. Colour is real nice. Flavor is very enojyable. Ar oma while present, is nothing crazy but it’s noticeable. Clarity leaves much to be desired. I am thinking I should have taken advantage of the cold weather and left the primary in the garage for a day or two. First impressions are awesome. I think I have a new house ale.

    I used the priming method described. 1 litre of 1.064 (boiled) gyle added to the bucket. I’ll crack one next weekend and see where we’re at.

    I also dumped the US05 yeast cake into a mason jar, trub, hops and all. I’ll give it a wash this weekend.

  10. So far, I’ve always reused yeast. Although dry yeast is cheap, I’m cheaper. I haven’t had any issues with infection so I don’t see the problem. I make sure the water used for washing is boiled and cooled. The mason jars are sanitized. I try and get the yeast out of the primary as soon as the beer has been bottled. This method has worked for me. As I mentioned with the Pacman yeast, I went 7 generations before I decided to retire it.

    I gave the US05 a wash yesterday. I now have enough “2nd generation” yeast for 5 batches. If used in 6 months, I’d toss it.

    When reusing the yeast, I normally don’t use a starter (depending on age of washed yeast). I use the Mr. Malty calculator to determine how much slurry I should pitch.

    Pics to follow…

    • That should read: “unused yeast should be tossed if not used within 6 months”

    • “Although dry yeast is cheap, I’m cheaper”, haha, too funny, but I hear ya. The yeast is usually the biggest expense in a brew. I’ve got my 5 gallon batches down to $12-$16 depending on the recipe, but I should start doing that as well to knock it down even more….

  11. US-05 is my house yeast, and I reuse it all of the time with no ill effects (so far). I’ve gotten as many as 10 batches out of one pack of US-05, by washing or top cropping.

    • wow! that’s a lot! good for you. You didn’t notice any negative changes to it?
      I’m going to try out some liquid yeast soon and will definitely save and wash it to repitch…

  12. I’ve always harvested yeast from the primary cake. I was in the habit of using a secondary to clarify, which meant on occasion beer was racked from the primary (and yeast collected) in as few as 5 days. The problem with harvesting so quickly is that the yeast you’re taking from the primary will be the most flocculent. After subsequent generations of the same havesting technique, you’re left with an incredibly flocculent yeast which makes for poor bottle conditioning. So far, this is the only downside that I’ve experienced.

    I tried some SNPA Clone last night, considering it’s only been in the bottle for 3 days, my god it was good!

    • hmm, good point on the flocculation, makes total sense. My standard practice is to leave it in primary for 10 days, then rack for dry hopping or cold crashing, or sometimes just straight to keg. I’m guessing 10 days would be enough to let most of the yeast drop out, at least it usually looks that way…
      You’re torturing me with this beer! haha! pics!!

      • Did youi get the pics I sent?

        • I did yes, I responded right away, did you not get it? I guess not..
          Man, you were making me THIRSTY! haha.
          Looks pretty spot on.
          How’s it drinking? anything you would change about it?
          I’m going to be brewing it myself either on the 28th or the 4th, can’t wait…
          cheers!

  13. It’s damn delicious. Easy drinking with a bunch of flavour. Clarity is much improved since bottling time. Considering the amount of crystal malt, it’s not overly sweet at all. Dangerous at 5.7% (81% attenuation).

    I’ve already had a session night with this stuff and it’s a good thing I’m going away because another couple of weeks with SNPA Clone in the house, it’s good as gone. To think, we’re just hitting the 3 week bottle conditioning now! I imagine next week will be even better.

    As far as changes, nothing really. Perhaps C60 if I had it. More authentic to the real thing. Would be nice if I could get my hands on the noted hops as well. So I am calling this my clone of SNPA. Perhaps next brew I’d add like a 1/4oz dry hop? Cascade or Columbus but then we’re getting real far from the noted recipe.

    I had a brew session last weekend, I debated going with this again or a robust porter, I went porter but this is next in the queue for sure!

    • man, I’m so happy to hear. i know it’s a pretty simple thing, but there’s beauty in that.
      I’ll have to try some bottle conditioning on a batch and kegging on another to see how different it is. I’ll try out the method you had shown me.
      Happy drinking! I’m frickin’ jealous! haha
      cheers! Jeff

  14. Pingback: Reviewing my Sierra Nevada Pale Ale Clone… | Hoptomology

  15. Pingback: The effect of pH on hop flavour & aroma… an experiment | Hoptomology

  16. Pingback: Hop pellets vs. whole cone hops… what’s the effect on character? | Hoptomology

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