December 2017
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Currently On Tap

Finally … Russian River Pliny the Elder

Russian River Pliny the Elder

Russian River Pliny the Elder

If you’re even a little bit of a beer geek, you’ve probably heard conversations that go like this:  “Yeah, sure, that’s a good IPA, but it’s no Pliny.”  Pliny this, Pliny that.  It seems as though any IPA that comes out has to stand up against Pliny the Elder.  Never mind the fact that unless you’re on the West Coast, getting your hands on Pliny is pretty damned difficult.  See, Vinnie Cilurzo is a beer geek’s beer geek.  He knows hoppy beers don’t travel well and he wants his creations to be enjoyed as they’re meant to be enjoyed; namely, fresh.  So if you’re not within a day’s drive of the Russian River brewery, the odds of you getting your hands on one of their beers is pretty limited.  Does the scarcity inflate the reputation?  Perhaps.  But there’s only one way to find out for sure.

Last week I had the (mis)fortune to travel to California on business.  This was my second trip to the left coast and while I got skunked last time on my Pliny hunt, I was not going to be defeated this time.  After some driving around, I finally managed to score a few bottles of the prized brew and was even able to sneak it home in my luggage without Delta smashing the bottles into bits.  While I do enjoy my beers, the thought of having to wring it out of a weeks worth of dirty underwear was not appealing.

So…back to the hype.  I’ve had my share of IPAs in my day.  East Coast IPAs, West Coast IPAs, British IPAs, Double IPAs, Imperial IPAs…no IPA scares me anymore.  I tried to pop the top on this bottle with an open mind, pushing aside all I had read in the past.  I was greeted with a pleasant, but not overwhelming hop aroma emanating from the bottle.  I was intrigued.  I poured into the glass and was rewarded with even more hop aroma.  At this point I was expecting a mouth full of shameless IBUs, but was surprised by a smooth, well thought out bitterness that, while definitely present, was pleasing and not overwhelming.  Just enough sweetness to balance out the hoppiness, but not so much to make the beer filling.  While I made my way through the bottle, I became increasingly impressed at the balance of the hops.  I’m not saying it wasn’t really hop forward, because you bet your bippy it is, but it’s not a beer where the brewery just kept dumping in bales of hops for the sake of making a super-bitter beer.  You could tell that every hop addition was there for a reason.  A big charge up front for some serious bittering, some in the middle for flavor and a bunch at the end for an awesome nose.  What impressed me even more was the fact that even though this beer clocks in at 8% ABV and who knows how many IBUs, by the time i could see the bottom of my glass I found myself wanting more.  It finished really clean, not overpowering the palate nor making my gut feel like I just swallowed a glassful of syrup.  All the hype aside, I could see myself happily drinking pints of this with regularity.

A wise man once said something along the lines of “A good beer is a beer that you don’t realize how good it is until you stand up.”  If I had an evening to myself in California and an establishment that served Pliny on tap, I could absolutely see myself putting that adage to the test.  All bullshit and bluster aside, I think this beer would definitely pass the test.  Does it really live up to the hype?  Yes.  Is it really the best IPA out there?  If it isn’t, it’s pretty damned close…it has certainly earned a Top Ten rating in my book.  Definitely not a beer for everyone, but a beer that every beer geek should go out of his or her way to try at least once.


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