865: Pliny the Elder

Name: Pliny the Elder
Brewery: Russian River Brewing Company
Country of Origin: United States
City & State: Santa Rosa, California
Style: American Double / Imperial IPA
Alcohol Content (ABV): 8%
First Brewed: 1996
Price: $6.99

Tasting Notes
Bright golden, with beautiful lacing. Aroma of hop cones, pine, and citrus. Hops hang on a clean malt backbone, providing abundant flavors, peppery notes, and pure bitterness.

Ricky’s Thoughts

Boy, am I excited about this one. We ended up in San Diego for Thanksgiving this year, and being so close to the Russian River Company, I just had to track down a bottle of this. This beer is VERY rare, but not as rare as Pliny the Younger. That beer, from what I hear, is only available at the brewery and is only available a few times a year. But this beer is bottled, but is also rare. I didn’t realize that until I started calling around. I called BevMo! first, and was informed they don’t even carry it. I started calling liquor stores around the area (we were in La Jolla) and found a really small wine shop that had two bottles left. It was 10 miles away, but we went to find it and grabbed the last two bottles.

The guy behind the counter suggested we try one right away, and then try the other bottle in two weeks. This is a beer that will NOT cellar, and actually tastes better the quicker you drink it. Ours were bottled on November 1st, 2012. So tonight, after a long wait, we are drinking a bottle of Pliny the Elder. I. Can’t. Wait. Bottoms up, people!

In the Glass: It looks like a domestic in the glass. Thin, mostly clear, but a nice, impressive white head. I read on BeerAdvocate that the lace was nice, but I am not seeing a good lace here. But who cares? When I started to pour this, I could smell it. That is my focus! Let’s see what happens when I stick my nose in the glass. I might actually stick my nose in the beer this time… it is Pliny after all!

Nose: It smells like an IPA. That’s good, because I like that style. It is my favorite style, actually. But the nose isn’t overwhelming. People say this beer “isn’t worth the hype”. I hope the nose isn’t a prelude to that. I am sick of waiting. Let’s drink!

Flavor: It’s an IPA. I will give it that. It’s good, but it’s not overly hopped. The aftertaste, which I will get to in a minute, is the best part. They call this a double IPA… and like other double IPAs on the market, I wouldn’t consider them “double” based on my ideas of the word. The bottle reminds us to drink this fresh, and not to age it. Our bottle is nearly a month old, but it shouldn’t/wouldn’t be bad… yet. We will be trying our second bottle in two weeks.

Mouthfeel: The mouthfeel is elegant. Very thin on the palate, and easy to swallow. This is what some might call a “chugging” beer. Don’t chug it, though. it’s too expensive. The bottle also recommends drinking this cold. We did. For a beer with this much hype, I must admit… I had bigger expectations.

Aftertaste: This is the best part of this beer. The aftertaste is big, and hangs on for several minutes after you swallow. That is my favorite part of a double IPA… the lingering bitterness that the beer brings. This one packs a punch at the beginning, and lingers… but always reminding you an IPA has been enjoyed. This isn’t a beer I would recommend trying first, as it will destroy your palate.

Pliny the Elder is good. But it’s not great. The beer is VERY hard to find, and while not very expensive when you do, not that impressive. There are some unique characteristics here, but nothing to write home about. I wanted to like this more than I do, and while it is still a good IPA… it’s just that. An IPA. I wasn’t impressed with Dark Lord, either. There is too much hype over beers like that. Maybe that is what spoils it for me. Not sure. But Pliny the Elder is just that… a hyped beer that doesn’t live up to the hype. BeerAdvocate rates this 100. So do the bros. Would love to discuss this beer with them further. I can’t give it more than a 3. Bottoms up, but only because this beer is rare!

Pliny the Elder – The bottle says: “Respect your elder. Keep cold, drink fresh, do not age! Pliny the Elder is a historical figure, don’t make the beer inside this bottle one! Not a barley wine, do not age! Age your cheese, not your Pliny! Respect hops, consume fresh. If you must, sit on eggs, not on Pliny.Do not save for a rainy day! Pliny is for savoring, not for saving! Consume Pliny fresh, or not at all! Does not improve with age! Hoppy beers are not meant to be aged! Keep away from heat!”

“Pliny the Elder, born in 23 A.D. was a Roman naturalist, scholar, historian traveler, officer, and writer. Pliny, and his contemporaries, created the original botanical name for hops, “Lupus Salictarius”, meaning “wolf among scrubs”. Hop vines, at the time, grew wile among willows, likened to woolies oaring wild in the forest. Pliny the Elder died in 79 A.D whole saving people during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. He was immortalized by his nephew, Pliny the Younger, who continued his uncle’s legacy by documenting much of what his uncle experienced during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. This beer is an homage to the man who discovered hops and perished while bin a humanitarian.”

“Unlike many of the Russian River Brewing Company beers which are agreeable, the beer inside this bottle is meant to be consumed fresh. Keep Pliny the Elder refrigerated and consumed fresh to experience the explosive hop character.”

Rating: 3/5

Sheryl’s Thoughts

Tonight we are drinking a beer that is pretty hard to get.  I know we can’t get it here in Phoenix, and we couldn’t get it back in Indiana either.  I hope it lives up to its reputation and difficulty of obtaining.

In the glass, the beer has about an inch of foamy white head when poured out.  It looks kind of a golden orange color, and not very thick at all.  There does appear to be some carbonation, as I am right now sitting here watching little tiny bubbles float up to the top of the glass.  It smells kind of hoppy, but I also smell some honey on the nose.  Not sure how that is possible… honey is not something I usually smell with hops.  If a beer is hoppy, usually the hops are overwhelming all of the other flavors.  Let’s find out how it tastes.

Hmm.  Well, I have to admit I’m pretty disappointed.  The beer isn’t bad, not by any means.  But as difficult as it was to get and as much as I have heard about it, I kind of expected to be blown away and I am definitely not.  It does tastes hoppy, and it’s a good balance of hops.  But, as usual, most IPAs taste about the same to me and this one really doesn’t have much to make it stick out either.  I don’t really get much of the honey that I smelled from it when I take a drink.  I mostly just get warmth and hops.  That’s about it.  It’s really just a pretty drinkable IPA.  And honestly, not one I will feel the need to track down again, I don’t think.

Rating: 3/5

864 bottles of beer on the wall…

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