There are few beers out there with the reputation of Pliny the Elder. Rated the #2 beer in the world by Beer Advocate, it's become one of the harder beers to find in the country, especially if you live outside of California. Fortunately, I do not.
I had trouble finding this one for a while. But one day, I walked into a local liquor store and there it was, waiting for me. I had planned to try a different beer that day, but it's too hard to wait for Pliny. Plus, there are about 50 warnings on the bottle telling you not to age this beer and to drink it fresh, so the issue was settled.
First of all, let's learn a bit about this beer. It's brewed by Russian River, a brewery that, as far as I'm concerned, has yet to miss on a beer. It is named after the roman scholar who is credited with giving the botanical name to hops. Pliny is classified as a Double IPA, which means it's going to have more malt and more hops than a regular IPA. In fact, Pliny is brewed with 40% more malt and twice the hops as RR's standard IPA, Blind Pig (another great beer). On a side note, there's also a beer called Pliny the Younger. This has a reputation for being one of the most difficult beers to find in the world. It comes out in February and is only released on draft. You have to know where it's going to poured and be there within 20 minutes of the keg being tapped if you want a chance at trying this one. Look for a review in February (if I'm lucky).
Back to the Elder. The beer pours a coppery golden color with a lush foamy white head which settles fairly quickly. The smell is amazing. Sure, the hops are there, but they're coupled with some surprising scents. I could pick our pineapple, mango, a little bit of wet grass, and a decent malt presence. This, of course is all tucked under the real star of the show- the huge piney hops. The beer smells incredible.
The taste, if it's possible, is even better. I was glad to see that this beer wasn't a straight hop bomb like a lot of IPAs. This was even a beer that I can see people who aren't huge hop heads appreciating. The hops definitely take the lead, but they're offset by a lot of grapefruit and a hard peppery bite. The finish is all resiny hops, but it doesn't stick to your mouth and leave you puckering up. It fades smoothly, leaving you wanting more and more. The feel of the beer is perfect; velvety smooth and full. If you can find this one, do not pass it up.
Final Grade: A+