Friday, February 11, 2011

Russian River Brewing Company - Pliny The Younger

Yesterday, I woke up and went to work with two possible outcomes for the day in my mind. It was either going to be the best day ever or the worst day ever. You see, two major things were happening: the Lakers were playing the Celtics in Boston and Pliny The Younger was coming to a bar down here. The bar that was going to have it, Toronados, was opening at 10am. The problem? I wasn't getting off work until 2pm. For most beers, this wouldn't be a problem. But Pliny The Younger isn't most beers. It's a triple (that's right, triple!) IPA made by the same guys that make Pliny The Elder, Russian River Brewing Company. The beer is only released once a year and is generally regarded as one of the hardest beers to get your hands on. It's on draft only, so if you are a day late (or in some cases an hour late) to a bar that gets it, it's better luck next year. Last year, one bar down here was out of it in 45 minutes. In my mind, the day was going one of two ways.

Outcome 1: I was going to get off work at 2, drive like I had a mother about to give birth in the car (running red lights, pretending the freeway was the Audobon, etc.) to the bar only to find that the beer was gone. Then, I would trudge home and watch the Lakers get blown out by Boston.

Outcome 2: I would get out of work, drive like I had a mother about to give birth in the car (same as above) to the bar and the beer would be there! After enjoying one of the best beers of my life, I would come home and watch the Lakers win.

In my mind, there was no middle ground. There was no way I was getting the beer and the Lakers were losing or not getting the beer and the Lakers would win. Somewhere, these two things were intertwined and any hope the Lakers had against Boston lay in me getting my hands on that beer.

At 1:15 I made a phone call to the bar. A man picked up and the bar sounded busy.


"Hi," I said nervously, "do you have any Pliny left?"

"Yeah, we've still got it. It's flying out of here though."

"Any chance there will be some left in an hour?"

He took about 2 seconds to answer, but it seemed a lot longer.

"Not really sure."

Great. Still, there was hope. The beer was still there.

After 45 of the longest minutes of my life, work was done and I was speeding to Toronados. I got in the bar and looked at the beer list. After a few seconds of frantic searching, I saw it- "Pliny The Younger." I wasn't too late! I ordered and took the beer to the nearest table for a taste.

Pliny The Younger is a beautiful clear, golden color with about one finger of foamy head that fades pretty quickly. Similar to Pliny The Elder, it's a beer you can smell from about ten feet away. The hops coming off of it are unreal. However, the fresh pine hop scent is where the similarities with the Elder end as far as smell goes. Pliny The Younger smells a lot more tropical than it's cousin with some nice scents of pineapple, apricot and mango. As the beer warms, these smells fade a bit and are replaced with some wet hay and hop resin smells.

Before we go onto the taste, here are some things you need to know about Pliny The Younger. It's categorized as a Triple IPA, which means that it has three times as much malt and hops as a standard IPA (and Russian River's standard IPA is not short on hops). It's also dry hopped four different times during the brewing process, which is ridiculous. The result of hopping the beer this much should pretty much be an undrinkable, hop-juicy mess...but it's not.

Because this beer is hopped so much more than Pliny The Elder, I expected the taste to be much, much bigger. But it wasn't "bigger," just better. The taste starts with a lot of citrus hops and grapefruit and a sharp, peppery bite. Pretty much as you would expect from a beer with this many hops added. But then, instead of turning completely and unpleasantly bitter, the malts come into play and smooth out the taste all the way through a crisp and perfectly bitter finish. You can tell that there are a ton of hops in this beer, but the balance is so perfect that they aren't allowed to overwhelm the rest of the flavors this beer offers. In fact, I would bet that someone who isn't a hophead would enjoy Pliny The Younger much more than Pliny The Elder.

I left the bar with a huge smile on my face and a huge check off of my beer bucket list.

And later that night, of course, the Lakers beat the Celtics.

Final Grade: A+

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