Review: Pliny the Elder

pliny1by BrianWall

Every now and then, it comes to pass that luck holds an outstretched hand in your favor. This doesn’t happen often and it seems to be at the most unlikely of times. It never occurs when the Powerball is in the hundreds or when you see the flashing lights in your rear-view when the road is clear and you decided to bump it up ten miles over the limit. It did shine a bit of light on me recently.

At my full time job, I took a couple classes and the instructor was from Northern California. I chatted with her and discovered we had a common interest in craft beers. Her boyfriend got her involved in the craft beers and I explained my flare at doing home brewing. After enough discussion, we talked about Pliny the Elder, one of the best IPA’s on the market but only distributed to the West coast and Pennsylvania. She made a phone call to her man and before I could express my gratitude, she informed me there were three bottles in transit to me.


Pliny the Elder is the famous flagship beer of Russian River Brewing nestled in Santa Rosa, California. Interestingly enough, Russian River was initially started by Korbel Champagne Cellars before it was purchased by the head brewer. While they offer some very incredible beers, the two that stand out completely would be the Pliny’s- Elder and Younger. Younger is only available on tap and only released once a year. Its flavor is sought the world over and is listed as the only Triple IPA produced. Very small quantities make its way to local pubs but the majority is kept in-house. In a small amount of fortune, Elder is bottled and is available year-round.

Pliny the Elder is definitely an experience. In the past, many beers have a large amount of hype but have failed to fully endeavor that hype when finally tasted. Pliny arrived and my anticipation got the best of me. All three bottles were immediately placed in the fridge and chilled adequately. The hours ticked by slowly at that point but I made a promise to myself that only one bottle would be consumed.

The initial opening gave a lovely scent of hops and floral/citrus notes. The pour is very clean with a delicate white lacing and minimal amount of head.  Carbonation level was more than spot-on. The first taste was pure ambrosia. There are citrusy notes and a very strong hop presence that does not overpower the beer.

The maltiness is balanced just right so no over sweetness and no hop tones overpower each other. The bitterness of some hop flavors is not present but the beer tells you that it has plenty of hops involved. This beer is just too easy to drink and is refreshing enough to enjoy without knowledge of its 8.00% character.  While the bottle may have been a 22 ounce gift, the beer quickly vanished.

I consider myself very lucky in many aspects. While I have not become a professional rugby player, won a lottery or have walked on the Moon, I have tried quite a few impressive beers that are not only world class but difficult to find. I have even more than lucky that a few have been sampled with good friends. I could quote- “With true friends…even water drunk together is sweet enough”. Slàinte.


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