In all things in life from music to film to literature there are a few rare creations that manage to transcend boundaries uniting even the most disparate of critics in the belief that something truly exceptional has been created. For those in the know, these incomparable objects become a kind of secret handshake welcoming members into an exclusive cult comprised of those who have heard, seen, read and tasted. While I think the phrase “best beer ever” gets tossed around a little too liberally Russian River’s Pliny the Elder may just be the one beer that warrants that title.
My affair with Pliny got off to a tumultuous start when an enthusiastic Whole Foods employee informed me he had something special in the back. Curious, and slightly relieved, he came back with a bottle of Pliny the Elder and the caveat that they do not sell Pliny to just any passing beer geek. In fact, you have to ask a worker to retrieve bottles from their ‘reserve’ in the back room.
Back in my room that evening, I became quite distressed with the pine notes emanating from the nose of this beer and in my most eloquent assessment I exclaimed that it tasted like a pine air freshener and passed the remainder of the bottle to my partner to finish. So began (and ended) my relationship with IPA’s.
Several months later, and with many more craft beers under my belt, I was back in Portland, OR and I knew it was time to revisit the Pliny. After another go at the circuitous method of obtaining Pliny from Whole Foods I was once again facing off with a bottle in my hotel room but this time I was ready. Armed with a great deal of hop experience, I realized just how perfect this pine dominant ale truly was. This double IPA is golden and clear with tons of white head. Dominant hops on the nose and in the flavour; it is light in body, very crisp and has a relatively high ABV, which compliments the bitterness. Fantastic in the bottle and transcendent on tap; I never tire of this beer.
Who was Pliny the Elder
According to the information on the bottle label, Pliny the Elder, born in 23 A.D., was a Roman naturalist, scholar, historian, traveller, officer and writer. Pliny, and his, contemporaries, created the original botanical name for hops, Lupus Salictarius, meaning wolf among the scrubs. Hop vines, at that time, grew wild among the willows, likened to wolves roaming wild in the forest. Pliny the Elder died in 79 A.D. while 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 being a humanitarian.
A Little on Pliny the Younger
The Russian River Brewing Company describes this beer as an almost a true Triple IPA with triple the amount of hops as a regular I.P.A. That said, it is extremely difficult, time and space consuming, and very expensive to make. And that is why we don’t make it more often! This beer is very full-bodied with tons of hop character in the nose and throughout. It is also deceptively well-balanced and smooth. Pub draft only, VERY limited distribution locally and to distributors on draft only, seasonal- released at our pub the first Friday of February and is available for just 2 weeks, available at select accounts during February.
This beer has become the stuff of legend with people lining up by the hundreds just for the chance to sample Pliny the Younger while it lasts.
A Little on Don the Younger
Don the Younger is a sessional IPA brewed in memory of publican Don Younger who owned the iconic Horse Brass Pub in Portland, Oregon, for nearly 35 years. Last year Don asked Russian River to make a beer for the Pub’s 35th Anniversary Party. He asked for a hoppy, low alcohol session ale, and he wanted us to call it “Don the Younger”. Sadly, Don did not make it to the party at Horse Brass but they honored his wishes and made his beer for the Horse Brass 35th Anniversary anyway. Don the Younger was available for toasting at the two pubs.
By the will of the beer gods I happened to be in Portland when this beer was tapped and like all the IPA’s in this series it did not fail to disappoint. Bright and crisp with the signature resiny hop profile, Don the Younger was extremely drinkable and an amazing homage to the memory of Don Younger.
But Don’t Just Take my Word for It…
According to Rate Beer’s list of the world’s best overall beers Pliny the Younger is number 14 and Pliny the Elder is 23. Both Plinys have an overall score of 100 points.
According to Beeradvocate both Plinys have 100 points.