In one of my previous beer reviews on this page I lamented the status that so-called “whale beers” have in craft beer culture and how maybe we would all be better off if we just focused on what was available locally.
Apparently I am a poor example of taking one’s own advice. In April, I found out that a pastor friend was traveling in the San Diego area and so I immediately contacted him to see if he might be able to locate a California whale beer par excellence — Russian River Brewing’s Pliny the Elder. Through his diligent efforts he was able to track down a bottle of the rare libation, which he promptly shipped to me upon his returning home to Florida. Caveat Emptor!
Pliny the Elder is not for the fiscally fainthearted. A single one pint bottle will set you back around twelve smackers, which is the average on sale price of a 12 pack of Corona. So if you want to play the Pliny game, you have to be prepared to pay the piper. Caveat Emptor!
Can any one 1.25 fl oz bottle of beer be worth $12? In a word, absolutely. If you have a chance to try a bottle of Pliny the Elder, by all means do so. This is one of a small handful of beers that defines the “west coast IPA” style. In fact, some might consider Pliny the Elder to be the quintessential west coast IPA.
It is probably the best smelling IPA that I have come across. The aroma is all about citrus but also a pine aroma. Many IPAs have been rumored to have a pine aroma but my nose is still unskilled enough that I can never pick up on it. Not so with Pliny the Elder. I got the pine aroma right away.
As for the taste, it is west coast IPA perfection. I am no fan at all of mega-hopped beers that seem exist only as liquid sandpaper for one’s taste buds (yes, I’m looking at you Green Flash Palate Wrecker). When I imbibe an imperial IPA, I want to taste a delicate balance being struck between hop forwardness and a malty backbone. This beer has balance for days. It’s a gloriously great citrus hop bomb flavor married with just the right amount of malt that gives body and and balance to the hops. The aftertaste on the beer is also the driest I’ve ever had on any beer. It’s almost reminds me of a white wine.
I thought I had found perfection in Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute IPA. I was wrong. My new standard of hop/malt perfection is Pliny the Elder. This beer is my new standard for an imperial IPA perfection. Will I try another imperial IPA later on that will take the place of Pliny? Probably. But for now, this is the one.
Beer prayer: Gracious God, we thank you for the hoppy excellence of Russian River’s Pliny the Elder. Thank you also for the life of this beer’s namesake, that we have received so much valuable history of antiquity from his pen. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen!
My Untappd rating for Russian River’s Pliny the Elder: 7/5