(Finally!) Russian River Pliny the Elder

I’ve been drinking beer for over a decade. I had my first taste of decent beer around four years ago, with my first taste of American craft beers around a year later. However, I only really got into serious beer drinking (that is, quality over quantity; as well as truly appreciating the libation itself as well as the process and culture behind it) around six months ago. In the past few months, the India Pale Ale has quickly become my favorite beer style. I’ve always enjoyed bitter food and drink, so the transition to hops for me was much quicker than that of the usual craft beer neophyte. The proof of this would be that during my first visit to the dearly departed Tasting Room at Greystone, I had a bottle of Stone Ruination. My first reaction to its over 100 IBUs was that I never thought that beer could taste like that. Hence, my life was forever changed. Hops, which I theretofore did not even recognize as an ingredient in brewing, became an integral part in my enjoyment of beer. Corollary to this, the IPA, and the more intense Double/Imperial IPA made their way to the front of the (six)pack for me.

Thus, Pliny the Elder, considered by many to be not only the best DIPA, but hands-down one of the best beers in the world, has been on my must-try list. This is in my list of holy grail beers, along with Westvleteren 12, Stormaktsporter, Cantillon Blabaer, and Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout. Make that, was.

 

Thanks to Atty. Con-con of Misshapen Identities, I was finally able to try this elusive elixir, along with a couple other beers shipped all the way from the United States. This post, however, I’m dedicating exclusively to the Elder. I’ll cover the rest, as well as our enjoyable beer dinner, in another entry.

I’ve been having the most difficult time coming up with a description for Pliny the Elder. I didn’t take notes while we were tasting, I didn’t bother. It was as much an emotional experience as it was sensory. A shiver literally ran down my spine after my first sip. I don’t think I can do this beer justice with a review, but I shall try nevertheless.

I brought some anchovy pizza from Shakeys for pairing. It was hard Googling pairing ideas – most recommend enjoying the beer alone. But one blog recommended pizza, which was what I already had in mind. Noel of Eye On Wine also recommends pizza, Hungarian sausage with mustard and sauerkraut, or a burger. I guess we followed both sets of advice, trying the Pliny first on its own, then following it up with a slice of pizza.

Pliny the Elder (L); Sculpin IPA (R)

The 10/31/11 bottle, opened around five weeks later is probably as fresh as it will get for a beer geek in the Philippines. It poured a crystal clear liquid golden amber, blowing away the hazy orange Sculpin beside it. A strong lacing would be left behind in the glass, a sign of how fleeting this one bottle shared between three would be. The nose was aggresive hops, grapefruit and pine, with hints of freshly rained-on grass that reminded me of my days in the old Blue and White. This was a real hop bomb as well, with a strong bitterness succeeding a taste that followed the nose. There was malt evident, but not enough to make the beer sweet; rather, it was just enough to provide balance – or as balanced as a hoppy DIPA can be. I haven’t been writing or tasting long enough to accurately describe the complexity of flavor present here. The Elder was more full-bodied than the DIPAs I’ve tried, and the carbonation was well-concealed, as was the alcohol. This made it really difficult not to just gulp down everything, given the limited supply. Nevertheless, as much as we tried to savor the holy grail of DIPAs, Pliny the Elder was gone too soon.
Appearance: 5.0 Aroma: 4.5 Taste: 5.0 Mouthfeel: 5.0

It may be a while until I get to taste this truly world-class beer again, and I’ll await that day with even more anticipation. No longer is Pliny merely hype and hearsay. I can say for myself that this is the best D/IPA I’ve ever had, and my favorite beer so far.

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