Russian River IPA Night at The Bottle Shop
Thursday, the fourteenth of March was a special occasion at the Global Beer Exchange Bottle Shop. More than thirty bottles each of a pair of notoriously elusive India Pale Ales from Russian River Brewery were made available to those who were lucky and quick enough to reserve slots via Facebook. On deck were the legendary, almost mythical Pliny the Elder – arguably the highest rated double/imperial IPA in the world – as well as its little cousin, Blind Pig IPA, which landed on Philippine shores for perhaps the first time.
While the event was open to the general public, it was clear from the start that the target demographic was clearly carved out. Not only are IPAs notorious for being too bitter for the craft beer neophyte and light beer binge-drinker, but the price for the event would definitely have thrown off more than a few of the curious. However, as Stone Brewing’s Greg Koch likes to put it, “we’re not expensive, you’re just cheap.” For the quality, the rarity and the unique experience, I definitely got my money’s worth. I’ve paid more for Pliny the Elder in the past, and I’d do it again. And as the packed house at the event proved, more and more of the Filipino craft beer republic agree.
Hardcore hopheads flocked to the Bottle Shop with many arriving with the sun still beaming bright, setting the pace for a long but enjoyable night. It was a good mix of old friends from the old Tasting Room in Legaspi and new faces drawn in by the increasing popularity of craft beer in the country.
Many began the night (or afternoon, in the case of others) with the Blind Pig, as it was lighter than the Pliny. I decided to go with a “test subject”, my usual Stone India Pale Ale. Being my go-to IPA, this was the standard for the night, as the Bottle Shop was all out of Sculpin. Stone IPA doesn’t get the hype that Russian River’s beers do because it’s much more readily available. I’m glad for that, though, because there is always going to be a bottle available for me whenever I crave a world class India Pale Ale.
I moved on to the Blind Pig, which was named after a nickname for the US Prohibition-era speakeasies which would sell alcoholic beverages illegally. Incidentally, one of the more popular cocktail lounges locally is also called Blind Pig. I doubt that either party is aware of the existence of the other, both taking their titles from what used to be a much more generic noun.
While I found this beer a bit tame in terms of flavor and strength, it more than won me over with its aroma. The bouquet was reminiscent of another old favorite, Ballast Point Sculpin IPA (sadly, the shipment didn’t arrive in time for Russian River IPA Night). The citrus, pineapple and mango really leap out. I made it a point to request a tulip glass to really bring out the nose of the beers, but this one really didn’t need it. This is a sessionable IPA, and perhaps a good starting point to those who are still on the edge about taking the leap into hoppy beer. The bitterness is definitely there, and the lingering finish is more pronounced than Stone’s. As far as IPAs go, I’d say this is one of the easiest to drink so far.
As to Pliny the Elder, what more can I say? I’ve tasted and written about it numerous times (here, here and here), and each time was memorable. While the sheen and the hype are starting to wear off, and despite my having tasted brews that are on par, or perhaps even better, tasting Pliny the Elder is always something special. Hardcore hopheads may not be that many, but they’re a swell bunch. Sharing one of the best beers in the world with some of the best people in the world is always worth more than the price of admission.