In May of 2014 we took a trip into California. This took us through Santa Rosa and I wanted to stop by Russian River Brewing. One of the reasons was Pliny the Elder. It’s one of those beers that is always spoken highly of in all the beer circles I know and on beer blog’s, etc., and etc. Well, we found the brewery and it had a line outside that was four days long. Thus, I found another brewery to visit.

Eight years ago I went to the Great American Beer Festival. While there, I tried to visit Russian River’s booth. For the above mentioned Pliny. Again, a bloody line that was too long for me to consider. Way too many other beers were available. Why kill time in one line? This year, 2015, I went again. Same story.

Then, a local source for Pliny the Elder was revealed. I am indebted. I finally, finally was able to drink this beer! So, cheers and thank you to the Source(s)!

All that being said, Pliny the Elder is an IPA. Not only an IPA, but a double IPA. What was I thinking?

That Smell …
First comes the hops. I mean, it is an IPA. Hops are its thing. A strong citrus aroma, resinous and lemony, introduced itself to me. It was actually very inviting. But, then, it’s not the hops aroma that bothers me. According to style guidelines, a double IPA should have prominent and intense American hop smell. Gold Star for you, Pliny.

In Appearance …
It looks yellowish-orange. More on the yellow side. Like damp hay, or a treasure chest of gold coins, at sunset. It had an inviting clarity. It’s appearance was deceptive, for this looked like standard issue beer. It had very little head, but that may have been a function of the state of my sample (not complaining, not at all). Style guides indicate a golden to light orange-copper color, pale, good clarity. Gold Star for you, Pliny.

But the Taste …
This does not attack or finish like most IPAs I’ve had. It does have a strong, strong flavor of hops but they do not smack you in the face; it’s more of an energetic hand-waving that invites you to a party of lemon and resin and alcohol. The body was beautifully smooth and sleek, yes, very sleek. There was just enough body to give the beer some weight in the mouth, a counterbalance to the zephyr of hops. The aftertaste is clean and dry. So, strong and complex hops flavor, check; high to absurdly high bitterness, check (thank you for not being absurdly high); a non-harsh, lingering dry aftertaste. Double Gold Stars for you, Pliny.

The Conclusion of the Matter Is …
I understand why the lines are so large for this beer. This is what IPAs and double IPAs and all that lot can be. The smoothness of this IPA surprised me and, in the end, sold me on it. This is not harsh, not a mouthful of hoppy glass. It’s … Art. No, no, art as in Da Vinci, etc. Rembrandt. Picasso. Russian River. It’s summer vacations and life’s milestones, like graduations and anniversaries. Honestly, I could actually drink this beer. It’s either that good or I’m finally getting weak and giving in to the IPAs. Seriously, this was much better than I expected it to be. I can’t even say anything bad about it, and I really tried. Okay, fine, fine! What little bit of foam there was that constituted the head was white. Not off-white, just straight up white. Blanco. There, go forth, Russian River brewing types and fix that!

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