Sunday, December 1, 2013

Russian River Pliny the Elder Review

Brewery: Russian River Brewing Co. | Beer: Pliny the Elder
Style: American Double India Pale Ale | ABV: 8.0% | IBUs: 100
Serving Method: 510ml bottle poured into tulip glass

Russian River Pliny the Elder
Since the early days of my beer geekdom, Russian River has been a hallowed name. One of the most respected names in American craft brewing, Russian River was founded in 1997 with Vinnie Cilurzo hired as brewmaster. An innovate brewer with a passion for sours, Vinnie ended up taking control of the company in 2002.

Russian River now brews a highly praised and sought-after collection of Belgian and thoroughly West Coast beers. The most famous of these would be the duo of Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger. The Elder is a Double IPA available on draft and in bottles, while the Younger is billed as a Triple IPA available on draft and often ranked as the best beer on the planet.

After much longing from a distance and a few sips at bottle shares, I finally put together a trade for some Russian River bottles that can get the full review treatment. First up had to be Pliny.

As Vinnie is credited with inventing the Double IPA style, Pliny the Elder is in many ways the definitive example of the style. Clocking in at eight percent alcohol and 100 IBUs, it's brewed with Amarillo, Centennial, CTZ, and Simcoe hops.

Russian River describe the finished product thusly:
It is well-balanced with malt, hops, and alcohol, slightly bitter with a fresh hop aroma of floral, citrus, and pine.
It's been a long wait to finally get a bottle of this in front of me for review. Let's not delay another second.

Appearance: A clear orange-copper body capped by over two fingers of off-white lace that fade slowly and leave excellent lacing.

Aroma: Plenty of dank, piney, citrusy (grapefruit and juicy orange), floral, and spicy hops over caramel malt and light alcohol. Clearly a West-coast DIPA.

Taste: Up front, a big wave of hops that are grapefruity, peppery, resinous, and potently bitter. Underneath, a more reserved husky caramel malt backbone anchors everything, but lets the hops shine in the lead. The alcohol is present in low volumes throughout, adding a pinch of spice. Grapefruity, leafy, and bitter hops, toasted husky malt, and a hint of booze in the finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied and a little silky with smooth medium carbonation and a bone-dry finish. The alcohol adds just a bit of slickness throughout.

Drinkability: Drinks just a hair faster than the alcohol content would suggest, making it a relatively quick-drinking DIPA.

Verdict: Clearly the quintessential West Coast Double IPA, Pliny the Elder lives up to the hype for me. Compared the brash and bruising DIPAs on the shelves today, I can see acolytes dismissing this as too reserved, but the craftsmanship and brilliant character are evident for anybody looking. There are just some beers that exude a special synergy of elements that mark them as classics greater than the sum of their parts; Pliny has that in spades. Now, to find some of that scion.

Grade: A+ (4.7 out of 5 stars)

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