#160 Russian River – Pliny the Elder

Pliny the Elder and Alice the DrunkerName: Pliny The Elder
Brewery: Russian River (Santa Rosa, California)
Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 8%
Source: Blue Palms Brew (Hollywood, CA)


I hope you read that like an American boxing MC introducing a champion to the ring, because that’s the voice that a heavyweight like Pliny the Elder demands.

I’d never heard of Pliny before I started down the road to beer-geekery with this blog, but I’ve since discovered that Pliny the Elder (and it’s rarer, stronger brother Pliny the Younger even more so) is one of the most worshipped beers in the world.

Being a sucker for celebrity, this meant that tracking down some Pliny was my top priority (hell, my only priority) during my two day stopover in Los Angeles.

The first couple of bars I tried didn’t have Pliny (they introduced me to Stone beers instead however – so good!), but at Blue Palms Brew in Hollywood I finally found him. And guess what? They even had it on tap!

I freaked out with excitement. I imagined the Tweet I would send if my iPhone hadn’t been stolen: “Drinking a Pliny the Elder on tap @Bluepalmsbrew” it would say. If only!

With barely contained glee I placed my order (“One PLINYYY THEEEE ELDERRRRR thanks!”), but as the bartender put the beer before me I became aware of a strange, heavy sensation in my body. It was almost as if the four IPA’s and mixed tasting platter and the Russian River Consecration I’d warmed up with were having an adverse effect on my body.

With the realisation came a sudden wash of crippling, heavy drunkeness – like Roadrunner falling to his doom after he looks down. I brought the Pliny to my lips and had barely registered the taste of fresh hops before I was forced put it back down again.

It was over. I left the glass undrunk, and went home to throw up.

The next morning – hungover and hideously ashamed of myself – I skulked back to Blue Palms and ordered another one. And you know what? This time it was incredibly delicious. 

I’m not sure I can properly explain why. It was like a punch in the face (hops) – only it didn’t hurt much because the person punching me was wearing a cushy soft glove (malt).  It was bright and crisp and a bit like freshly squeezed hop juice, but the balance of caramelly malt was exactly right. Flavours were classic – citrus and pine – and the finish was bitter and long. I realise I’ve described a bunch of IPAs in the exact same way in the past – but trust me guys, this one was special. 

(Or possibly I just got sucked into the hype which made it taste better than it really was. Doesn’t matter. It was still worth the effort!)

Published in: on January 18, 2012 at 8:55 pm  Comments (10)  

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10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Nah you are right , it’s pretty good. Awesome ballance, nice clean hop character. It takes alot for this style to impress me but Pliny did.

  2. I’m even madder now that I know you left a pint of Pliny undrunk.

    When I get to a beer bar off the leash (ie sans wife) my nights go a bit like that except I always finish my beer and I’m generally not a puker.

  3. Yeah its a cracking beer, I had a bottle with one of the spiciest pizza’s I had ever made, thought it would ruin it but all those hops and malt still came through and changed the flavour, I was getting orangey like marmalade after the scorching pizza, they went well together. Never tasted the Younger, but my homebrew mates and I have tried to make a.clone, we ended up with about 135 liters, mmmm

  4. Never had the fortune to try this. Actually a wee bit jealous.

    • I really should have bought some back! Unfortunately I was too hungover for that kind of rational thinking…

      • Not at all. Last time I went through California, I did not know of this beer. I just need to go back.

  5. Love your honesty :))

  6. Hype? No way. I first had this at the Toronado in San Francisco, having never heard of it before. Thought it was the best there is then and still do. It’s such a shame that Russian River beers are pretty much impossible to find outside of California…

  7. Because this is a beer blog, and not a fashion one, I’ll refrain from opening the discussion on the nail polish. Who am I to judge anyway?

    • So now green/red pants are OK but blue nail polish isn’t? Puh-lease!

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