Pliny the Elder (Russian River Brewing Company)

Style: Double India Pale Ale

8.0% ABV

OG: 1.070

Hops: Amarillo, Centennial, CTZ, Simcoe

Bottled On: 12/02/13

From: Santa Rosa, CA


Brewer’s Note: “Pliny the Elder is brewed with Amarillo, Centennial, CTZ, and Simcoe hops. It is well-balanced with malt, hops, and alcohol, slightly bitter with a fresh hop aroma of floral, citrus, and pine. Best enjoyed FRESH! That is why we make it in such limited supply. Actual bottling date is printed on each bottle!/ Where did we come up with this name? Back in the year 2000, our friend, Vic Kralj, who owns the Bistro in Hayward, California, decided to have his first ever Double IPA festival. Vic invited 10 breweries, 6 of whom (including us) had to brew something special for him since we had nothing that would fall under this style category. Vinnie had made a Double IPA at Blind Pig in 1994, but was not brewing one at Russian River Brewing at the time. He had an idea for the recipe, but not a name. After much research in beer books, brainstorming, and deliberation, we came up with “Pliny the Elder”. Pliny, the man, lived in the first century- 23 to 79 A.D. According to our brewing references, he and his contemporaries either created the botanical name or at least wrote about Lupus Salictarius, or hops, currently known as Humulus Lupulus. That was a very early reference to an important part of any Double IPA! Pliny the beer has now become one of our flagship brews!/ Pliny the Elder was immortalized by his nephew, Pliny the Younger, who wrote about his uncle succumbing to ash and smoke during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. while rescuing people. Cheers to the scholar, historian, officer, writer, and Roman Naturalist- Pliny the Elder!”


A deep thank-you to my dear brother for bringing me gifts from California! Alas, I review Pliny! This (for those of you under rocks) is the king of the Double IPA’s, and one of the first great hoppy beers to hit the market. To this day it is still considered one of the best beers in the world. Admittedly, my bottle is a little outside the purists “drink by date” but it is only twenty days old so I think the hops should still be succulent…

Pliny’s label is classy and elegant. I admit that for a while I found the design boring, but seeing it in person (and right before Christmas!) the coloring really pops at the eye, and the labels simplicity stands out. The fonts are superbly simple and crisp, though the warning at the labels bottom does get a little cluttered. This beer is a whale that everyone should try, and this label is worthy of a beer geek’s shelf for sure!


The beer pours an oranging yellow with amber highlights, kind of like a sunrise… The beer forms a big, pillowy head of rocky white bubbles that are slightly off-white. The head lasts nicely, but does mellow down from its initial height to about a half-finger’s width. As the head dissipates, it leaves a nice sticky patchwork of lacing on the glass. In body the beer is crystal clear and clean, but does present a slight haze from the malt. On the nose, the beer smells of citrus and spicy pine. Floral and herbal notes dance around the edges of the nose but big citrus tangerine and grapefruit are the primary players in the beer. The nose is not blowing me away, but is just a very solid example of a hoppy beer dank pine and a touch of sweet caramel can also be sensed in the smell. As a whole, the smell tends to remind a little of a fresh pineapple blended with pine. On the tongue, the beer tastes surprisingly balanced. The bitters are big and coat the mouth, but there is a strong bready sweetness to add balance. Light stone fruit notes can be picked out in the hop character, as well. The finish sees the strongest bitter kick, which is a bit over powering and should feed any one’s bitter cravings. Acidity in the beer is light but bright on the sides of the cheeks. Again, this beer tastes like a classic DIPA. In flavor, the beer begins as sweet, candied citrus, expanding into fresh Florida oranges, with a touch of orange peel and rind. Grapefruit, pine needles, and pineapple dance in the back along with the malts superbly balanced sweet caramel bread, which helps to give the hops their candied quality. I wasn’t that taken with this beer on the initial sip, but that was foolish of me. Pliny is a subtle beast, building simple complexity from its hops, and making each sip different. Soft boozy heat can be felt in the back of the throat, but that is just another part of the complexity of this beer. This flavor is one I could sip all night. In the mouth, Pliny feels surprisingly on the light side of medium in body, with a fluffy carbonation that pillows the tongue nicely. Mouthfeel is slick, and crisp, making the beer dangerously easy to drink. Slight astringency can be felt as the beer moves across the tongue leaving the mouth only softly tingling with bitters. Saliva does gently pool in the cheeks, but overall the mouth is left rather clean and ready for further sips. Overall, this beer is a whale worthy of whaling after. Beautiful complexity and subtly make this a beer I could drink several of, which is dangerous for its ABV bracket. Where many of the modern DIPA’s slam you in the face with juicy hop character, Pliny is subtle and perfectly balanced. This will please the hop heads and even those that are skeptical to hops. My mother, a diehard stout fan, but “pale and hoppy beer” hater, actually loved this when I brought one over last night. My only complaint is that the nose is mild compared to some DIPA’s, but to be fair to Pliny, its recipe was developed before the designers of those other DIPA’s even knew they liked hops. Pliny the Elder is a pleasure to drink. I can’t wait to get my hands on more Russian River beers.


4.55/5, 42/50 BJCP, A+ in Style

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