4.9AROMA 10/10 APPEARANCE 5/5 TASTE 10/10 PALATE 5/5 OVERALL 19/20
I’m an East Coast guy when it comes to fandom of everything and anything. When I first started acquiring the taste for India pale ales I gravitated towards IPAs brewed on my coast as I really enjoyed their thick, sticky, piney resin character. However, many West Coast IPAs have really caught my attention with their clean, citrusy hop taste. Many of them tend to wreak havoc on the palate, but that’s not the case with Russian River Brewing Company’s "Pliny The Elder."
Named after a "Roman naturalist" who discovered the hop plant, this beer most definitely does him justice. It’s got everything I look for in an IPA with a strong hop bite, a delicious flavor, and remarkable drinkability despite the statistically hefty body. You want to know what a perfect beer tastes like? This is it.
APPEARANCE AND AROMA
Poured into a tulip glass, Pliny The Elder has a beautiful shade of light orange/dark yellow which is slightly hazy and also bubbly. It forms a bright white, frothy head which leaves generous lacing on the glass.
The aroma is as appealing as a beer can smell. As soon as I popped the cap I could smell the rich floral and citrus notes. It’s a mélange of tropical fruits and fresh flowers with a very "clean" scent overall. This beer was just screaming to be drank!
Sometimes a beer is so good it’s almost hard to explain the taste. Pliny the Elder is not what I would consider a "complex" palate in the traditional manner, but the tastes that are there are so strong and so delectable it’s an absolute joy from the first sip to the last drop.
Much like the nose, the body is a mash of sweet tropical fruit juice made from orange, tangerine and grapefruit, with perhaps a bit of mango or papaya. It’s tart like a glass of freshly-squeezed lemonade but without the sugary notes. The hops make the palate very crisp, but just like the scent, they finish clean.
I’ve had other IPAs from around the country that are so highly hopped and bitter they tend to tear up my palate like eating and entire box of Sprees or Sour Patch Kids. While Pliny the Elder is noticeably bitter throughout, the aftertaste is surprisingly gentle and quite refreshing.
The caveat to strong-tasting beers is they tend to be difficult to drink or their palate overall is simply an acquired taste. I don’t think that’s true of Pliny The Elder, since the citrus flavor is something any beer drinker is used to, combined with the fact it’s not heavy or rough in the mouth. This beer goes down very smooth and the aftertaste lingers without wearing on the tongue.
I’m not usually a fan of imperial or even "bigger" beers, but when brewed correctly the alcohol is almost irrelevant. If I didn’t know Pliny The Elder was 8% ABV I never would’ve guessed this since there is zero booze present in the nose or the body. I only felt a slight buzz after I drank the beer.
Russian River is located in California and is not distributed here in upstate New York. Pliny The Elder is one of the most talked-about and sought-after beers on the internet due to its reputation (rated A+ on Beer Advocate and 100 on Rate Beer). A friend of mine sent me a bottle as a gift so I cannot comment on the price or value (if this were available where I live I would pay upwards of $15 for a six-pack of it).
Considering how good this beer is, as well as several other West Coast IPAs I’ve had over the last few years, I might be tempted to jump coasts (at least in terms of favoritism) because it’s so good.