The Daily Pint sold out of their keg in only four minutes. At Blue Palms Brewhouse, it took a mere seven minutes to hit bottom. Verdugo Bar co-owner Brandon Bradford had to console despondent customers who didn’t get a taste. There might not be another beer in the U.S. that can inspire so much pandemonium, but when the brewer is Vinnie Cilurzo, the brewery is Russian River Brewing Company and the beer is Pliny the Younger, it has the makings of a perfect hop storm, and that’s what tore through L.A. in tornado-like fashion over the past week.
Pliny the Elder was a Roman philosopher and author who provided the original botanical name for hops – Lupus Salictarius (“wolf among scrubs”). In tribute, Cilurzo named a double IPA for the man, and it promptly set the industry standard. Pliny the Younger was Pliny the Elder’s nephew, a Roman statesman who was accomplished in his own right. In the beer world, thanks to Cilurzo, he surpasses his uncle’s legacy, clocking 11% ABV as a triple IPA that’s pretty much the envy of the beer world.
This year, only five L.A. beer bars were able to score rare five-gallon kegs of Pliny the Younger: The Daily Pint, Blue Palms Brewhouse, Verdugo Bar, The Surly Goat and Library Alehouse. It was in Santa Monica, at Library Alehouse, when I finally encountered Pliny The Younger. It was Double’s Night, a showcase for double IPAs. On any other day, a lineup that includes Pliny the Elder, Avery Dugana and Port Mongo would draw a crowd, but today, the crowd was initially interested in just one beer: Pliny the Younger, a beer so persuasive that the brewery is convinced “Lupulin Threshold Shift may occur.” No, that isn’t a Star Trek expression, it’s the idea that “a once extraordinarily hoppy beer now seems pedestrian.” In case you don’t know, humulus lupulus is the technical term for hops, and yes, Lupulin Threshold Shift did occur.
Library Alehouse owner Dave Lackman and sustainability manager Tom Kelley were basically providing a public service by pouring 10-ounce glasses of Pliny the Younger for only $6. After my first sip, it was clear that the beer would have been worth twice the price, easily. The golden nectar packed plenty of hops and clocked 11% ABV, but was a dangerously balanced beer, with a sweet body and just enough hop finish to inspire repeat sips. It became increasingly clear why Pliny the Younger is so revered, and why just about everybody in the bar had a golden goblet in front of them.
Pliny the Younger appears every February, like a fleeting specter. Next year, when the famed IPA returns to L.A. beer bars, make sure to rearrange your schedule to get a goblet of your own.