Harpooning Pliny the Younger

Rare Craft Beer


There are a few “whales” in the craft brewing industry. The beers that are in short supply and high in demand. Black Tuesday from The Bruery, Dark Lord from Three Floyds and Kate the Great from Portsmouth Brewing. The only IPA to achieve that status is from Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa, California. Pliny the Younger.

Here is what the brewery says about this sought after brew, “Pliny the Younger was Pliny the Elder’s nephew, in the case of this beer, the “Younger” is a triple IPA. Pliny the Younger is hopped three times more than our standard IPA, and is dry hopped four different times.”

I have studiously avoided PtY as it is known. Not out of spite but because Russian River makes two other hoppy beers that I enjoy. Blind Pig and Pliny the Elder. I can get those practically year-round and I don’t have to stand in a line for hours to get it.

But this year, I fought through traffic and arrived at the Verdugo late. Yup, I thought I had missed it again. I had resigned myself to the familiar sports refrain, “Wait until next year.” The crowd at the bar was thick. Maybe I should just start planning for next year. But then the kindness of the beer community arrived (Thanks Wes) and I had a sample to try.

The aroma is really nice. Citrus dominates the proceedings but there are floral notes that waft into the nose as well. The flavor is dominated by a white grapefruit taste. The bitterness hits quick and almost fades before sticking on the back of the palate. For a triple IPA, it is very light though not effervescent.

The elephant in the room is, “Is it worth it?” It depends on the wait. It truly is a unique beer that should be tried but the hype of the beer may make the taste suffer and that would be unfair to you and the beer. So whether you try it this year or next, put all the hype aside and just taste it. Maybe with another IPA to compare and contrast.

An easier IPA to find (though vastly different from PtY) is the craft beer of the week. It is from Mission Brewery just south of us. The style is Double IPA and in their own words it is “….a big, bold, brazen beer….”. The name is Shipwrecked and it comes in 22oz bombers. You will see the pirate skull on the label of this 9.25% abv hop attack from this orange colored brew that starts hoppy and ends hoppy as well.

Your homework this week is to hype your personal favorite beer. Post a comment below. Tell a friend at the bar, Facebook update that you are drinking it and everyone else should too. Tweet your love for the pint in front of you. Let the world know what you like. Why? Because every great beer should be talked about. Not just a few.

Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.

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Sean Inman

Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.

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Luckily, there are still enough establishments that remain off the radar enough to still enjoy Younger without the crowds. I have had it each year and usually numerous times each year without the maddening crowds. It is a great beer, but for the first few years before the hype, it was just another shade of the RR’s IPAs, only that it was released just once a year, but usually a keg would sit on tap for a week or so at most establishments around the Bay Area. So if for some reason next year or the year after becomes the year when an ultimate Younger tracking of every keg released ends up spoiling those few special bars that remain off the radar, then that will be the year that I don’t get any PtY. With as many amazing beers released by CA breweries, I just can’t see why to crowd for the one. In the last week, I have had Pizza Port’s Hop Suey, Drake’s Hopacolypse and Sierra Nevada’s Hoptimator. So there is no lack of amazing, hoppy beers in CA.

Watts, if the beer’s got Hop it in the name, that’s normally a good sign.

I’m with you on the fanfare. Last night, Blue Palms Brewhouse tapped a keg of Pliny the Younger at 5 p.m., and for the first 45 minutes, staffers didn’t tell anybody. It was eerie to only see a handful of people drinking that beer at the bar, and no wait. Apparently Father’s Office takes the same approach. They get kegs of Pliny the Younger and don’t let the world know. That way, it’s a nice surprise for timely customers. Ultimately, it’s a tradeoff. Bars like Library Alehouse, Naja’s Place, The Surly Goat and Verdugo Bar get/got plenty of publicity for having the beer, but since not everybody gets the beer, it can lead to resentment.

Thanks Joshua…yeah there is just something about that Pliny the Younger! I love sours so thank you for sharing that article…thank God for good beer!

I’m sorry, I forgot to mention I’m in SF..so it hasn’t been easy here either but I think that is part of the fun!

I got to taste this year’s Pliny the Younger last night. It was pretty amazing. It had been difficult for me to get at the Toronado just due to my work schedule…we tried it too late last year (like April) and definitely needed to try it while it was still fresh!

We had 3…hard to say if it’s the best ever but it was pretty damn good and worth the hype.

However, I’ll post some other faves, introduced to me by a great bartender named Steve at the Toronado.

-Jacobins Rouge
-Echt Kriekenbier

Supplication is pretty damn good too, you may see a little theme here as far as my faves!

Theresa,

Glad to hear you had a positive Pliny the Younger experience. I also enjoy Jacobins Rouge, a good Flanders style red. I’m a sour beer fan in general. If you’d like to know how that beer was made, the brewmaster hosted an event at Blue Palms last year:

http://www.foodgps.com/brouwerij-bockor-sour-beer-blending-at-blue-palms

Segue – I agree that more Younger in LA probably ain’t gonna happen. I certainly hope they hype caves in and everyone can appreciate the beer for what it is and not for the lines.

Dave – Another good semi-local IPA is Epic from Mammoth Brewing. Had it at Eagle Rock Brewing last night.

I was able to get three glasses of Pliny the Younger last year, and I have to say, it’s really fantastic, and definitely on the list of one of the best beers I’ve ever had. That being said though, I’ve decided this year I’ll try to get some, but I’m not going to chase it down or wait in line. I think it’s a beer everyone should try once in their life though.
I’ve really been digging on Black Xanthus since it came out though. Love that stuff!

Dave,

Beer has never been better. It’s really astounding how many good beers we have at our disposal on a daily basis, rare or otherwise. Given that, Pliny the Younger still stands out, but even if we drop down half a notch, we can still drink terrific beers, as you know.

I attempted the Verdugo last night. Got there a couple minutes before opening, but the line was around the block. After about twenty minutes, the line had moved maybe ten feet, and I went home.

And I started to wonder if they’ve reached the tipping point of their hype. I left thinking to myself, No beer is that good. Unless Russian River boosts distribution to LA, which sounds like isn’t in the cards, I for one won’t be attempting the Younger anymore. When people used to ask me about it, I used to say it’s one of the best IPAs I’ve tried. But now, my answer is, “It’s not worth it.”

Good call on the Mission Double IPA… Good stuff!

Younger… yeah its great, but nothing can live up to that amount of hype!

I am looking forward to chasing down some Younger this year, we’ll see. The trend seems to be doing it on weekday afternoons, which sucks for me being employed and all.

Also, I have to say I was wholly unimpressed with Shipwreck. But I am loving me some Double Jack which is popping up around the way lately.

Deus does fit the profile for a beer to hype that is true.

Interesting..wonder if I’ll ever have the chance to try Pliny the Younger. I do enjoy Pliny the Elder. Hm…beer that’s hypeworthy? I like Deus…and it’s definitely overpriced and not typical but it’s delicious, especially with food.

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by foodgps, Drink Eat Travel. Drink Eat Travel said: RT @foodgps: Sean Inman harpoons one of the only whales in the beer world, Pliny the Younger http://su.pr/2h6PLw […]

Im in complete agreement with you on this sean, as usual PtY is outstanding this year (though pretty damn different than last years version…) but really isnt heads and tails above a number of other socal available world class IIPA’s, give me Mongo, Citra (kern), Summer Yulesmith, Exponential Hoppiness, Hop Suey, or hell a fresh hop stoopid.

I do want to thank all the folks that braved The Surly Goat on tuesday, it was crazy and fun.

I’d be interested in trying Pliny the Younger this year, but not if it involves more than an hour of drive-time or more than 15 minutes of line time. Last year’s version of Pliny the Younger was probably the best beer I drank all year, but it wasn’t that much better than some of the beers Skipp mentioned. Give me a fresh glass of Citra and life would be just as good.

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