Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Beer Review | Russian River: Pliny the Elder

The review is a supplement to the youtube review that I did.  You can view that review at the link below.

Russian River Brewing Company:Pliny the Elder
Rating: 'B+'

This is the first time I have ever tasted Pliny the Elder.  Heck, this is the first time I've ever seen a real bottle of it.  So that being said, I plan to give this an honest review that is not jaded by an opinion gathered from previous experiences.  But I will also be giving a true review of this particular bottle.  I am leaving the “Hype” out of this review.  It will get an unbiased review.

Is it really as good as everyone says?

My brother-in-law picked this beer up for me while working in Portland OR.  I live in the upstate of South Carolina.  And the only place they distribute on the East Coast is Philadelphia, PA.  So I can't even get this where I live.

The side of the bottles says, “Pliny the Elder is best enjoyed fresh.” This particular bottle was bottled on August 31st, 2012.  So that makes this bottle 3 months and 17 days old (as of the day I filmed this review which was December 17th, 2012).

I'm not sure what they consider fresh, so hopefully three months in the bottle hasn't affected this beer too much.  But personally, three months isn't that old.  But other factors may also affect this beer including how the store handled and stored the beer.

Style: Double IPA
Color: Dark yellow bordering on light amber.
ABV: 8.0%
IBU: The website says, “Bitterness is High” but other sources say it's about 100 IBU's.
Hops: Amarillo, Centenial, CTZ,  and Simcoe

Bottle Code:
It's plainly printed on the side of the label.  It says “Bottled On: 08/31/12.”  So I assume that mean August 31st, 2012.

Cost: Varies depending on where you buy it.
 Costs range from:
  - $5.00 - $8.00 for 17.25oz bottle (510 mL).
  - $7.50/$5.00/$4.50/$6.00 for a pint on draft, depending on where you get it.

Up and down the West Coast.  But the only place it's distributed on the East Coast is in Philadelphia, PA.

The Pour:

It started off with a nice 2-fingers worth of head.  There was nice lacing on the glass as the head settled down.


The beer is really cloudy.  From the looks of it, they either do not filter it or it's bottle conditioned.
There's not a ton of carbonation but there was definitely a steady stream of bubbles.


Citrusy hop aroma. Grapefruit is the main citrus smell.  It's not overpowering but it is definitely the main aroma of the beer.
It's very malty but mostly citrus.
It smells just like Bell's HopSlam.
There is no alcohol aroma.


It was good.  For an 8% ABV beer, you don't taste the alcohol at all.  In this respect, it is nothing like HopSlam, which is very boozy.
There is a hop citrus and pine.
The flavors don't linger.
Regarding the bitterness; it's not that bitter.  It's about on par with any other regular IPA.  Weak compared to other Double IPA's.
It definitely does NOT taste like a double IPA.  The flavors are very muted compared to other beers in the “Double IPA” category.  Honestly, it just tastes like a regular IPA.  Sierra Nevada: Torpedo Extra is a stronger tasting IPA than this beer.  And that is only a 7.2% ABV beer.  Almost up there with Pliny but not quite. But it's also only classified as a regular IPA.  And the hop character of the Torpedo Extra is three times what is coming through in Pliny.
I've had many other Double IPA's that completely overshadow Pliny's hop character. Hoptologist, Avery's Maharaja, RJ Rockers Rockhopper IPA.


I'm a bit conflicted.  Should I give this beer a higher rating because of it's reputation?  The answer is clearly “NO.”  If that were the case, I feel like I should judge it more harshly than I would other beers.  It must prove itself to me.  I do not have to prove myself to it.

I've been waiting to taste this beer for years.  I've read all of the reviews.  And, in my opinion, this beer is way overhyped.
Was is good?  Yes.
Was it great?  No.
To me, it was just another everyday IPA.  If I were to put this up against other regular IPA's I wouldn't be able to pick it out.  There was nothing over-the-top about this beer.  Nothing really stuck out.
I personally wouldn't classify Pliny as a Double IPA.  There was nothing “Double” about it.  The alcohol wasn't that high.  The hop character was very muted for the style.
The other beers I mentioned above (Hoptologist, Avery's Maharaja, RJ Rockers Rockhopper IPA) were far beyond the Double IPA drinking experience of Pliny.
When you open up any of those bottles, you are immediately hit in the face with Hops.

I will concede that some of this lacking-of-flavor could be due to the age of the bottle.  But I don't feel that 3 months is enough time to mute the hope character this much.
I recently drank a bottle of “Clown Shoes: Supa Hero” that was almost a year out of date.  However, it tasted like a fresh, super hopped, Double IPA. It was 8% ABV and was only listed as a Regular IPA.  It was the same price as Pliny but was still massively hoppy.

So those that are whining and fussing about this beer being to old for a true review, I say “Bulls*&t!!!”  If Clown Shoes can produce a beer that holds up after being a year out of date, then Pliny should be able to hold up after 3 months.

Because of all these factors, this is getting a “B+” from me.  It is not worth any more than that.

Worth the Money:

For the reputation alone, I'd say that it's worth $6.00 per bottle.
But if I'm basing it solely on the drinking experience that I'm getting from this beer, I would say, “No. It's not worth the money.”

For those of you out there crying “Foul” and are huffing and puffing that I got an old bottle... My feeling is if a beer with this kind of reputation loses everything after 3 months when I can find a comparable beer in style in price from a different brewer that is 12 months out of date and it still knocks my socks off, Pliny IS NOT worth $6.00 per bottle.

That's my opinion.
If you disagree, leave me some comments below.

“Drink what you like.  Enjoy what you drink.”

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