It has been a long, long while since my last review, a delinquency that occurred for several reasons, but I hope to be back at my regular "post." Let me start at the top. Literally. Shaun sent me a number of brews last year, several of which I have been aging for soon-to-be posted reviews. One of these is Russian River Brewing's Pliny The Elder; he sent two bottles of this, one that I consumed last year and one this summer. I was already well on my way with other alcohol when I drank the first one, so I did not feel as though I could give it proper justice in a review. I felt as though I had a better cognitive understanding of it the second time around.
Pliny is all over the great beer bars on the West Coast, but here in Illinois it is legend, myth, kind of like the Headless Horseman or the Loch Ness Monster. Yet this beer's anything but a monster. It's as silky as a mink. An imperial IPA, Pliny's got a pale yellow color and pours a big billowing head. You can smell citrusy and floral hops on it that burst out of the glass. I would describe the hop profile as more subtle than pronounced. What sets this one apart from all the other West Coast IPAs is that flavor. Pliny's got a creamy texture and richness to its flavor that seamlessly blends the hops and malt profiles together. You know it's an IPA but all elements work together so that your palate never gets a true hops bruise. The brewer exceptionally tames the hops just enough to create this smoothness of an Amber Ale, yet it has just enough bite to let the fortunate drinker never forget that it's an IPA in his or her hand.
Speaking of fortune, I was fortunate enough to have a few of these on tap on a recent trip to San Diego. It holds up well in a bottle but I think it's tap format brings out the hop aromas and richness of the flavor that much more. The beer just blankets your tongue like a hoppy jam.
PROS: This unique and exceptional imperial IPA will make IPA vets fall in love with IPAs all over again and convert newbies.
CONS: The "son" of this Beer, RR's Pliny The Younger, a triple, is supposed to be even better; good luck finding it as it's only sold in kegs at this point.
VERDICT: It's worth the daunting task of finding it, even if you have to seek it out by going door to door, speakeasy style.
RATING: 5 of 5 stars. * * * * * Elite.