As we cracked the growler of Russian River’s fabled Pliny the Younger, I looked out the window, anxiously awaiting celestial white angels riding majestic unicorns to descend from the skies, carrying lightning bolts of peace and healing designed to rid the world of all war and disease.
At least, that’s what you’d expect reading the gushing reviews on Beer Advocate, which were of course devoid of any hype or preconceived notions (as ALL the highly rare beers on BA’s top ranked list have surely been rated). I fully anticipated nothing short of a life altering experience as soon as the beer hit my lips…nay, as soon as I entered the room and came into the shimmering aura of said growler. This was Pliny the Younger, after all, the beer that within two weeks of its broad release straight from the brewery somehow magically overtook (albeit temporarily) the indominitable Westvleteren 12 as Beer Advocate’s number one beer on planet earth. The holiest of holies. And somehow, through mysterious methods of fermentation, Russian River had found a way to bottle miracles. Real miracles, people.
After disappointedly spotting only a few stray clouds streaking the winter sky, I turned my attention to my friend Ryan who had graciously invited me and several others to his home for a small tasting of the chimerical beer, procured during his trip to San Francisco Beer Week in February.
Younger had clearly held up well in the growler, as my friend poured the first glass with a building head of carbonation that quickly dissipated. Very nice deep gold coloring, with some haze likely from the four dry hop additions the beer goes through. The aroma is full on hops, with notes of onion and…bear with me…a slight catty smell. One of the more unique aromas I’ve ever gotten from a beer in this style category. Taste is intensely bitter, likely off the IBU chart. Not too sweet, with a dry, highly attenuated finish. Very full, prickly mouthfeel.
Does this beer live up to the hype? I suppose. It’s a wonderful DIPA. But I tend to prefer Pliny the Elder, and in fact, some folks at the table thought other beers like Bell’s Hopslam were more enjoyable.