1) It’s not surprising I was quite excited to score a bottle of Pliny the Elder as an early birthday present (early by just over two months). As beers go this sucker is one of the white whales. If you’re a beer geek and you get your hands on one of these, it’s obligatory to post a photo to Twitter, Instagram or wherever just for the purposes of gloating (“Ha, look what I’ve got that you don’t!).
2) I ended up getting this bottle by a slightly astonishing chain of events. My brother travels to the US several times a year and will mule back a bottle or two. Usually, I’m happy to let him choose the beer – but not too long ago I happened to mention a bottle of Pliny would be tops. Though I didn’t think he’d have a chance in hell of finding any as I get the impression bottles fly out the door at Russian River very quickly.
3) But it turns out he knows a couple who live in the US and were coming to visit them last month. The female takes a trip to work that goes past the brewery and, even though there is almost never any bottles there, she stopped in after my brother asked her. And there were bottles there. So without that connection of my brother knowing someone who lived in the US, regularly drove past the brewery and was heading to Australia for a visit, I can’t see how I’d have ever gotten a bottle of this. What’s even more astounding is the freshness of the bottle. Check out the bottled on date. Took me a little while to work it out but it says September 21, 2018. That was barely a month before I got it. And yes, I drank it on the very same day. As if I’m going to leave that sitting in the fridge for any longer that strictly necessary.
4) Sad thing is, I was disappointed by the beer. Which is absolutely not the beer’s fault. It was because of all the hype whipped up by beer geeks about how thoroughly fantastic Pliny the Elder is. That led me to create unrealistic expectations of Pliny, which the beer could not possibly have matched (a friend on Twitter compared it to top draft picks in sport – the player didn’t say they were among the best in the country, you did by picking them). With Pliny, I have a sneaking suspicion it’s a case of the emperor’s new clothes – people keep raving about this beer because they don’t want to seem foolish by suggesting it might not be all that.
5) And, to be honest, it’s not. Look, there are no faults here; the beer is certainly well-made. There’s a lot of bitterness, which you want in a double IPA, but there’s a strong malt bill to provide balance. So even with a heap of bitterness, it doesn’t taste out of whack. But here’s the thing; it was first made back in 2000, when a double IPA would have been a freaky thing to do. But the passage of time has changed things. These days, there’s really nothing unusual about a double IPA, heaps of breweries do it. And some of them do it better. I’d had a Bentspoke Cluster 8 the weekend before and truly felt that was better than Pliny. Glad I tried a Pliny – because it is one of the top beer geek experiences – but I don’t reckon I’ll lose any sleep if it’s the only bottle I ever have.
Free or paid for?: The Pliny was a birthday present so it was 100 per cent free.
Categories: Beer of the Week
It’s Pliny the Younger that’s the seasonal release, triple IPA. Not that I would sneeze at the Elder, it’s available year round. I had a pint in August when visiting my brother.
Grreat reading your blog post