It’s rumored that this beer cures cancer, brings Chuck Norris to tears, and was responsible for causing the Arab Spring. There has been talk the only way one can acquire it was by summiting Mt. Olympus and wrestling it from wrathful hands of Zeus — only after, of course, leaving Aphrodite speechless in bed, drowning Poseidon in the Mediterranean, and getting Demeter a manufacturing job at Foxconn. Why summit Mt. Olympus and defeat the Greek Gods? It’s only a prerequisite you must pass before conquering the Holy Roman empire where Pliny once resided hundreds of years earlier. Some regard Pliny as the holy grail of brews, and as you Indiana Jones fans are aware of, finding the Holy Grail is laborious.
The lengths I had to go through in order to wrap my anxious hands around this beer were not quite as dramatic, although I did have to buy a 500 dollar plane ticket, cross the Golden Gate, and wait an hour before getting seated. And while I did have it on tap at Russian River, I was still excited to open this guy up… more excited than a class of 4th graders who just found out they got extra recess. So how was this old man? Let’s do the numbers.
Appearance: Dark golden brown, completely transparent, great looking beer with an off white, almost khaki color head. Head lasts for awhile, especially with a straight down pour and I can tell that this will lace nice. Head retention was very good as it didn’t sink into the glass until I was finished with the photos. Really, a good looking beer – from sight it doesn’t look as intimidating as the 8% ABV on the label.
Smell: Hoppy and more syrupy than I was expecting. Smells more like an East Coast double IPA (I’m thinking Sebago Full Throttle) than a Lagunitas or a Sierra Pale. You get a lot of pine in there to with light, light citrus nodes, almost completely washed out by the piney smell of it. A faint bit of lemon hits your nose at the end. Surprising, a pretty simple smell coming out of this brew.
Taste: Packs a punch. Not nearly as malty or syrupy as it smells, which was a very nice surprise, however it is more syrupy than I expected. The bitterness of the hops blasts you in the mouth with justice, however, even though it’s dominant, it does allow for some other flavors to seep through. The hops have a very fresh taste, and I also got some of that lemony citrus from the smell, and that piney taste comes back too. The mouthfeel is more heavy than I thought it’d be (especially from its appearance), but for a double IPA, it’s not too bad and is pretty consistent with other imperials I’ve tried. The first taste impression is strange as you sort of cringe expecting an overly bitter, syrupy beer, but it finishes very clean with a hoppy bite. It’s unlike any other beer that I’ve had because no other IPA transforms like this does… however I don’t know if that’s a good thing because transforming to off-putting smell to hop hoppy taste is an overall negative in my book.
Overall, I’d give Pliny a A-. For the reputation this beer receives, I feel that it does not live up to the Godly standards people set for it. But what is that really saying? It’s saying that this isn’t the BEST beer in the world, but a damn good one. Personally, I’d prefer a Gandhi Bot over this double IPA because its more balanced and a little more complex than Pliny. Again, reflecting on that statement, those who seek out this brew are diehard hopheads. The more hoppy and piney the beer is, the better. Pliny delivers with this, and does a really good job with it, but it does not have any other gig besides hops (in my opinion). I will say that Pliny on tap was better than Pliny in the bottle, if memory serves me correctly. Again, it’s not a bad mark for any beer, but a A- is all that it gets. Looks like all is well up on Mt. Olympus.