Pliny the younger (as distinguished from his uncle, Pliny the elder) was a Roman statesman and lawyer who seemed to have a letter-writing fetish, as he produced enormous amounts of them in the first century CE. If you were to get your hands on one of Pliny’s letters today, you would be in possession of a very rare, enormously expensive treasure. And so it is with the ale.
Russian River Brewing Company conducts rare, infrequent productions of this treasure. Russian River Pliny The Younger (10.25% ABV) is one of the US’s consistently highest-rated beers, and for good reason. Drinking this ale is like stumbling upon an authentic ancient manuscript in one of Egypt’s alleyway markets. You do not ask questions: you just pay the price, and take it.
Russian River Brewing Company originated in Guerneville, California, sponsored by Korbel Champagnes. The beers proved popular, and the company took off. These days, it is in the city center of Santa Rosa, California. When it was still under Korbel control, the head brewer was Vinnie Cilurzo, who later bought the brewery from Korbel, and is still the owner. Mr. Cilurzo and Russian River are known for producing ales with a very high content of aromatic hops. For a hophead like me, this is great news. In fact, Mr. Cilurzo is often credited with inventing the double IPA, which is an India Pale Ale wine twice the hops of a standard one. Well, Pliny The Younger is a triple IPA, meaning — you guessed it — that it contains three times the amount oh hops as a standard IPA. In my opinion, all hops are good hops. Pliny the younger was all about letters, so let’s take a look at this literal review.
Everything On Tap Review – Russian River Pliny The Younger:
Bottle: As far as I know, this beer is only available on tap. I had it only once, in California, but I took copious notes, so enamored of it was I.
Pour: The color is golden-amber with hints of orange, with a light to medium haze. The head is 2.5 fingers thick, creamy and dense. It dissipates slowly, leaving light lacing, like silk doilies from the Victorian Age.
Aroma: The first bouquet attacks with hoppy citrus fruit: there are distinct elements of grapefruit, orange peel, and lemon, with a hint of passion fruit. This is followed by a pungent but delicate aroma of complex earthiness and ethyl alcohol.
Flavor: The aromatic hops, so complex and predominant upon the nose, are sophisticated and refined on the palate. They offer a light tickle upon the tongue, without losing any of their complexity. There are clear flavors detected of grapefruit, lemon, orange, pine needles, pine sap, pine bark, and lush green wheat grass. There is certainly a present bitterness, but far from being sour or overwhelming, it delights the taste buds, kissing and massaging them with a tangy, tart, loving pair of lips, like an expensive Chinese masseuse. This is followed by a clear, crisp, clean malty sweetness. The finish imparts a tangy mintiness (but subtle) with traces of hemp and earth. The aftertaste is a simple, light, sweet tingling on the tongue.
Mouthfeel: While I find the aroma and flavor of this beer to be of the highest quality, it is the mouthfeel that particularly intrigues me. It is almost as if the mouthfeel manages to be it own contradiction. It is rich and smooth and luscious, coating the tongue with a malty sweetness. But it is, at the same time, almost supernaturally light, imparting the bitter hoppiness with a tattoo artist’s needle, tingling individual taste buds here and there with a crisp délicatesse. The carbonation is medium, and only serves to enhance the hops.
Structure: The structure is broad and stable. While the conjoined elements of this ale manage to remain profound and complex, yet subtle and light, they certainly do distribute themselves broadly to form a structure that could support a tower.
Food Pairing: I would feel comfortable pairing this IPA with any sort of fine European cuisine, even rich varieties. It would go well with roast rabbit with Hollandaise sauce; aged, strong cheeses; and Beef Wellington. But to be honest, it would be the absolute perfect pairing with spicy Southeast Asian cuisine, such as that of the Dai minority in Yunnan Province, Vietnamese food, or spicy Laos larb moo.
Overall Rating Out of 5 Possible Beer Mugs: