I have a friend who flies and drives to Russian River Brewing every year to wait in line and get the year’s batch of Pliny. Every. Year. That is commitment I do not have. Fortunately, my friend is kind and counteracts my slothliness with generosity by inviting me over to drink it. No plane ticket, but a full pint.
The most recent batch was released, for the 11th time, on Feb. 6th 2015. And, just like every year, hordes of craft beer lovers flocked to Russian River Brewing Co. to partake in the annual pilgrimage to plunder more Pliny. Click here to see photos of the line. In our part of the world Pliny has the same reverence as what is often touted as the world’s best beer, Westvleteren.
I’ve drank Pliny. I liked it. I didn’t love it. My first sip was utter disappointment, but that is only because of the build up. I was on the edge of my seat thinking I was about to drink liquid sex or something. It wasn’t the case, but I went back for a second drink with a bit more reasonable expectations and “Yum.”
I’d have to drink more to have a full understanding of what Pliny offers so many, but, more than likely, I would just “like it.” You won’t see my flying to Sonoma County for an annual pilgrimage anytime soon, though I would do it for the experience.
For those unwilling to make the pilgrimage, or who just want an alternative, here’s a few via the Full Pint. Tell us what you think. Does Pliny deserve the praise?
Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA – Long before Pliny The Younger, and even the term Triple IPA, Dogfish Head married hops and high gravity ale, and they lived happily ever after. While this used to be as much of a pain to find as Pliny, Dogfish head has spread the hoppy love as best as they can in recent years. Here’s their description:
“Clocking in at 15-20% ABV and 120 IBUs, it’s easy to see why we call this beer THE HOLY GRAIL for hopheads! 120 Minute IPA is boiled for a full two hours while being continuously hopped with high-alpha American hops, then dry-hopped daily in the fermenter for a month and aged for another month on whole-leaf hops.”
Many veteran enthusiasts are quick to point out that this beer resembles a hoppy barleywine, so to that I say, try it fresh. It’s quite an experience, bordering on medicinal.
Founders Devil Dancer – While this beer doesn’t receive as much hype as Dogfish Head 120 Minute or Pliny The Younger, this is a highly rated Triple IPA that is a worthy alternative. It’s body is a bit darker than the others on this list, when fresh, it holds its own with the west coast counter parts. This is released once a year in June.
El Segundo Power Plant TIPA – The fairly young Los Angeles County based brewery El Segundo Brewing came out of the gates strong with a hop heavy portfolio of ales. They made their mark with their Citra Extra Pale Ale and a handful of crisp, dank Double IPAs. For the past year, they’ve been dialing in the very impressive Power Plant Triple IPA, and released it in bottles at the beginning of 2015. This beer is big, hoppy and boozy. Not 120 Minute IPA boozy, but you know the alcohol is there from the first sip. The body is light blonde just like Pliny, and you will enjoy this of you like this style.
Knee Deep Simtra Triple IPA – Knee Deep Brewing could be coined as a Triple IPA house, as they have a handful of brewed and bottled offerings of this style. Their most popular is Simtra, which is released all year long. Here’s there description “Simtra Triple IPA delivers a punch in the face with its very danky hop aroma derived from Simcoe and Citra hops. You wanted more hops you got them”
I find Simtra to be particularly interesting because of how dry it finishes on the palate in relation to it’s gravity. While earlier batches had some noticeable variance as they increased production, this beer has hit it’s stride and would be the cornerstone of any Triple IPA tasting.
Noble Citra Yum Yum – Released about the same time as this year’s batch of Pliny The Younger, was Citra Yum Yum from Noble Ale Works. For those reading this, not familiar with Noble, they are a 4 year old brewery near Disneyland that has been knocking each and every hoppy beer they make out of the park. I attended Pliny The Younger Day at 38 Degrees Ale House in Alhambra, CA, and ordered a Citra Yum Yum. I was brought a cloudy, blonde goblet of dank. Knowing it was a 12.3 abv. Triple IPA, I was scared wondering of I had ordered too much beer. After the first smell and swig, I was not sure I was given a 12+ % beer. It was so juicy and so bright. It had similarities of Kern River Citra and the first run of Lagunitas Sucks. There’s no way a beer this big was so lively and crushable, but after chatting with brewmaster Evan, he confirmed I wasn’t tripping, that was just how the beer was designed.