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Pliny The Elder - Russian River Brewing Company

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Pliny The ElderPliny The Elder

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11,673 Ratings

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Ratings: 11,673
Reviews: 3,309
rAvg: 4.66
pDev: 7.94%
Wants: 5,591
Gots: 2,319 | FT: 75
Brewed by:
Russian River Brewing Company visit their website
California, United States

Style | ABV
American Double / Imperial IPA |  8.00% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 08-24-2003

No notes at this time.
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 11,673 | Reviews: 3,309 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of MLucky
4.85/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

What can I say about Pliny that hasn't been said? Not much, but I'll add my voice to the consensus that this is one of the very best American beers.

Poured from the bottle into a pint glas, we get a light amber color, suprising clarity for a beer this big, fluffy persistent head, nice lacing.

The nose on this one is just tremendous. Pine, pineapple, bread, lots of hops. Mouth feel is difficult to describe, smooth, almost oily. Taste if malt, fruit, then hops hops and more hops. Unlike some of the hop bombs out on the market these days this is really nicely balanced beer, a rather amazing feat considering the huge hop flavor.

Basically, this is how you do it. Much imitated but never duplicated. One of the great ones.

Photo of OWSLEY069
4.13/5  rDev -11.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a clean yellow color with a orange-ish hint, and a white head. In the aroma, sweet citrus, grapefruit and orange rinds. In the taste, grapefruity to orange citrus hops and a sweet maltiness. A small bite and medium bodied mouthfeel, with a dry citrus hop aftertaste. Big west coast hops, hides the alcohol, easy drinking and great.

Photo of birchstick
4.38/5  rDev -6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottled on 9/21/10; consumed on 10/4/10. Thanks to Murchmac for sending a super fresh one my way!

A - pours a faint copper with a nice one-finger head; similar in color to a tiger's eye mineral. This is clearest beer I have seen - it is like a glass marble.

S - loads of cascade / citrus hops that has an equal amount of pine. Huge aromas.

T - starts off with grapefruit hops that fade in a barrage of piney bitterness. There is a bit of caramel malt, but it is barely there. The more this warmed, the sweeter this became and bitterness seemed to recede a little. This is a hop bomb all the way. Pretty solid DIPA here.

M - nice medium body that goes down smoothly, albeit a tad watery

D - I am glad I was able to get my hands on this. I can see how this is so highly rated. Fantastic DIPA with excellent drinkibility for a DIPA. I wish this had a tad bit more caramel malt to balance out the hop Blitzkrieg.

Photo of aval89
4.32/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottled 09-23-2010. Poured into Stone IRS snifter.

A: hazy golden/orange. Nice fluffy finger head that settled to an 1/8 inch cap. Leaves a beautiful lace on the walls.

S: absolutely mind blowing. BIG on the tropical fruits. Citrus, mango, orange, grapefruit, pineapple, pine, small amount of alcohol detection with caramel notes. Just a wonderful smell.

T: more tropical fruits on the taste. Lots of citrus flavors! Mango, pineapple, some sweet caramel. Finish is piney, with orange peel bitterness & grapefruit bitterness. Small booze detection & warming effect. Finish is dry & leaves a big lingering taste.

MF: smooth and soft coating in the mouth. Medium light body with medium light carbonation.

D: pretty easy drinker.. It can go both way really.

Final thoughts: although this is an excellent beer, I expected it to blow me away & it didn't. Its still a wonderful brew.

Photo of calir1
5/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Hands down my favorite beer of all time. What else is there to say that everyone else has not put. If you ever have a chance, drink this at the bar and not at home from the bottle. The atmosphere @ the bar and this beer with a thing of drew bites is amazing

Photo of Lagerglatze
4.83/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Quite simply one of the most complex, well-balanced, easiest drinking beers you'll ever enjoy. Its myriad flavors are somehow blended in a way that accessible to even the most novice beer drinker. It's a brew that completely lives up to the hype. If you're ever in NorCal, it's worth a stop in Santa Rosa.

Photo of telecomz
4.85/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A- Hazy copper. Light head that dissipates rapidly.

S- Citrus and pine.

T- Hops are balanced and complex. Slight sweetness and fruity esther.

M- Light carbonation. So smooth, almost a silica quality.

D- All night long.

Pliny is the finest beer in this Style; hands down.

Photo of Vaison
4.52/5  rDev -3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to ScreamForMe for getting these bottles to me in a trade.

On separate nights, I tried three 500ml bottles, two poured into a Maudite tulip the third poured into a oversize snifter.

Each poured a dull amber, almost orange color. It looks a lot like freshly brewed ice tea. It averaged two fingers of foamy white head which stuck to the glass for several sips. The nose is full of hops with a little bit of a pear aroma lingering. It is very smooth, almost like the carbonation is completely missing for a brief period before striking toward the end. It tastes of citrus and tons of bitter hops which stay on the palate for a long long time. Alcohol is perfect and just what I expect from an IPA.

Photo of LiquidBread219
4.97/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A= Golden Amber color very nice head and lacing.

S= To me it was what I expected citrus and pine.

T= To me it tasted very clean. Not overly bitter it's more balanced than others that I have tryed of this style. You also don't get that aftertaste on this one.

M= To me it was light and bubbly.

D= These go down quick for me I really enjoy them this beer really lives up to the hype one of my favorites.

Photo of hopjuicer
4.92/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Bomber poured in a snifter. Bottled about four weeks ago and shipped to IL from CA, so fresh but not ideally fresh.

Color is a golden amber. Small head from a vigorous pour.

Nose is of piney hops, evidence of heavy dry hopping.

Tastes is a perfect balance of bitterness and sweetness. The hops are strong and present, but not overpowering. Strong notes of both grapefruit and pine.

RR has done an excellent job of making an imperial IPA drink as smooth as a regular IPA. ABV strength is there but not dominating the flavor.

Photo of beerdrifter
4.42/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Eric and Doug for hooking me up with this as part of our trade. This is my last one so I figured I better review it before they're all gone. Cloudy orange-copper pour with decent head and great lacing. Lots of citrus in the big west coast nose. Huge tangerine and grapefruit aroma with a hint of pine and orange zest. A nice tangy hop bitterness is present and builds throughout, but is nicely offset by the sweet malts, making this a very well balanced beer. Nice crisp, dry finish, and the alcohol is almost non-existent for such a big beer. This is one of those scary drinkable beers and gets better as it warms. It reminds me a lot of Alesmith IPA, one of my favorite beers. I'd love to try this on tap. This beer lived up to the hype and I'm glad I had the opportunity to try it. Thanks again Eric and Doug!

Re-reviewing this one that I picked up in a trade, bottled on 28 May 14. Clear yellow-orange pour with a gorgeous two finger meringue-like white head with great retention and lacing. The nose is huge and citrus dominated along with hints of pine, resiny hops, tangerine, grapefruit, and caramel. The taste is still incredibly fresh considering it's 3 months old. Big West Coast citrus notes along with pungent hops, pine, sweet caramel, tangerine, grapefruit, and orange peel. The mouthfeel is medium bodied and oily with perfect carbonation and a crisp, dry finish. The balance is amazing and the drinkability is off the charts. Still living up to the hype...

Photo of eclaycamp
4.9/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Pliny the Elder. The word legendary comes to mind. Russian River's famously hopped IPA has been out of reach for me, at least until now. A recent excursion to Denver for the GABF yielded a surprisingly bountiful harvest, including a fresh bottle of the Elder. To say I'm excited about finally getting the opportunity to sample this beer would be an understatement. In many respects, I feel like I've been waiting my whole life to try this brew.

Let's get out snifter for this one, it seems appropriate. Pliny pours a dull gold, with a very nice head that immediately billow up before recedeing, like the tides on the beach. Shockingly (or not) the nose is pretty much all hops. Hops hops hops hops hops. I get some spruce notes up front. It's this big ass pine nose that is incredible. It tears at my nostrils like a demon from hell, determined to drag me down.

Holy cow, this beer is incredible, just based on scent alone.

The first sip is an assault on the palate. You aren't prepared for this. But it's not bad. There's bitterness, but it is pleasant. Luckily this bottle of Pliny is super-fresh, so I get that scratchy hop characteristic of a beer that was seemingly made yesterday. The mouthfeel is great. It's super thick, with this great malt sweetness backing it up. But it's never syrupy. The light carbonation lends to the overall experience and actually makes it quite easy to drink. The Elder strikes quite a nice balance.

It's all about the hops though, and this beer is a hop chameleon. It seemingly changes with every sip that I take. I get spruce pine, followed by grass, then citrus, and then flowers. And, just for good measure, It's generic, I know, but it's what I get. This thing is a hop grenade in your mouth. There's a number of hops just sucking you in and then trying to claw their way out of your mouth. The only way to really appreciate it is by trying it yourself. What's incredible is that the malt profile backs it up.


It's like someone beamed down from another planet with the perfect IPA, and Russian River was bestowed with the recipe. All others pale in comparison. Holy crap this thing is f'n incredible. I didn't think I would say this but it's totally worth the hype. I'm going to be having dreams about this thing.

Yes, it's that good.

The hop character draws you in. I haven't had a beer with this kind of amazing hop flavor. It's so fresh and delicious. Ridiculous. But there's a great malty sweetness that backs everything up. Trying to describe the malt profile is like hitting a moving target - the more you zero in on the sweetness the more the hops come back up and remind you that they're there. Man. There's simply nothing wrong with this beer. And honestly, there's only one way to think of this.

This is the best IPA that I've ever had.

Photo of ToasterChef
4.87/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Reviewed from my tasting notes of a decent sized sample I consumed at an epic tasting event held with the members of the SMBDC. This bottle was opened on August 28th and had been bottled on August 15th.

The liquid is clear and golden. The head is soapy and white. Not much rising carbonation is visible within the glass. It has a robust hop nose. The smells aren't too strong--in fact, it's near perfect. There is a great hop build-up in the flavor. It starts out sweet, but the hops build to a great crescendo as I swallow. Most impressive! Medium bodied. The carbonation level can be felt. It is exceptionally drinkable. It just slides down my throat. I don't mind this level of hops at all.

As one of my friends commented when we opened another bottle from this batch at a tasting a few days later: "the beers we've had are good, but when you taste Pliny you can tell you are drinking a special beer." This is another talked about beer that is worthy of the praise it gets.

Photo of codewarrior
4.67/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

500ml bottle into a chalice. Love the history lesson on the bottle, and love the call to drinking IPAs fresh in the cellar-everything era. This bottle was bottled on: 09/07/10 (picked it up from Southern Colorado Liquors on 09/16/10) and consumed on 09/16/10. 3rd time I've had the pleasure ...

A: Deep transparent amber. Very little head, after dissipating it laces nicely.

S: More pointed than 90-minute. Hoppy and light to the nose. This beer has a playful character in the nose, in spite of the crushing amount of hops up front.

T: Sharp and hoppy, with amazing balance and great finish. Lingers wonderfully. Dry, refreshing and grapey. This is a phenomenal beer.

F: Light, wonderful, dry ... Not much else to say, really.

D: Yeah, near perfection, dry and great. These guys nail it every batch.

Photo of McGIPA
5/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

this DIPA is 100% perfect in every way...not much else to really say...

I was lucky enough that my wife brought a couple bottles back from Seattle (being east coast this is almost impossible to get)

the hoppiness of the beer is incredible...the balance is unbelievable..nothing is overpowering and you wouldnt think for a second this was a double IPA...only after sucking down 3 in a row did I remember how much the alcohol content was...I cant wait to find more!

Photo of gonzo138
4.45/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

After many years of waiting, a friend brought me back a bottle while he was in Denver for GABF.

A- Pours an amber-golden color, had a great frothy head that dissipated a bit, but did not completely fade away.

S- Citrus and pine, what you would expect from a good DIPA.

T- Very clean, not overly bitter, more balanced. Bitterness also does not linger on palate excessively.

M- Light and bubbly, not overly carbonated though.

D- For a beer with an 8% ABV, drinks exceptionally smooth. My friend who brought me back the bottle said that this beer is offered by the pitcher at the Falling Rock. I could easily see myself finishing one with only minimal help.

A great DIPA, I suppose after hearing how great it was for the last four years, it would be nearly impossible for anything to live up to the build up though. All in all, an excellent beer.

Photo of SamuelJackson45
4.82/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A- Medium glow light amber look.

S- hops and fruity notes of citrus.

T- Umm not only taste the hops and citrus but never I taste the oils of hops until this beer.

M- Very wet and smooth can taste the oils of the hops and citrus tones through out sip.

D- My best IPA I ever had and man I try some good ones but with the balance of citrus and hops and even taste the oils. My enamels are coming off. Everybody in the world should try this beer once.

Photo of Blanco
4.87/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Reviewed from notes after having had this at Monks a few weeks ago. The color is a light amber/slightly orange with a nice sized head and some moderate lacing. Hoppy and sweet in the nose, the smell is powerful and inviting. the taste leans slight more toward malty with a hint of grapefruit. The taste is incredibly balanced. While the hop presence is strong, it's not as bitter as many hoppy beers are and just goes down smoothly. I love this beer. First time I had it I felt a little underwhelmed from the hype, but the more I drink it and compare it to other DIPAs, I realize it's beauty as the balance is what really makes this beer excellent. Cheers!

Photo of msmezher
4.92/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

***Update*** I'm editing this because my friend was recently lucky enough to get his hands on a bottle of The Elder, and kind enough to share it with me. Perfectly fresh, and nearly as good as it was on tap, the taste was a little less floral and was more dominated by the herbal hoppy flavors also strong in the draft I had. The Elder in a bottle is an A+, on tap gets extra credit.

I had Pliny the Elder on tap at Beachwood BBQ the other night. I'll start out by saying this is the best Imperial IPA I've ever had. The Elder is as perfectly balanced as a beer can be, which allows you to taste the hops, malts, and the exceptional herbal and floral notes present.

A: My pint glass was practically glowing. A slight foamy white head over a hazy golden orange body.

S: Hoppy, herbal, and floral. I miss the smell almost as much as the taste.

T: What I like in this IIPA is the strong herbal hoppy taste, but without an overpowering bitterness.

M: A little bite (which I like) but otherwise medium to full bodied, even the entire way through.

D: I wish I were still drinking it.

Conclusion: Pliny the Elder is incredible either as a standalone or paired with food, definitely the best IIPA I've ever had. A beer that exceeds its reputation.

Photo of bigdonniebrasco
4.5/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A thick, dense, white head atop a hazy, pale gold body with shades of orange.
One of the most impressive shows of head retention I've ever seen.
Hoppy,dry, and crisp in the nose.
Grapefruit skin, spruce twigs, tangerine zest, pungent in nature.
A promise of great bitterness is perceived along with warmth.
Medium body, smooth and crisp.
Bone dry on the pallet, loads of smooth bitterness, and citrus zest.
Quite a different hop character from the "younger".
Malt is minimal, akin to a belgian triple, highly attenuated profile.
Finishes bitter and dry, slightly puckering.
Extremely well crafted.

Photo of silentjay
4.53/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

here it is. the holy grail. bottled two weeks ago.

pours a slightly hazy, yet glowing copper with a large-bubbled perfectly white head, that recedes to a thick film and laces extremely.

aroma is slightly piny with a lot of sweet and bitter citrus. a lot sweeter than I expected, which is unfortunate. a slight let-down, but I'm still drooling in anticipation.

lots of citrus follows into the flavor. grapefruit (sweetened with a sprinkle of sugar) comes to mind. a touch of pine and grass, but its just juicy citrus with a tiny bit of alcohol burn (screwdriver or greyhound cocktails). a slight astringency is there, but it is completely overpowered by juicy hops. delicious? yes. I like it. I am not quite completely wowed, however. I don't think anything would have reached the expectations I had, however, flavor-wise.

medium bodied with a ton of resin, but a crisp dry finish and a slight citrus acidity that sticks around a bit.

though I wasn't quite wowed on the initial sip like i thought i would be, i quickly make my way through the bottle and am thirsting for another. Its not out of the ordinary or terribly exceptional for the style, it just solid in all aspects. I would love to have this as a regular option here on the east coast. Though its not my "perfect 5" beer, its one I can see myself seeking out again and again.

Photo of Dspohn
4.65/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Reviewed from notes taken a few days back.

500 ml Pliny the Elder, 9 days old at this point, after enjoying this beer a dozen or so times I will admit this beer does tend to fade quickly but this was one of the fresher ones I've had so it shouldnt be an issue.

A. Great looking in the glass. A hazy but glowing orange with an inch and a half of bright white bubbly head. Lacing is pretty good but not the best I've seen.

S. Intense white grapefruit and super ripe orange immediately roll out of the glass. Some piney and biscuity malts are present but this is pretty much the quintessential citrus bomb. A little tropic fruit, mostly pineapple.

T. First off, I'll start by saying the bitterness level for this beer is perfect for an DIPA, not many can get it totally right but Russian River does. Bitter juicy grapefruit with lots of tangerine and some moderate pine notes. Also has this slightly bittersweet white grape note that I don't pick up as much in the nose. The tropical/pineapple element is there but its not super intense. Has a nice clean balancing bready malt taste that really completes it. Undoubtably one of my favorites.

M&D. Nice medium mouthfeel withn ample carbonation, in general I find it to be slightly better on tap than in the bottle. Finishes with a slight oily/resinous coating with some bitterness that makes it hard to savor. If you love hops, you should seek this one out.

Photo of BeerAdvocate
4.87/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Review from BeerAdvocate magazine Vol. III Issue I:

One of the best labels in the world and a great wake-up call for overzealous über beer geeks who feel the need to age any and all beers. "Drink fresh, do not age! Pliny the Elder is a historical figure, don't make the beer inside this bottle one ... Age your cheese, not your Pliny ... Pliny is for savoring, not for saving!" Love it. "Respect hops, consume fresh!"

Light honey amber in color, topped with a big, fluffy, creamy white head with a ton of glass stickage. Massive ripe pineapple aroma in the nose, with pine, mint, sappy resins, powdery pale malts and a hint of alcohol. Silky smooth, medium bodied, with a very firm consistency and slightly chewy back. Hop presence is artfully chaotic. Nice prickly stab on the palate up front, semisharp bitterness, grassy, zesty grapefruit, deep smacking of ripe pineapple and pine. Juicy fruitiness, notes of apple and pear too. Dry middle with suggestions of chalky aspirin. Bready malts, soft and sweet, provide a nice backboard for the hops. Oily and ashy hop resins stick to the palate and follow through into a dry, bitter linger. Alcohol becomes sentient as the beer warms, speaking to us in tongues. And despite this, remains insanely drinkable.

One of the best DIPAs on planet Earth, ever.

4.48/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Bottled 8/15/2010. Poured from bottle into a snifter on 9/19/2010. Received this beer through trade from domtronzero.

A: Beautiful hazy golden amber color with a quarter of an inch head and very slight lacing.

S: Very prominent pine nose with a little floral hops and a touch of honey peaking through. Its tough to pick out any other characteristics other than the dominant piney hops.

T: The taste is very similar to the nose. Extremely piney with some floral hops that dominate the palate but not excessively like you would expect from an imperial ipa. There is some hint of malts that balances this beer without taking away from the hops.

M. The mouthfeel of this beer is spot on. Not too thin but not too heavy like some IIPA'S. Light carbonation with a clean dry finish.

D: The alcohol is very well hidden. You can tell its there, but it is not noticeable at all. I could see myself drinking a few of these with no problem.

I have looked forward to trying this beer for a long time and I have to say I was very impressed but I was not completely blown away. That might be because of the epic hype surrounding this beer or that I did not get to drink it as fresh as many people recommend. I am not a huge fan of piney hops and I generally prefer a little more malt backbone to balance out the hops but it did start to grow on me after a few drinks of it. With that said, this is a very solid offering from Russian River and its definitely a world class beer in my opinion.

Photo of ShanePB
4.43/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap for the Hopfest event at The Drafting Room in Exton, PA. Served in 10 oz tapered cone glasses. First time having this bad boy.

A: Pristine and clear, copper-orange body with a delicate creamy and frothy 1/2 inch white head. Moderate carbonation bubbles rising to the foam crest.

S: Freshly picked pine needles, sap, citrusy hops, sweet floral notes fused with a rich malt profile in the back end.

T: Hoppy bitter bite, though extremely balanced by the added malt, floral hop notes finishing with a squeeze of pink grapefruit on the end of the palate.

M: Smooth and creamy, balanced carbonation. This is seriously the perfect mouth feel I want in an Imperial IPA. Absolutely outstanding.

Overall, this has to be one of the best Imperial IPAs I've tried to date. With so much hype surrounding it and it's nephew, Pliny the Younger (which I've yet to try), I definitely wasn't disappointed.

Pliny The Elder from Russian River Brewing Company
100 out of 100 based on 11,673 ratings.