Pliny The Elder | Russian River Brewing Company

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3,631 Reviews
Pliny The ElderPliny The Elder

Brewed by:
Russian River Brewing Company
California, United States

Style: American Double / Imperial IPA

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 8.00%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 08-24-2003

For Trade:
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Reviews: 3,631 | Ratings: 14,011
Photo of EnzymaticHops
4.49/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Light amber with a pearly white head that never disappears. Upon opening the bottle, aromas of grapefruit and pine explode, but the fruitiness tends to fade as you drink. Has the perfect balance that a well-made west coast IPA ought to; citrus, resin, malt and no detectable alcohol on the palate. This beer races over the tongue with a medium body. Delightful.

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Photo of GeeL
4.93/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

This is a long review, so I'll cut to the chase and give the "Overall" first: This is hands-down one of the best DIPAs I've had in a long time. The clarity of the beer, the crispness of the taste, it's clean and unmuddled. It's complex but simple. I'm glad I have 2 more bottles.

This has been on my "must try list" since I first heard about it. I have no idea how long ago that was, but I know the beer was legendary and I've heard about it a long time ago (it is now Oct, 2016).

The bottle I had was 1 month old when I tasted it, though it was in my possession for almost 2 weeks (I had been sick and taste buds shot so waited to have it figuring the trade off between being able to taste and extra aging was valid). Three bottles, and a few other beers, were shipped to MA from CA via a trade for Tree House and other beers local to MA. It was out of refrigeration for a little under a week.

There was a lot of build up for this beer. I shared it with a good friend.

L: crystal clear straw colored. The current craze is cloudy/unfiltered, so this was a nice change of pace. This was as clear as any pilsner. It looked delicious.

S: Clean, refined, quality. I don't know how else to describe it. These days saying it smelled piny, a hint of citrus, and some brown sugar is so typical for a DIPA it's become cliche. The smell was not muddled or complex. It's straightforward and just what a DIPA should seell like. I can only imagine that 16 or so years ago when this smell was relatively new to the beer scene that people went crazy.

Before I tasted it, I reminded myself to be objective. I wanted to taste this beer and compare it to itself, not to other beers. This beer has been around a while, it's a flagship beer of Russian River, and I wanted to put myself back in time to when this beer could not be compared to anything else.

T: After having a gazillion fruity hop-bombs on the East coast, NEIPAs they're called, I was hoping for a good honest beer. No tricks or gimmicks such as excessive cloudiness, hop blasting, etc. This was spot on what I had thought and hoped it would taste like. It fits the cliche for DIPAs perfectly: it has a huge amount of hop bitterness (piney, grapefruit, pineapple) that is supported by a strong malt backbone. There's some sweetness, almost honey-like. It's piny, some hint of citrus, but the taste is clean and crisp and incredibly balanced. I think that's why I say it's quality. It's not aggressive or in your face in any way. It's frigging refreshingly easy to drink. I had guessed right that it's 8%, but it didn't taste like it. A more significant observation is that the flavor didn't linger. It didn't fall flat, but it faded quickly and made me to want another drink sooner that other big hop bombs do.

F: It was thinner than I thought it would be. This made the taste fade relatively quickly. I almost gave "Feel" a 5 because back when Pliny was first made this beer would have been considered full bodied. However, even back then, I'm sure I would have thought it faded quickly due to a thin mouthfeel.

O: This is hands-down one of the best DIPAs I've had in a long time.

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Photo of StuB2485
4.27/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

L: Pretty pour. Clear. Scant head with lingering lace.
S: The best part. Pine. Citrus. Oak. Must.
T: (Biased New Englander) Excellent beer but compared to... Thin and piney. That being said, each sip gets better and better. The alcohol heat not as well balanced. Too much bitterness for the malt. Lack richness of the best of Alchemy, Hill Farmstead and Trillium.

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Photo of Beginner2
4.52/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

As non-hophead and as an occasional anti-hophead, I now know what you hopheads are talking about. (But it took the most iconic, if not your Holy Grail, to help me see your light.) Of course, living in the Midwest... I never expected to taste this. But coincidence had me in San Francisco's City Beer store and after they diligently went through my "1001" list told me that Pliny The Elder would be there at noon in two days. I showed up at the appointed time and bought three. I took one to a party that no one drank beer (lucky me again.) I took the two remainders home with one going to another party and found a fast way to make friends. (I may keep the last one to trade on BA, but I may also hog it myself this week... lucky me.)

Never has alcohol been concealed so well in a bitter beer... and never has the bitterness been so aromatic in my nose and so light on the tongue. Pliny will not convert me into the hophead ideology, but he has made me appreciate fully what I never thought I could.

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Photo of aquabears
4.49/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Clear golden amber in color, minimal head and minimal lacing. Smell is sweet fruit and slightly astringent. Taste is bitter and complex and smooth, mild fruitiness , some grassy flavors, citrus peel. Light bodied and mild carbonation.

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Photo of anthony23cippy
4.53/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Sent from a friend in CA to me in Maine, 2 day shipping, bottled on Sept 19th drank on October 1st. Poured into a pint glass, pours a straw golden yellow with a 1.5 finger white foam head. Good lacing. Smell is of grapefruit, melon, pine, and an almost bubblegum. taste is much of the same mostly grapefruit, the bubble gum comes through more in the taste, pine, and a bit of melon. Mouth feel is typical of the style, not too thick like other DIPAS I've had though. Honestly it tasted a lot like Lunch by Maine Beer Company. Definitely a difference between west coast and east coast DIPAS though. Overall a great beer, and one I would go through lengths to drink again, but I wouldn't put it above a few New England DIPAS. Overall 4.5/5.

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Photo of MrHolden
4.58/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Draft pour at Russian River in Santa Rosa, CA. Pours an Amber gold with a finger thick white head that's whipped creamy and won't die. Aroma is huge grapefruit, notes of honey, pine, citrus, and faintly yeasty. Flavor is bitter hops, pine, notes of citrus and a long smooth bitterness. The mouth feel is medium bodied and creamy, incredibly smooth going down. It's so round and lively fresh off the tap, and worth the trip out here.

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Photo of Prologx
5/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Nice big citrus aroma. Taste of citrus pine, hoppy, but extremely smooth, followed by tropical flavors. Extremely perishable, Must drink within 2 weeks, it loses flavor right after. Even if exposed to heat during those 2 weeks you lose flavor. I believe many who didn't give this a beer the raiting it deserved was due to getting a bottle that was greater than 2 weeks old, or delivered warm via ups/FedEx.

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Photo of ryno6616
4.83/5  rDev +5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Finally can check this one off my list thanks to a great trade with MitchellM.
Being on the east coast, this is not available to me regularly, so it was up to a trade to make it happen. Sent a mix of Treehouse and Alchemist brews for my first Pliny. It is everything other people have said. It is a fantastic beer and a must to check off any ones list. But if you are lucky to be near Alchemist and Tree House for example, this is a different brew all together. Extremely good and worthy of its 100 rating for sure. The fact I prefer Treehouse or Alchemist over this RR brew doesn't mean it is any less spectacular.

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Photo of Misterdubs
4.05/5  rDev -12%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

If your ideal IPA/DIPA is along the lines of Tree House and Trillium you will be disappointed. It is a solid beer, but it's not worth being rated as high as it is, especially in comparison to the NE coast IPAs (impartial reviewer, as in from the Midwest).

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Photo of patre_tim
4.28/5  rDev -7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Copper gold and filtered with lots of fast rising fine bubbled carbonation. Topped with 2 fingers of yellow tinged white foamy head.

Tropical fruits, peaches and battery acid, pine, pineapple, and sweetness.

Wow. Now I have tasted Pliny. What is most outstanding from the first sip is how smooth, rounded and refined the flavours are. I get the notes of pine and tropical fruits. I get clean linen as well. A fair amount of bitterness too.

Really hides the ABV. Feels like a medium to light body with a little to moderate fine bubbled carbonation. So smooth its incredible.

The hype, yes, and now I finally get to give my own opinion. I went to Russian River in Santa Rosa, CA today and picked up 6 bottles of this legend. Now, Sept 15th I am finally drinking it. I could smell it from the moment I opened the bottle. The flavours are not as intense as I was expecting, but the mouth feel is smooth beyond any brew for the 8% ABV I can remember. Drinking in Santa Rosa tonight. Bottled on Sept 6th, 9 days ago.

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Photo of rewible
4.03/5  rDev -12.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Having been spoiled with some new England ipas and dipas can't say I love this one. Had no body to it compared to heady. Super smooth I give it that but I dont get it. Tried it 2 nights in a row to make sure I wasn't off but same taste. I guess when you have had beers like Treehouse Julius Haze Green Very Green Heady Topper Crusher Focal Banger Abner second fiddle etc you have become spoiled.

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Photo of logicalparadox
4.48/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Finally breaking 1,000 beers rated here on Beer Advocate. Go me! A celebration worthy only of a true legend, and a fresh sample at that: not even a month since the bottled on date. Props to my man out in Nebraska who hooked me up with a trade to bring this to my glass at last.

How does one analyze, assess, judge, rate, and/or compare a legend with anything close to objectivity? The answer is it's not possible. Not knowingly. If I'd had blind tasted this brew or (miraculously) hadn't heard of it before, then my lens would be more pure, without the weight of so much hype. It's like meeting a celebrity and realizing they are just a person like you: fallible, imperfect, a mere mortal. So it is here.

A: Pours a beautiful amber with an impressive head into my tulip glass. Foam has a nice, fine texture has that oozey, whipped cream like character that some brews have, rather than sudsy.

S: The nose is fresh, very clean, very sharp and hoppy, but much more subdued than expected. Grapefruit and orange, zesty. A bit of pine, but no at all resinous. Not getting much fruitiness otherwise. Not even a hint of alcohol or ester.

T: Pliney hits my palate with a flurry of small jabs, bobbing and weaving, working on me like some kung fu, jujitsu, ninja type shit. Not hooks, no upper cuts, not finishing move. Waiting for the haymaker that never comes, I realize my expectations are shaping my experience. This beer is subtle. Hoppy, yes. Firm and gripping bitter notes are present from the start to end of a quite long finish. Pithy, but not biting. Grapefruit and orange in the citrus profile, some herbaceous and grassy notes, but it's all well blended and none of it is in-your-face as I've come to expect from DIPAs today. Malts are even more of a shock... this isn't very malty at all, just enough to hold things together. Light, but I wouldn't call it juicy. Delicious and doesn't leave me with palate fatigue, but a surprise. Alcohol is entirely invisible (and at 8%). Very balanced.

M: VERY light bodied for the style, which can often be syrupy with malts to balance out an overwhelming hop character. This take is opposite of that: a DIPA that drinks like a session IPA. Refreshing and paired well with some shredded pork lettuce wraps as a nice palate cleanser.

O: Legends rarely live up to their reputations. How can they? They can only ever be the shadows of titans. It's more complicated taking timelines into context.

The craft beer scene, and the IPA scene in particular, has evolved so much in the last several years. Second and third wave interpretations (maybe more or less than that, I'm certainly not an expert there!) have moved the bar ever higher, making really, really good IPAs easy to get in all corners of the country. With Pliny being so difficult to come by due to such limited supply and such high demand, especially for someone like me on the East Coast, is it all worth it and does that figure into my feelings on the beer?

Every local or regional brewery has a flagship IPA as one of their first releases these days and they've all gotten respectable and some down right amazing. Other once sought-after craft labels have gone national and are easy to come by now. Is this really that much better than a Sculpin or a Hop Stoopid or a Dogfish 90 Minute? Perhaps that's not the right question, because "better" implies we are comparing like with like. Or, for that matter, what about other "grail" beers that are hard to come by and legendary in their own rights? Heady Topper, Zombie Dust (an APA, not a DIPA, but still), Jai Alai... those are just some of the ones from my personal hads list that come to mind. Is Pliny worthy of having and holding its number 1 status without risk of it being called "overrated"? (I'm tempted to make an analogy to the way Twilight Struggle held the number 1 spot on Board Game Geek for so long, but that would go over the heads of non-boardgamers).

But IPA's, aside from better on average and utterly ubiquitous, have also migrated toward ever bigger, ever bolder beasts of beers over the years, and in several different flavor directions for that matter. The quest for more and more IBU's, fresher and more diverse hops, the use of hop oils, hop rocketing at the tap. There have been shifts toward the piney and sappy, the fruity and juicy, the citrus bomb, or toward more exotic fruit notes, or herbal forward takes. With all of that, Piny remains perhaps the best example of the ultimate zen that this style can achieve, and that is only ever found in balance. Pliny is all about balance, and is more of a beaujolaise than a cab sauv. I don't know if I've ever had a double IPA where the word DELICATE came to mind as a good summary description.

Past, future, present... hype meets reality... This is a damn good beer all the same. An amazing IPA that, if no longer undisputed king, deserves continued respect and admiration and, most of all, enjoyment.

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Photo of Pourharddrinkslow
4.66/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Look - Unlike any IPA i've ever seen, glowing, slightly amber, not a lot of head but nice lacing throughout. Very inviting.

Smell - Mostly hops and pine, very clear, you know what you are smelling.

Taste - Hoppy, piney, resinous... has a great lingering flavor of pine and some malt. On the bitter side. Not a lot of lemon or fruit flavor, just a straight up IPA.

Feel - Smooth, medium body, bubbly in appearance but surprisingly low in carbonation.

Overall - Worth the hype, not crazy like the newer NE IPA's but a straightforward, classic style IPA.

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Photo of HopHunter19
5/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A - clear golden Amber beer with a white head that sticks and leaves perfect lacing.
S - HUGE pine, grapefruit peel, hop resin, some other citrus resin, orange
T - huge grapefruit peel and orange peel, fruit juice, pine, hop resin, tangerine, peach
M - light medium mouthfeel, alcohol covered, aftertaste is grapefruit peel, hop resin
O - this is a great beer. Had to listen to some douche talk about how it was overrated while I was waiting at the Russian River bar for my to go beers. It's a great beer. How you can be sitting at the Russian River Brewery and whine about how this beer is overrated is beyond me. It's the 1% of double iPas no matter how many new ones come out.

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Photo of Beric
4.43/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Served in mid-July at a pizza party. The OG of DIPAs, and one that really drinks old-school too. Gone are the trends of today with the excessive haze, sweet malts, and tropical hop notes and in are the flavors of years past. Nice caramel malt backbone that carries the hops and allows them to shine in numerous ways- on the forefront of the palate is a quick blast of pine and resin, which mellows out into a grapefruit-like bitterness on the back end. Really excellent beer and one I was pleased to see didn't shy away from bitterness. Never change.

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Photo of jopezu
4.25/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

pours a clear golden amber with a large, frothy head that hangs around. nose; pineapple, mango, grapefruit pith, hops. a very gentle & floral nose. taste; light caramel malt, light pine, mango, grapefruit rind, light onion, & orangey hops. well-balanced and the low malt lets the boil flavors shine, but i'm never a fan of the oniony vegetal overtones (which ring on the aftertaste). medium carbonation & mouthfeel. this one obviously has a longstanding reputation, but i feel like today's beer scene probably sees it swimming in an ocean of peers & superiors.

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Photo of Ninjakillzu
4.81/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Poured into a Pint Defiance tulip, bottle dated 7/28/16. The body is a slightly hazy golden yellow, with a one and a half finger white head. Aromas consist of strong orange peel and grapefruit, resin, pinapple and mild spiciness. Flavors consist of the same, and is very citrus forward. The bitterness is much less than expected, and goes with the dry lingering finish. The feel is smooth with medium carbonation and is medium bodied.

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Photo of Cthulhusquid
4.69/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Look: Hazy orange body, super creamy one finger white head.

Smell : See below, but the malt is less apparent.

Taste : Orange cream, pine resin, undistinguishable malt. Pretty earthy.

Feel : Medium body and carbonation, mild upfront hop bitterness which lingers in the finish.

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Photo of avas
4.25/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bottled 8/5. Consumed 8/16.

A: Pours a clear golden yellow. Sits in the glass a transparent golden straw with little carbonation bubbles. Nice puffy head of medium and big soapy bubbles sticks around, leaving thick lacing on the glass.

S: Major notes of grapefruit pith and dank, floral earth. Light, very slightly sweet malt in the background, but overwhelming bitter citrus and resin.

T: Follows the nose. Citrus dominates up front--lightly sweet grapefruit pith and lemon juice. Excellent mid-mouth balance provided by a lightly sweet crackery malt presence. Pine and spruce round out the taste, providing a lingering bitterness on that coats the sides of the mouth.

M: Archetypically west coast in feel, it's ultra potent in its up-front delivery of the hops and unforgiving throughout the taste, providing continuous waves of intense flavors. Medium feel is slightly creamy, but nowhere near the level of its east coast counterparts. The overwhelming bitterness on the finish stings the back of the mouth long after each sip.

O: Revisiting Pliny for the first time since I began exploring the hazier, 'NE-style' IPAs, Pliny certainly continues to hold its own. While it doesn't possess the fruitiness or creaminess that I've come to expect of similar world-class IPAs, it's not attempting to do so. Instead, it maximally delivers all of the floral, earthy, and bitter citrusy aromas/flavors its hops have to offer as best as anything else out there. For the style, it reigns supreme in my book.

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Photo of professorchow
4.6/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap, served in a tulip at the Library Ale House in Santa Monica. Pours Golden with a robust head. Smell is pine and citrus. Taste follows, piney, resiny, grapefruity, with intense bitterness. Relative to that bitterness, and the abv, a pretty low malt profile. Much more about the bitter than the sweet. Love that. Reminds me of why this one is a classic. Terrific mouthfeel, too--balanced, with moderate, totally apt, carbonation. Some will now prefer the Dank NE hop bombs, some won't, but everyone should see that what this tries to do it does flawlessly.

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Photo of JerzDevl2000
4.69/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

After seeing this on every "top" list for years and years, I finally got a chance to have one of these tonight - props to Ryan at the Cloverleaf for getting this for me and being kind enough to trade it! This was dated 6/1 and I wanted to get to it while it was still fresh, which was thankfully the case!

The pour to this looked just like it did in the image up above - amber, luminescent, and full of a head that just never quit. It stayed throughout my session and stuck around on the side of my pint glass as the fullest and soapiest lacing that I've seen in quite a long time. Pine, resin, grapefruit citrus pith, and alcohol were all in the nose with even more in the taste. Unbelievably smooth for something this strong, to the point where there was no overt hop burn to be detected. The mouthfeel was that of a strong herbal, minty hoppiness with lots of resin underneath, as that stuck around on my teeth long after each sip went down. Truly, a "West Coast" beer from start to finish!

The alcohol was here but with a frest-cut grassy feeling and enough of a malty presence to give this body, you'd never realize that this even had any potency to it. So easy to see why this was on every "must-try" list that I've come across over the years - just like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, this was the gold standard for it's respective style. Find this however you can and for heaven's sake, drink it fresh!

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Photo of Bulabeers
5/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Golden with a nice white head small bubbles stream upwards
Smells floral pine lemon
Perfect hop profile and nicely balanced. Floral and citrus notes
On tap at brews and burgers in Davis. Always a great beer.

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Photo of teddibrewski
4.71/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Got this one fresh from cali, all the way in England, just under 2 months since the bottling date. of 6/17/16. beer looks great standard for a double IPA. Smell is piney with a little sweetness. taste is piney resinous hops with some malty sweetness, really none of the tropical IPA flavours that are very popular (and delicious) at the moment more of the classic american IPA flavours. it feels good, real good. Overall a great beer and what i consider to be a nearly perfect example of this style. I got no off flavours, and perfect balance from this one.

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Photo of Andrewm1011
5/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

At first this beer doesn't blow me away, but what I love most about this beer is that the more you drink it, the more you want to drink it. For all IPA and DIPA lovers, you have to try this beer at least once in your life.

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Pliny The Elder from Russian River Brewing Company
4.6 out of 5 based on 14,011 ratings.
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