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Pliny The Elder | Russian River Brewing Company

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Pliny The ElderPliny The Elder
15,069 Ratings
Pliny The ElderPliny The Elder

Brewed by:
Russian River Brewing Company
California, United States

Style: American Imperial IPA

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 8.00%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
Pliny the Elder is brewed with Amarillo, Centennial, CTZ, and Simcoe hops. It is well-balanced with malt, hops, and alcohol, slightly bitter with a fresh hop aroma of floral, citrus, and pine. Best enjoyed FRESH! That is why we make it in such limited supply. Actual bottling date is printed on each bottle!

User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 15,069 |  Reviews: 3,780
Reviews by BCross:
Photo of BCross
4.5/5  rDev -3%

More User Reviews:
Photo of Beerampage
4.92/5  rDev +6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Poured from a bottle into a pint glass. First time with this beer and I'm really stoked. Expectations can't possibly be met.

Poured lighter than expected for a double, but glassy and beautiful. Slight pale head.

Smells are what you would expect from the style. Very fresh smelling. Hops with more hops. Again, very fresh smelling.

The nose didn't lie. This isn't an overly citrus nor an overly piney hop bomb. It is what occurs when everything is balanced. Nothing jumps out and blows you up. It's just a very easy drinking, beautiful hoppy lovefest. The thing that separates this beer from its imitators and competitors is that you really want to drink the hell out of it, not just taste it over and over because it's good.

Mouthful is nice, not too resiny, and malt is clean and fresh. As soon as you swallow it, your mouth needs a refill. Just balance.

Somehow the hype matched the eexperience. In all facets of life, that's rare. By as many of these as you can and share with friends. Wow.

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

NOTE: If you are drinking this beer about 2 months past its freshness date then you are not getting the full experience.

500ml brown bottle with a bottled on freshness date.

Mildly hazed orange golden color, solid two fingers of head leave a nice crowning of sticky lace that leaves thick rings on the glass. Big hop aroma of evergreen, clementine rind, pineapple and fresh cut grass. Super smooth with a modest amount of carbonation. Prickly spicy hop bitterness with citric, mint and wild flower flavors that linger far into the aftertaste. Hint of nutty yeast and a big handful of biscuity malt are thrown at the palate and actually shows that this beer has balance. Full bursting orange grove flavor. The 8.0% stays hidden for the most part yet does yield a slow warmth about half way through the pint, a bit of ripe tropical fruitiness within from the esters. Finishes with that long drawn out hop bitterness and flavor as it leans towards the dry side.

Epic, a deserving epic as well even with all of the hype surrounding PTY. Pliny The Elder is the poster-boy for Double IPAs. Every hophead needs to put this on their must try list.

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Photo of BeerAdvocate
4.87/5  rDev +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.

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Photo of wdberkley
4.96/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

There's not much one can say when reviewing a beer of this caliber - it'd be like a finger painting 3 year old trying to critique the Mona Lisa. Believe the hype. There's absolutely nothing bad to be said about this beer - it is the gold standard West Coast IPA. I poured it into the glass and it was like the first time I heard the Beatles. I took a sip and may or may not have Jim Levenstein'd in my pants a little. It's simply amazing. Only drawback is it's easier to get a handy from a nun than it is to score Pliny in Chicago.


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Photo of MartzMimic
4.9/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

Pours from the bottle a clear golden apricot with two fingers of white head. It reduces to foam, leaving heavy lacing. Loads of citrus, tropical fruits and pine in the aroma. There's plenty of piney hops, but it's nicely balanced with grapefruit, mango and pineapple. There's enough malt to give it a nice creaminess. Medium mouth with a touch of lingering bitterness. This certainly lives up to its reputation. Being Valentine's Day, it reminds me of my wife: Close to perfection and better than I deserve.

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Photo of Antnego
4.73/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Popped open a bottle and poured into a chilled stein ... Big shout out to Neil at Red Carpet in Rancho Cucamonga for providing a bottle out of his personal stash!

A: 3.75 - Deep golden hue with almost no head on a slow pour, very thin and dark cream colored. Has an appearance of a typical adjunct lager. Lacing is insane, dense foam clings to the side of the glass.

S: 5 - BIG grapefruit, citrus and floral notes smack you in the nose, trailed by a dense, woody pine backdrop. I'm also detecting some dried fruit like cherries, peaches and figs. The fruitiness of this beer is VERY assertive.

T: 4.75 - The taste follows the smell, with a burst of citrus fruits, dried peaches, and deep pine notes. There is also a strong malty backbone with this one that keeps it from being overpowered by its intense hoppiness. The aftertaste is of strong bitterness from the hops that lingers for an eternity. It might be too much for the uninitiated, bit for hop-heads, it might be paradise.

M: 4.5 - Moderate carbonation, silky-smooth mouthfeel, intensely refreshing on the way down. Coats the tongue and throat quite nicely.

Overall - 4.75: All in all, this is my second divine experience tasting a Russian River offering. Normally, I'm not an IPA fan, but the fruity blend of hops here is so excellent - it's perfectly balanced with strong, sweet malt that keeps the aggressive hop flavor in check. The aftertaste was a bit strong, but that was easily remedied with another sip. The worst part of this beer is that it will be gone soon and I'll have to wait until I can reserve another!

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Photo of StonedTrippin
4.52/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

after years and years and years of waiting for this one and reading the heavy hype, my new beer drinking girlfriend sourced 2 bottles of this for us. apparently she called all over denver and finally hooked it up at mr. b's liquor. thank god she did. this mythical beer pours a slightly cloudy honey orange color with a one inch bone white head that has excellent retention. the smell is amazing, really tropical hops. im picking up passion fruit, clementines, and something even more intense like a pau pau or a mango, im not quite sure, but its all from the hops. makes me think there is nelson sauvin in here, but i cant confirm that, similar profile though. flavor has all the same hop essences, but is rounded out with a crackery seedy malt flavor that lays just under the hops, which arent in any way overbearing and bitter. this is really sensational. mouthfeel would be a 6 out of 5 if that was a choice, it is light feeling and smoothly creamy despite its squarely medium body. its got this perfectly made richness of feel when its held in the mouth, it gets foamy and huge and cloud-like. well carbonated but not like soda pop, its more tame and gentle, different vibe totally, but equally bright. quite a surprisingly dry finish, but appealing in this context. the aftertaste is legendary, hanging on forever. forever. every tastebud on my tongue is firing, bitter ones are dancing up front, sweet ones are tickling me in the back, and fruity like the islands somewhere in between. my inner beer geek is just brimming with accomplishment and radiating joy. this is fucking excellent. worth every dollop of hype, i cant wait for my next go!

edit: even more perfect on tap, at the brewery. if you like hoppy beers, this is a sojourn worth taking. just sensational!

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Photo of RoyalT
4.47/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance - This came out a hazy, beautiful orange in color with a big, hefty white head.

Smell - This fella has a monster hop profile. The Pliny is piney, that's for sure. There actually seems to be a couple variations of pine smell in here along with some strong floral notes that carry that raw "off the vine" hop fragrance. The citrus hops are rich and sweetish.

Besides all that, this puppy has a huge malt profile. They aren't really toasted at all but have more of a caramel character. All and all this thing is packing quite a wallop!

Taste - This is a big, bountiful DIPA, full of all the delicious flavors from the aroma. All of the hops work in harmony to provide an amazing hop experience with every sip. The malts don't let up for a minute, either. The thick, caramel malts remind me of the 90 Minute. Everything is big yet very well balanced, in a massive hop-head kind of way.

Mouthfeel - This is big but I'd still call it medium-bodied. It is slickly smooth in the cheeks and dangerously easy to drink.

Drinkability - This goes down like none other. The Younger is bigger but doesn't go down as easy as this. At 8.0 ABV I'm sure this has snuck up on many a Russian River patron over the years.

Update - I first reviewed this in 2006 and had a chance to sample it from the bottle again in 2010. It is raw this year and has a monstrous pine aroma. The flavor will cause the uninitiated to dial 911. As massive as the hops are in this beer, to me, still as I said four years ago, it is the malt backbone that separates this man from the boys. I've seen a few examples like this of hop overkill, but this is the only really big monster hop beer that tries to be a true, complete, well-rounded beer if you know what I mean. Most won't even notice the malt base as this one is so hoppy, but it's that almost unnoticeable malt backbone that completes the package.

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Photo of 11-52_4hops
4.71/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Over a thousand reviews laying out the details. Simply put -- see classic DIPA in the dictionary -- the edition before the overload of tropical smells and taste (not knocking those traits, love them too). See it done to perfection - a ton of flavor delivered with plenty of balance. A real treat for an East Coast father on Father's Day.

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Photo of Drvitlkeyustolit80
4.5/5  rDev -3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

First had 6/6/15 at the Cheeky Monk in Denver. The process I went through to get this beer was insane. I drove from Easton, PA to Denver, CO just to get it. I mean I did continue on to Boise to move in my brother, but the beer was the highlight of my trip.

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Photo of MyThoughtsExactly
3.72/5  rDev -19.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Poured from a bottle three weeks old into a tulip glass.
Look: Appears crystal golden and transparent.
Aroma: Piny hop aroma with some sweet malt. Would like more citrus (I get a little orange) or even more pine. Kind of a disappointing nose.
Taste: Fruit rine and pine. A little sweet malt. A good, balanced example of the west coast style.
Feel: Medium to medium-low body.
Overall, a good example of the west coast style and definitely balanaced as others have pointed out, but I was hoping for something more. I can see why this was a world-class IPA years ago but in the current IPA market I can buy comparable beers at my local store.

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Photo of BeanBump
3.68/5  rDev -20.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

TONS of hype surrounding this beer. Its good, really good, in fact. I just wouldn't line up around the block for it. Its a DIPA thats smooth and not crazy hoppy while maintaining sort of a floral backend to it. Its light and easy to drink but I find myself wondering if this beer was easily accessible, would it still have the same ratings here?

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Photo of ichorNet
4.54/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Guess I'll just throw my voice into a crowded room full of high praise for this beer... this is the third time I've had Pliny and I always find it to be an incredible experience deserving of the laudation it regularly receives from those in the know. From the very first time I had this beer, I knew it was something special, yet so austere and seemingly "simple" that it really does exceed the sum of its parts. Here is potentially the single best double IPA in the world. A consistent, sublime experience captured in a pint glass to be savored and enjoyed. A sincere thank you to my buddy Joe, who bestowed a bottle of this (dated 1/20/17) to me as a quid-pro-quo for shepherding him to and from Logan Airport so he could attend a homebrew release party my buddy and I threw last weekend. Your attendance and contributions are appreciated!

Pours a beautiful, clear golden color with a tight, simple and hugely-retentive head of bone-white foam that laces extremely consistently and never relents throughout the whole pour. Carbonation rises steadily in small streams up from the bottom of my glass and each new pour re-rouses the head with an intense vigor. Pouring the entire bottle in yields a slight bit of haze. What a gorgeous IPA!

The nose is bright and citrus-forward; surprisingly playful and fanciful, with a slight papaya note along with some hay and pine resin. Simple, evocative, devoid of trends... PtE is an exercise in perfect balance and execution, and the nose is no exception by any means. Slightly grassy and even a bit earthy, with some juicy tangerine and clementine in there as well. I'm also getting a bit of green onion, which I know is a note that a lot of people have an issue with, but which I find to be a surprisingly great element that contrasts well with the citrus peel and fleshy, fruity notes here.

Flavor is, of course, heavily bitter and reliant on pine and grapefruit to nail down the palate, though the subtle workings of biscuity, bready malt and the even-handed juicy/tropical aspects really bring the whole thing home. The flavor is probably where the concept of "balance" that PtE stands for comes across the best, I feel. The initial flavor is shockingly bitter with grapefruit peel melding instantly with clean, golden malt just in time for the piney and tangerine-like back. Finishes dry... really dry, actually, with a lingering oily, fruity note.

Feel is slick and palate-coating, with a tempered carbonation and medium body that belies its 8% strength. Ethanol is mildly present but not at all overabundant or intense. In my opinion, 8 to 8.5% is probably the best DIPA alcohol range, and this represents the best-of-the-best of the lower-ABV DIPAs. If you haven't had this, you're missing out. A simply amazing, balanced drink. Makes a mockery out of many lower-caliber IPAs. Worth getting by (nearly) any means possible.

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Photo of Cheynem
4.78/5  rDev +3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Pliny the Elder is a very fresh and delicious double IPA with great balance.

It's not a miracle beer. There are better DIPAs in my opinion like NightTime from Lagunitas. But it's one of the best in its class for sure.

I think people tend to overrate this beer because it can be hard to find a really fresh, balanced DIPA. So they get one for the first time and go crazy for it.

These days though it's not terribly difficult to find competing brews at several places in CA.

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Photo of Justin8mypants
4.58/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Bottle dated 5/15 so a tad over a month old. I've been waiting for this.

A- Creamy white head disappeared into a thin whisky head with nice lacing. Pours a hazy yellow.

S- Grass, pine, orange peel, nice floral notes

T- really delicious. A lot of grass and pine with some citrus notes as well. Much more balanced than I expected. Really pleasant hop flavors without a big punch to the mouth. The finish is fairly clean, some hop character lingers.

M- medium body, creamy, perfect carbonation.

O- worth its reputation. Not a super hop bomb, but a more balanced DIPA. Really nice fresh floral grass and Pune notes and a perfect mouthfeel. Very happy I was able to try this.

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Photo of obiwan_k3n00bi
4.25/5  rDev -8.4%

Had it too many times to care, it's good. But no one cares any more.

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Photo of jamisonspitzer
3.39/5  rDev -26.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Man... such a disappointment. I'm not discrediting everyone's love of this beer, but it just didn't do it for me. And I flew all the way to San Diego from Baltimore just to get some. (sniffle) It's the alcohol... I found it to be alcohol forward, overwhelming the hop and malt. Too bad. I'll try it again one day.

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Photo of avas
4.25/5  rDev -8.4%
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 slowhand50
4.25/5  rDev -8.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

I thought this was the Holy Grail of beers until I got tired of begging for a bottle from the local liquor store. There are several comparable Double Imperial IPAs that are as good without the hassle. This has become an overrated also ran.

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Photo of jow_42
4.95/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

16oz bottle (4 days old!) poured into a Russian River pint glass

A - crystal clear, golden amber color. Tons of carbonation. Bright white, fluffy head.

S - Super dank, piney, grapefruit, grapefruit pith. Very bitter, in your face hops. West Coast style at its finest.

T - Amazing stuff. Huge grapefruit bitterness, orange, pine, resinous, dank hops. Grapefruit rind, orange pith on the back end. Bitterness lingers, but the bready malts balance Pliny well. Very easy drinking for an 8%

O - I've had Pliny tons, but having a 4 day old bottle in So Cal was a treat. People say this is a fast fader, but it doesn't get much better than this - for the West Coast style - when fresh. Highest of recommendations.

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Photo of Burrocreek
4.84/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

This beer is amazing. But it is not interesting. If you can understand the difference, and why that matters, then maybe we can all stop hyping Pliny so much. Still, if you can get your hands on this beer, do so. You won’t be disappointed.

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Photo of Rabae6
5/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Muy bien equilibrada, amargor persistente en el fondo de la boca, sabores cítricos, piña y pino.

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Photo of KTCamm
4.28/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4

7/19/18...on tap at Monks in Philadelphia. Pours bright gold, thick white foam. About 1/4 inch. Grapefruit malty nose,. Taste is even keeled, smooth grains and malts flow through. Super dry finish. Subtle but firm hop bitter. Pears and dried fruits are noted. Spectacular.

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Photo of Jjski
4.83/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Golden shimmering with light
Glorious tiny bubbles
Aroma of pineapple , lemon zest, candied orange wedges
Taste as smell with sweet tart citrus zing, bittering dry finish. Not a bitter bomb, as there is some malt sweetness with nuances of Mango
Lightish mouthfeel thatt corresponds to 8% Abv. Not syrupy or tongue coating. The lingering perceptions is dry hops, not sugar.

It really is THAT good. It's hard to believe that it lived up to the hype. If you are looking for an astringent, bitter, hop overload to point of excess: it's not for you. Try Palate Wrecker or Devi Dancer. This has fineness, subtlety, and craftsmanship while bringing hops to the forefront.

Previous double/single ipa favorites: NEBCO Ghandi Bot, Bells Hopslam, Founders Harvest Wet Hop, Deschutes Chasin Freshies: This is right there at the top with its perfect balance of flavors and mouthfeel.

Art in a glass. Great beer makes me slow down and savor every sip. I didn't want this one to end

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Pliny The Elder from Russian River Brewing Company
Beer rating: 4.64 out of 5 with 15,069 ratings