Pliny The Elder
Russian River Brewing Company

Pliny The ElderPliny The Elder
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IPA - Imperial
Ranked #2
Ranked #14
4.69 | pDev: 7.68%
Russian River Brewing Company
California, United States
Pliny The ElderPliny The Elder
Notes: 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!
Reviews: 3,891 | Ratings: 15,462 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Reviews by Surf1:
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Surf1 from South Carolina

5/5  rDev +6.6%

Jul 16, 2014
More User Reviews:
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Beerampage from Missouri

4.92/5  rDev +4.9%
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.

Jul 17, 2014
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Jason from Massachusetts

4.5/5  rDev -4.1%
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.

Feb 24, 2010
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BeerAdvocate from Massachusetts

4.87/5  rDev +3.8%
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 ├╝ber 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.

Sep 20, 2010
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wdberkley from Illinois

4.96/5  rDev +5.8%
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.


Oct 23, 2015
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MartzMimic from Oklahoma

4.9/5  rDev +4.5%
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.

Feb 14, 2015
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Antnego from North Carolina

4.73/5  rDev +0.9%
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!

Jun 15, 2014
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StonedTrippin from Colorado

4.55/5  rDev -3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

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!

edit: as time has gone by and everyone has at least caught up to this, it still stands out, rises above the rest of its peers by head and shoulders when fresh, literally unbeatable as a west coast ipa type, the gold standard without a peer, even all these years later...

Apr 26, 2012
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MyThoughtsExactly from Virginia

3.72/5  rDev -20.7%
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.

Aug 19, 2015
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Drvitlkeyustolit80 from Pennsylvania

4.5/5  rDev -4.1%
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.

Nov 16, 2016
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ichorNet from Massachusetts

4.54/5  rDev -3.2%
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.

Feb 18, 2017
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BeanBump from California

3.68/5  rDev -21.5%
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?

Nov 01, 2017
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RoyalT from Ohio

4.47/5  rDev -4.7%
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.

Mar 25, 2006
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11-52_4hops from Virginia

4.71/5  rDev +0.4%
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.

Jun 19, 2016
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Cheynem from California

4.78/5  rDev +1.9%
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.

Jan 26, 2015
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Ready4aHeady from New York

4.18/5  rDev -10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

This is a great beer---it blew me away the first time I had it, and several times after that---all in bottles. Since then I had it on tap at the original pizzaport, and it was even better... However, I am now a veteran of hill farmstead, Treehouse, Trillium, and MBC (Dinner)... and it has lost its shine! Sorry PtE

Oct 28, 2015
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jimmypanda from California

4.76/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

Aroma: pine, some resinous notes, citrus/floral characteristics typical of West Coast IPAs
Appearance: copper color with a hint of haziness, head was about one finger and had great lacing
Taste: Citrus, orange, grapefruitish notes followe by a subtle dankness to it. Crisp, dry finish and lingering hop bitterness.
Overall: an amazing example of classic west coast ipa's and all the hype is somewhat overdone but I can see why it is so sought after. I compare this IPA to the Beetles of IPAs on the Westside.

Nov 19, 2016
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5/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

The beer Jesus drinks when he isn't banishing people from heaven.

Jun 11, 2015
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Beginner2 from Illinois

4.52/5  rDev -3.6%
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 Pliny rave. 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 I 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 linger so lightly on the tongue. Pliny will not convert me to the hophead ideology, but he has made me appreciate fully what I never thought I could.

10/10/19 Also at SF's City Beer store (in their new digs), I bought two more copies. Hard as I might try, I could only change a few words in the above review; nor could I update my rating (certainly my highest rated IIPA and well above my average of 3.8.) At any rating, Pliny The Elder remains beer's Force Of Nature. However, I did read the Wikipedia article on Russian River and learned that it was started by Korbel Champagne and it has now opened a large menu brew-pub in Windsor. Am I ready for that ?

Oct 15, 2016
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metter98 from New York

4.42/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A: The beer is clear orange to yellow in color and has a very slight amount of visible carbonation. It poured with a half finger high head that died down and left a large patch of bubbles in the center of the glass, a collar of large bubbles around the edge and some delicate lacing in between.
S: There are light to moderate aromas of grapefruit in the nose.
T: The taste has flavors of grapefruit, notes of caramel malts and hints of pine resin.
M: It feels medium-bodied and very crisp on the palate and has a moderate amount of carbonation.
O: This beer is very drinkable and has no trace of alcohol in the taste. It also has an excellent balance between the malts and the hops.

Dec 08, 2012
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KTCamm from New Jersey

4.28/5  rDev -8.7%
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.

Aug 04, 2018
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Sam-VW from England

4.48/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Bottle poured into Nordic pint glass

A - pours looking like a macro lager but with a better head leaving great lacing

S - grapefruit, pine, freshly cut grass

T - grapefruit, lots of pine and a very sweet citra style finish with freshly but grass and pine

M - so smooth it's ridiculous. Perfect carbonation for this style

Jun 21, 2014
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Ccagno15 from New York

4.52/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Finally got this in a trade it definitely lives up to the hype this is a ridiculously well balanced dipa

Apr 11, 2015
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Mikus from Pennsylvania

4.68/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

This was exceptional, three weeks in the bottle. Well sought out, highly hyped up, and lived up to every last praise. Picked up a couple of 510s at BDBS in Gaslamp (they were in the back), and immediately cracked a cold one back at the hotel. The only thing that may have improved this is my Spiegelau! Beautiful orange/amber color with a finger of white head. Huge West Coast IIPA nose full of citrus (orange, lemon) and strong pine. Similar notes to taste, yet exceptionally pronounced. Opened up greatly as the brew was slowly sipped and savored. Clean, dry finish. The benchmark for the IIPA style for me moving forward.

Jun 07, 2015
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BEERchitect from Kentucky

4.55/5  rDev -3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Sharply citrusy and bone dry- Russian River knows that these halmarks are the only ones that matter in this simple and strong style.

Pouring a highly carbonated and creamy overall appearance, the beer delivers the most supple of haze upon a strong golden, light copper hue. A creamy ecru head builds on the beer and coats the sides of the glass with sheets of lace as the beer falls for a very charming and stately appearance.

Aromas of every citrus fruit that you have ever known rushes to the olfactories with an onslaught that's extremely zesty, ripe, and fresh. Only the most supple of malty caramel notes inform the sweeter notions of fruit but intently stray from the focused citrusy notes of oranges and grapefruit.

Flavors follow suit with a strong emphasis on hoppy oils that remind the tastebuds of ruby red grapefruit pulp, freshly grated oranges, and tangerine succulence. Citrusy overall, but it's the underlying malty sweetness of thin caramel that gives the fruity hop flavors just enough sweetness to not become sour, acidic, or overly sharp. Lightly salty in taste, the beer's water profile gives a rounded element that's sometimes lacking in these dry beers.

But the dryness doesn't only manifest in taste, it also presents a quick evaporative feel just after the early creamy notion of malt whisps away and leaves a bitter, resiny-dry finish of citrus sharpness and lightly herbal/grassy bite in aftertaste.

Pliny is a quentessential IPA that displays all the finnese of hop oils and resins for ultimate clean citrus flavor and resiny bitterness. This only happens because of the understated and clean caramel malt base. Although this would normally expose a lot of hop and alcohol harshness in merely mortal beers, it's surprising that none of those show here. Russian River nails this one!

Thanks also bbehr and hopluva1!

Oct 29, 2008
Pliny The Elder from Russian River Brewing Company
Beer rating: 100 out of 100 with 15462 ratings