Pliny The Elder | Russian River Brewing Company

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Pliny The ElderPliny The Elder
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 Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 3,802 | Ratings: 15,158
Photo of Mikemcgrath4
4.69/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Finally nabbed this unicorn at Monk's in Philly, on draft. Everything i expected to be. Texture of this beer is amazing, its head retention and lacing on point, taste was bold with hop flavor, but smooth like a double should be.

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Photo of FBarber
4.5/5  rDev -3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Pours a clear crisp golden hue. Thin sudsy white head dissipates pretty quickly. Some light lacing is left behind.

Aroma is a lovely pungent array of bright fresh pine, orangey citrus, with some floral notes - orange blossom, honeysuckle, and a hint of bright fresh cut lemon grass. While the hops are quite aromatic, there is a balance to this as there is a definite light malt backbone coming through even on the nose.

Taste is follows the nose with notes of citrus - lemon, orange, tangerine and orange rind - along with fresh pine and a bright floral notes. Solid cracker-y malt backbone comes through. Incredibly balanced and restrained while still being flavorful and complex. Mild bitterness on the back end with some more piney notes coming through. The classic west coast profile comes through here but without trying to punch you in the palate.

Feel is light, crisp, and pretty smooth. Does have a slight slick oiliness to it. Moderate carbonation with gentle finish.

Overall, this is a lovely IPA with a well earned reputation. What was perhaps most surprising to me was its incredible balance and deftness. In a market saturated with IPAs that try to one up each other, this beer knows what it is and does it so well. Admittedly I've wanted to this one for some time and it did not disappoint - I hope this is not the last time I have this beer.

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Photo of Nuttin_but_the_best_Clark
4.6/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Imagine my surprise to see this on draft when walking into a bar in Philly. Apparently, the only bar to serve this on draft (in a very limited supply) is the one I was in. I had three glasses. This was one of the original craft beer unicorns ... and for good reason. It's great!

I will say that beers have since started to catch up and I don't consider this to be an enlightening experience ... several good IPAs I've had are as good or better. Having said that, this IS an IPA to write home about and it's as perfect a double IPA as you'll find.

5-7 years ago I'd be doing cartwheels and rating this a 5 across the board. Today, it's a very good IPA ... one of the best. Still hard to find, even in CA! I think the hype surrounding this and it's February release with lines around the block, ticket lotteries and strict one beer per person limits brought this notoriety and high ratings.

It is very resin/pine forward with a crisp citrus base. If you had me test this and Lawson's Finest Sip of Sunshine, I'd have a tough time distinguishing. Maybe my preference would be for Pliny because it has a bit less bitterness and harshness as the Sip of Sunshine does. Pliny delivers on smoothness and taste without going over the top.

You must like IPA in order to drink this. To a non-IPA drinker, Pinesol would come to mind when tasting this. However for those of us who love IPA, though the hype may not live up to the actuality, this is as fine an IPA as you'll experience.

Though I had it on draft, I've seen it bottled and the packaging looks like genetic dollar store steak sauce. Completely cheesy and not at all indicative of the skill that went into the beer inside the bottle.

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Photo of SierraNevallagash
4.61/5  rDev -0.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

A massive thanks and appreciation to Tim for giving me the chance to finally try this beer. This was a big-time want for me. Still, like all of my reviews, I strive to remain as objective as possible, resisting hype or other influences, and everything I write is done in real-time stream of consciousness format.

500ml bottle - dated 060519 - poured into a large wine stem at 44F.

Pours a stunning clear deep honey golden, with a finger of fluffy bone white head, perforated with rings of air pockets, and leaving spots of lacing clinging to the glass.

Nose: I can smell this from several feet away. Gentle caramel malt, bursting with honey and flower nectar. The malt aroma is very tame, and really let's the hops have the spotlight. The spring-like floral notes emitting from the hops are unreal. Lilac, magnolia, gardenia, lavender, and honeysuckle, amidst a burst of nectarine, tangerine, mango skin, lemongrass, cedar, and new pine growth. The intense floral notes are the true star of the show here. It's like a flower garden in full spring bloom. Absolutely intoxicating.

Palate: The honey-like caramel malt gently greets the palate with a delicate nectar sweetness, before giving way to the bombardment of floral hops. Manuka honey, magnolia, lilac, and lavender surrounding ripe juicy tangerine, peach, ripe honeydew, and mango flesh. The overall flavour isn't tropical, but it definitely has a succulent, juicy, fresh-squeezed element to it. A rainbow of essential oils and floral terpenes just wash over the palate and transport you to an alpine meadow. The bitterness is decidedly delayed, showing up well into the finish. The finish brings notes of orange zest, fresh hops, and pine sap, before drying out, and shifting towards bitter pine resin and grapefruit pith. The longer it lingers, the more pine-centric it becomes, with a nice, firm, hoppy bitterness. Centennial absolutely shows, as does some Amarillo, but I am truly shocked that there's Simcoe in here. There are zero earthy, musty, or dank flavours. It's just so keenly balanced and rounded.

Mouthfeel/Body: The beer is on the lighter side of medium-bodied. The gentle malt sweetness and oily, resinous hops provide a nice smoothness to the feel, but the body remains quite light on its toes. I just had to double check the ABV, and that it quite surprising. This hides its ABV better than any other beer I think I've ever tried. In terms of heaviness, sweetness, drinkability, and alcohol flavour, this could pass for 6%, no questions asked. Effervescence is fine, and lively, giving the beer some nice lift, and furthering its crisp drinkability. This will go down very easily.

Overall: I've said this once or twice, but I'll say it again. I hate giving a beer the same exact score in each category. It looks lazy, when really, I spend a lot of thought, time, and effort meticulously reviewing the beers I drink. With this one, however, it truly does earn a well thought out 4.5 in each category. That places it just within the "world class" boundaries, and I think that's precisely where it belongs. This beer may not be a groundbreaking revolution in brewing today, but one must not forget that this beer was a trailblazer. It pioneered the path of hoppy beer fandom, and it has truly stood the test of time. This isn't just a boring run-of-the-mill West Coast IPA. It shows subtly and nuance that hops are capable of. It's malt bill is simply a work of art. It hides its weight with near invisibility. It shows that one does not need to rely on any crazy cutting edge double dry hopping methods. It shows that a little bit of bitterness is good, but the bitterness doesn't fight for the focus, or subtract from the drinkability of this beer. It's planted, precise, polished, and pristine. It's cohesive, collected, refined, and impressive. I used to think Maine Beer Company was the father of incredible, super floral-forward West Coast (style) IPAs. I see the influence now. I see how this beer shaped modern beer culture. It isn't just an icon with a cult status. There's a reason it earned that status. It's a perfect double IPA. I set myself up to be disappointed by this beer. Many hyped beers do disappointed. This one does not. It's the grandfather of IPAs. It truly is a world class beer.

Edit: After some thought, I am upping the "Overall score by one notch, simply because of how beautiful this beer is. It is truly greater than the sum of its parts. I feel a 4.6 is an appropriate score for such a refined, perfected double IPA. It's an integral part of IPA history, and it has secured its renowned status for good reason.

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Photo of TheRougeBastard
4/5  rDev -13.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

My white-whale, finally obtained. Overall, Pliny's a solid DIPA,but truth be told, there are equally as good out there without having to drive an hour to Palm Springs to get...IMHO, but glad I did!!

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Photo of StevenMilligan
4.89/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Bottled on 5/29/19
Drank on 6/24/19 and 6/25/19

Worthy of the hype. Extremely balanced. Hides booze tremendously. Poured a golden yellow with a 2" head, impeccable lacing.

Piney hops in the nose, followed by floral notes that fade to orange peel, then bready malts. Taste follows the nose to a T. As it warms I get a tad bit of gumball (maybe the simcoe) and the orange peel takes on more of a mango/stone fruit vibe.

Again, very balanced. Nothing crazy attempted here but it's kind of like your first DIPA all over again. The piney bitterness fades shocks you then fades and you are quickly going back in for another sip. All the while this beautiful bready backbone supports it.

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

The best West Coast Double IPA I've ever had. A classic and has always stayed true to the style.

Pours a beautiful rich golden color with the perfect amount of head if at the right temperature. Has really nice lacing that sticks around.

Smell has lots of pine, stone fruits, and dankness. The nose is really pleasant. Luckily, the taste follows the nose.

Mouthfeel is excellent. Lets you know your drinking an imperial IPA.

The taste is just like it smells, but in addition, there is a nice floral node. So incredibly balanced, it cannot be put into words. It is bitter without being bitter if that makes any sense. Dangerously easy to drink as the alcohol is well hidden.

Worthy of the hype and deserving of the near perfect score.

Even if you don't like IPA's in general, you really should try Pliny the Elder at least once.

Pick it up when you can and also do remember to drink fresh, because after 25 days, the taste does drop off.

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Photo of harrypowers
4.37/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Being from Boston, all I could ever do was read about this beer. We were driving through Santa Rosa so I stopped at Russian River and bought a couple of pints.

This pours a golden clear color with a slowly diminishing white head. Medium carbonation. Hoppy with pine and citrus notes. Slightly bitter. Light bodied, crisp and very drinkable. Hides the alcohol well.

World class! Wish that I had more space in my suitcase for more bottles!

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Photo of Wolvmar
4.49/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle a friend shared on Jun 13, 2019. Believe it’s about 3-4 months old. Poured into a pint glass.

Pour: beautiful, rich golden color. Small head that dissipated pretty quickly. Some clouds and lacing.

Nose: lots of citrus, some pine, some floral. A little bread as well.

Taste: similar to the nose. Big citrus flavor, lots of pine, good malt bready yeast. base. Easy to drink, delicious. I don’t know if it’s light years better than other double IPAs, but it lived up to the hype.

Mouthfeel: pretty substantial: a little oily. Moderate carbonation.

Overall: a really good, classic beer that lives up to the hype. Given the signif time that has passed since it first hit my wish list, maybe not significantly better than others in the class, but have to mark it up a bit for being an original.

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Photo of Coronaeus
4.71/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Bright gold with a moderate head that sticks around for a few minutes before giving way to thin film that laces as consumed.

Gentle aromas. Stone fruit, slight dankness, a hint of bubble gum.

Citrus on the tongue with some piney hops and a very little dankness. Pleasantly bitter throughout.

Exceptionally crisp and yet full bodied substantial.

A great beer and rightfully at the pinacle of the west coast IPA hierarchy.

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Photo of beerbellydaddy
4.68/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Pliny is the perfect pour - a classic golden, slightly haze body with a frothy white head that leaves copious lacing. The smell is citrus with a musty back. It tastes of hops and more hops with a citrus zest, leaving a clean refreshing mouth feel. Pliny is near the top of Big Beer Mountain. Grab it when you can.

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Photo of VoodooBear
4.55/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Presentation: Draft, served in a Revival pint glass.

Appearance: The thick, rocky, one and a half finger head stays around almost until the end and leaves behind some lacing in patches all over the glass. It's a beautiful, crystal clear deep gold color.

Smell: It's a strong aroma that unfolds in layers; starting with some citrus peel and apricot, followed by some earthier pine and floral notes and it finishes with a touch of grains in the background.

Taste: It's quite bitter up front with some citrus flavors of grapefruit and orange and a strong pine/hop resin oiliness that coats the palate as it goes down.

Mouthfeel: It's smooth, quite crisp and medium bodied with medium carbonation.

Overall: It's regarded as one of the best IPAs in the world for a reason. It brings together the fruity and earthy hop characters together beautifully and it remains relatively easy to drink (though the bitterness is quite high) despite the complexity in the nose and palate. Even though it doesn't have as much hype now as it used to have in years past, it's a perfect example of the traditional American Double IPA style.

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Photo of justin612
4.73/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

ideal DIPA. It never disappoints. sometimes I wish it was lower ABV so I could drink this beer all day without passing out. waiting for Midwest distribution with all the new tanks, should be coming soon.

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Photo of Oh_Dark_Star
4.6/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This IPA lived up to the hype. It was interesting as there was no mind-blowing moment here. No aspect stood out to polarize it. With each drink I came to realize that this beer has been finely and expertly tuned to perfection of the style - like tasting the work of a true master!

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

Had it many times on draft and bottle- It’s got a beautiful resinous piney aroma when fresh, slight mint, wintergreen. Malty and sweet, sappy. Excellent west coast IPA, to me; it’s defining.

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Photo of Flickib41
4.71/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Poured from a 16 oz bottle into my Pliny Elder glass! Pours a vivacious gold with about an inch of head, quite a bit of lacing as I drink the beer. What struck me the most about the beer was it’s balance. The sweet notes, the bitter note all work as one. It was just a perfect. At 8% and 100 IBUs, the alcohol taste was not there, the bitterness was not there. I get pineapple, mango and maybe peaches on the nose and with the taste. Definitely lives up to the hype. I need this to be in my rotation but living in Indiana it is going to be tough. :(

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

Pours gold with amber highlights, persistent head, sticky lace. Wide array of hop flavors and aromas backed by a hefty pale/caramel malt base that suggests honey and light popcorn. Im picking up pine, cannabis, citrus, tropicals, with a floral honey, popcorn malty, resinous hoppy finish. Super zesty, perfectly balanced, dangerously drinkable. This is DIPA perfection.

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Photo of Thundermuscle78
4.66/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Transparent orange look. Has a great hoppy smell with hints of grass and citrus. The taste is deliciously hoppy with more citrusy notes than it smells, also hints of pine. It has a slightly bitter and extremely crisp finish. This beer is amazingly balanced and easy to drink for an 8 percent. Such a great IPA.

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Photo of vikingpillager
4.77/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Got to try my first bottle thanks to a fellow BA member, very fresh, and wow I am amazed! Pours crystal clear with beautiful carb and head. Looks and smells a bit like a macro lager, and even initially has that crisp clear taste, but the hop profile is there and just fantastic. Dangerous at 8% as it is extremely drinkable. LOVE IT!! Wish this could be my go-to beer. Just wow

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Photo of folkstar
4.34/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Everything balanced... Amber/orange clear appearance. Smell has a vegetal/grass with a surprising Amount of subtle citrus.

Taste is juicy grapefruit with a minor , not overwhelming, pine bitterness. Feel is dry and balanced. Refreshing

Overall, glad I had this beer

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Photo of eppCOS
4.35/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

On tap at Brewer's Republic (COS) in February of 2019.
L - Classic DIPA appearance, crystal dark amber gold, see through. Good head retention, nice lacing
S - Fantastic, piney-bitterness cascading with a bit more malt whiff than I expected...
T - Again, classic taste, as Pliny as Pliny gets, but with a bit more malt backbone than I remember...
F - Near perfect carbonation, feel, bitterness, and great impression on the palate from start to finish
O - a clear classic, not a haze-bruh, that endures because it's just fucking WELL MADE. Brewers elsewhere - see, it's not that hard!

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

had a pint bottle purchased from the Windsor brewery, 6 days from bottling

Look is clear golden with a fluffy head that persists

Aroma is piney west coast ipa, familiar

Taste is balanced - hops, malt, enough bitterness in the finish to remind you it’s beer, not a child’s juice box

Overall the beer geeks’ tastes have moved on a bit but this is still delicious treat. If you have a chance to try it you should.

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Photo of sunnovgoat
3.76/5  rDev -19%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

good but not the greatest , highly overrated. word of mouth marketing and the power of suggestion have elevated what is an otherwise solid beer , its definitely been placed on pedestal and to be honest I think you can find a better IPA at a better price without having to go out of your way.

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Photo of GarrettB
4.51/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

July 27th, 2015 - The time has come for Pliny the Elder, straight from the font. It's a legendary beer, and looks resplendent in its throne here in Santa Rosa. With a slightly sweeter smell exceptionally balanced against hops, the flavor is immensely deep. Even though I tend to enjoy hoppy brews more for the bouquet than the taste, this offers plenty of both. Sweeter, like a broiled grapefruit, it plays with its ethanol quite well. In contention for my favorite California IPA, it is only rivaled by the Blind Pig. And as I try to determine which I prefer, I suckle on the aftertaste which is punching and long, with a slightly resinous note to enjoy. It is one of the perfect IPAs, rare best served chilled, straight here at the tap.

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Photo of LABeerSnob
4.71/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

The beer speaks for itself. It definitely lives up to the hype. The best part about this beer is the finish of each sip has this brilliant tingle that leaves me wanting more.

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Pliny The Elder from Russian River Brewing Company
Beer rating: 4.64 out of 5 with 15,158 ratings