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Pliny The Elder | Russian River Brewing Company

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3,645 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: 3,645 | Ratings: 14,106
Photo of IronCitySteve
4.89/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Had on tap while winery hopping in the Russian River Valley. Had at Korbel of all places:

A: Pours a cloudy but rich amber color. Offers a one finger foam head with plenty of sticky goodness on the side of the glass.

S: Lots of hops, pine, citrus and floral hops are the most dominant scents. I have yet to smell a beer this good.

T: Probably the best beer I have ever tasted. I knew of its 'legend' for a long time and it did not disappoint. Love how all the pine, citrus (grapefruit) hops blend together.

M: A well balanced beer that leaves such a great hops taste on your palate (kind of messed with my wine tasting the rest of the day, but I did not care!)

D: Despite the high ABV, I think this could be one of my top 2 beers all-time. Wish I could have shipped the beer to myself while I was out there!

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Photo of twelvsies
4.73/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Ok, yeah it's that good. Had literally countless pints on draught at Falling Rock in Denver as an introduction and then plenty in bottles from various stores. Brought some back and just cracked 'em last night with friends so I am reviewing the bottled version. A sharp looking beer. Super crisp and clear and light orange amber with a head that just don't quit. This beer has all aspects of hoppyness covered. Fruity, yes. Lots of citrus zest, orange, lime, and big plump pineapple juicyness. But the main flavor is pungent pine, bitter all the way through. Totally numbs my entire mouth, makes me all tingly, I like. Lingering long after the swallow too. You could take a sip of this beer and probably still taste it a minute later. I like that this IPA isn't just full of fruity hops like a lot of beers from the west coast, which can be nice, but it has that wrenching bitterness to it that really completes the bold character of the beer. Dry, yet quenching. Somehow crispy on the palate but plenty of body and just a pure pleasure to drink. I hiked a mountain in Colorado with a coupe of these in the back-pack and drank them at the top with me Lady, right outta the bottle too. That was nice.

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Photo of photomike
4.65/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Man, I love this beer.

Pours radiant gold with a beautiful white head. Tiny specks of delicious float throughout this beer that you can see if you look carefully. I eagerly anticipate every aspect of this beer up until the entire thing is in my belly, from the pop of the cap to the lingering aftertaste of the last sip. One of my all time favorites.

Once poured, its like your nose is walking through a forest of hops. In fact, I usually use the word "forest" when describing the smell of this thing. Beautiful piney, grapefruity hop aroma fills the room.

While the emphasis in the aroma is pine with grapefruit in the background, the roles reverse when tasted. Lots of citrus and the perfect balance of citrus and malt. Only the slightest hint of alcohol as you get deeper into the beer. So well balanced, this is just beer making at its finest.

Mouthfeel is nice...not so clean that it leaves you as soon as you swallow, there is a velvety smoothness that leaves an oily pine coating in your mouth, so you keep on tasting this one. Love it.

Dangerously drinkable given the ABV.


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Photo of Keith238
4.6/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

serving: 500ml bottle, received from a trade, thanks Jesse.

I first had this brew at Monk's in Philly, on draught and I fell in love. The only thing that kept me from drinking them out of their supply was the Mrs.

I'm not really sure why I'm reviewing this one because if you haven't had this beer yet, I doubt my review will convince you to try it. Anyway, here it goes:

Golden colored ale with pure white head. Head dissipates into lacing that clings to the glass with each sip. The smell and taste have strong notes of grapefruit, pineapple and pine. Crisp and clean with no aftertaste. Easily the most drinkable IIPA I've ever had and at 8%, I could have a couple of liters. Looking forward to trying the Younger!

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Photo of Klgkenny
4.42/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to jason for this great california beer.

Poured from a chilled bottle into a room temp pint glass. Presents as a honey colored amber. A vary faint head rest atop the body. Very strong pine and flowery hop smells with the slightest hint of citrus and other fruits waft up to the nose. The taste is overpowered (in a good way for all the hopheads) by a piney/flowery hop taste. There has to be a malty backbone to supplement this hop_beast, but it is unapparent in the mouth. A medium mouthfeel, even for an IPA. Better than average, but still, I would like something a bit chewier. Overall, I could drink these all night long. Thank you russian river!

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Photo of NickMunford
4.15/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

A - Pours a nice amber color, with a light frothy head, about a finger thick. Good retention, and I wouldn't say it looks like "lacing", but it does stick to the side of the glass.

S - Citrus, hops, slight piny aroma. Smells near perfect for an IPA to me. Not overpowering, but it definitely tells you it's an IPA.

T - The taste matches exactly what you get from the smell. Citrus, nicely bitter hops, not overpowering. Great for an IPA.

M - I'm finding myself rather indifferent towards the mouthfeel.

D - It's very drinkable. It's hopped perfectly. Enough to let you know it's there, but not so much that it gives you that unpleasant bitter pinch in the back of your jaw that a lot of hop bombs do. I'd be happy to have a case of this in my cooler!

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Photo of scifan
4.25/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Big thanks to sirpsycho for this. I just got this today in a trade. I'm so excited to finally try this beer. This was bottled on 7/30/08 so I'm sure that some of the hop presence has faded some so I'll try to take that into consideration.
Looks really good going into my pint glass. It's slightly hazy, orangey honey color. Has a nice head with good retention and lots of lacing on the glass.
Still smells really good. Lots of piney hops, also a slight citrus aroma as well. Also getting a malty backbone, its not balanced but that's what we're looking for right.
Taste is very similar to smell. Nice piney bite at first, then some slightly sweeter citrusy hops, followed by the malty goodness, then a burst of bitterness to wash it all down. I wish I could try this a little more fresh to fully experience all that is Pliny.
Feels a little thin in the mouth wish there was just a little more there, but the carbonation is nice. I'm not getting a hint of the 8% alcohol this baby is certainly smooth. Awesome brew.

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Photo of RomanW70
4.72/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

On tap 3/19 @ Toranado. Pours cloudy amber with a a minimal white head. Medium stong aroma of pine, grapefruit, and caramelized malts. Very well balanced. Fast is similar. Extraordinarlly well balanced. One of the smoothest DIPA's I've ever had. Extremely drinkable. Medium mouthfeel with relatively low carbonation. Bitter finish with some cereal grain. Pretty f'n delicious!

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Photo of roopy40
4.75/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

A - Gold in color. Fine, white, foamy head. Dimples of air open in the head like you see in a pancake that is being cooked. Head leaves way to gorgeous lace left on the glass. Head retention is ridiculous. As you look at the glass and agitate, you can see minuscule specks that float like sand would through the middle of a wave in the ocean.

S - Grapefruit, zest of citrus, pine smell like you've carried in your Christmas tree.

T - Great follow up to the smell. Grapefruit, citrus zest, pine, touch of sweet tropical fruit as well. As I slowly sipped this wonderful nectar, I agitated, looked, tasted and just got more and more depressed that it was running out. I think myself and my two cronies took a good 45 mins to an hour to savor it. It was a first taste for all of us and we loved it and extended it as long as we could.

M - Great carbonation, thick, slick feel. Tingles on the buds on the way down and slaps your palate with a nice sting of hops.

D - I only wish I had more to drink that night or any night for that matter. The 8% is totally disguised. This DIPA is one of a kind.

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Photo of paulxqx
4.77/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I have been looking forward to finally writing my review of Pliny the Elder for some time. It is one of my favorite beers... I think it would be safe to say that if I was "stranded on a desert island and could only have one beer with me for the rest of my days..." it would probably be the Elder. Now on to the review...

Although I have had it on tap, this review is for the bottled Elder.

Bottled January 23, 2009. Drinking one today, March 18th, 2009. I bought a case of Pliny the Elder for $100 at Hollingshead's Delicatessen in Orange, CA.

A: When poured into a pint glass the carbonation bubbles are visible in the dense orangish/amber hue of this beer. It looks like unfiltered orange flavored honey! The bubbles take their time getting to the top, it is really beautiful. One finger head which is close to white; like fine sand. As you drink lacing is noticeable.

S: Pliney and resiny, I mean PINEY and resiny, like spring time. Pine with citrus, mainly pineapple, grapefruit, hint of orange. Sweet.

T: It tastes just like it smells only better. A lot of fresh piney hops that are very well balanced with citrus, pineapple, grapefruit, and a hint of orange.

M: The beer sits well in your mouth and swallows great. The flavors are well balanced and dense which give it somewhat of a heavier feel but completely refreshing. Fine carbonation like cool beach sand.

D: Refer back to that desert island thingy : P

Overall, this is one of the finest beers I have ever tasted. And to put it simply, when I drink Pliny the Elder, I am happy and content like the end of a classic fairy tale. I hope everyone has an opportunity to try one!

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Photo of william5586
4.7/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I originally tried this beer in October 08 at the grand re-opening of Bella Vista in Philly, but held off on reviewing it because i feared my tastes were shot after a day of amazing beer. I finally got a chance to try it again during Philly beer week at Local 44.

The beer was a nice hazy yellow color and had 2 fingers worth of fluffy white head sitting on top of it. The aroma was great. It smelled of pine and floral hops. The taste was as good as the smell. Amazing hop flavors. A little spicy bite. Some citrus flavor. Great bitter finish that was just right. Not to overpowering. Wow, is this beer smooth. It has just the right amount of carbonation and goes down great.

The booze was not playing any tricks on me the first time i tasted this beer. It was every bit as good as i remembered it to be.

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Photo of MMAJYK
4.38/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A. A beautiful honey colored nectar with copper tones and gold subtlties. Clear as a bell with oily/sticky head of 1/8". A nice looking beer to say the least.

S. Deep oranges; sweet like orange marmalade, grapefruit, and honey. The most refreshing and clean hop aroma that I've ever smelled. I really don't get anything from the malt.

T. Caramel and honey malt sweetness blended with earthy-tasting hops. Very resiny and sticky-sneakily bitter-touch of booze in the back of the throat and a dry finish. About as complex of a DIPA I've ever had.

M. Thick, oily, and sticky in the mouth. Carbonation is right on track for the style.

D. A refreshing drink with uber complexity. This beer is worth the hype.

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Photo of natasharai
4.33/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Torchednoodle for the trade

Appearance: Poured with 1cm creamy bubbly white head, that dissipated to a thin layer over a few minutes leaving some lacing. The beer is orangeish-gold and clear.

Smell: Up front it is citrusy hops, some vanilla, pineapple sweet hops. The smell is on the lighter side for the style.

Taste: Delicious piney sweet hops, some sweet vanilla, and grapefruit citrus, followed by a sweet citrus and finishing with a piney/citrus flavor.

Mouthfeel: Some carbonation, give the mouth a refreshing and clean feeling.

Overall: Really drinkable for the style, almost no alcohol present, very refreshing and delicious IIPA, with good hop character!

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Photo of HatTrick
4.35/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Was able to do a vertical with the Blind Pig, Pliny the Elder, and Pliny the Younger. Yay!

A: Was a nice golden color with a large amount of head as the keg had just blown.

S: Smelled sweet, hoppy, fruity, and of citrus.

T: Tasted really great, of hops (naturally), honey, sour fruit, and ginger.

M: A large amount of carbonation, easy on the tongue though.

D: Overall I preferred this over PTY just a personal preference as the really really strong hops taste isn't really my thing but if I ignored this and just thought of it neutrally, it was still a great beer although I can see why other would prefer PTY and think it is ambrosia from the beer gods.

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Photo of Redwood21
4.48/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I just had this in Philly, it was a rather long drive just to try some beers, but was worth the effort.
this review is from notes, so while i trust my numbers, the rest may not be epic

A: the beer starts with a nice amber color and frothy head but the head dies off after a little bit and leaves a little lacing, for 8% i expected a little more but this is by no means a weak point

S: this however likely is the weakest point of the beer, at least for me. the aroma starts off with a decent floral hop aroma but as you drink it the hops start to fade and you are left with something that is basically just a good beer.

T: i was surprised how light and delicate the taste was. there is a front note of floral hops with an almost herbal character, nothing too bitter, the bitterness comes in but is finished with a dry and very clean finish, its almost like you get a backwash of malt to clean out the taste. i was surprised how little this beer attacked my senses, but was pleased by its balance

M/D this beer is almost sessionable at 8% the lightness makes it extremely smooth and easy to consume. you have to sit back and sip it to really appreciate its character because of this

very good solid beer

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Photo of shivtim
4.55/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

aforbes10 sent me a bottle of Pliny the Elder from California to Georgia via FedEx Ground. It arrived on a Thursday, and was promptly put in the fridge. Then I stabbed him in the back and flew to Denver that night and was having Pliny on tap at Falling Rock Tap House by 2PM the next day. Sorry aforbes10. Luckily he send me a home-brewed saison too.

So, Pliny the Elder on tap. What a dream for a Midwesterner. Served in a pint glass. Hazy deep copper, perfect off-white foamy head that lasts forever. Heavily carbonated. Nose is heavy resinous pine hops, fresh juniper, and mild grapefruit. Taste is heavenly hops, lingering pine, and a biscuit malt backbone. Pretty good mouthfeel and drinkability. Great IPA, but you already knew that.

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Photo of mugglesandhops
4.85/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

By far my favorite IPA so far. Pours a golden yellow color with a 1 1/2 finger white head, good amounts of lacing on the glass. Smells very citrusy, I even got a whiff of bannana's on the first one I drank. Taste like of grapefruit but not sour, just the sweetness of it. Thin to med bodied. This is the perfect IPA. Very drinkable. I could get into trouble with this one.

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Photo of tdawgydog
4.67/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Finished of my Cali trip with a sweet bottle of Pliny the Elder. I've had enough hops this past week to last me quite a while.

IPA's are not one of my favorite styles but I've grown a new appreciation for them. Pliny The Elder is without a doubt the best IPA that I have ever had.

The bottle I had was dated Feb. 26, 2009. I heeded the warnings on the bottle and enjoyed it immediately. It pours a nice golden yellow into my Stone IPA pint glass (boy this glass earned it's keep the last week) there was a 2 finger head which quickly dissipated to leave a nice lace on the glass.

The scent was sweet, not as hoppy as most of the other IPA's that I have had. The pine in this brew really stood out to me.

The taste is sweet, very citrusy. You can taste the pine and then the whole thing is followed up by some of the best hop flavor to ever be put in a beer.

I was enjoying my .5 litre bottle just before going to bed. It went down very smooth after a long day of doing nothing...

The beer has much more body than it's appearance would lead you to believe. Again overall it was very well done. If IPA's were my thing, this would be at the top of my list. I could still drink a few of these as it is.

Seek this stuff out.

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Photo of Docer
4.42/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4


That's it, review over..

- Great clear yellow orange appearance with some floating old-school yeast. The real thing. Nice white head with blankets of matured lacing (don't ask me what that means).

- Smell is bountiful with citrus, floral.. and fresh hops.. with strong pungent rye notes and hop. Many might not like the pungent aspect of this, but i do. My favorite IPA's have that quality.

- Taste is so smooth. Cantaloupe, pine, floral, citrus... bursting w/ hop madness. (Song comes to mind "Can we play w/ 'hop' madness"). No alcohol strength whatsoever.. very smooth.

- Leaves the mouth watery, not dry.. no pucker, no squint. Just a satisfied pallet. Great amount of carbonation as well.

- Super drinkable... I could drink these until I fell asleep permanently. Nuff' said.

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Photo of PDXHops
4.17/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Got a chance to visit the brewery and enjoy this beer on tap. It proved to be quite different than my previously reviewed experience with the bottled version. Below I've made some notes about the bottled version in parentheses for comparison.

Looks good, but not great. Served in a nonic, there's only a half finger of white head on top of the bright gold/tangerine body. Head retention and lacing are OK, but the lacing is not plentiful. (Bottled version I gave a 4.5, as I had a huge puffy head which lasted til the end and laced from the top to the bottom of my tulip glass).

Smells of abundant juicy, pungent hops, but not as strong as expected. The nonic is no way to showcase this beer. (Bottled version I gave a 4.5. A tulip or snifter really shows off the massive hop aroma).

Tastes incredible. The hops are chewy, sticky and pungent. The very definition of "hop bomb". Massive pine and grapefruit, with pleasant hints of sweetness and toast. It's not balanced, but it's damned tasty. (Bottled version I also gave a 4.5. The tap version I think is slightly sweeter, but both are great).

Mouthfeel is pretty good. Moderate carbonation makes for a "tamer" version of the beer, really smooths things out, allowing a touch of sweetness to join the bitterness in the finish. (Bottled version I gave a 4.5. It was aggressive, crackly, sticky, resiny, and the bitterness felt like it lingered halfway down my throat.)

Drinkability is good, and the 8% ABV is well hidden. (Bottled version I gave a 4.5. I found it slightly more interesting and enjoyable.)

Overall impression: A great beer, but I prefer the bottled version, at least if the tap version is served in a crappy glass. Russian River should really showcase this wonderful elixir in some proper glassware.

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Photo of Jerico
4.42/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a bottle into my Westvleteren glass.

A - clear, crisp, orange-gold color. A moderate head that dissolves into a light lace.

S - up-front and clear, very noticeable hoppy citrus vibe. Very inviting!

T/M/D - slight carbonation, and hops everywhere on my first sip, citrusy bitter like a grapefruit, not quite as sweet as I was expecting from the smell. The hop bite is up front and the flavor stuck to my mouth for quite a while. I drank this one slowly, and it came together more after a few minutes and it warmed up a bit. Then the bite settles back a bit and I found a little maltiness in there too. Very enjoyable!

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Photo of NCSUdo
4.73/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

16.9 oz bottle

A: Very clear copper body under about a half to 3/4 inch white head. Good retention and lace.

S: Very hoppy, but with an identifiable caramel malt backbone. Hop is a mix of earthy, piney and citrus hops. I expected much more citrus, but am very surprised at the balance. Maybe a little underwhelming, but the balance helps make up for it.

T: This where the beer starts to earn its keep. Everything is perfectly, and I mean perfectly, balanced. Malt backbone is there, followed by a nice citrus hop twang, with a finish of mild pine and mostly grapefruit, rind-like citrus. The bitter finish perfectly done it that it hits you but doesn't squeeze any of the other tastes out. Some spice mixed in as well, and I even pick up some mint type character here and there.

M/D: Medium bodied, slick on the tongue with a touch of prickly carbonation. No hint of booze. Nicely done. Drinkability is exceptional. This one could be enjoyed all night. Great beer.

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Photo of latercol
4/5  rDev -13%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I was expecting to be wowed with this...

appearance a bit lighter in color than I expected, seemed a little flat on the pour actually but I did manage to get a head, lacing stuck around for a while.

Smell. Pine and grapefruit, but not as nice or as strong as I expected.

Taste. Obvious hops with some malt backbone, just expected a higher quality taste. Bottle was from 11/04/08 has is lost its edge already? I don't know but I would say the SN Torpedo I had earlier in the day was far better than this...cheaper too.

Mouthfeel good, smooth but nothing memorable.

Drnkable, but at this price forget it. I gave it the highest marks i could but was expecting much much more.

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Photo of ColForbinBC
4.7/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On-tap at The South Philly Tap Room

Appears a slightly hazy golden orange with a fluffy, yellow infused cap that faded shortly after the first sip. Very light lace with no discernible patten and some pretty active bubbles for the style.

The hop aroma covers all angles here....pine and spruce, grapefruit and orange rind, mangoes and apricots, and fresh cut grass. Overall though, the floral, fruity side seems to be more dominant. Assertive without being bold, but pleasing and inviting.

The flavor has a prickly hop bite to it with every sip. Floral and citrus rise to the occasion with a sweet, bready malt background. I'd be remiss not to mention the strong fresh cut grass and mint flavor in the slightly bitter aftertaste. Very unique to Pliny. This is surprisingly balanced. It's a hop bomb, but not in the "bitter, knock you over the head" type of hop bomb.

Smooth with pretty active carbonation. Not a big, chewy dipa by any means. More resinous and oily. Finishes slightly bitter and dry.

The 8% is almost non-existent. It wasn't until the very end that I got even a hint of booze. Great tropical fruit flavor, a fantastically balanced dipa.

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Photo of br3wmeister
4.57/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A- Pours a light hazed golden orange in color with a multi textured off white head. There are lots of small bubbles in the middle of the head with a great silky foam in a thick ring around the edges. The head retention was okay and it had minimal lacing.

S- Very fruity up front, pineapple, oranges, and a hint of peach. Then some nice caramel and vanilla, a touch of pine hops as well.

T- Soft citrus fruit and sweet caramel initially then some great pine flavors come through. More fruity orange flavors come through the pine with hints of caramel and vanilla, then another burst of dry pine bitterness. The beer finishes sweet and juicy with some lingering dry pine bitterness.

M- Medium bodied with a great refreshing juiciness to it. Hops cut through with some nice dry bitterness and balances things out.

Overall I would say this is one of the more balanced and well made DIPA's. I really enjoy this beer and will be seeking it out again.

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Pliny The Elder from Russian River Brewing Company
4.6 out of 5 based on 14,106 ratings.
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