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
Reviews: 3,802 | Ratings: 15,160
Photo of bruachan
4.57/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

on tap at the source. santa rosa, baby

oh tha anticipation. i've had the IPA but only heard tell of this one. no disappointment here

good lacing follows a thin creamy head all the way down

grass, florals, citrus in the aroma. deep piney hop flavors. just as if i trapsed from a lush meadow with orange trees into Muir Woods and started huffing pine needles. ooh so hoppy, but ooh so tasteful

my favorite hop bomb to date

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Photo of RoyalT
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.

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Photo of audiojon
4.57/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

As far as DIPAs go, this is second only to Pure Hoppiness in my book. Consumed at O'Briens on tap, but also had at the Liar's Club previously. This is one of the top DIPAs imo, most everything Russian River puts out is delicious and this is no exception. I won't waste your time with taste desciptions, just know that the scent is wonderful, taste is wonderful, everything is wonderful about this brew. Drink this early and often!

Honestly, if I had to drink two DIPAs the rest of my life, it would be this and Alpine's, hands down.

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Photo of NolanGTI
4.92/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

This is quite simply one of my favorite beers, regardless of if you call it Pline-E or PlynnE, it is definitely HopE. After tasting numerous times over the past year or so I recently was lucky enough to grab two more fresh pints at UJ's on the Manatawny (which seems to get a bunch of Pliny for some reason).

It pours a nice slightly hazy orange with an aroma that knocks your socks off. A very light colored head dances on top of this beauty taunting you to take a sip. I could spend an hour just smelling this beer if it didn't taste so damn good. Tons of hop aroma, pine cone and citrus. Magnificent.

While there are some slight malt tones in this baby it is like drinking pure hops, but somehow feels balanced and not overwhelming. With a nice 8% ABV it doesn't overwhelm. Just a pure stunner, travel to get your hands on this beer, its that good.

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Photo of Crosling
3.36/5  rDev -28.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Draught tonight at Toronado in San Francisco, California. Light orange in color with attractive lacing, and I rarely say that anymore. Extremely hoppy with hints of dry, burned pine, juicy grapefruit along with big tangerine and orange flavors. I don't really like the strong dry hopped character. It seems like it needs more middle hops or something. The malt character could be more substancial as well.

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Photo of goodbyeohio
3.91/5  rDev -16.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

crystalline light amber. bubbles skip effortlessly through. hazy, barely existent foam touched surface. thick collection of chunky orbs hug the edges. lacing looks like flames erupting from the fierce elder brew. smells of fresh strawberry-infused grassy hops. fresh greens accompanied surprisingly by a candy-crisp roasted malt lathered with butter. expected the hop explosion of the century and was granted something far tamer. balance is key, grasshopper... just unexpected. overall, this beer has that 'sweaty armpit' ipa smell.

mouthfeel and savor factor are through the roof. this feels like what i imagine drinking fresh-squeezed hop juice would be like. and the strong malty backbone allows the hop oils to be delivered in smooth, rich, velvety sips. flavor is dominated by the more bitter, dirty-tasting hopleaf crystals but doesn't feel too abrasive. aftertaste reminds me of lime rinds and the bitterness of chewing on a freshly-snapped tree branch. quells the heat factor (this beer is hot for 8%!)

overall a crazy beer. good, not earth-shattering though.

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Photo of KyleVick4
4.42/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This is a good brew.

A: mildy cloudy dark gold color with a decent head and a little lacing.

S: Hoppy. Deep hoppyness. Hints of sweetness in the background from the malt.

T: Hops galore. The bittering hops hit you nicely at the end and the tounge is assulted with a barage of sweet malt immediatly followed by hops and more hops.

M: Very nicely done, not too carbonated but just a smidge syrupy from the alcohol. But barely noticable. Feels medium bodied in mouth.

D: Keep going back for more. Almost cried when I finished the bomber. Couldnt have more than a few in a night, but I also was amazed at how fast I tore through the 22 oz

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Photo of stacey14
4.35/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Until recently I was never able to enjoy hops the way the typical BA hop-head does, but I have finally moved over to the.... light side. But even when I did not love the hops, I could easily see the brilliance that is Pliny the Elder. It pours out to a beautiful golden color with a normal amount of head and intricate lacing, and the smell is that of pure, unadulterated hops (among other herbal aromas I've heard mentioned). The taste, however, is what has always blown me away: intense hop flavor that rivals few and makes Russian River's super-hot pepperonis seem bland and tasteless. This is a beer to be enjoyed by smell, taste, sight, and really any sense that you can muster up.

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Photo of mntlover
4.67/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

George's uauthorized home bottleing project Brewed Jan 14, 06 Bottled Jan 20, 06 Thanks George :)

Pours a light amber/orange/ golden color mixture of all three really . Head is white a smaller thumb sized even with aggressive pour, it falls to clumps of bubbles that leaves some nice lacing on my glass.

Aroma is big on citrus hops some floral with a fresh pine forest after cleansing rain smell underneath. In a word wonderful like the Younger not quite as strong but still like snorting fresh hop leaves. Don't forget then nice caramel malt base this wonderful hop bouquet is riding on. Strange but after my first sips the malt aroma seems to vanish but still in the taste.

Taste is some swet caramel malts with loads of hop flavors riding in citrus orange peel, apricot meat blend with the sweetness for a moment before turning to bitter grapefruit, lemon and pine all lingering on your tounge and mouth. Nice every sip is a pleasure demanding another. Taste is classic I2PA great smell loads of hop flavors all mixed not really favoring one variety. Not quite as big and amazing as the Younger or Dreadnaught but pretty damn close.

Mouthfeel is mediumish not too big just enough to carry all the hop resins. Carobonation level also medium just enough to aide the flavor but no excess.

Drinkability is great very enjoyable, anyone have a clone of the Pliny's they would like to share? Stuff is so good no alcohol noted you could drink this all day, every day.

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Photo of AlexJ
5/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I finally tasted Pliny. It's all true folks. This beer is a masterpiece of brewing. Clear glowing honey colored pour with a densely layeres eggshell white head that remains as a tight cap, leaving gentle rings of crusty lace.

Aroma makes me want to cry it's so good. Generous golden malt roast washed away by floods of sticky orange, grapefruit, grated lemon zest, sweet wildflowers, and freshly shaved pine bark. I would wear this as cologne.

Flavor mimics the nose, only it's better! A perfectly clean golden malt entry with hints of honey and sweet biscuits is carried away by waves of grapefruit and tangerine, pinapple, freshly crushed wildflowers steeped in honey, and resinous, oily cannabis pine sap that is both sticky and coating. Glorious, magnificant, stupendous, marvelous stuff this is!

Body is bigger than medium, not quite large, with a creamy mouthfeel, tight carbonation, and a sticky, resinous texture that just begs for another sip of this sweet, sweet nectar.

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Photo of orbitalr0x
4.77/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Pliny the Elder pours into my tulip glass a lovely crystal peachy orange color with a nice half inch of creamy white head that leaves spotty lacing all the way around the glass. Great clarity! As the glass reaches my nose an instant smile graces my face. Explosive, enchanting hop nose with notes of citrus, tropical fruit, pine resin and grapefruit. A ribbon of sweet caramelly malt stands guard behind the wall of hops. As I sniff I imagine picking a fresh, bright green hop cone and rubbing it between my fingers as I inhale deeply. Quite simply an amazing hoppy nectar rivaling any I have had before.

First sip brings just enough sweet, crystalline caramelly malt body before the impending wave of luscious hops rolls in. A blend of citrusy, piney hops that seems to get better with each sip. Peach tones, pineapple and tropical fruit enhance the amazing oily hop flavor here. Sweetness gives way to a nice wave of bitterness on the way down. The Elder finishes with a lingering fruity hop flavor that leaves me waiting for the next sip. All hype aside, this is an amazingly well built and balanced Double IPA that deserves the praise.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied and creamy. The small bubbly mellow carbonation makes it so smooth and incredibly drinkable. I've nearly finished the 22oz already and I could see this being the perfect session DIPA. The Elder has plenty of hoppy wisdom to share with those lucky enough to be in its presence. Cheers to Vinnie and everyone at Russian River for producing all of their incredible brews. Also thanks to RedwoodGeorge for allowing me the opportunity to sample this one. The bomber I'm drinking was precisly counter pressure filled from a keg under the advice of professional brewers. Now it's time to plan my California trip so I can drown myself in Pliny at the source!

7-24-09 - RR 500ml bottle dated 06-10-09:

As delicious and hoppy as my original review. It is great to see that they bottle this wonderful elixir now. The hops have faded a touch in this bottle so I would say drink it as soon as you get it and as fresh as possible for sure! Thanks to photomike for sending me this bottle. Simply amazing stuff.

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Photo of kmpitz2
4.65/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Bottle hand filled off a 5 gallon keg using counter pressure filler into a 22 oz bottle; this is a 11 oz sample. Highest care was taken in getting this brew out for folks to try. It pours a light golden color with a finger of white head that falls to a healthy coat over top that form a solid barrier to the liquid. Clarity is very good, but not pristine. Good looker. Nose is great. Candied grapefruit and oranges in a very sweet caramel glaze. Balance is fantastic. The hops are juicy and fruity and the malts are sweet, but not cloying. Nice. Flavor is nice as well. Very sweet in both hop and malt. Its right on with the aroma having candied orange and grapefruit and even sweet apircot flavors. After swallowing, there is a light peppery spice from the hop that moves right into a moderate bitterness that hangs on, letting me know its there, but its very smooth and not biting. Feel is thick with a light to moderate carbonation. The carbonation breaks up the fullness, making it more than highly drinkable. This beer is everthing I hoped it would be. No hint of the alcohol at all, very clean bitter on the finish, very juicy flavors, very nice mouthfeel. This beer is a keeper. If this is any indication to what it is like to have this one off tap, then fly me to California because I'm sold on Russian River. Fantastic.

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Photo of clvand0
4.42/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours an amber color with a medium head that falls slowly and leaves plenty of lacing on the glass. The aroma is WOW. Hops then some hops. But there is an underlying sweetness that has a caramel character. Smells very nice. The flavor is surprisingly balanced. Lots of hop flavors, but also there is plenty of malt sweetness and caramel flavor. I'm the opposite of a hop head, but this beer tastes great to me. The flavor hops aren't over the top like most I2PA's. It just blends and adds the bitterness at the end. Very nice beer. The body is moderate and the drinkability is great for 8%.

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Photo of Zorro
4.89/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Sampled thanks to RedwoodGeorge and his most Excellent trade!

Pours a mildly hazed orange gold beer with not much head formation.

Smell is loads of pleasant fresh hops. Lots of pine and grapefruit scents. Additional scents of lemon, eucalyptus, mint, black pepper, and cardamom. A super pleasant smell in the same class as Three Floyds Dreadnaught.

Taste is wow perfect! Light malt sweetness with abundant hop flavors. Flavors of lemon, wood, pine, pineapple, black pepper, cilantro, oranges and probably 20 more things that I can't name. Basically this is the IPA that they serve in heaven!

Mouthfeel is very good.

This is heavenly to drink! There is only one other beer in the same class as this; the much loved Three Floyds Dreadnaught. If you have the opportunity to try this by all means quit your job if you have too and DO IT!

The only possible problem with this beer is that every beer you drink for a week after will just not come close to it.

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Photo of rajendra82
4.65/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Sampled from the unofficially bottled from a 5 gallon keg into 22 oz. bombers by BA RedwoodGeorge, the beer came out well carbonated, and free of oxidation, thanks to the counterpressure filler used during bottling. The body was clear pale in color, and the head was frothy and stable. The aroma was a milder version of the grapefruit and pine hops than the nephew beer. The hop flavor leaped off the taste buds with a citric and salty vigor. The malt was primarily a supporting player here, with a clean unobtrusive semi-sweet character. This was more of a spicy rather than bitter hop profile, which suited me just fine. The mouthfeel was medium and slick, with hops fading off rather than sticking around as a teeth coating film. This beer was very easy to drink, with no hint whatsoever of the 8% ABV. Different than Pliny the Younger in several ways (not quite as sweet, nor as aromatic), but I can still see the family resemblance.

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Photo of rallison
4.62/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Had this on-tap at Pizza Port San Clemente. Appearance was the usual golden IPA color, with a touch of brown. 1/2" head or so. Smell was of some refreshing, citrusy hops. Not much else, but this is an IPA - great smell for the style. Taste was amazing. One of the most perfectly balanced Double IPAs in my opinion. Nice touch of hops in the beginning, followed immediately by a lighter-bodied maltiness. This malt is not heavy at all (perfect for an IPA), but gives a nice balance and contrast to the hops that are to come. The malt here seems to be used more as a way to anchor the hops. The hops then take over at the end, and are very refreshing and citrusy. They linger a nice long while, perfect with the pizza being consumed at the same time. All in all, a perfect balance of hops and malt - something not found in many double IPAs. Mouthfeel is exceptional on this, exactly how I think IPAs should be - lighter-bodied (medium-bodied for an IPA) but full of flavor. Drinkability is perfect on this. So much flavor, and so tasty, but not too filling. I could drink way too many of these. Maybe it's good they don't bottle this one...

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Photo of rdrummer
4.53/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

It is about time that I review Pliny the Elder, having had it on tap a number of times in the last six months. It is one of my favorite beers. It pours a beautiful hazy golden color with a nice head with plenty of head retention. The overwhelming aroma is of hops as is the taste. There is also a balancing sweet smoothness that really comes out at the end. This is a full-bodied brew with a satisfyingly thick mouthfeel. It is a beer that I seek out, and I'm always left wanting more.

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Photo of BillyB
3.87/5  rDev -17.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Had on tap at Flannigans Boathouse in Conshahocken(sp?) PA.

Orange/copper color with a thick white head.

Aromas are of floral, citrus, hops, hops, hops. Flowery, fruity hop esters are stronger than almost any beer I've tried.
Taste is an attempted balance between sweet, fruitiness and mega-hoppy bitterness.
The mouthfeel is oily and bitter. The hops are just plain overwhelming. That's not neccesarily a bad thing. It's just that this is all hops and a little bit of citrusy fruit flavor.
A classic example of the American over-hopped style IPA or double IPA. Still an enjoyable brew but indulgent to say the least.

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Photo of orsulacp
4.49/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I had this on tap at Firewaters in Glen Mills, it had a small white head and a deep amber with orange hues. The smell was amazing; it had all of the hop flavors, piney, grapefruit, and some floral scents. I can almost feel the oils coating my nose.
The taste is mostly piney, bitter piney at the beginning and through the middle, with grapefruit flavor at the end leaving a piney resin coating my mouth. The malt is just there holding it all together.
The mouthfeel is creamy and quite drinkable. It is amazing to me how hoppy this is; yet it seems so balanced, worth all the hype.

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Photo of sloejams
4.73/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I’ve had the good fortune of having this several times - most recently, on-tap at the Toronado, San Francisco.

It pours a beautiful, golden pale with a nice lush head. The aroma is intense. Hops as all hell. The taste is remarkable: first and foremost, again the hops. This pure is complex though, there is fine maltness that sinks through. The creaminess and the alcohol warmth are extremely pleasant and smooth.

A non-beer enthusiast friend once told me that the IPA I suggested, tasted like he was drinking a tree. If that was a tree, this is a fucking forest.

A forest I could drink all day long.

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Photo of spazaru
3.05/5  rDev -35%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

I had this on tap at O Brien's in San Diego.

Let me just say that this must be one of the most overhyped beers on BA. Moderately hoppy, slightly floral smelling, and an average mouthfeel. Nothing really stood out.

It smelled, tasted, and felt like a regular IPA. Not bad certainly, but nothing special. Alesmith, Stone, Bear Republic, Oggi's and even Green Flash make much better West Coast IPAs.

Kind of made me feel good because I thought after the reviews that maybe I didn't live in the IPA capital of California.

SoCal can relax. We aren't threatened by the wine country yet!

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Photo of bigman147
5/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I was able to try this recently when a friend from work was able to acquire a 1/2 barrel for his homebrewing Christmas party. He was able to bottle a sample for me to try. I was weary as I couldn't imagine it could live up to the hype. I was wrong. It poured light amber/gold with a pleasant white head. Aroma of pine and citrus. The body of the beer was hard to find since it was hiding behind the hops. All I could think of as I drank it was how much I like hops. Crisp clean finish. Drinkability was limited by the volume I had. If could see drinking more than one of these in a sitting but not much more than 3.

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Photo of misterscooter
4.08/5  rDev -13%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A beautiful, golden gold. This is a color that looks great in your glass. Not a yellow gold but one going a bit toward amber. The head was smaller than I would have liked but I'll attribute that more to the pourer at the Hopyard in San Ramon (a great place to get a beer, especially when you find Pliny the Elder on tap). But the white foam was thick and glittery with small bubbles. No lacing.

The smell of Pliny is, well, piney. Very woody sap smell with some underlying pepper. Strong and can catch you off guard but not in a bad way that scares you off. Rather, it makes you think that this might be a complex beer that lives up to the ratings.

The taste is also very piney. Spices and hops come at you from different angles and this is almost too much. It does come across as a not so wimpy beer, for sure. The good thing about these tastes is that they are from high quality ingredients and it felt good on your tongue as you held it. Not too carbonated. I didn't feel the effects of the alcohol but I did catch it a bit at times.

It is a slow drinking beer. It complimented the spicy garlic fries I was having and it lasted a while. Because of the ABV, you couldn't pound these for that reason alone but the drinkability is good because it is one I definitely want again for another impression.

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

First of all, what a cool lookin' growler, no?
Pours a light coppery color, with a beautiful giant-bubbled seafoam-like white head. Aroma is powerful - oily hops, fresh cut grass, and citrus sweetness. Perfumy and mildly alcoholic, but oh so fresh and pungent. Medium bodied, with a wee slap of carbonation is it passes your lips to its destination.

Hops are front and center here, showing off their oily, sticky herbal goodness from start to finish. The middle contains a chewy malt profile, bready and dry, ending with a touch of alcohol and plenty of hop bitterness. Wow. This is all I expected. One I'd drink lots and lots of. Certainly worth the time, effort, money, drive, or whatever is needed to acquire some of this delightful nectar. Big, big ups to RedwoodGeorge for hookin' this east coast lad up with this left coast deliciousness.

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Photo of blitheringidiot
4.8/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Pint for $4 smackers at the Grey Lodge Pub. Pours a rich cloudy bright orange glowing hue topped off with a 1/2" thick spumescent craggy khaki head cap leaving drippy lace in the glass.

Aromatic nose of intense sweet orange and tangerine citrus floral bouquet.

First swigs: Tangerine juice and spree candy with a sprinkle Pez candy chalkiness. Dry crisp lingering orange peel, bubble gum finish. Aftertaste is total Spree candy sugary goodness!

Feel is a bitter astringent tart followed by a bone dry ending. Tongue coater that develops into a gin ending.

Last swigs: Fresh tangerine orange concentrate and Pez candy. Like a perfect Sunkist orange. "Get in mah belly!" Stunning. Great burps too! Saaz?

Beer is good. Happy beering.

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Pliny The Elder from Russian River Brewing Company
Beer rating: 4.69 out of 5 with 15,160 ratings