Pliny The Elder | Russian River Brewing Company

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Pliny The ElderPliny The Elder
14,753 Ratings
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

Bros Score:
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Ratings: 14,753 |  Reviews: 3,731
Photo of AltBock
4.67/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

I was able to get this Russian River on-tap at Drafting Room's Hopfest on 4/12/2008. It was served to me in a 10 oz. Pilsner glass.

Pliny The Elder poured a bautiful hazy golden orange with a nice creamy 1/2 inch head of white foam. This head of foam had excellent retention that left behind a small white film and tons of white lace around around the glass. The aroma was very potent with citrus hops, grapefruit, pine, a slice of lemon, a touch of grass, and then all this ended with more citrus hops. If there was any malt in here, it was beaten down by all the hoppy aromas. The taste was just filled to the brink with pine, citrus hops, a touch of lemon, grapefruit,and more citrus hops. I noticed that at the end, there was some alcohol, but this alcohol tasted like it was infused with pine and citrus hops. Even the alcohol couldn't get away from being hoppy and piny. The mouthfeel was medium to full bodied with a powerful aftertaste of citrus hops, pine, and grapefruit. This aftertaste will linger on your tongue for quite a long time. It was nothing short of being a wonderful hoppy beer. If I could, I would drink this one again at the drop of a hat.

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Photo of 0110x011
4.75/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

This is the second or third time I've sampled this gem, and i like it more and more each time.

Pours a clear copper-yellow with a small, brief, frothy head. As expected for the style, the nose is huge hops, but with more complexity than I'm used to in a DIPA. pine galore, but hints of grapefruit, lemon, green apple, grass, and some spicyness pull through. Palette leans more towards the citrusy zest side, with a lemon and grapefruit tartness being the dominant flavor profile. We get the expected hoppy bitter punch at the end (although it isn't overpowering), along with a mild alcohol warmth that finishes nicely. Mouthfeel is full, but not too sticky or syrupy (my personal pet peeve of the style). Overall, a dynamite DIPA, with a greater complexity and balance than any other DIPA I've tried so far.

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Photo of kajerm
4.47/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at Russian River. Pours rich copper-hued amber with two fingers of thick carbonation and heavy spider webs of lacing all over the glass.

The aroma is hops (der), one of the best blends I've ever smelled but with a cohesiveness that makes it hard to pick out any single note other than pine. Lots of pine. The blend is evident in the fact that it smells "complex"; it's just hard to tease the rest of it apart. Resinous and hoppy as it may be, though, the light malt backbone comes through adding balance.

Tastes like it smells, and that's one of the best compliments I can give it. It opens up with hop flavor (still piny as hell, but some slight citric character is present this time, unless I'm making that up), which lingers through the mid-palate as the background of light malts becomes more noticeable. The finish is bitter as expected.

The malts provide a creaminess to the mouthfeel, which even with them is almost bone-dry and heavily (but appropriately) carbonated.

As for drinkability, I thought the board was lying when it said this was a DIPA, because of the balance and the total absence o heat.

Vinny is a superhero.

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Photo of Beertracker
4.8/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pliny the Elder was a Roman naturalist, scholar, historian, traveler, officer, and writer. Although not considered his most important work, Pliny and his contemporaries created the botanical name for hops, "Lupus salictarius", meaning "wolf among scrubs." Hops at that time grew wild among willows, much like a wolf in the forest. Later the current botanical name, Humulus lupulus, was adopted. Pliny died in 79 AD while observing the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. He was immortalized by his nephew, Pliny the Younger, who continued his uncle's legacy by documenting much of what he observed during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Pliny the Elder... the beer, is brewed with 40% more malt and over twice the amount of hops as compared to our already hoppy IPA.

Russian River's Pliny The Elder pours up sublime with ample carbonation that creates a voluptuous white head that craggily sits atop the most gorgeous deep golden body you've ever seen! Very lacy with excellent head retention. The aroma is alive with zesty, ripe citrus (blood orange, pomelo, tangerine) character that carries some earthiness reminiscent of freshly cut conifer trees. Very floral, pungent, and resiny. Low-moderate maltiness, some warmth, otherwise very clean. The seriously hoppy flavor starts off with a solid maltiness and the underlying graininess shows hints of orange blossom honey, caramel apple, and toasted pine nuts. The sweet graininess is quickly subdued by an absurd hop character with a scorching bitterness that lingers well into the surprisigly balanced, medium-dry, slightly warming finish. Very complex, yet simplisticly straight forward. In a word... sublime! This is a showcase of brewer's art and love for the hop plant (Humulus lupulus). I'll surely never forget the very first time I tried this one at the 2001 GABF. I look forward to supping one from the source someday. Here's to Vinny and his tribute to Pliny The Elder!

CHEERS! Beertracker

*Taster's Note: Special thanks to Fishdawg71 for the growler & pounder glass!

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Photo of ubermick
4.49/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I've been sitting here for a wee bit, trying to describe what Pliny tastes and feels like, and I'm genuinely having a hard time. The closest I can come to is that it's like a field of hops mated with an alpine forest, and the resulting child smacked you in the mouth.


A golden beer with a hint of copper to it, it just sat there in the glass asking to be sipped. A nice head, about a quarter inch high, sat firmly atop the brew. Bringing it to my nose, the aroma was phenominal - as I said above, think hops meeting forest. Fresh doesn't begin to describe it. The hops really shone through on the first sip, but as they receded pine came to the fore. Very crisp and refreshing, down to the last in the glass.

At 8% ABV, it has bite. And the overwhelming flavours mean that for me, it's not an everyday beer. The rule of thumb for me, as someone who does enjoy IPA would be to open with their Blind Pig, then Pliny, then back to standard IPA. It's definitely one or two in a sitting, no more.

But my God, you'll enjoy that one or two.

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Photo of timbro81
4.52/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Thanks to Beertracker for the taste. Poured out of a less than one month old growler. Really nice head with somewhat low carbonation. Golden straw color. Smells of BIG multi-dimensional hops, focusing mostly on pine. Some sweet maltiness in there too. Smell is so strong as it could give the faint of heart a nose bleed. Mouthfeel is light to medium. Tingles the tongue as is swirls around. Some malt sweetness discernable. Slightly viscous. Hops all through out and leaves the tongue feeling vibrant and alive. Not totally unbalanced but definitely destroys the taste buds in a good way. Really mellows as it warms, becomes almost winelike. An exceptionally great beer that I look forward to having again.

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Photo of F2brewers
4.4/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Served on tap in a snifter at Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens during a trip there in November 2007. I just came across my notes (finally!).

Appearance: Lovely deep golden/light copper color. The beer was nearly transparent with just the slightest cloudy element. Carbonation was low and bubbles were small. The head was pure white, light and frothy. It lasted only 1-2 minutes but did leave a fine lacing on the glass.

Smell: A strong smell of American West Coast hops. Lots of pine and citrus elements on the nose of this beer. IMO, the beer was served too cold, so I allowed/encouraged it to warm up. Once it was slightly warmer, the balance of sweet malt aroma grew steadily more apparent. No notes of menthol or alcohol.

Taste: Up front, this is all about the hops. The same pine and citrus elements from the smell came through in the taste. Shortly thereafter, a touch of alcohol flavor came through followed by malt tones. The hops overpower the malt in this beer, but that's to be expected in an American DIPA. Overall, the balance was quite good once it warmed at bit. If the beer isn't served around well above refrigerated temperature, you'll miss the malt.

Mouthfeel: This beer had a light to medium body. The finish was smooth and clean without lingering hop aftertaste. This is the only place where the maltiness is clearly notice.

Drinkability: Other American Imperial IPAs should aspire to match this beer. It's not a session beer or one that you can drink more than a glass (or two) of, but at the same time, it does not overpower or ruin the palate. A lovely beer and one of the best examples of the style I've tried.


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Photo of Murchmac
3.65/5  rDev -21.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Its a good beer, I used to drink it all the time, then stopped for a year or so, when I came back to it because of all the chitter chatter on this site, I was let down. It was a better beer in my head. I go to the toronado often, and order it once or twice a year only. That being said, if you want to try a big california IPA, this wouldnt be a bad one to start with.

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Photo of nohead02
4.5/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Lovely stuff. Didn't produce much of a head and has a nice fragrance, though not overpowering. Big hops so that you find yourself clicking your tongue against your pallet for a few seconds after a nice big gulp. You like a big Left Coast IPA? Then you will like this.

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Photo of mully
4.4/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Tasted on tap at the brewpub during a quick trip to the bay area

Rich gold color caramel color hints, no head to speak of thin line of foam around the edge -- smell was sweet apricot pine and spice

herbal hop slap citrus hint almost cedar like flavors
this is a clean relatively dry beer.

I could have really hurt by self drinking too much of this beer -- This beer is too goo to be so far away and hard to get a hold of at my house.

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Photo of Maudite
3.97/5  rDev -14.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

My first Russian River experience. I've heard alot of hub-bub about this beer, and finally had the chance to try it. Not bad. Had a pint on tap at Ben n' Nick's in Rockridge.

A- a deep golden, no amber or copper qualities as I've read in other reviews. It was a beautiful golden, though, just a slight cloud in it, but still pretty clear. Nice white head, little to no lacing (perhaps it was the detergents in the pint glass...).

S- Smelled amazing, like fresh Cascade hops. Very citrusy, floral. This is definitely a double IPA. really great scent. nothing but hops in the nose, which was a fine thing.

T- It was very hard to taste anything beyond the hops. Great hop quality, very fresh and full, not as citrusy-hoppy, very pungent and acidic.

M- small, thin mouthfeel. Very tart towards the end, nice, crisp, clean. Strips the tongue of all feeling and taste for a split second like a champagne. Very dry finish, and then the hops come slowly arise on the tongue. Great after bite.

D- Not sure I could drink more than one. Not a session beer for me, definitely great after a nice pub meal.

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Photo of bgramer
3.15/5  rDev -32.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Thanks to Slatetank for the trade!

I opened a bottle and poured into a tulip glass. The color is a deep reddish-copper and golden color with a great head reaching just short of a finger. The carbonation isn't too much to swallow but leaves nice wispy swirls in the head as it settles in. The lacing and viscosity leaves a nice finish hanging onto the glass as I swirl it a bit and drink it down.

This is a strong beer with a great hoppy, somewhat citrus-y flavor and smooth body that finishes with a dry bitter taste. While you definitely taste the alcohol, it just feels warm and doesn't overpower the flavor.

This is pretty good DIPA but IPAs really aren't my thing.

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Photo of ojclark
4.8/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

On draft at the Toronado. Golden color, great clarity. Off-white head with moderate retention and good lacing. Strong aroma of hops (resin, pine, citrus, ammonia). Initial flavors are hops: resin, citrus, pine. Noticable ammonia notes as well. Strong alcohol flavor kicks in after a few seconds. Toasty malt notes also apparent. Nice bitter finish. Medium body, Moderate carbonation. Nice long, smooth finish for an 8% beer. Some alcohol warmth and dry finish from abundant hops. A strong beer, but very drinkable considering the high hopping level and fairly high alcohol level. Most excellent.

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Photo of jwolfie70
4.89/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A phenomenal DIPA. One of my favorite beers of all time. Pours a pretty standard red/copper color, with a white head. Reaks of floral hops. Has a strong floral hop taste, with a nice malt backbone sweetness that is always present but is cotnrolled by the hops. The beer coates your mouth with a sticky hop feel. While drinking many of these can be dangerous, I often find myself putting back quite a few, and so I would say it is very drinkable.

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4.25/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to sprinkle for this huge favor(trade).

Pours from a growler into a honeycomb mug. Carbonation traveled well equaling a three finger off white head that sits like a foamm brick. It slowly settles leaving a ton of lace. Body is a golden honey straw in color. Nose is big and fresh with notes of flowery citrus, which is almost creamy with piney alchol notes that really get the taste buds going. On first sip a rush of creamy hops attack the tongue. This hop feel quickly becomes incredibly dominent with long bitter feel coating the entire mouth. This beer really has a good thing going with an effect as the only thing that satisfies the bitter mouthfeel is another sip. There is a bit of a malt feel that adds a bit of balance as the beer warms. Mouthfeel is a long and even almost creamy hop bitterness. Drinkability is nice as each sip rewards the last and beckons the next.

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Photo of korndog
4.75/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

had it at Toronado today. Seems like everybody was ordering Pliny's or Reality Czech's. Just wanted to get my rating in for this near-perfect drinking experience. after reading the hop schedule for this beer, I am amazed at how wonderfully balanced it is. I never got the feeling I was merely chewing grapefruit pith. Truly deserving its status as a top world beer. Exquisite.

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Photo of NewSc2
4.82/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at Stone, Pizzaport Carlsbad and San Clemente.

What can I say? Probably my favorite IPA, and this will be a hard one to beat. The IIPA style doesn't vary much at the top. Unfortunately I'm reviewing from recent memory (had it a few days ago), but I've drank at least a dozen pint over the past few months. Will update again if my tastes differ.

Aroma is sharp and hoppy, and the taste is just so balanced. Just a whiff of the nose gives one the idea of how good this beer can be. Different hops come together in just the right way. Bold and hoppy, slightly piny and citrus-y, with a malty presence underneath. It's quite bitter but sweet and fruity to balance it all out. Compared to Racer X and Ruination -- this is a step above.

Drinks easily, the alcohol is very well-masked. It's bitter, but not overly so, and tastes too good to pause too long between sips.

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Photo of Scoobydank
4.6/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I received this one in a growler in a trade. When i opened the package it looked liek it had leaked, so i had to dive in quickly. After tasting it, it was obvious it did not leak
S: Pungent pine needles attack the nose. Very clean smell
L:Big thick head with a bright golden oragne color for the beer.
T:Sharp pine needles on the back pallate.
M:Light fizz feel, not syrupy at all.
D:Frickin amazing.

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Photo of 1759Girl
4.7/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Appearance> golden yellow, clear, lively with a medium head and lots of lacing.
Smell> hoppy, hoppy, joy, joy
Taste> complex mix of sweet honey taste, big bursts of hop intensity, and a strong resiny finish. Much like Stone's Ruination but sweeter. I really like it!
Mouthfeel> Silky

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Photo of connecticutpoet
4.42/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This was a dream come true... a trip across the country to visit my girlfriend, and a trip up to Russian River. And their tremendous beer sampler for only $9.00!!!

This beer had a thin head over a clear, yellow body. I would imagine, given the texture of the head, that had it been poured more vigorously, there would not have been a problem building a much larger head.

Aroma was a HUGE whallop of grapefruit hops, very aromatic and complex. A good malt body was supporting it all, but the star of the show was definitely the hops.

Taste followed aroma. Very strong grapefruit hops over a medium malt backbone, held up well and tied together superbly.

Mouthfeel was good, a bit mouth-puckering - but I am a hophead, and I liked it.

Drinkability rates high, for me. I can see how many people would be put off by the loading of the hops, but I loved it. It was definitely a beer to be savored.

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Photo of Stoneman78
4.7/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On draft at O'Brien's
A- Pours a clear orange gold hue, light bubbles and frosting on the top layer, big sticky lacing all over the glass
S- Nose dominated by huge hops, pine and citrus proliferate throughout drinking, some floral and grass tones hang in the background, truly a olfactory hop masterpiece
T- No surprise at this hop bomb, pine resin hops dominate the hop taste profile, followed by some slight citrus/grapefruit, midway enters essence of bubblegum and cotton candy, finishes dry and bitter
M- Medium-bodied, oily texture coats the mouth, moderate carbonation
D- Wonderfully hoppy DIPA that lives up to its reputation, well-balanced and complex hop bouquet, the alcohol is well-masked, I could drink this all night long but the extreme hops could be a barrier for others

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

I got to try this last night at a tasting. Thank you Sid for the opportunity to try this brew, and thank you Zack for hosting the tasting.

Poured part of a growler into a snifter.

Appearance - It pours a golden orange copper color that is completely transparent. It produced a one finger head that left behind a decent amount of lacing. It had a constant carbonation stream, which really added to overall look of the beer. Very nice.

Smell - This beer smells fantastic. It doesn't smell balanced in terms of malt AND hops - but the hop profile is perfectly balanced. There are notes of pine, grapefruity citrus and floral hops. A perfect hop bouquet.

Taste - It is the same as the scent, however it is more underwhelming. It tastes great, but not as good as the scent would lead you to believe. It has a low malt profile - this brew is all hops. Piney, floral, and grapefruity citrus with an almost apricot finish. The finish is kind of astringent and drying.

Mouthfeel - On the lighter side of medium bodied. The carbonation builds in a progression. I don't feel the carbonation level so much at the beginning as I do at the middle and end of each sip.

Drinkability - The drinkability of this beer is amazing. It smells and tastes great and is so easy to drink - it is easily sessionable, regardless of the ABV. People who have access to this on a regular basis should consider themselves lucky.

It was a great beer and I can't wait to try it again.

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Photo of nahthan
4.44/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This beer’s all about the hops. It is an awesome showcase of all the modern hop strains descendent from Cascade. Delicious amounts of Simcoe, Columbus & Centennial. No strong esters; nice clean alcohol flavors from the White Labs California Ale yeast. Strong, Hoppy, Dry finish. Let it warm up a bit before you drink it and you’ll taste the complexity. Everything I want in an IPA.

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Photo of MmmIPA
4.49/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 5

I was so siked to try this beer finally.I had a pint and brought a growler home with me.

Chill hazed orange body.Cant see through the glass at all.Not head but there are a few small bubbles.It was flat.

Piney,simecoe,chinook,centennial hops dominate the nose.Malt?!?!?!? what is that?

Some sweet taste from the malts but the rest is all hop goodness.The bitterness hits you after you swallow.Its ohh soo good.As the beer warms up the sweetness really starts to show.

Flat,but I wasnt about to let that stop me from enjoying this growler.Being flat will get a lower score.

This has to be the best tasting and easy going double ipa I have ever had.You Cant taste the 8% abv in it at all.I will sell my moms for another growler of this.Sorry mom

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Photo of wheelinshirt
4.58/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Wanted to try this one for awhile now--got an email from Capones saying they had it on tap and i just had to jump at the chance. Got a growler filled by Matt yesterday. I think the CO2 was turned up too high or something because while he was filling it up it was mostly head and took FOREVER to go down (so much head retention).

Poured into a pint glass, slightly hazy dark gold with a finger of creamy whit head, probably would have been a lot more if the growler fill had gone better. Even still, tons of lacing--awesome. Perfect for a IIPA.

Smell is all hops--citrusy, piney, all manner of beautiful flowery wonderfullness. Taste matches perfectly--basically all hops, not too much bitterness, mostly flavor and aroma. Spectacular.

Medium bodied with low carbonation (prob from the filling problem) but this didnt adversely affect the overall affect. Alcohol is completely masked. Pretty bitter, it would be tough to drink a lot of this if it wasn't so damn delicious. I would always drink more of this.

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Pliny The Elder from Russian River Brewing Company
Beer rating: 4.65 out of 5 with 14,753 ratings