Tuesday, October 4, 2011

ANOTHER BITE AT THE PLINY THE ELDER APPLE

The PLINY THE ELDER people are everywhere. I meet them on buses, at work, and at my kid’s soccer games. They’re crawling all over the internet – they practically own the goddamn thing. All they talk about is Pliny, Pliny, Pliny. Sometimes they even say “plinny”. Don’t even get me (or them) started on Pliny The Younger. The Elder hype alone is maddening enough. “Best IPA of all time” and all that. “OMFG, it’s the living liquid of the godz”, they say. Me, I’ve always rated RUSSIAN RIVER BREWING’s “Pliny The Elder” Double IPA about 113th on my list of top IPAs, right behind the Osprey Springs HopTastic BitterBomb, and have never figured out why this particular beer – and not, say, the other three excellent IPAs that Russian River makes – gets all the kudos. And every year, like the sap that I am, I buy another bottle or order another pint, just to make sure I’m not the dope that most beer drinkers must think I am. Nope, it’s not me, folks – it’s you.

So I goes and buys another PLINY THE ELDER last week. Freshness date shows it was bottled a mere week and a day since I bought it. I think to myself that 8 days is still pretty fresh (“Duuuude! It’s already gone baaaad! Vinnie says to drink it as it’s coming off the bottling line or it’s spoooooiled!!!!”). And yet here I am, a confirmed and longtime lover of IPAs and all things hopped, still totally underwhelmed. Maybe even more (less?) so than last time. Its flavor seems to be masked by a thin film of dryness and a maltiness that does nothing to tamp down or balance out the aggressive hop attack. It leaves no pleasing citrus aftertaste nor piney, resinous bite. It leaves a little bit of both of these things, and not enough to be interesting, different nor worthy of even an iota of the praise that it gets. It even seems to be fading from its previous “good enough” perch. Now I’m not even sure I like it all that much.

So what’s a great IPA, you ask? I’m glad you did. You know it when you drink it – and here are five to go buy and drink right now:

1.    SOUTHERN TIERGemini
2.    LUCKY LABRADORSuper Duper Dog
3.    ALPINE BREWING - Nelson
4.    MOYLAN’SHopsickle
5.    STONE BREWINGIPA

All share a balance and a robust sense of intense flavor that comes through even when the hops are amped up beyond belief, as in Hopsickle’s case. They’re the kind of beers that hopheads try and uniformly go, “oh yeah, that’s what I’m talking about”. I don’t for the life of me get what Pliny The Elder has going for it in that regard beyond years of souped-up hype and complete unavailability in most of the country. I say this as someone who also calls Russian River one of the two greatest brewers in the USA. I’m done taking bites of this apple. 6/10.

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