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Pliny the Younger: Nectar of the Gods?
Christmas Season in the beer world is here.
Last Friday, the horn sounded from north of San Francisco that signaled beer hounds across the Bay Area and around the world to descend on Santa Rosa, CA.
First brewed in 2005 as a cousin of Russian River's year round staple Pliny the Elder Double IPA, the brew has attracted a cult following that has forced the brewery to limit consumption to 10 oz pours to be consumed on site and not allowing the beer to be taken home in growlers.
Distribution outside their brewpub is extremely limited as well, with only a few lucky establishments receiving a keg. Those that do see such a high demand that they hold events where raffle tickets are given out and lucky winners have the privilege of one sample pour. Others just tap the keg without any fanfare and rely on word of mouth to prevent the long lines of over four hours that are seen at the brewery during "Pliny Season." (In a bit of relief, Russian River posted on Facebook that the today's lines were ONLY 2-3 hours long.)
You're probably asking yourself, what is so amazing about this beer that people will go to these lengths just for a few sips? Will I lose 20 pounds if I drink it? Will it whiten my teeth if I swish it around a bit in my mouth? Will attractive people come flocking to me like I see in those other beer commercials? The answer is no, none of these things will happen.
Pliny the Younger is a very good beer and its cult following has left a lasting imprint on the craft beer industry by driving other brewers to try and create their own Triple IPA offering with the taste and the mystique of what Russian River has done with Pliny. But as Pliny has become as much hype as it has substance, other "TrIPA's" have stepped up in a big way, including Moonraker Brewing Company's Extremis, which stunned the world last year by beating Younger in a blind taste test and followed that victory up by winning the Brian Taylor Taste Test during SF Beer Week. Both of those beers were just a cut below Scarcity from Altamont Beer Works in Livermore, CA, which surprised me by being absolutely flawless and is my clubhouse leader in the discussion of the best beer I've ever had.
On Friday I'll be attending the Opening Gala for SF Beer Week for the first time (skipping the Trail Blazers game in Sacramento), and while my buddies from Portland will be stanning over Pliny the Younger, you can find me in the Scarcity line followed by the shortest line. After all, the best beer out there is the one in your hand.