Review: Pliny the Elder, Russian River Brewing Co.

Pliny the Elder
Russian River Brewing Co. — Santa Rosa, CA

  • Style:  Double IPA 
  • Bitterness: 100 IBU
  • ABV: 8.0%
  • O.G.: 1.073
  • Malts:  Unspecified
  • Hops:  Unspecified
  • Sampled: 10 oz. draft

Description:  "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." — Russian River Brewing Co.

Random thoughts:   I've heard a lot of great things about Pliny the Elder and have been seeking it out for quite a while. I finally tasted it on Friday night at Horse Brass Pub in NE Portland.  Russian River Brewing has limited brewing capacity and this is a beer where demand far exceeds supply.  If you happen to cross the path of a Pliny, drink or buy it immediately.

The tasting:  Light golden with a white head that left lacing.  (Sorry for the lack of my usual picture.  The pub's lighting was dim.)  Amazing aroma full of floral and citrus hops!  If you don't like beer, you'd still enjoy smelling this beer.  Flavors of grapefruit, tropical fruit, and piney hops.  This is a hoppy beer and it does have a sharp bitterness (it is 100 IBUs), but it is nicely balanced with some caramel malts.  Medium bodied and well-carbonated, it finishes with a nice hop bitterness.  It's very drinkable and the 8.0% ABV isn't noticeable.  

Rating:  5 star.  Liquid Perfection!   Pliny the Elder is a beer that lives up to the hype.  If you're a fan of IPA's or hoppy beers, this is a must try.  If you're new to IPAs and start with Pliny, you'll be spoiled.  If it's possible to have a session Double IPA, this is it!  I could easily see drinking several of these.  This is only the third time I have awarded my 5 star rating to a beer.
Have you tried Pliny the Elder or any other Russian River beers?  How did you like them?  I'm now on a quest to seek out and taste more of their beers.  I've seen their barrel aged "-ation" series at New Seasons, but it's pretty spendy. 

Follow this blog on Twitter or Facebook


  1. This is an amazing beer & will gladly drive 2 hours for one bottle!

  2. Now that's dedication! I might drive two hours, but only for a case.

  3. After getting a couple of extra bucks for Christmas I decided to buy and try a few highly recommended, highly rated (magazines and on-line and you) brews that are a little on the expensive side. Today I tried Samuel Smith (England) Yorkshire Stingo. Holy Moly was that good. I also bought The Abyss, Brrrbon, and Cockeyed Cooper (Uinta Brewing, Utah). I'll let you know how it goes.

  4. Thanks for the tip! I'll look for the Stingo. I need to drink and review The Abyss soon! So many great beers, so little time!

    Please let me know how you like those others. I had a small taste of Brrrbon a few months ago and liked it, but I didn't take good notes so I didn't write up a review. I'd like to get it again but it's a bit spendy!

  5. Julie was amazed that I would spend $52 on 4 beers, but since it was gift money.......I thought why not? And I do enjoy it. I will probably take my time with these.

  6. It's a lot, but you've got to treat yourself every once in a while! I rationalize it because a GREAT bottle of beer usually costs less than a mediocre bottle of wine.

    I'd like to review more reserve and special editions, but it starts to add up. So I mostly stick to the affordable 12 oz. bottles.

  7. Tried the Brrrbon last night. I did enjoy it. Maybe a little too much on the bourbon side. I prefer a hint of bourbon in that style and this one was more "boilermaker".

  8. I need to make sure I don't over-spike my bourbon stout homebrew. I've been told a little goes a long way.

  9. Finally had this one on tap. Wow, it lived up to the accolades and more. A true 5 star beer.

  10. Yes, this is one of the few beers that lives upto the hype. I haven't had one on a while. Need to begin the hunt for a bottle!

  11. Something to add - Russian River puts out only a limited amount of Pliny (the Elder), and I think it's on a 5 week cycle - IF your local store gets any of this at all, it'll only be a very few (like one or two) cases, and it goes FAST. Spend the extra bucks and get what you can of it. Also - RR advises that you not store Pliny - it's meant to drink fresh.

  12. This is the most hyped beer ever. When I finally got my hands on a bottle, thanks to a friend, I learned that the hype was all true. It's the new benchmark. I always hear people talking about the latest Pliny-killer. I have not tasted a beer that can dethrone Pliny yet.

    My only complaint is that I can't get it in this county. I would have to drive at least 1/2 hour to get it. But if they sold it here I would go broke buying it up.


Thoughts? Tell me what you think.