Nate mentioned quite a while back that we would eventually get around to reviewing Pliny the Elder. He said this in his article on hops, which is worth a read. Anyway, let me say that I’m not intentionally iconoclastic and that I simply don’t go looking for beers to denigrate. In fact, I’m not going to denigrate this one…but, for some people, rating this IPA as anything other than spectacular is exactly that. Beer Advocate rates this as an A+ overall, with the low rating being a C. This sort of disparity can happen anywhere. In fact, Nate and I disagreed on Red Rye P.A. Additionally, it’s actually nice to see some swings on a beer sometimes because you are aware that it is simply not being accepted uncritically. I don’t normally link to other people’s reviews, but I think Hedonist Beer Jive’s title says it all, “A very good overrated beer.” I agree 100% on the title. Onto my review…and I have some different thoughts on it (taste-wise) than the Hedonist.
The Nose: Things began to perk up here. As a Double IPA (and typical of American IPAs), Pliny was pretty hoppy in approach. The piney/grapefruity tones that are typical of many Cascade hopped beers seemed to be fairly pronounced. However, there was a lot more to the hop profile than I’ve seen described elsewhere. Personally, I caught some tropical fruit tones to the beer (passion fruit and pineapple?). Some residual sweetness and a touch of grains also made their way to my nostrils.
The Taste: Nate and I both have repeated on numerous occasions that we don’t mind hops so long as there is a nice malt level to back it. Fortunately, Pliny meets my criteria for using the hops that it did. Of course, those hops really dominated the immediate taste profile. Pliny was touched with sweetness and a nice semi-full mouth-feel. The sweetness increased the fruity (pineapple/passion fruit) perception, which came from the hops, on the palate. Russian River’s offering had some fair caramel grain tones that faded into a bitter finish. One thing that was conspicuously absent from the beer was the taste of its 8% ABV. That was well hidden in the brew.
Overall, Pliny is a very solid and good beer. Have I had better IPAs and Double IPAs? Absolutely. It’s funny, I’m not normally not a big IPA fan (anyone who has been or will be around the site much will know that). The fact that I normally don’t drink IPAs, I think, makes me more discriminating in my taste when I have one, so it’s not too often that I find an excellent one. All that to say, I think you can do better in the world of IPAs…but this is still very well done.
Among other IPAs:
Among other Double IPAs: