Recently in Russian River Category

Framboise For A Cure

| No Comments

Every year, the fine folks at Russian River host a month long fundraiser for breast cancer awareness, with the centerpiece being Framboise For A Cure, a sour blonde ale comprised of 80% Temptation and 20% of something called Sonambic, a new beer they've been working on using a traditional Coolship (just like them official lambic makers). The blend is then aged in Chardonnay barrels with fresh raspberries. It sounds heavenly, no?

Fortunately for me, the owner of Philly institution Monk's Cafe, Tom Peters, is good friends with the folks at Russian River and every year, they host a fundraiser of their own. They even release a small amount of bottles, which, alas, I was not able to secure because I'm lazy and didn't get there until a little after opening. However, I was still fortunate enough to get a taste on tap (and I also picked up another bottle that will no doubt be making an appearance on the blog sometime soon), so let's get going:

Russian River Framboise For A Cure

Russian River Framboise For A Cure - Bright ruby red color (so many robey tones, you guys), almost no head, though a cap of pinkish hued stuff sticks around so maybe it was just the initial pour or something. Smells of funk, oak, and twangy raspberry. Taste hits that raspberry sweetness up front, oak kicking in towards the middle, with a sourness also coming to the fore in the middle and lasting through the finish, where that raspberry returns and everything ties together. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, crisp and sharp, a little sticky in the finish. Overall, this is a superb, well balanced, complex sour. A

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a goblet on 10/19/13.

Because Monk's is awesome, they were also pouring some other limited gems that I couldn't resist... it's for a cure people! And not to go all dudebro on you, but I like breasts. Sue me.

Cantillon Vigneronne

Cantillon Vigneronne - This is a lambic made with hand-picked muscat grapes, and it's apparently one of the rarer varieties due to the scarcity of grapes (not to mention Cantillon's general capacity issues). Pours a clear gold color, again with the no head. Smells like a gueuze, taste has a vinous character matched with gueuze-like oak and biting sourness. It is, perhaps, not quite as powerful as a full gueuze, presumably the influence of the grapes. Mouthfeel has a snap to it, well carbonated, just a bit of stickiness in the finish... Overall, I think drinking these two beers back to back pretty much obliterated my palate, but it was totally worth it, and this was clearly another winner from Cantillon. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a goblet on 10/19/13.

Not bad for a lowly Saturday afternoon. I'm going to have to find a way to drag myself out of bed earlier next year and maybe snag a bottle. In any case, I was quite happy to try it on tap and as I mentioned, I managed to snag a bottle of something pretty special, so it was a good day, is what I'm saying.

Fat Weekend and Pliny Release

| No Comments

So this past weekend was what we call Fat Weekend, a gathering of portly gentlemen from all over the Northeast (we're actually not that chubby, but as we like to say, fat is a state of mind). I don't get to see these guys that often, so it was a fantastic time, but you know, not much in the way of note-taking went on this weekend. I'm not a monster. Although I did unleash my Fat Weekend IPA homebrew on my friends, and it seemed to go over smashingly well (as evidenced by the fact that they drank it all and were asking for more). Again, no notes, so I'll try to do a more detailed tasting at some point (short story: super dank, piney, resinous, a little on the overcarbonated side, but very good). I did have a ton of different Sam Adams beers throughout the weekend (was pretty happy with the IPL, not so much with Maple Pecan Porter, and there were a bunch of others that I don't remember), but also some more beer nerdistic stuff like Rye Rebellion (not as whiskey forward as I remember, but still good) and Insanity (still very nice). Victory's Swing Session Saison was also a solid way to pace myself, considering the weekend-long session...

Another big highlight was the Apple Pie Moonshine, distilled by my buddy up in the boonies of CT. Clocking in at 70 proof, this stuff was dangerously drinkable and tasted just like apple pie. Fortunately/unfortunately (depending on your perspective), we only had one mason jar of the stuff, so I am still alive.

Apple Pie Moonshine

Imitation Solo cups: pure class. Once that was done, we hit up the uncut 'shine, which was 140 proof and... yeah, not quite as drinkable, though it made a nice additive in mixed drinkland. Speaking of which, this being Fat Weekend, someone also brought a bottle of Bakon... yep, bacon flavored vodka ("Pure. Refreshing. Bacon.") It was heinous. You're apparently not supposed to drink it straight up. We speculate that it might work in a Bloody Mary, but were too drunk to go out and buy necessary components. And quite frankly, we didn't care. It was the thought that counted, you know? Yeah, so a fantastic weekend full of booze and food and laughter (and somewhere in the middle there, a fantasy baseball draft), already looking forward to next year.

I had taken today off to recuperate, but a friend cajoled me into this year's local Pliny the Younger tapping... It was at the same place I had it last year (and my thoughts on the beer haven't changed much), but it was a much more annoying event. Last year, they opened at 10 and tapped Pliny at 12. If you got there early, they gave you a ticket and you could grab a seat and a bite to eat. It got crowded a little before they tapped it, but it was otherwise a pretty calm and enjoyable event. This year, they didn't open early and there was a line outside and once we got in there was basically a clusterfuck of crowds at the bar trying to get their allocation. No one was throwing elbows or anything, and everyone was actually pretty cool, but still. If I wasn't accompanying someone, I probably wouldn't have made the effort. On the other hand, I do really enjoy this stuff:

Russian River Pliny the Younger (2013)

Also got myself some more Angel's Share and Sour in the Rye, which was nice. So a long, good weekend here. Hope yours was too.

Russian River Row 2/Hill 56

| 2 Comments

One of the driving forces behind this blog is the wanton violation of the Constitution of the United States. Don't get me wrong, I'm overall a pretty big fan of that document, but Amendment XXI, Section 2 can kiss my ass. It says you can't transport "intoxicating liquors" across state lines. Given the PLCB's ridiculous stance on single bottle sales in PA (i.e. you have to buy full cases1), it's pretty much required for a beer nerd in my area to become a scofflaw. In addition to this, I giddily smuggled beer back to PA on a flight back from Texas last year.

And now I've added another felony to my repertoire: the vaunted beer trade. Jay, from the most excellent Beer Samizdat blog2, proposed a swap of ungettables from the opposite coast. And thus I came into the possession of West Coast rarities the likes of which us East Coasters drool over3. Er, sorry, don't mean to rub it in, but it was exciting. And I'm not sharing.

As it was my first time, I was a little nervous about shipping mishaps4, but fortunately, I had plenty of bubble wrap securely fastened around all the bottles I sent, so no bottle explosions in transit or knocks at the front door by the FBI (I can just picture them now, in their black suits, holding a dripping box, frowning... saying "Is this yours?" while their partner pulls out the hand cuffs). Jay, being more experienced on this front, sent his in a fortress of seemingly indestructible styrofoam. Anywho, this is all by way of saying that you're going to see some reviews of West Coast mind blowers in the near future.

Like this beer, from one of our nation's most amazing breweries, Russian River. It's the first in a line of beers they're calling "The Hop Grower's Tribute Series", and in this case, they're honoring the three farms that grow Simcoe hops. It's named after the location in the experimental hop yard where Simcoe was born, and is it just me, or should there be more than 3 farms growing these prized hops? If the prices for Simcoe at the homebrew shop are any indication, I think there are some farmers that could stand to make a pretty penny by stepping up production.

I've never actually seen a bottle of Pliny or even Blind Pig, but it looks like the label's got the trademark Russian River disclaimers pleading with you to drink the beer as soon as possible, least the hop character fade (as they tend to do with time). "This beer is not meant to be aged! Age your cheese, not the beer inside this bottle! Keep cold, drink fresh, do not age! Consume Fresh, or not at all! Respect hops, consume this beer fresh! Keep away from heat! This beer does not get better with age! Please do not age me!" They won't shut up about it, but then, they're probably right. And in any case, Russian River beers tend not to last long in my house. This stuff was gone just a few short days after I received it:

Russian River Row 2 Hill 56

Russian River Row 2/Hill 56 - Pours a bright golden color with a finger of quickly disappearing, fluffy head. Smells of bright grapefruit and a little bit of pine, pure Simcoe gold. The taste is less sweet than I'd expect, with a bracing bitterness that hits quite quickly and intensifies through the taste. Pine comes out more as a flavor here than in the nose, along with a sorta herbalness I associate with Cascades (which makes sense, since Simcoe is descended from Cascade). Mouthfeel is light, smooth, quaffable, but with a pleasant hoppy bite and a nice dry finish. Man, this thing goes down easy. A fantastic summer beer, perfect for quenching thirst after a long day/week in the office. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.8% ABV bottled (510 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/17/12. Bottled on 6/26/12.

At this point, I think I've had everything Russian River has made available in PA (including the likes of Pliny the Younger and a bunch of their mildly rare sours), but it's nice to know that I may be able to get my hands on stuff like this in the future. Thanks Jay!

1 - There is a loophole to the case law that says that restaurants (or some sort of eating establishments) can sell singles, so the case law isn't as annoying as it used to be. I was surprised when I recently walked into a new local place that's purely a bottle shop - I asked the guy working there how he got around the case law, and he pointed to the back of the place. Tucked away in the corner was one of them hot dog machines that rolls the hot dogs. I suspect they don't sell many of those things. Even grocery stores are getting into the act these days, and one local beer distributer seems to just be throwing caution to the wind and selling singles illegally. I say good on them!

2 - I suspect most of my readers are already familiar with Beer Samizdat, but it's an excellent blog and Jay's been posting up a storm of late, so be sure to check it out.

3 - Jay seems pleased with his haul too. I won't spoil the trade, but I'm sure you'll see a few of them show up on his blog in the near future too (like this one)

4 - Definitely illegal to ship via USPS, so third parties it was. Thanks to my lazy habit of never throwing out boxes, I had plenty of bubble wrap laying around (I used at least 3 or 4 different varieties), and did my best. Still, I was a little nervous, but as it turns out, bottles aren't that fragile.

BBQ Beer Club

| 2 Comments

Tonight was beer club, a meeting of beer minded individuals from my work who get together once a month to share good beer, a good meal, and good company! We typically congregate at a local BYOB, and this time we hit up Jimmy's BBQ. It's not gonna blow away folks used to spectacular BBQ, but for us unwashed Yanks, it was solid stuff, and quite frankly, our options for good BBQ up here are somewhat limited. As usual, a good time was had by all, and we had quite a nice selection of beers available:

Beer Club Beers for August 2012
(Click for bigger image)

For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer are below. Naturally, these were not ideal conditions, but then again, what were you expecting? It's not like this BBQ place had a sensory deprivation chamber that would allow us to truly evaluate the beers in an objective fashion. And even if it did, that would take all the fun out of it. Stop being such a Nazi, dude! In any case, here's some impressions of each beer (in order of drinking, not necessarily the order of the picture above):

  • Sly Fox Helles Golden Lager - Lager lover Paul brought a growler of this stuff, which made a nice starting beer for me. It's pretty standard golden lager stuff, perhaps a step above the typical BMC macro stuff. Not particularly my thing, but again, a nice start to the evening. B-
  • Sixpoint Righteous Ale - An interesting take on the Rye beer, one that actually emphasizes the rye (as opposed to a lot of hopped up versions, which certainly have their own allure). There is a healthy hop presence, to be sure, but it leans towards the more European earthy, pungent, almost spicy character that actually complements the rye quite nicely. Really quite nice. I'd like to try this under better conditions, but for now, let's leave it at a very solid B+
  • Kaedrin Simcoe IPA - My homebrewed IPA went over well, as usual, though I'm getting a little worried, as I only have a couple of these left. It is starting to show it's age a bit - much more piney than it's initial incarnation - though it's still quite nice. Definitely something I'm going to attempt to replicate sometime this winter. Solid B+ material here (maybe higher at it's peak).
  • Kaedrin Trappist Tripel - This was my second batch of homebrew, well over a year and a half old. A tripel style beer, it definitely came in a little higher than expected at 9.5 to 10% ABV, and that booze certainly takes on a too-prominent position in the taste. Definitely too much of that fusel alcohol flavor in this one, though it's not completely overpowering. That being said, it was an interesting beer to try in the beer club setting, and I actually think the age is doing it some favors. Perhaps another year will mellow this thing out a little more? I've got about a dozen of these things left, so I think we've got plenty of time to find out. For now, I'll say B- or B
  • Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier - Full disclosure, this thing had been sitting in my fridge for well over a year, and whatever you may think, a 5.4% ABV wheat beer isn't exactly aging material. That being said, it was fine, though in the context of beer club, it was kinda overshadowed by other stuff we drank... When fresh, I gave it an A-, and I think it still remains one of my favorite Hefeweizens...
  • Firestone Walker Wookey Jack - A beer many of my fellow blogging travelers have been enjoying, and I have to say, I see what they're talking about! Of course, it's no Society and Solitude #2, but as Black IPAs (or Cascadian Dark American Black whatevers you want to call it) go, it's a solid, perhaps even top tier entry. Very nice pine tree nose, with a taste that is more hops than roast, but with both elements present and prominent. Apparently also made with Rye, which adds something different to the mix, but which I wasn't really looking too strongly for... It's a beer I'd love to try again sometime, but for now, B+ it is! Thanks for bringing this one Danur!
  • Duck Rabbit Porter - Um, well, yeah, it's a porter! As the style goes, it's a solid entry, though it's not something that wowed me like, say, Everett. Still, I'm sure it could fill in for my go-to cigar beer, Founders Porter. Duck Rabbit is most certainly a brewery I need to familiarize myself with further though. B
  • Russian River Supplication - So I really enjoyed this the last time I had it, and I've been trying to experiment with sours at Beer Club, so I brought this one, and hoo boy... I absolutely adored this beer this time around. Not sure if it was because my palate had already been exercised by the BBQ and preceding beers, or if I just got a particularly good bottle (Batch 7) this time around, but man, this thing was spectacular. Fellow beer club peeps were also blown away by this beer, and I could hardly blame them. It really was quite eye opening, and it stood right up to the strong flavors we'd already been imbibing for a bit. I have to say, this time around, the sourness was less pronounced and better integrated into the beer, which took on more of an oak aged character. It's something I'm going to have to revisit again sometime soon. I give it an upgrade to an A right now, but honestly, if I get another bottle that's this good, it could vault itself up into the hallowed A+ pantheon.
  • DuClaw Soul Jacker - A blend of DuClaw's Black Jack stout and their most excellent Devil's Milk barleywine. Indeed, that barleywine character, full of hop flavors (but not a lot of hop bitterness), dominated the taste. There was a very light roastiness, which added some interesting complexity. I really enjoyed this, but it also sorta made me crave the regular old Devil's Milk barleywine. I'll give it a B+ and leave it at that.
Phew! I think this may be one of the best rated beer clubs evar! Only one real B-, and that's not a particularly poor rating. Usually, despite all the fun we have, there's at least something in the C or D range, if not an outright F (apparently someone forgot to bring a 3 year old San Miguel lager, smuggled from the Phillipines, that they've been meaning to get rid of - this surely would have opened some eyes in a bad way, but I guess we'll have to wait for next beer club for that... experience). Not that I'm complaining (about this gathering or, for that matter, previous gatherings with not so great beer - it's not like I have to drink a ton of bad beer or anything!). As always, I'm already anxiously awaiting the next beer club meeting!

Oh yeah, I should mention, we actually didn't get to all the beers in the pic above because we're not all total alcoholics, you know? I did manage to take home the Duck Rabbit Milk Stout though, so I'm sure you'll get to hear about that at some point...

There's been a lot of talk in the beer dorkosphere lately about the secondary beer market. In particular, it seems that Ebay has finally started cracking down on folks who auction off rare beers for ungodly sums of money (the loophole sellers attempted to use was to say that these were "collectible bottles" that just happened to be unopened). Some brewers are overjoyed at this prospect (for reasons we'll get into later), notably Hill Farmstead, Cantillon, and the brewer of today's reviewed beer, Russian River (said review is, uh, pretty far down in the post though). Some beer dorks don't seem to have any issue with the practice, others think this development is a good thing.

Now, before I proceed, I should acknowledge that reselling beer is illegal. It's also ridiculous that it's illegal. Alcohol laws are the result of post-prohibition era governmental power grabbing and regulated profiteering. Transporting beer across state lines also illegal (along with a host of other ridiculous things, depending on where you live) - but that's something I'd wager most drinkers have done at one time or another (and something I doubt anyone but the IRS has a problem with). Regardless, my guess is that these legal reasons are really what broke Ebay down, and not the quality control or artistic integrity reasons that brewers are concerned with.

Speaking of which, I have no idea what's up with brewers. There are valid reasons to dislike this practice, but they're treating Ebay sellers like they've invented some new form of puppy mutilation or something. Granted, it must be difficult for brewers to work long and hard producing great beer, then be forced to turn away valued local customers when you exhaust your supply, only to find out that some douchebag bought a case of the stuff and immediately put it up on ebay with a huge markup. Similarly, there's a worry that shipping this stuff cross-country (via consumer grade ground shipping) can result in degraded beer that will negatively impact the reputation of the brewer. These are understandable reasons to be opposed to the secondary beer market... but, you know, it's not puppy mutilation.

Why does this secondary market exist? Markets represent information, and in this case, demand is clearly outstripping supply by a huge margin, hence inflated prices on ebay. Are these beers actually worth $400 or whatever astronomical price they're going for? Definitely not. This is just a demonstration of how distorted the market really is (said distortion coming from a variety of governmental and brewery factors). This is just basic economics. What's more, these brewers seem to be counting on this effect.

I can't imagine that these rare specialty beers are the most profitable things a brewery makes (by themselves). But there's clearly a big halo effect that surrounds the entire brewery when one of their beers gains a reputation as being heavenly mana from the gods. The whole point of making these prestige beers is to generate buzz for your brewery and produce a bump in overall sales. Unfortunately, the exclusivity of these special releases also creates fanatics, people who will go on Ebay and pay $500 for a single bottle, thus drawing the attention of people interested in arbitrage (and, no doubt, increasing the halo effect of such a release).

This is all entirely predictable, even to someone with only a rudimentary knowledge of economics. I have to admit, it seems a little disingenuous for breweries to implement a strategy like this, then complain that people are reselling stuff for high prices on Ebay. This is pretty straightforward stuff. No one is forcing people to pay exorbitant amounts of money for rare beer online. No one is stealing the beer from brewers either. Breweries are still making a tidy profit on their beer, it's just that some of the consumers are turning around and reselling it for their own profit. What's more, the people buying these beers are no doubt true lovers of beer who are willing to shell out big bucks to get ahold of beers they would never otherwise be able to try (and also probably aware of the aforementioned potential for degradation). To me, it seems like everyone wins here.

I don't know what the solution is. Having the brewer raise prices significantly may help limit the secondary market, but it will probably result in a big backlash from beer nerds. Making more of the rare beer seems like a good idea at first, but from a brewer's perspective, this makes the beer less prestigious and thus results in less of a halo effect. Also, it's probably easier said than done. For instance, beers with huge hop charges, especially when it comes to trendy, supply-limited hops like Simcoe, Citra, and Amarillo, are going to be costly and unprofitable on a large scale. Increasing production in general is a non-trivial task in itself, and it requires a massive capital investment on the part of brewers that are, in the grand scheme of things, really quite small businesses.

As an aside, I do wonder if part of the reason beers like Pliny the Younger and Hopslam and some of the Hill Farmstead beers are so well regarded is that people are almost always drinking very fresh beer. I doubt bottles of Pliny the Elder sit on the shelves for a few months, and the bottle itself practically orders the consumer to drink the beer as soon as possible (so I've heard, I've never actually seen a bottle myself). Hoppy beers in particular have a propensity to degrade quickly, especially when not refrigerated, so this perhaps represents another reason a brewery doesn't want to increase production too much.

So I've got some mixed feelings about this. Looking at it from a small brewery's perspective, I can see the valid concerns. Looking at it from a consumer's perspective, it's hard to see why this is such a big deal to the brewers. I imagine there's a large contingent of folks who have poor access to good beer who really value something like Ebay. Personally, I feel like this is a good problem to have. It means we've got a thriving community of people who value good beer. I also think it's not a problem that will be solved anytime soon. As human beings, we don't so much solve problems as we exchange one set for another, with the hope that our new issues are more favorable than the old ones. I've only ever bought one thing off of Ebay, and I don't plan to ever sell anything there, so I'm not hugely impacted. On the other hand, it would be nice to know that I could get me a bottle of Dark Lord if I really wanted one...

Um, yeah, so I wrote a lot more than I expected when I started this post. This beer isn't something you would have seen going for $400 on Ebay, but it is something that wouldn't be available to the grand majority of the country, which is a shame, because it's really nice and I bet that if it were available on Ebay for $30, it would make someone very happy (I'd be curious if anyone has ever done a rigorous analysis of the beer-related auctions on Ebay to see just how rampant the overpricing is... but I digress.)

Russian River Salvation

Russian River Salvation - Pours a dark brown color with amber highlights and a couple fingers of light tan head. Smells of bready, spicy Belgian yeast, with perhaps a hint of fruitiness apparent. Taste is sweet, lots of spice from the yeast, a little bit of dark fruit, perhaps even some rich dark chocolate (it doesn't quite have a roasty note, but some sort of dark malts seem involved here). Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, medium bodied, and surprisingly dry. The alcohol is very well hidden, perhaps because of that dryness. It's something to savor, but it's also quite easy to drink for such a big beer. Overall, this is an excellent, well balanced Belgian style brew, exactly what I've come to expect from Russian River. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 7/14/12.

As usual, stellar stuff from Russian River. At this point, I've had most of their beers that have been made available in this area. I think I have a line on something new and interesting from them though, so stay tuned.

Sanctification

| No Comments

One of the great things that Russian River does is make their bottle logs public. The batch number is clearly labeled on each bottle, and you can then look it up in the log and see all the details from the brew date to the strains of yeast used. Interestingly, a lot of their beers have evolved over time, using similar, but distinct formulas.

This particular beer is interesting and distinct from the rest of Russian River's offerings in that it is completely, 100% fermented with Brettanomyces. Brett is a wild yeast strain that is apparently the bane of winemakers' existence, but when used properly in beer, it can impart an earthy, funky character that many find pleasant. Most wild beers are primarily fermented with typical ale yeast strains, then dosed with Brett (and usually additional bacteria) later, but in this case, it was Brett all the way. Indeed, looking at the bottle logs, it appears that the particular strain they use is called "Dr. Dre Brettanomyces"... I have no idea what they're referring to there - perhaps it's a house strain they've stumbled upon? - but I'm pretty sure it's not available commercially!

Russian River Sanctification

Russian River Sanctification - Pours a cloudy golden yellow color with a finger of white head. Smell is very sweet, almost like... bubble gum? It's actually quite nice, whatever that aroma is... The taste is very sugary sweet, with a funky tart lemon character coming out in the middle and drying out in the finish. It's sour, but not overpoweringly so, certainly a lot less than Russian River's barrel aged sours. Mouthfeel is heavily carbonated but light, crisp and refreshing, and finishes dry. The tartness restrains drinkability a bit, but it's still quite an easy going beer. It would actually make a great introduction to the world of sours. Overall, very well balanced and approachable, but still complex and interesting. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.75% ABV bottled (375 ml mini-magnum). Drank out of a tulip on 4/28/12.

Russian River continues to impress, and I'm always on the lookout for something new from them. Here's to hoping that bottles of Beatification make their way over here someday soon...

Collaboration Not Litigation Ale

| No Comments

Great moments in trademark history: When Adam Avery of Avery Brewing and Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing realized they both had a beer in their lineups called "Salvation" they considered several options. They could have pursued lawsuits, but that's boring and costly. They could have taken their dispute to Thunderdome, but they couldn't book the venue in time (also: it's a fictional venue). Instead, they simply decided to blend the two beers together, neatly defusing the crisis. Apparently over a drunken night at Russian River's brewpub (well, probably not, but I like to think of my brewing heroes as being constantly drunk), they mixed together the two beers in varying degrees and figured out the right proportions, eventually scaling the process up to commercial levels and releasing the result as "Collaboration Not Litigation Ale". It's pretty much the poster child of craft brewer solidarity and it's one of the reasons beer nerds love this whole craft beer thing (though there are obviously some folks who just don't get it...)

I've seen bottles of this around in rare instances, but never pulled the trigger. After my Pliny the Younger adventure on Sunday, I noticed this was also available and thus made the best of the situation:

Avery and Russian River Collaboration Not Litigation

Russian River and Avery Collaboration Not Litigation Ale - Pours deep brown color with a little amber peeking through and a solid finger of light tan head... Tons of lacing, industrial strength stuff, you could barely see through the glass even after I was finished. Smell is very spicy and peppery with a little bready Beligian character too. Taste is also quite spicy, with a nice sweet flavor, perhaps dark candi, and a little fruit. Mouthfeel very smooth, lightly carbonated, but still enough to cut through the malt and alcohol... As it warms, the texture becomes almost creamy... Overall, quite good and I'm really glad I got to try one of these! A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.72% ABV on tap. Drank out of a snifter on 3/18/12.

Russian River's Salvation has actually been on my to-drink list for a while, I just haven't gone out and gotten a bottle. For that matter, I've not had Avery's Salvation either. I think it'd actually be very interesting to try one of each, then the collaboration, just to see how the flavors have blended. Avery is certainly a brewery I haven't had a ton of exposure to, but I've had almost uniformly good experiences with them (and Russian River too)...

Pliny the Younger

| 4 Comments

Yeah, so remember how I said that I wouldn't go out of my way for Pliny the Younger, Russian River's fabled "triple" IPA? Well, I'm a weak, weak man. My favorite local bar had a rare kegs and eggs event this morning featuring, among other things, Pliny the Younger. They're just down the road, so how could I really turn this down? I got there about 45 minutes before they tapped the keg, got myself a ticket, and partook in some excellent brunch eatings and a neutral Allagash White whilst I waited.

The hype surrounding the ultra-rare but highly rated IPA (as of right now, #1 on Beer Advocate's top beers in the world list) was a bit of a turnoff, but since the hoop-jumping was at a minimum, I couldn't really complain. The Philadelphia area is one of the lucky few to receive some of this stuff, but from reading about past events (mostly in center-city), I can't say I would have been too enthused to participate. The idea of trekking into the city, paying for parking, then waiting in long lines for a couple ounces of the prized brew was not appealing. But this was right down the street, relatively uncrowded, and mostly pleasant. No waiting for 4 hours in the snow, and I didn't have to pay 10 bucks to get a few drips of the beer applied with an eyedropper. I got a whole glass!

The bar got crowded, but never really approached madness. Oh, sure, there were lots of beer dorks in attendance, including some of the more annoying variety (one porn-mustachioed fellow walked up to the bar and proclaimed "You know why I'm here" in this sniveling, condescending tone and accompanying glare that was so annoying I'm surprised the bartender didn't respond with a punch to the face), but for the most part, beer nerds are amiable folk, and a good time was had by all. I even saw one guy sharing his bounty with less prepared strangers who had arrived too late to get their own, which is just plain nice.

For my part, it was a fun experience, and I'm happy to check another white whale beer off the list. But is it the best beer in the world? Did I hear celestial choirs as the angels descended from heaven aboard boats of transcendent light, penetrating through the dank windows of the bar? Let's take a look, shall we:

Russian River Pliny the Younger

Russian River Pliny the Younger - Pours a shiny gold color with minimal head. Wonderful nose full of citrus & pine. Really fantastic aromas. I just sat there sniffing the stuff for a while, and tried to make the beer last... Taste is full of that same citrus & pine, but it's got a very well matched sweetness & bitterness. It's a hop bomb, to be sure, but it's perfectly balanced with sweet malts. Mouthfeel is very smooth, very drinkable, and again, extremely well balanced. As it warms, a pleasant boozy note emerges, but that doesn't upset the balance at all... Overall, I can see what the hype is all about and I'm really glad I got the chance to try some of this. A

Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV on tap, drank out of a 6 oz mini-snifter.

So is it the best beer in the world? No. But there may have been a hint of those celestial choirs and angels there too. It's a great beer, to be sure, and I loved drinking it, but quite frankly, there are tons of excellent IPAs and DIPAs out there there are close enough, and plenty that are just as good or maybe even better. I had a few glasses of Hopslam on tap this year that were just as good if not better than Pliny the Younger. It's certainly worth the stretch for a glass of the stuff, especially if you're a hophead, but I have a feeling that if I went really far out of my way, I'd be disappointed. Fortunately, that was not necessary. I mean no disrespect, and if Russian River distributed the stuff far and wide, I'd greedily partake in as much as I could, but I think this beer's astronomical ratings are at least partly due to how rare it is. My expectations were mitigated, of course, but they were met by the beer, which is often not the case. I love this beer and I'm really happy I got to try it without having to resort to any diabolical schemes involving the sacrifice of my left shoe and firstborn son...

Categories

OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID

About

Hi, my name is Mark, and I like beer.

You might also want to check out my generalist blog, where I blather on about lots of things, but mostly movies, books, and technology.

Email me at mciocco at gmail dot com.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Russian River category.

Round Guys is the previous category.

Saint Arnold is the next category.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.