On the Friday before Labor Day, one of my colleagues decided to take the bull by the horns and made a management decision: we would be closing the office at 3PM to get a jump on the holiday weekend. As luck would have it, our good friend The Alemonger was also planning to leave work early so that he could head in to Philly for a glass of Russian River’s Pliny The Elder, which just happened to be on tap at Varga Bar. After a brief texting exchange, we agreed to meet at 3PM to sample this legendary beer.
As I have mentioned on several occasions, I haven’t been following the Craft Beer world for very long, and I didn’t really know of Pliny The Elder (or Russian River for that matter) until maybe 2 years ago. To be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect from this beer. I know that it is highly respected by many Craft Beer connoisseurs, and that it is consistently ranked in the top 3 of anyone’s list of Best Imperial IPAs. So the question is, with all of that hype, would I too be blown away by Pliny The Elder, or would I walk away underwhelmed? Let’s find out…
I arrived at 3:10 and had a glass of Pliny The Elder in front of me by 3:15. As is usually the case when I order a beer in a bar, the pour is disappointing. I rarely get a glass of beer that looks like the one in the picture above. I know that a frothy head isn’t THAT important, but much like a dish prepared in a fine restaurant, presentation counts, especially when the beer costs $8+. Once I got past the lackluster pour, I gave this beer a sniff and picked up all of the aromas that I have come to expect from an Imperial IPA: honey, subtle grapefruit, and piney hops. Before I tasted this beer, I expected to be overwhelmed with hop bitterness, but that never happened. I first picked up that honey malt sweetness, quickly followed by citrus and mild hop bitterness. Overall, I found Pliny The Elder to be very well balanced, incredibly smooth, and fiendishly easy drinking for a beer with an 8% ABV. But did I love it? No. I didn’t.
Please don’t misunderstand me, this is a very good beer, but I wasn’t as blown away as I expected to be. Based upon all I’ve read about this beer, I was half expecting to hear a choir of angels after taking that first sip, but that never happened. Since I am one of the few that didn’t have a religious experience after drinking this beer, I think I owe it to myself to try it again. Perhaps a trip to The Foodery is in order.
But wait! There’s more…
When I mentioned to The Alemonger that I was underwhelmed by Pliny The Elder, he felt the need to proclaim my verdict to the TwitterSphere. Although I didn’t get the Craft Beer Community backlash that he was expecting, I did have an amusing exchange with @BeerCulturist who was drinking the same beer, at the same bar, later that evening. Here is that brief exchange for your reading pleasure…
- @TheAlemonger: @VargaBar with @boozedancing and he just said Pliny the Elder might be overrated. Who wants to tell him he’s out of his #craftbeer mind?
- @boozedancing: @TheAlemonger @VargaBar Very good, but not the religious experience I was expecting. #PlinyTheElder #CraftBeer
- @TheAlemonger: @boozedancing @vargabar that depends on the religion. Apparently yours has more scantily clad #angels.
- @BeerCulturist: Erring on the ultradivine side @boozedancing – http://untp.it/oM4xLn
- @boozedancing: @BeerCulturist To err is human… etc. etc. etc. 🙂
- @BeerCulturist: @boozedancing And we are all human, and we all want to be loved! #plinythemorrissey
- @boozedancing: @BeerCulturist So so true! How is the early evening crowd at @VargaBar?
- @BeerCulturist: @boozedancing @vargabar The mood is holiday casual. Many huddled masses @ the tables. Sporadic array of barstool peeps. Beer is dominant! 🙂
- @boozedancing: @BeerCulturist @VargaBar Sounds heavenly! With a chorus of angels singing “Barkeep! Another round for my friends!”
- @BeerCulturist: @boozedancing We have come full circle, referencing angels, of whom @TheAlemonger said yours must be scantilly clad! #underdressed4success
- @boozedancing: @BeerCulturist @TheAlemonger Well… if you’re gonna have Angels, they best be scantily clad. Especially if they’re Charlie’s or Victoria’s.