This morning, I woke up bright and early to make my way over to Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa, California. I was expecting a fairly small crowd, but as soon as I got there I was quite surprised! I got in before the crowd got too crazy, but later in the day the line for the brewery was out the door about about half a mile long. Glad I got my growlers when I did!
While picking up the growlers, I treated myself to a couple pours of Russian River’s best known beers, Pliny the Elder and his nephew, the Younger. Younger pours out a brilliant yet clear yellow-orange, and has no apparent head until you swirl it around a little bit. Where the beer starts to get interesting is the smell – by itself, PTY offers the smell of citrus and pine needles. However, when you serve it in an enclosed space with hundreds of people drinking the same thing, your nostrils will be overwhelmed by the hoppy goodness. Indeed, before I was able to pick up my growlers and my glasses, people all around me were drinking their Pliny – it was unadulterated torture! The taste was also impressive, with an intense flavor profile consisting of extremely bitter hops and pine. One the flavor finishes destroying your taste buds, I found my mouth was left with a stickiness that made me feel like I just drank a pint of pine sap. The Younger is thick, yet smooth, and was very easy to swallow. Overall, this one was definitely worth the 800 mile trip – this is an excellent reason to be in Santa Rosa in early February.
Next up was the Elder. Pliny the Elder appeared to be the “original” version of Pliny the Elder, as the two beers share a similar flavor but there are many obvious differences. First one was the color – as noted in the picture above, the Elder pours out bright yellow and is very cloudy. It has a head that seriously never disappears – it was there for the 45 minutes or so that the beer was in the glass, and coated the entirety of the glass by the time I finished the beer! The aroma this beer gives off is similar, though less intense, than the Younger; it seems to use some different hops. Indeed, the Elder gives off odors of malt liquor, citrus rinds, sugarcane, and freshly picked hops. The flavor profile was… different, but I won’t call it better than the Younger. While this one was also very hoppy, it was incredibly malty, very sweet, and almost had a solvent taste to it. The texture was foamy yet thin, and numbs your tongue very well as you swallow it. Overall, this beer was also excellent, though it has one big advantage over the Younger – it’s bottled and sold in local grocery stores, and I definitely picked up a couple of bottles to take to my friends!
While both of these beers were excellent, the camaraderie of the crowd of fellow craft beer drinkers who knew exactly what they were drinking really made these beers fantastic. Thanks, Russian River, for creating such an awesome pair of beers for Hopheads – your produce alone was worth the trip