It's been a year now since we fully embraced craft beer. I know this because we'd just moved to LA and were starting to discover our local craft beer watering holes like The Surly Goat and The Blue Palms Brewhouse when suddenly the craft beer world was all abuzz about something called Pliny the Younger. For the uninitiated, Pliny the Younger is an incredibly rare and sought after annual release from the Santa Rosa brewery Russian River. It is available for just a few weeks in February each year and only served on draft. Because of the extremely limited amount, people often wait in long lines for hours on end just to have a chance to sip the scarce brew. Some would tell you that Pliny the Younger is the best beer you'll ever drink. Others will tell you that it's an overhyped phenomena. Neither would be entirely wrong.
A year ago, we tried and failed to snag ourselves a pour of the precious Pliny. What followed was a very long year - but a year that helped us grow to appreciate craft beer all the more before experiencing what some might call the pinnacle. And what a year it was: we've explored LA's great new beer bars like Beer Belly, Mohawk Bend and City Tavern, raided the shelves of bottle shops like Buzz, Sunset Beer Company and Oaks Gourmet, made countless new friends over frothy brews and tried our hand at brewing our own. Hell, we even got a dog and named her Pliny (below). No, Mom, we named her after the philospher, not the beer.
We've also consumed our fair share of Pliny the Elder in the past year - the Younger's slightly more common, year-round counterpart. If the Younger is the best beer you can get in California, then the Elder is the second best. Beer Advocate has them ranked 1st and 5th most popular, respectively, amongst all beers.
So, at the conclusion of our year-long pilgrimage, there was a cold glass of Pliny the Younger waiting for us at the mountaintop. Last week, Santa Monica's The Daily Pint had a keg tapping that went fairly under the radar by Pliny release standards. All we had to do was drive out to Santa Monica the day before to pick up tickets ($10 each) for the event the following day. When they tapped the keg of the Younger, the bar was still relatively empty. There were no lines or hang ups. And the best part? We each got our own full twelve-ounce pour.
Was it worth the wait? How did the Pliny taste? "Kind of like baby sh*t," our friend noted after taking a sip, "but in absolutely the best way imaginable." He's not wrong. The intense flavor of hops certainly aren't for everyone. But they are definitely for us. While the Elder packs a solid punch at 8% ABV, the Younger manages to sneak its 11% ABV past your tastebuds. The alcohol may go straight to your brain, but it never tastes like anything stronger than a 7% or 8% beer. The hops flavor, as I said, is intense, but it's not over the top. This is a beer that is masterfully crafted and unusually well-balanced. The beer is an anomaly, and drinking it makes the brewer in me's head hurt trying to figure out the science that made this drink possible.
We'll gladly be waiting in line again this time next year for another taste of it. If you still haven't tried it, you might want to leave work early today (Tuesday, Feb 21) and head over to the Surly Goat - they'll be tapping a keg around 6 pm (but the line is sure to start forming much, much earlier). And check back tomorrow, we'll be talking about another chance for you to get your hands on some Pliny the Younger this weekend.