Every so often, you meet a beer that challenges the very foundation of what you know, or what you think you know, about beer. So while I have argued until I’m blue in the face about the supremacy of Colorado beers to any others on Earth, I have to admit that I have met one that takes our signature beer traits – hoppy and dry – and does it better.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet Pliny the Elder, by Santa Rosa, California’s Russian River Brewing Co.
Pliny the Elder was a Roman naturalist, scholar, historian, traveler, officer and writer in the 1st Century AD. Hops grew wild in his day, as they do today, and he helped create the botanical name for hops, “lupus Salictarius”, meaning “wolf among scrubs.”
The Imperial IPA is ranked #16 on beer geek website Ratebeer.com’s list of top-rated beers. When I got an email blast from Coaltrain Wine and Spirits last week that bottles were available – $5.99 each, limit one per customer – I dropped what I was doing and snatched one up. They only come through here every few months.
I must say the beer lives up to its reputation. They use 40 percent more malt and twice the hops of their IPA, and what emerges is a fruity, citrus-like concoction that seems made for sunny Colorado afternoons. I’d stack it up against my favorite Colorado IPAs, Breckenridge 471 IPA and Avery IPA, because it has all the hoppy flavor but still manages to have a mild finish that won’t leave a bad taste in your mouth when it is unfortunately all gone.
Of course, as any wine or beer reviewer knows, sometimes scarcity and rarity can make something taste better. But in this case, I must say the venerable Pliny may have some things to teach Colorado brewers.