Russian River Pliny the Elder

Russian River Pliny the Elder

Brewed by: Russian River Brewing Company

Beer Classification and Specs

  • Style: IPA
  • Variation: American, Imperial (Double)
  • Seasonal: No
  • ABV: 8.0%
  • IBU: 100

Brewer’s Notes and Ingredients

Pliny the Elder is brewed with Amarillo, Centennial, CTZ, and Simcoe hops. It is well-balanced with malt, hops, and alcohol, slightly bitter with a fresh hop aroma of floral, citrus, and pine. Best enjoyed FRESH! That is why we make it in such limited supply. Actual bottling date is printed on each bottle!

Hops: Amarillo, Centennial, CTZ, and Simcoe

More Pliny the Elder Images

First Impressions

Artwork: Minimalistic. White font spells out the beer name inside a red circle.

Color: Semi-cloudy, copper to orange. If you catch the light right, it looks like a small amount of crystalline forming inside the glass.

Aroma: Light pine notes, followed by citrus and mangoes. Pliny has a tropical smell, all its own.

The Tasting

Arrived in: 16 oz. Bottle (yes, only a pint)

Served in: Goblet

The beer is named after a Roman statesman and scholar, Gaius Plinius Secundus, AKA Pliny the Elder.

If Pliny the Elder is not the holy grail of IPAs — its nephew Pliny the Younger is. We have all heard stories about how hard it is to find either Pliny up in the Bay Area, and lines around the block during the annual tapping parties for the mythical Younger.

Here’s a few examples of how difficult it can be to score some Pliny the Elder in the north bay, just miles from where it’s brewed year round:

  1. Willabees Wines & Spirits in Petaluma: 2 bottles per person, 4 per group, sell out in days.
  2. Bottlebarn in Santa Rosa: 2 bottles per person.
  3. Russian River Brewing: In 2-3 hours of being open on a Saturday, we witnessed them sell out. People would just walk in for cases and leave.

We bought a few bottles and transported them in a cooler to have back home in San Diego. Now let’s actually move on to the beer itself, shall we?

After you pour a Pliny, effervescence slowly makes its way to the top of the liquid line for a thin, yet resilient layer of froth lasting the whole glass of beer. Foamy bubbles coat the side of the glass after you pour a Pliny, then break off to float in liquid hoppy space. The lacing on this beer is patterned like a tiger’s stripes, and eventually drooped down into patches.

The mouthfeel is off the charts, gently coating with floaty creaminess. Mild carbonation gives way to increased hop flavor and pine finish tingling on your tongue. Pliny is deliciously complex, in both smell and taste. Not very often do I enjoy sniffing my beer, almost as much as sipping it.

Pliny the Elder is an extremely elaborate IPA, with several layers of flavor transition in your mouth. It starts (dare we say) a little plain, although buttery like a chardonnay. Then citrus appears in the hoppy base, followed by a piney finish — lots of fresh, snappy, crisp pine.

Pliny maintains perfect flavor balance between bitter hops, tangy citrus, and robust pine. But when you put the glass down you can’t help but feel it’s more of a citrusy IPA, since grapefruit is the dominant flavor. Our favorite style of IPA is overly hopped, so this elegantly crafted IPA was a nice vacation from our typical hopped-up menu.

There are many jokes printed around the label about drinking Pliny fresh (see pics above), and you have to, for preserving that citrus goodness, and piney kick. Regardless of supply and demand, Pliny would not go spoiled in our fridge. It hard was enough to get our hands on, for Pliny to go to waste. Not to mention too delicious.

Final Score: 5/5


Pliny the Elder is a very complex and refined, and most definitely an elite IPA. You appreciate the craftsmanship in every sniff and sip, so be sure to savor it. The hype around this beer on the west coast (especially the Bay Area) is very high, and Pliny lived up to those lofty expectations. Make it a point to try one — it’s well worth the effort.

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