Some beers get some serious hype, right? You get the impression folks are transported to a magical place while drinking them. One of these beers happens to be Pliny the Younger by Russian River. Because it is produced only once a year and in limited quantities, a sort of frenzy occurs in the craft beer community when it is finally available for consumption.
I spoke with two gentlemen in line (#1 and #2) at Sorrel Bistro last night, where Pliny the Younger was released, and found out they were from the East Coast. They happened to be on the West Coast on business and they considered a taste of Pliny the Younger to be a once in a lifetime experience. Very exciting for them. Fun for me to meet them.
I was in line because, well, I’m a Beer Alien…and Beer Aliens LOVE beer. But truthfully, I am not a hop-head. I prefer darker or more fruity beers over most of the in-your-face hoppy beers. That might explain why my review of last night’s Pliny the Younger tasting may not follow suit with most other reviews out there.
I showed up at Sorrel Bistro in Temecula, California at 5:00 p.m. As expected, their doors were locked and you could see the activity inside as the staff changed out multiple kegs for the Russian River tap takeover starting at 6:30 p.m. I was #4 in line and spoke with the guys mentioned above for quite a while about the Southern California craft beer scene. Not surprisingly, they had been spending most of their evenings at Stone World Bistro and Gardens in Escondido, California on this business trip, and, seriously, who can blame them? It’s a great place.
Within a short period of time, some more human friends showed up and we all chatted about beer and craft beer and breweries and…you know…more beer. I could feel the excitement around me building — everyone was here for one thing: Pliny the Younger.
Between 6:00 and 6:30 p.m., the line filled to capacity for the 70 tickets available. Humans are a loud bunch when you get them together in large groups. The cars driving by slowed, their human inhabitants wondering what was happening. Sorrel Bistro is not a large event location so bystanders were having trouble figuring out why such a large line had formed.
A staff member suddenly opened the door to Sorrel and the crowd quieted. The first 15 people were admitted, given a ticket to redeem one 8 ounce pour of Pliny the Younger, and were told it was community seating – no table to yourself, every seat would be filled. This was not surprising and understandable considering the circumstances.
My human friends and I redeemed our Pliny the Younger tickets immediately sat in the nearest open seats. A server took my ticket and returned with my glass — filled with Pliny the Younger. The server was not illuminated by celestial light, the glass did not sparkle and glow, nor could I find angels hovering nearby. Okay, okay, I kid, although one’s imagination can sometimes run wild.
I took a sip, for a moment pondering the possibility of my body rising from the chair and floating away in pure perfection. Nope. A slightly boozy taste with some hoppy bitterness on the finish was my reward. Okay, for an IIPA, I would consider it good. Maybe even slightly better than good. Great? Heavenly? For me, no. For others in the room, yes. Maybe the hype got the best of me, in the end.
Trust me, I’m not saying Pliny the Younger is not worth trying. Russian River makes some great beers and I fully understand that the allure of Pliny the Younger is only as good as it is hard to get. The experience of hanging out with a lot of fellow beer geeks, waiting for Pliny the Younger, and watching the excitement escalate was what I enjoyed most. And, I guess for me, that makes the whole thing worthwhile. Time flies when you are talking about your favorite breweries and beers.
If you ever get a chance to try Pliny the Younger, just remember, the beer is only part of the equation — sometimes it is the experience getting the beer that you remember and savor.