Reviewed: Russian River Pliny the Younger
Official description (modified for brevity): Pliny the Younger is a Triple IPA…at about 10.25%. It is remarkably dry for the amount of malt used in this recipe. We brewed Younger for the first time in 2005 as a winter seasonal release, building upon the Pliny the Elder recipe while pushing the envelope with malt, hops, and alcohol just to see how far we could go!
This year’s Pliny the Younger is the same base recipe as last year and expected to finish fermenting at about 10.25% ABV. The hops are also mostly the same with the addition of a newer hop to us, Elixir. This hop exhibits characteristics of citrus, spice and berry, specifically Strawberry. The rest of the hops used in Younger 2021 are: Amarillo, Chinook, Citra, CTZ, Mosaic, Nelson, Simcoe and Warrior. It always finishes fairly dry and well-balanced, even with a higher ABV. This is our 17th year brewing Pliny the Younger!
Russian River Brewing Co. – Russian River Pliny the Younger – 510ml bottle served in Rastal Harmony glass – 10.25% ABV
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Russian River canceled its annual, in-person Pliny the Younger release and made it virtual for 2021. If you were patient and lucky enough to snag bottles on their webshop in January, you could get PtY delivered to your doorstep in California. I was surprised to learn this was the second time Russian River has bottled Younger. Previously, it was available tap-only at the brewpub. And for a hot minute, official growler fills of the beer were traded online much to the chagrin of the brewery. I was never aware of a previous bottling.
A quick shout out to my overly-generous friend Jose, who was able to score a few bottles and gifted one to me. Thank you, kind sir!
I’m reviewing Pliny the Younger from a 510mL bottle that reads “bottled on: 020321″ in the bottom left corner of the label, placing this beer about 2 weeks old at the time of review. Also on the label is “Not Packaged for Resale” since this was sold directly to consumers instead of distributed. Into my glass, PtY is brilliantly clear, pale golden in color with healthy, creme-colored foam that rises up past the edges of the glass and doesn’t spill over. My first impression is how brightly colored this is- essentially the same SRM as Pliny the Elder even though Younger has a scaled-up recipe.
Bringing up the glass, PtY has a soft, dessert-like aroma of orange marmalade cake, vanilla frosting, and candied orange. Younger isn’t as ultra expressive as you might imagine. Rather, it seems half and half malty and citrus hoppy – restrained overall. Those who enjoy the explosive Pliny the Elder nose may be surprised.
With the first sip, I immediately get a pop of saltiness that matches my impression of Pliny the Elder. That saltiness plus a hint of citrus acidity gives the beer a buoyancy that enables it to float around the palate effortlessly. Then in the mid-palate and finish, I’m bracing for the triple punishment of 100 IBU astringency, a cloying rush of sugar for “balance”, and spicy white alcohol from the 10.25%. But nothing happens. Younger is remarkably, almost unbelievably mild-mannered at this point. It seems less bitter than Pliny the Elder, almost scaled back somehow. Plus it finishes super clean and semi-dry with no roughness around the edges. It’s not sticky, tannic, soapy, biting, or aggressive in any way. This is smooth sailing from beginning to end.
Perceived Specs for Russian River Pliny the Younger
Pliny the Younger is probably the best Triple IPA I’ve tried. It’s not wonderful because it’s the most extreme in terms of hoppiness or ABV. It’s wonderful because despite its hefty stats, Pliny the Younger is modest, well-mannered, and far too drinkable. Whereas most Triple IPAs push the limits of what is tolerable, Younger persists as a revered craft beer icon because it is first and foremost approachable. It’s a rewarding experience – not just a novelty item.
VERDICT: 96 pts (SUPERLATIVE)
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