5 Great Alternatives to Pliny The Younger
Every year, a new group of starry eyed craft beer enthusiasts will hear about the illustrious Russian River Pliny The Younger, and swarm Southern California bars until it’s arrival is announced. From there, a line will form the night before, as people await in hopes of a magical 6 oz. pour. As long as the human race keeps procreating and Russian River keeps making this beer in limited quality, this scenario will hold true until the end of time.
Once you have tried Pliny The Younger, you will be in one of two camps. There’s the “that was the most amazing beer I’ve ever tried, it was totally worth the wait and lives up to the hype.” Then there’s the “psssh, totally over rated, there are so many better beers out there that I don’t have to wait in line for.”
As someone who has had Pliny The Younger many times over the years, and as someone who loves Russian River beer overall, I am somewhere in the middle of those two lines of thought. It is a spectacular beer, I’d drink it again, however I won’t wait in a line for it.
For those who missed out on it, or love the Triple IPA style, here are 5 great alternatives to Pliny The Younger. Rather than ranking, I’ve put them in alphabetical order. Of note, Triple IPA is largely a product of California, we have put a few “out of towners” in the mix.
Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA – Long before Pliny The Younger, and even the term Triple IPA, Dogfish Head married hops and high gravity ale, and they lived happily ever after. While this used to be as much of a pain to find as Pliny, Dogfish head has spread the hoppy love as best as they can in recent years. Here’s their description:
“Clocking in at 15-20% ABV and 120 IBUs, it’s easy to see why we call this beer THE HOLY GRAIL for hopheads! 120 Minute IPA is boiled for a full two hours while being continuously hopped with high-alpha American hops, then dry-hopped daily in the fermenter for a month and aged for another month on whole-leaf hops.”
Many veteran enthusiasts are quick to point out that this beer resembles a hoppy barleywine, so to that I say, try it fresh. It’s quite an experience, bordering on medicinal.
Founders Devil Dancer – While this beer doesn’t receive as much hype as Dogfish Head 120 Minute or Pliny The Younger, this is a highly rated Triple IPA that is a worthy alternative. It’s body is a bit darker than the others on this list, when fresh, it holds its own with the west coast counter parts. This is released once a year in June.
El Segundo Power Plant TIPA – The fairly young Los Angeles County based brewery El Segundo Brewing came out of the gates strong with a hop heavy portfolio of ales. They made their mark with their Citra Extra Pale Ale and a handful of crisp, dank Double IPAs. For the past year, they’ve been dialing in the very impressive Power Plant Triple IPA, and released it in bottles at the beginning of 2015. This beer is big, hoppy and boozy. Not 120 Minute IPA boozy, but you know the alcohol is there from the first sip. The body is light blonde just like Pliny, and you will enjoy this of you like this style.
Knee Deep Simtra Triple IPA – Knee Deep Brewing could be coined as a Triple IPA house, as they have a handful of brewed and bottled offerings of this style. Their most popular is Simtra, which is released all year long. Here’s there description “Simtra Triple IPA delivers a punch in the face with its very danky hop aroma derived from Simcoe and Citra hops. You wanted more hops you got them”
I find Simtra to be particularly interesting because of how dry it finishes on the palate in relation to it’s gravity. While earlier batches had some noticeable variance as they increased production, this beer has hit it’s stride and would be the cornerstone of any Triple IPA tasting.
Noble Citra Yum Yum – Released about the same time as this year’s batch of Pliny The Younger, was Citra Yum Yum from Noble Ale Works. For those reading this, not familiar with Noble, they are a 4 year old brewery near Disneyland that has been knocking each and every hoppy beer they make out of the park. I attended Pliny The Younger Day at 38 Degrees Ale House in Alhambra, CA, and ordered a Citra Yum Yum. I was brought a cloudy, blonde goblet of dank. Knowing it was a 12.3 abv. Triple IPA, I was scared wondering of I had ordered too much beer. After the first smell and swig, I was not sure I was given a 12+ % beer. It was so juicy and so bright. It had similarities of Kern River Citra and the first run of Lagunitas Sucks. There’s no way a beer this big was so lively and crushable, but after chatting with brewmaster Evan, he confirmed I wasn’t tripping, that was just how the beer was designed. I usually don’t like recommending beers you can’t easily find, so please do us all a favor and blast Noble Ale Works on Twitter and Facebook demanding more of that Yum Yum.
Honorable Mention – Drake’s Hopocolypse Black Label – A very great triple IPA that should have been on the list of five, but I’m a dolt who forgot it. Stone RuinTen IPA – A bigger, hoppier version of Stone Ruination IPA that resembles what we consider a Triple IPA. All of Knee Deep’s other Triple IPA offerings. – I’ve tried Hoparillo 3x IPA, but have not tried Hop Shortage. They are very in tune with these beers. Societe The Miser – Societe makes some of the most amazing hoppy beers on the west coast, and they threw their name in the Triple IPA hat last month with The Miser. I’d likely have put it in the five listed above, however I haven’t tried it yet. It has great marks so far. Alpine Exponential Hoppiness – Almost as hard to get as Pliny The Younger, if not harder, this is a massive beer with a final stage of conditioning using oak.