Sunday, January 29, 2012

Top 50 (Part 2): Pliny the Elder, more about Pony, and a failed pirate metaphor.

Prior to Pony revealing that he was headed to the pet store to have his dog’s picture taken with Santa, but after shaving the beard off his face, Pony and I were seated at a lovely little establishment, Union Jack’s Inn on the Manatawny.  They had been kind enough to invite the two of us to a great IPA event called Hoppy Christmas - by invited, I mean I called and made reservations and they accepted them.

The tap list was loaded with some awesome IPA’s and Double IPA’s, and included the very hyped and hard to find, at least in these parts, Pliny the Elder, by Russian River Brewing.  Pliny the Elder is an American Double IPA that is frequently ranked at the top, or near the top of many “Greatest Beer in the America/World/Universe” lists.  It can be found on the Fifty Best Beers List over at fiftybest.com that I mentioned in Part One of this post.  Here is their description of Russian River’s Pliny the Elder:

A smooth Double IPA from the Russian River Brewing Company is all it is hyped up to be. An absolute classic clocking in at 8% ABV. The ale is named for the Roman scholar and naturalist who first named the hop plant and studied them. Pliny the Elder named hops, “lupus salictarius,” meaning, “wolf among scrubs.” The beer is made with 40% more malt and two times the amount of hops used in the Russian River IPA, a single IPA product from the same brewery. A sticky, beige head leaves tons of lacing as the yellowish-orange nectar is gulped down. The aromas include oranges, floral centerpieces and notes of pine. The cream factor that makes this beer smooth and incredibly drinkable is what separates this from other Double IPAs of its kind. A very subtle bite and overall taste with big, bright aromas and malty reinforcement.

Obviously, I was excited to try it. 

Pony ordered a set of flights, 5 or 6 ounce mini-glasses of beer - a beer sampler, in other words, that included Pliny the Elder, Firestone Walker Double Jack, Coronado Idiot, and Blue Point No Apologies.  This was falling right in line with the series of poor decisions that Pony had been and apparently would continue to make. 

I feel that if the first thing I order is a round of flights the waitstaff will consider me weak and poor at making decisions, or they may think I'm a fan of whimsy and gumdrops - “Hi, my name is Pony and I like whimsy.  Wanna gumdrop?”,  or perhaps they will think I am an illustrator of fairies and gnomes hiding under toadstools after a sloppy summer shower - “Would you like to see my sketches?”, or worse than that even - a fan of aviation history - “I have only been to the Wright Brothers Museum once and I really don’t feel like I need to explain that to you or to any other waiter, regardless of how much beer knowledge you have or how ridiculously good you are at making recommendations.” (The waitstaff at Union Jack’s is pretty darn knowledgeable and pretty darn good at recommendations - this one guy, I call him Buddy because I don’t know his name, is a beer phenom.)

Really, I just wanted my first time with Pliny the Elder to be pure and unfettered - like all first times should be.

Buddy brought us our beers and our table was filled with what looked like glasses of gold.  We were captains in a pirate world of transposition where rum was the booty and gold coins were drunk to celebrate a long day of successful mayhem on the high seas.

To be clear, we were drinking beer, not rum.  And is it possible for mayhem to be unsuccessful?
Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder was very, very good and lived up to the hype more and more with each sip.  The smoothness of this beer is what sets it apart from other Double IPA‘s.  The description above from fiftybest.com pretty much says it all.  An amazing beer worthy of the hype. 

Firestone Walker’s Double Jack is another Double IPA we had that day that is listed on the Fifty Best Beer List.  Pony wasn’t a fan but I really liked it.  It had a rather pale yellow color compared most of the other IPA’s from that day, but it’s flavor was very crisp and bright, and I will definitely be ordering it again next time I see it.  I don’t understand why Pony didn’t like it, but then again I don’t understand why a grown man would take his dog to sit on Santa’s lap - which was Pony’s next revelation of the day.

Ironically enough, it was after drinking a Coronado Idiot, a double IPA by Coronado Brewing in California, that Pony revealed the errands he had to attend to after we settled up.  His wife called and they discussed Pottery Barn and lamps.  I silently passed gas and hoped it smelled horrible.  Pony got off the phone and casually said something about lamps and that he had go to the pet store later because Santa was there.  He said this as if he was talking about going to Home Depot to buy a new hammer - like it was no big deal that he was going home, picking up his dog, taking the dog to the pet store, and then paying for a photo of his dog sitting on the lap of Santa.  I don’t know if I was more disappointed in Pony for the words coming out of his mouth or in my own flatulence for not smelling bad enough to kill us both right then and there. 

Anyways, I finished our unsettling encounter with a Ballast Point Sculpin IPA.  Apparently, Ballast Point Brewing has their own sport fishing team, which makes sense since this IPA is named after a fish.  This is a single IPA with a nice balance between the sweet of the malt and the citrus of the hops.  It has nice bright flavor with more subtle fruity complexities than most IPA’s, which is probably why this beer is also found on the Fifty Best Beers list.  I have since found and bought a six pack of this that I have been slowly chipping away at, and I must say I like this beer more and more each time I have one.  It will be purchased again.


Overall, the day was a success.  Pony and I had a good time and Pliny the Elder was great.  I would recommend that everyone try this beer if the opportunity presents itself.  Even if your not into hoppy beers, try this just to experience the smoothness, dare I say creaminess, that an IPA can have.  Not all IPA’s are bitter punches in the tongue.  Pliny manages to be crisp and smooth at the same time - a juxtaposition worth the price of admission. (Originally, that sentence ended with “a juxtaposition that every mouth should experience” - my editor said I needed to change it - that it sounded like a bad pick-up line.  I’m fine changing it, but that line has the potential to be an award winner in the right situation.  In my experience, using ‘juxtaposition’ in a sentence, whether you use it correctly or not, has been a consistent panty-dropper.  Especially at Barnes and Nobles while pretending to read The New Yorker.)

P.S.  The Coronado Idiot was good; a solid IPA - I’d drink it again.  The Blue Point No Apologies was very sweet, too sweet, I did not finish my glass, and would probably not drink it again.  I was disappointed because I really like Bluepoint’s Hoptical Illusion.

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