Pliny the Elder

Pliny the Elder courtesy of Paul and Vicki Green.

Pliny the Elder courtesy of Paul and Vicki Green.

When the only complaints you have about a beer are that it’s difficult to find and the label is impossible to save you just might have a pretty special beer.  The hype about Pliny the Elder amongst beer afficianados had me skeptical until I had the chance to try it for myself.  Yeah, it’s good.  First, if you are not a fan of IPAs, you wont appreciate Pliny the Elder and its nuance-infused taste profile.  Second, it’s a joy to behold when served in an appropriate vessel (see photo).  I told you so.

Pliny the Elder, by Russian River Brewing Company, Santa Rosa, CA, is medium gold with a luxuriant and long-lasting head and enough carbonation to delight the eye.  Upon the initial pour you’ll get a mild dose of piney hops, followed by some floral notes and a deep-seated malt sweetness.  This is not a hop bomb like some IPAs (Pliny is in fact a Double IPA), but the hops are indeed assertive.  There is no oily, resiny quality in Pliny, which can overwhelm the taste buds when drinking some IPAs and Double IPAs.  The lightness of body really works well, being an appropriate vehicle for promoting the grapefruit rind/piney/floral textures that begin to come out as the beer warms.  Yes, it continues to get better from start to finish.  The dry and bitter finish tends to last a while, but the crystal malt (I’m guessing) adds a sweetness in the exhale that balances everything pretty well.

This beer is fresh, and you can tell.  The label announces the benefits of drinking Pliny young and implores the drinker not to cellar it.  In fact, my Pliny was a mere 2 weeks old when I consumed it, having been bottled on 10/28/14 (bottling date is on the label), and the fresh, crisp nature of Pliny were apparent.  Pliny the Elder is refreshing, and the lower the level in your glass, the more you want to refill, but you probably can’t, because it’s so dang rare.

If Pliny the Elder was a girl, I’d write a song about it.  It’s that hot.

96/100 DIPA

Wham.

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Double Jack

Image courtesy of Firestone Walker Brewing Company

Image courtesy of Firestone Walker Brewing Company

I’m a late comer to the wonders of Firestone Walker Brewing Company (Paso Robles, CA).  So many brewers, so little time.  When I had finally had enough of reading about them and got my butt into gear so I could taste their wares, I could have kicked myself for having wasted so much time.  Double Jack, a double IPA, was my first.  Wow!  Really malty, really hoppy, really good.  The hops are of the floral variety, and they furnish a bitterness that’s not too extreme, but assertive enough to let you know they’re there.  Spicey, but not overly, earthy, but not dirty.  There is plenty of sweetness in the finish, so although this is a hop forward brew, the malt is able to compliment the hops nicely without getting lost in the mix.  Double Jack is light amber in color and very lacey, with a velvety, full mouthfeel.  9.5% ABV warms the gut and brings a smile to the face.  This double IPA is not just a charicature of an IPA like some, but instead is a very well-crafted, appropriately proportioned living example of a great DIPA!

92/100 IPA/DIPA

Boatswain Double I.P.A.

Image courtesy of BeerPulse.com

Image courtesy of BeerPulse.com

Another beer in the Trader Joe’s arsenal of hit-or-miss brews, Boatswain (pronounced BOH-sun) Double I.P.A. Twin Screw Steamer is kind of confounding.  The bouquet is not really that hoppy for starters, especially for a double IPA, but does carry notes of caramel and Cashmere Bouquet soap, which adds some interest.  It’s medium gold in color and its good, white head and vigorous carbonation leaves sticky lace.  It has a smooth, round mouthfeel.  What’s confounding is that it does not taste all that hoppy.  And, for an 8.4% ABV brew, I’m not feeling it after a 22oz. bottle.  It does have the typical Minhas Craft Brewery buttery vibe (they make the Boatswain distributed in my area), but way back in the flavor, making it more like an English Pale Ale, and not a detriment.  Boatswain Double I.P.A. Twin Screw Steamer is easy to drink, not bad, but nothing like what I think a Double I.P.A. should be.  At $2.00 a bottle I can’t complain, I guess.

65/100 IPA, but it’s not a double.

Hopmouth Double IPA

Get ready for this one folks, because Hopmouth is awesome!  Made by Arcadia Ales of Battle Creek, MI, this beer has great clarity, plenty of carbonation, a nice 1″ head and a deep amber color with a copper cast.  The hoppiness that comes off the head has a great floral, piney bouquet, notes of bread dough within, and an underlying, understated sweetness.  Hopmouth is full-bodied but not heavy, and rich, really rich.  The flavor…excellent!  The hops are not too intense or bitter, but very pronounced.  Lots of bready, grainy flavor in the very rich malt.  The finish is not too dry, not too bitter, and the 8% ABV is just icing on the cake.  Excellent beer!   95/100