BY: THE BEERZERKR
Russian River Brewing is located in the city of Santa Rosa in Northern California. It has become a must on every craft beer fan’s list of breweries to visit. If you’ve been around the craft beer scene for awhile, I’m pretty sure you’ve heard about Russian River brewing or it’s poster child beer “Pliny The Elder” from someone or somewhere. Pliny The Elder is a double India pale ale that has and always will be highly sought after among beer fans. If you don’t live near the Santa Rosa area, your chances of finding this beer on your local store shelves is very slim to none. Back in 2012 I heard about this beer from a friend and after some time looking it up online, I found some online forums that told of some stores that carried the prized beer in the Southern California area. From Orange County & Long Beach to Los Angeles & San Diego, I visited every store just to come up empty handed. Every store only received one case (12-16oz. bottles)a week and it was first come, first serve and limit to 1 per customer. Some stores didn’t even put the beer on the shelf and would hold it only for their more “well-known” customers. With an unwavering desire to get my hands on this beer, my girlfriend at the time and I decided to take a spontaneous road trip up to Santa Rosa to not only finally try Pliny The Elder but to try it fresh off the beer taps. Little did I know that EVERY beer they brewed was high quality and pleasing to the palate. My visit was nothing short of amazing and the hype was all that and more. I will definitely touch more on my trip to Sonoma County in a later blog. Since then Russian River brewing’s operations have grown larger than their one brewing site & pub making it more available but one thing remains. The demand will always outweigh the supply. Here I wanted to highlight just a few of their beers for those that are new to craft beer and may see these on the shelves at their local stores. You definitely don’t want to pass these beers up.
1.) Pliny The Elder (ABV: 8.0%)
Pliny The Elder is a double-IPA and is considered by many the ‘OG’ of solid IPAs in the craft beer scene. Named after a famous Roman Historian, this beer is pretty bitter but highly refreshing with a nice crisp finish. The aroma and bitterness is really dank from the high quality selection of hops that include Amarillo, Centennial, CTZ, and one of my personal favorites, Simcoe hops. Those that haven’t drank much IPAs in their lives might find this beer as very bitter but a more experienced IPA drinker will tell you this is one of the more well-balanced DIPAs out there. Not too hoppy and not too boozy but just right. The Floral-citrusy, piney smells are so strong and that’s because this beer is best enjoyed fresh and most likely always is. Pliny is brewed in a limited supply with the bottling date printed on each bottle. Very rarely have I come across a bottle of Pliny on a store shelf that had a bottling date more than 2 weeks old. This is Russian River’s flagship beer and a must try for all beer fans.
2.) Blind Pig (ABV:6.25%)
Blind Pig is just a solid IPA all around. One of those perfect “long day at work” kind of beers. This beer is a blueprint for the perfect regular IPA in my opinion. It’s a nice full-bodied beer with a dry bitter finish. I love the floral fruity notes it has and it’s just a little more easier to find then Pliny so this is always a good substitute.
3.) Supplication (ABV:7.0%)
Other than solid IPAs, Russian River Brewing is known for their line of Barrel Aged Sour Beers. Supplication is a sour brown ale aged in pinot noir barrels with sour cherries for 12 months. Brettanomyces (yeast), lactobacillus, and pediococcus(both bacterias) are added to the barrels for mixed fermentation where the yeast and bacteria work together to turn sugar to alcohol. The dark fruity flavors from the cherries and pinot noir balance well with the oak and funkiness from the brett. This seasonal beer has a high bitterness and packs a pretty sour punch. Wine lovers and women that aren’t big fans of beers will definitely be a fan of this one and won’t believe it’s actually a beer. I absolutely love this beer but good luck finding it.
4.) Consecration (ABV:10%)
I would’ve never known about this beer had I never went to the brewery and tried all 18 beers on tap for myself. Hands down my favorite beer from Russian River just above Pliny. This beer like Supplication is aged in wine barrels with brett yeast and lacto and pedio bacteria but instead of pinot barrels, it’s aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels with black currants for 4 to 8 months. This beer is loved for its rich flavors of tobacco, spice, chocolate truffle and molasses. So many combinations of complex flavors here at work and the currants with the bit of cabernet added tone down these rich flavors and make the beer very approachable. This is a full-bodied, highly rich and bitter sour beer that’s definitely one to sip slowly but it can easily be overly consumed with how juicy and delicious it is you’ll almost forget it’s a high 10% beer.
5.) Pliny The Younger (ABV:10.25%)
This last beer you can’t find in a bottle. Pliny The Younger is a seasonal beer that is brewed and then released the 1st Friday of February only available at their pubs and a keg or 2 shipped to select accounts all around California and is only available for 2 weeks. Pliny The Younger is Russian River’s Triple IPA to their popular Double IPA Pliny The Elder. The beer is made in a small quantity due it being “extremely difficult, time and space consuming, and very expensive to make”. People come from all over the nation, plan trips, and call off work to stand in the long line outside the pub to try this exceptional IPA. The year I visited Russian River’s pub I had just missed the PTY release by a couple days but I had no idea about it. The next year I found a LA bar that was going to have a keg of PTY and I made sure I was 1st in line when the release day came. At the time it was the most freshest and perfect beer I ever had. The only downside to the beer was that it was 1 pint per customer to ensure more people got a chance to try it. My beer palate has matured greatly over the years and even though I would never be hyped over a beer like that ever again It is an awesome beer that beer lovers go crazy over. The excitement of the limited quantities and planning with your buddies on how you’re gonna get your hands on this beer just adds to the greatness of Pliny The Younger when you actually get to try it. You definitely get bragging rights and a badge of honor on your beer scout sash that you can be proud of.