The only authority for all things beer…
Russian River Brewing released a super rare triple IPA, Pliny the Younger (also known as PtY in craft beer circles), early February making it available to visitors at the Santa Rosa, CA brewpub through February 14 by only tapping a small amount each day. Pliny the Younger is one of the highest-rated beers in the world, and also one of the most sought-after. This is partially because of the beer’s well-balanced flavor and body — extra impressive for a 10.5% ABV triple-hopped brew — but also because distribution is extremely limited. Outside of California, Russian River is distributed to a just few states: Oregon, Colorado and Pennsylvania (Philadelphia-area only).
It so happened that I was in Philly for a getaway weekend with my wife at the same time when several (very) lucky participating venues were serving small dosages of Pliny the Younger. My heart leaped when I learned that PtY was being served on Saturday and Sunday on our weekend according to several news feeds and articles focusing on the release information of PtY throughout Philly such as this announcement in the Philadelphia City Paper which indicated that PtY was going to be served at the City Tap Room, about two miles from our hotel where tickets would go on sale at 4pm with the beer being tapped at 5pm. My wife and I made plans around this time frame so we could get in “line”, or so we thought at the time, around 2:45pm. Once we approached City Tap Room, we saw the sign out front, my heart began racing…
Once we walked into the taproom, we learned that the tickets that were “entitled” to the tickets going on sale at 4pm (whoever heard you had to get a ticket in order to buy a ticket later) were already sold out several hours before the 4pm “sale”. I spoke to the manager and he was apologetic saying they decided to sell the tickets beginning at 11:30 in the morning. Even though, it didn’t show, but I could feel my blood boiling and I think my wife could see the steams coming out of my ears. We left extremely disgusted at how the City Tap Room handled ticketing and numerous beer folks expressed the same frustration as I did going as far as “hype-building” by the brewpub in order to generate traffic in order to sell their other beers after finding out they couldn’t get their hands on some PtY. I could only but stare at the PtY tap 12 feet away from me… the closest I ever got to trying a PtY (tap shown at far left in photo below):
I posted on Instagram (handle name: thebeerauthority) my frustration along with some photos and asked around about what just happened. Apparently, folks came early to pick up a ticket to buy the official PtY tickets which later went on sale at 4pm. The brewpub, IMHO, should have been more clear about that.
Now… on the bright side, my wife was cool (and probably sympathetic) enough to venture out to the Bishop’s Collar the next morning for a second shot at some PtY which was supposed be served out at 11am. We got to the brewpub around 10am only to see about 40 folks already waiting in line all bundled up drinking coffee to stay warm in already semi-freezing weather.
The line in front of us only seemed to get “fatter” with folks cutting in later to join friends, etc. Finally it was about 20 minutes later to see the line behind us get even longer. At around the same time, the staff at Bishop’s Collar was awesome enough to pass around free samples of Founder’s All Day IPA to keep us warm.
Shortly afterwards, the staff came back out to sell tickets entitling us to some PtY. We were given one drink coupon for $7 per person (good for about 4oz of PtY). It was not much, but I’ll take it. City Tap House restricted their ticket sales to a maximum of 65 folks for 8oz of PtY (with one full growler given to the lucky SOB who won their raffle). It was really cool to see how the Bishop’s Collar spread the love so more folks can get a crack at some PtY. Heck, many would have been happy to get in a sip of some of that beer to see what this beer was all about!
We were finally let in just a few minutes prior to 11am and we were immediately served some PtY within minutes.
My wife and I scrambled to a table in the back bar so we could sit down and enjoy some PtY along with some warmth. The appearance was just beautiful even in such a small sampler glass – golden, lively carbonation with a nice white frothy head.
I cupped my glassware to take in a deep whiff of some PtY, I could immediately tell that this was going to be some really good shit. I picked up a really nice splash of floral hop aromas along with some sweet pine. I couldn’t resist any longer, but to go in for the kill and had a nice gulp of some of that goodness. As the first sip hit my mouth, it was as if a flavor bomb went off, immediately coating every surface it came into contact with. The balance of the smell transitioned beautifully into the taste as notes of citrus, fruit, pine, and earth. The hops were also in perfect balance with the malt sweetness and it finished with the cleanest, strongest yet deceptive bitterness. This was a very clean triple IPA, if not one of the better ones I ever had!
Pliny the Younger might be an extremely overhyped beer and, yes, there are many, many other fine examples out there that can be acquired quite easily especially that do not require you to wait outside in line for hours, but this one was worth waiting for. Will I do it again? Probably not unless I could get my hands on some as conveniently as some of the lucky beer-guzzlers in California.
My wife and I had some great breakfast at the brewpub – their egg and pork roll breakfast sandwich was to die for. It so happened to be “Imperial Sunday” as well so they had some Bells Hopslam and Troegs Nugget Nectar on tap as well. Lots of great things going on at Bishop’s that day. Lastly but not the least, hats off to the Russian River team for constructing such a fine triple IPA!