Beer bloggers are throwing around words like “shocking” to describe the loss of the sought-after double IPA from California’s Russian River Brewing – Pliny The Elder. The brewery informed its Washington customers recently that it no longer will be distributing its beers here. Different bits of information have appeared giving insight into why the brewery made the decision. A letter the brewery sent to distributors was published here. The final word from the brewery Jan. 4 on their Facebook page was that demand had outpaced supply. Sounds like a decent problem to have.
I tried the beer on tap a few years ago at Jake’s in Steilacoom (now Topside Bar). It’s a terrific beer, but I can’t say that I’ll miss it much because it was so difficult to find, I didn’t drink it much. Here’s something to consider: The craft beer market is flooded with robust IPAs. I turned to two local bottle shops for their recommendations for what to drink instead of Pliny. Barry Watson of Pint Defiance in Tacoma and Tiffany Adamowski of Federal Way’s 99 Bottles weigh in:
From Barry Watson, the beer guru of Pint Defiance, a bottle shop near 19th and Mildred that opened late last summer. Find details on the store here.
My top picks for big powerful IPA’s are:
Boneyard Hop Vennom Dbl IPA, OR
Green Flash Imperial IPA or Palate Wrecker IPA, CA
Launitas Maximus IPA, CA
Old School House Imperial IPA, WA
Airways Sky Hag, IPA, WA
Diamond Knot Industrial IPA, WA
From Tiffany Adamowski of 99 Bottles, a nearly 6-year-old bottle shop she owns and runs with husband Craig. Find details on the store here.
To find a “Pliny the Elder replica” is a challenge. This beer is legendary in the true sense of the word. Homebrewers
have an advantage as there is a clone recipe (http://www.brews-bros.com/topic/7719-elder-pliny/) they can follow.
Zymurgy, the Homebrewers Association official magazine, rated Pliny the #1 beer in America for each of the past four
years. For years this rotating-release limited beer would grace the cooler at 99 Bottles. Between its release dates, we
received dozens of requests each week…but only the diligent would obtain a bottle.
In our early days, we limited Pliny the Elder to 4/person, then to 2/person, but for the past two years just 1/person
daily limit in effort to get it to as many people as possible. The demand was that great, so we’d attempt to spread
our 96 bottles to 96 homes. In 2012 we saw the store’s allocation cut to just 24 bottles. That’s just 24 homes, if
customers weren’t bringing in their wife, drinking-age kids, mother, neighbor, and grandmother in effort to get more
bottles at the “one per person” limit.
Next to special releases from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and Stone Brewing Co., few out-of-state breweries could
draw customers in like Russian River Brewing Co.’s Pliny the Elder. I feel like I’m writing a “last epitaph” now, in
memoriam of Pliny the Elder…. “Sought after by many, loved by nearly all who met it, this beer will be missed.”
So to choose a replacement beer for Pliny the Elder will be tough. My staff & I’ve been talking about this very topic
with other IPA lovers at the shop. Perhaps we’re all in shock and mourning, but we all just kind of stand there,
mouths dropped a little, thinking of Pliny and the other imperial IPAs that are out there. We throw out names, each
of us, “Yes, that’s a great imperial IPA, but different in flavor/palate from Pliny.” So, for replacement/replica, we are
However, for “great IPA & imperial IPA recommendations” most of us agree on these…
**FOR DELICIOUSNESS & RARITY, we pick three:
1) Boneyard Hop Venom. It’s only available in keg format, and shows up on the growler fill station at 99 Bottles every
5-6 weeks. Due to popularity, we limit the number of growler fills per person in effort to share the beer love.
2) Hair of the Dog Blue Dot IPA: Rotating release seen about 4-5 times per year, with an “Exceptional” rating on
3) Green Flash Palate Wrecker: I think this one comes out two or three times a year. It’s hugely bitter at 149 IBU,
but is a beer that every one of our hop-head staff pick up each time it’s in.
**IPAS THAT PLINY-SEEKING CUSTOMERS DRINK WHEN PLINY’S NOT IN
Airways Brewing Sky Hag IPA, Boneyard Beer RPM IPA (growler fills), Boundary Bay IPA, Caldera IPA, Dogfish Head 90
Minute IPA, Firestone Walker Double Jack IPA, Fort George Vortex IPA, Fremont Interurban IPA, Georgetown Lucille
IPA (growler fills), Green Flash Imperial IPA, Green Flash West Coast IPA, Icicle Bootjack IPA, Laughing Dog Alpha Dog
Imperial IPA, Lost Coast Hop Juice Imperial IPA, Sierra Nevada Torpedo, Silver City WhoopPass, Stone Ruination IPA