Friday, November 12, 2010

Russian River Brewing Company

The Russian River Brewing Company is in Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, California.

Pliny the Elder - Ahhh, one of the Holy Grails of the beer world.  This pours a very clear and sparkling copper.  The head laces the glass as the beer is consumed. The aroma is deliciously and divinely hoppy: citrus, grapefruit, cantaloupe, mango, tropical fruit, and a bit of clean and light pine.  Every aroma is matched in the flavor.  This is a hop head's delight.  The finish is bitter.  The aftertaste is clean, matching the flavors, all of which linger on the palate.  This is the second time I have had Pliny and it is as good as I remember.  If you like American hop forward IPA's, this is a classic, excellent and high benchmark example of the style.  This beer is so exquisitely tasty, it is hard to believe it is 8% ABV.  Bottled on 10-18-10.

According to the bottle:  Pliny the  Elder, born in 23 A.D., was a Roman naturalist, scholar, historian, traveler, officer, and writer.  Pliny, and his contemporaries, created the original botanical term for hops, "Lupus Salictarus" meaning "wolf among scrubs".  Hop vines at that time grew wild among willows, likened to wolves roaming wild in the forest.  Pliny the Elder died in 79 A.D. while saving people during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.  He was immortalized by his nephew, Pliny the Younger, who continued his uncle's legacy by documenting much of what his uncle experienced during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.  This beer is an homage to the man who discovered hops and perished while being a humanitarian.

Blind Pig - This pours a very light copper in color with some lacing as the beer is consumed.  The aroma is hoppy, cantaloupe, mango and grapefruit.  The flavor follows the aroma, followed by a wave of malt, and then a bitter finish.  This has some of the same aromas and flavors as the Pliny the Elder, but it is less deep and less complex.  There is more going on with the Pliny the Elder, but this is still as good as or better than most IPA's.   6.1% ABV.  Bottled on 10-22-10.

According to the bottle:   Ask for a "blind pig" in a saloon during prohibition and you might just get a beer... During prohibition, using the term "blind pig" discretely meant many different things.  Sometimes it was the secret code given to a bartender to receive a beer.  In other places, it meant you paid a small fee to see a "blind pig", and along with the viewing you'd get a beer, or something else...And what type of glassware would your "blind pig" be served in?  An unmarked mason jar of course.  In those days, a mason jar was known as a pig, and an unmarked mason jar was known as a Blind Pig.

If you got a beer during prohibition, I doubt it was a hop forward American-style IPA.

Both labels are ringed with admonishments that hoppy beers are not meant to be aged, and to retain the most flavor to keep them cold and drink them as fresh as possible.  This is true for American style IPA's whose hop forward aromas and flavors do apparently break down over time, in a matter of months.  This is also ironic when one considers that the original India Pale Ale was massively hopped by the British as a way to preserve the beer from spoilage on the long, hot voyage to India.

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