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Rating: 4.6/5 (19 votes cast)

Beer Profile

  • Brewery: Russian River Brewing Company
  • Website:
  • Country: United States
  • State: California
  • Style: Imperial / Double IPA
  • Malts: North American 2-Row, Crystal, Aciduated, Crystal 40, Carapils
  • Hops: CTZ, Simcoe, Centennial, Cascade, Amarillo
  • ABV: 8.0%
  • IBUs: 92
  • Tasting Notes:
  • Preferred Glass:
  • Food Pairing:
  • PHM Grade: A

Russian River Pliny the Elder

Written by

Well, here it is. This is the quintessential double IPA from California. We are hop heads out here. Everyone knows that and everyone out here loves Pliny the Elder.

Double IPAs are not my typical go to. But I do go for beers that get a lot of talk. I’ve gotta judge the hype for myself. I’ve also had some ridiculously good beers from Russian River as well so why shy away from this one? I am looking forward to a trip up north to Sonoma County later this month in which a few friends and I will take a trip to this fine brewery.

I opened the abnormal 500 ml bottle and mistakenly thought I sliced open a tart grapefruit. It has that much of a tart grapefruit aroma and the taste is similar. More than anything the hops in this beer have this taste and aroma. Secondarily, there is a faint piney (not Pliny) aroma and taste. This is a bitter beer. It comes in at 100 IBUs. It also 8.0% ABV. You feel both. It is extremely fresh and Russian River implores you to drink it so. Freshly hopped beers are NOT meant to be aged and they alert you to this on every label of Pliny the Elder.

I’ll finish off with a little history about Pliny from the brewery because it provides some beer education and is interesting:

Pliny the Elder was a Roman naturalist, scholar, historian, traveler, officer, and writer. Although not considered his most important work, Pliny and his contemporaries created the botanical name for hops, “Lupus salictarius”, meaning wolf among scrubs.” Hops at that time grew wild among willows, much like a wolf in the forest. Later the current botanical name, Humulus lupulus, was adopted. Pliny died in 79 AD while observing 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 he observed during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

ABV: 8.0%

Grade: A

Russian River Pliny the Elder, 4.6 out of 5 based on 19 ratings
  1. despite my continued desire to try this because of said hype…i’m even more excited about it because of this review. thanks bro; sounds like my kind of ipa.

    Noel — March 4th, 2010, 2:41 PM
  2. How much did this cost? or what is average cost on a bottle?

    Matt — March 4th, 2010, 2:52 PM
  3. Could this merit an “A+” Nate? I just had a beer that was in your face grapefruit as well. Does Pliny the Elder utilize the Amarillo hop?

    Tom — March 4th, 2010, 3:06 PM
  4. I’m exactly like you. This wouldn’t be my go-to, but I want to try it (or ANYTHING from Russian River) bad! I’m visiting in September and already have my shopping list…sounds like you confirmed this one for me.

    Michael — March 4th, 2010, 4:43 PM
  5. I don’t remember exactly but I feel like it was between $4-5 for the 500 mL bottle. I’ll post again next time I go to the store.

    Tom, can’t find the hop profile used on this beer. It’s not on the website at least.

    I don’t know about the A+. I would have to try a few double IPA’s back to back or side by side to really be able to give that rating out. I’ve discovered that really hoppy beers truly do need to be consumed very fresh so I’ve wondered if I’ve had some potential A+ beers that I didn’t rate as so because they were old. Hmm….

    What is everyone hearing about Russian River?

    Nate — March 4th, 2010, 5:26 PM
  6. Tom, there a lots of Pliny recipes out there, I actually think the “official” one was shared in a BYO Mag. what i’ve found on the web is that people use Chinook, warrior, simcoe, columbus, and centennials. now that hop prices are down, maybe we should brew one? over 1 lbs of hops!

    Matt — March 4th, 2010, 5:33 PM
  7. Thanks for the follow up. Vaild on both accounts. Have you tried the Two Brother’s Dubs IPA?

    To be honest I have not heard much about RR, which I find ironic considering everyone seems to be talking them up.

    Tom — March 4th, 2010, 10:42 PM
  8. I don’t exactly know how I heard of Russian River, but in MN I saw Pliny the Elder on the shelf of a local liquor store. I asked how he got it and he said the only way was to trade for it at beer events. Although their stuff seems to get great reviews it might be the unavailability of their beer in the Midwest that makes it that much more desirable…isn’t that the way it always goes? Regardless, I’m looking forward to my visit!

    Michael — March 5th, 2010, 9:00 AM
  9. I’ve heard nothing but good things about this beer. It’s a shame you can’t get their stuff here in Central Illinois. The history of the “Plinys” was quite interesting as well. Did this beer blow you away or did it merely entertain your inner hop-head?

    James W. — March 5th, 2010, 9:12 AM
  10. James:
    It was mind blowing in how fresh it tasted but it mostly just entertained my “inner hop head.” The double IPA style is not that particularly inventive in my mind so I can’t say that it changed my life or anything like that.

    Nate — March 8th, 2010, 1:56 PM
  11. $4.79. saw this yesterday.

    Nate — March 9th, 2010, 6:33 PM
  12. Nate,

    Just found your notes on Pliny the Elder. I agree, but believe it is the best beer I have ever tasted. I learned of RRBC when living in San Francisco and RRBC spoiled me completely on ever drinking much of anything from the East Coast ever again (I now live on the East Coast, grew up here and love it, so, please, no comments – the IPA’s on the East Coast are simply not the hop head’s dream – hops and malt head’s dream, yes, but hops, no.) I mean no disrespect – Dogfish Head is making some great beers; Southern Tier in NY; and Founder’s in Michigan makes great brews – so, please don’t scream at me since all palates are different and mine likes the West Coast hop monsters…

    But having said the above inflammatory comments! I will continue. Pliny the Elder remains my favorite brew; followed in the Number two spot by Alpine Brewing Company Nelson; three is Ballast Point Sculpin; and four is RRBC Blind Pig. All of these beers have one thing in common – hops, hops, and more hops, with very little malt. They are representative of what West Coast IPA’s are all about. So, if you haven’t tried any of the beers, I recommend you try all of them – but not side by side because you would enter a realm of hopdom and never leave – stuck in suspended hopanimation forever…

    Anyway, thanks for your reviews – I’ll now return to get your take and advice on other beers.



    Richard — March 23rd, 2010, 7:07 PM
  13. I will take a Hop Slam over a Pliny the Elder all day

    Marc — March 30th, 2010, 2:50 PM
  14. Marc,

    Absolutely, Hopslam is a great beer, sorry I left it off! Bell’s makes some good brews… Problem is, even where Hopslam is sold, it’s impossible to get – I got one bottle of this year’s release!


    Richard — March 30th, 2010, 7:39 PM
  15. I had heard a lot of the hype about this beer and decided to try it. Living in Seattle, WA I’ve no shortage of IPA’s to choose from but after 6 years of IPA inundation I would say this beer ranks with as good as I’ve had.

    What an IPA should be. Hoppy, but fresh tasting. Fruity but not to sweet. Lots of alcohol. I must say this is a great beer.

    Only negatives. Expensive. The hype is driving up the price.

    Chum — February 12th, 2011, 2:44 AM
  16. I was visiting some friends in Tacoma,actually, Wauna, on Key Peninsula and they took me to the Tides Tavern in Gig Harbor. To my great surprise they had Pliny the Elder on tap! I live in Cal. and it’s very hard to find it on tap here so that was super cool. My friend had just mentioned it a couple of days earlier so he was blown away when I saw it on the menu.
    By the way the oysters are very fresh and the mussels delicious.

    bernard — February 14th, 2011, 3:52 PM
  17. Pliny the Elder is no joke. I’ve tried every micro brew from almost everywhere and I must say this is among the best brews I’ve ever tasted. And that is a bold statement! It has a strong hop flavor that will grab you. The finish is like a grapefruit, but sweet. If you give Pliny a smell, you would swear RRBC added a fruit flavor to it, but, no, it is all hops and that’s it.

    This beer is not for beginners! Serious Hop Heads need only apply!

    I usually drink Lauginatas IPA, which is still my personal favorite everyday beer. But, if I can find Pleny, I’ll buy every bottle the store has and be one happy man.

    Peace out!

    Patrick — November 28th, 2011, 9:14 PM
  18. Just tried my first Pliny tonight. Great brew. I was a little concerned seeing as it was bottled on Oct. 31, while I’m drinking it today. From what I’ve read/heard, 2 months won’t kill it. Touching in around 8%, this is no little double IPA, so I think we’re ok here. It’s a little frustrating when you hear of people dumping this down the drain if it’s more than 2 hours old.

    That said, I loved it. I don’t think it could’ve ever lived up to the hype, but it was darn close.

    Nick — December 28th, 2011, 11:50 PM
  19. Thanks for your thoughts Nick. I think we have a good dialogue going here. Hype. Price. Hops. Regional takes on a style. All factors to take into consideration. However, no one has yet mentioned 3 Floyds. Their IPAs sthaand at the top of my list. Dreadnaught, Apocalypse cow, Arctic Panzer Wolf are equal to that of Pliny the Elder (if not better). Similar malt body and grapefruit hop quality. 3 Floyds was ranked in the top 5 breweries in the world…hard to beat. Again, a regional brewery that ppl can’t get all the time. I think this convo is going to go in circles…

    Tom — December 29th, 2011, 3:01 PM
  20. I got this beer at Toronado in SF on tap for 5.00 a pint.
    It was so tasty. I bought home to Chicago 2 bottles of the stuff. I didn’t realize it was such a cultish beer

    Meg — November 9th, 2012, 5:50 PM
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