In year 2 of the beer-cation Derek and I went after Pliny the Younger. We flew into San Fransisco and drove north arriving just after one PST. We were in line within view of Russian River but the line moved slowly. They were allowing one person in for every one person who left, and the people inside were in no hurry to leave. After 3-4 hours in line we got in, there was plenty of Pliny. We each enjoyed 2 glasses and a sampler of the 21 beers Russian River had on tap. We sampled the food as well; who knew pizza and beer worked so well together? We were seated with two gentlemen from San Fransisco who were also enthusiasts. We talked about what sours were the best, which IPAs we should try, what local breweries were worth a look, and what we should do in San Fransisco . The whole experience was memorable, not just the beer.
Beer flights are a great way to get a feel for a brewery. Anyone can make a single good beer; many can make a single great beer; very few can make an entire flight of unique drinkable beers. When I attack a flight like the one from Russian River I try to go after them by style with the most nuetral ones first. In the case of Russian River this meant their non IPA ales first followed by their legendary sours. All of the sours are amazing on tap but consecration stands out among them and sanctification is a wonderful showcase of 100% Brett fermentation. Finally I finished up with the IPAs: Blind Pig, Pliny the Elder, and Pliny the Younger. All are world class beers in their own right
The show was Pliny the Younger because it's rated as the number one beer on Beer Advocate. It is a triple IPA that is 4 times dry hopped for a unique flavor and resiny feeling. I've reviewed it on beer advocate and I agree with other reviewers that it is world class. It was certainly an experience and I think the tasting of more versions of the style will help my development of my own recipes. My general thoughts of the beer were bitter, resinous, and thick. The triple nature of this IPA prevented it from drying out too much and the thick bitterness was carried in each sip.
It's not every day you stumble into a good situation but that's precisely what happened to us on day two of our trip. Dimitri told us about a anniversary party at Beer Revolution in Oakland and it did not disappoint. On tap were Cantillion's Fou Fonne, Kriek, and Iris. Iris was unique in that it was a heavily hopped sour that carried both bitterness and extreme funk across my palate. The Fou Fonne was my favorite of the three because it held onto the fruit flavor the best among all the Cantillions I've had so far. It had substantial funk like any Cantillion lambic but the fleshly fruit flavor from the peaches remained even after the sweetness from the fruit had gone. The Kriek was what it was; Sour with hints of cherry, under even more sourness.
While at Beer Revolution we heard about a triple IPA release at Drake's Barrel House a mere 15 minutes away. Drake's Barrel house had a number of beers on tap, among them a variety of barrel aged beers. Their triple IPA was also outstanding, but the winner for me was the blended Russian Imperial stout. It had a tartness and a dryness which I found pleasant. I would compare it to the infected bottles of Abyss, or the Boulevard RIS which was tainted with Brett. Having those additional flavors in such a complex beer just continues to add to it. The dark fruit flavors of the grain mixed with the tart fruity flavors of the brettanomyces to create harmonious results. It surpassed the Blackberry RIS in both tartness and fruitiness.
We finished the trip with a trip to The Bruery in orange to pick up 51 bottles of reserve society beer. This ended a long day of driving from San Fran to Orange on HWY 1. Worn out by a hard day of driving and sitting we sat back and enjoyed a Black Tuesday while watching National Treasure 2. The Beer was much better than the movie. We flew back to reality the next morning after packing our halu to be checked under the plane.