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Pliny the Elder

The world says: "The best beer ever, anywhere ever, ever." We say: "Possibly, as long as you love hops."

Frankly, the only ones who would claim Pliny the Elder to be "overrated" would be contrarians. This is an expertly brewed beer, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. Team SpoCOOL does prefer other styles of beer over the Double IPA, but it's impossible not to have mad respect for what Russian River has produced here.

It pours a clear copper color, almost shimmering, with a thick foamy head. Looks great, smells even better, with hops front and center, flanked by citric and fruity tones. A kind of unexpected hit of malts shows up toward the end.

And this is where Pliny the Elder shines. Double IPAs tend to be hop bombs, where some of the better ones generously add a bit of fruitiness toward the back. There's more to Pliny the Elder. This is probably the most balanced IPA I can remember trying, where the malts compliment the hops perfectly. It's not often I'd classify an IPA as being "malty", but Pliny the Elder is just that. Hoppy and malty.

It's a strange sensation: The hops hit hard, but within seconds the malts show up, dancing a Charleston over the tongue. As they swirl around, they toss off orange, pineapple, grapefruit... All the flavors work together in a sweet harmony, with a creamy mouthfeel.

Now, if you're not a hop fan you probably won't love this. But you will at least like it and respect it. It is impossible not to.

Sadly I've rarely seen this beer in our area -- it has been about two years since I saw it in a Spokane store (I believe it was JB's) -- and found this bottle in Seattle. Pick one up if you can, it is more than well worth it.