The yearly clamor for an elusive glass of the renowned Pliny the Younger from Santa Rosa's Russian River Brewery has already begun. Before you join the scrum for the intensely hoppy triple IPA, ask yourself what you hope to get out of the glass.
Scoring a taste of the brew has long been a beer-geek badge of honor, and for years Pliny the Younger has been considered one of the best beers in the world.
The man behind the brew — Russian River's brewmaster Vinnie Cilurzo — first created the vaunted hop-bomb in 2005, and in the 10 annual releases since its introduction, the stature of the beer has grown to a mythic level matching that of its namesake Roman.
And for good reason: the beer checks all the boxes. It's as attractive — all shimmering gold and topped with just a wisp of white foam — as it is delicious. Layers of hop aroma and flavor unfold on the palate, but with a curiously sprightly body. There's a firm bitterness, but it isn't the overwhelming punch that the pungent aroma might suggest, and there's a subtle sweetness that lingers on the tongue just until the warmth of the brew's 10% alcohol content overtakes it.
It is, by any honest account, a spectacular beer and a stunning showcase of brewhouse artistry. But the craft beer world has come a long way in the 10 years since its introduction, and Pliny's days as the biggest India Pale Ale on the block are over.
Still, a hophead has to drink.
Released just a couple of weeks ago in bottles, this 11% ABV potion has a sweet-bitter balance similar to the Younger, and Power Plant scores nearly as high as Pliny on beer rating websites. Hit the El Segundo taproom for a glass of this liquid hop candy, and try the brewery’s other hop-forward ales while you’re there. 140 Main St., El Segundo, (310) 529-3882, elsegundobrewing.
Brewed to mark the fifth anniversary of the Glassell Park brewery, Populist XL is a version of the Eagle Rock’s flagship Populist IPA writ large. Very large. At well over 11% alcohol, the brew is potent indeed, but all that booze is deftly masked by layers of pine-and-citrus hops. It showcases the same deceptive drinkability that makes Pliny the Younger so popular. Bottles are available across town, or stop in the taproom — or Eagle Rock’s new Public House restaurant for a taste. 3056 Roswell St., Los Angeles, (323) 257-786, eaglerockbrewery.com/