It isn’t exactly news that Russian River has begun bottling a couple of their previously tap-only beers. Pliny the Elder, their famous Imperial IPA, and Blind Big IPA are the first brews from Russian River to get the bottling treatment at the new brewing facilities in Santa Rosa. Availability of these brews is no problem for a local, but I wanted to know how these held up in the bottle compared to the fresh taps at the pub, so I grabbed one bottle of each and brought them home for a little taste.
First, if you’re looking for these beers, make sure you’re looking at places with refrigeration. No Russian River brews (at least the new brews) are being sent to places who won’t keep the Pliny and Blind Pig cold. This is from William Brand’s blog, when he spoke to Vinnie Cilurzo:
Why refrigeration? Vinnie thinks it’s time for beers like Pliny and Blind Pig to be treated with the respect they should have. “Hops deteriorate very quickly and the flavor profile of beers like Pliny and Blind Pig diminish very, very fast. So we’re trying to do everything we can to keep the beer refrigerated as much as possible before it gets to the consumer.”
For this reason, when I brought these brews home, they went straight into the fridge, no closet treatment.
First I started with the star of the show, Pliny the Elder. as i mentioned this is an Imperial IPA. Coming out of the bottle it looks and smells just like it would in the brewery. Full of piney hops, the beauty of this beer is that it manages to stay small on the palate while being an incredibly big brew. Budweiser drinkers might have a hard time with this their first time around, but among craft beer drinkers, I haven’t received that “whoa” when taking the first sip that usually follows introductions to big Imperial IPAs. Even my wife, who hates IPA, likes Pliny. This one works great in the bottle.
Next was the Blind Pig IPA. This is another example of how Vinnie seems to know the nuances of the hop better than many. Again, the big piney hop aroma that you get in the brew pub can be found in the beer out of the bottle. This one seems a bit more bitter out of the bottle than on tap, but not having two side by side, who knows. While Pliny is a balance of really huge flavors, Blind Pig is definitely hop heavy, with lots of flavor, bitterness and aroma.
I also want to say that I love the bottles. They’re slender half liter bottles. The Pilny logo is simple and classic. The Blind Pig label is also nice and simple, not too much going on, good looking bottles. One thing I missed on the Pliny bottle but thoroughly enjoyed on the Blind Pig bottle was the backstory. I get a little disappointed if I don’t have something to read when drinking a new beer, and Russian River definitely provides a good read. There’s a history of the term “Blind Pigs” and a quick description of the beer. nothing like a Stone bottle, but still a solid read.
Now that you can have these at home, don’t forget that it’s still good to have a fresah draft. One place you can find these on draft will be at the Sonoma County Museum on October 3 from 4-7 pm. The event is called B.O.B. and will celebrate Oktoberfest with Russian River and Lagunitas, part of 10 breweries in all. There will be food available as well, so bring a thirst and hunger and help support the arts. More details will be avilable as the event date nears, and I will be sure to let you all know.