Years ago my friend Alex wanted to take me to "the best liquor store in town". My first thought was who needs a good liquor store. You can go basically to a gas station to get good beer these days. Now I am talking the typical I.P.A., pilsner, or malt liquor at this time.
As of today I realize this was the first real well run liquor store I have ever set foot in. They had a section dedicated to craft beers and there were 3 bourbon barrels in the middle of the store with product they were trying to highlight for consumers. One of the barrels was full to the brim with a beer that would change my outlook on beer forever. I remember asking myself why this beer was priced at least double all the other beer in the place. I know it is not the money they spent on marketing because the label is just a green background with a red dot and inside the dot it read Pliny The Elder in white letters.
Feeling brave, I pick up six of these beers (being sold separatly) and headed to the counter. The grizzly bearded hipster working tells me that they can only sell 2 of these beers to each customer per day. That magical day Alex and I both purchased 2 of these overpriced beers with no idea what we had just done.
Now they say that the first time you smoke crack you are addicted for life, and I have never understood that because I have never smoked crack. On the other hand I have had Pliny and I knew within the first sip I took that this was a beer I could never go without. Quickly I realized that I could only buy this beer two beers a day and that would not suffice. I went back to that liquor store a couple days later to find they were sold out of Pliny and the search began.
I knew for sure that I would not forget that before mentioned cheap marketing of the label. I also knew the brewer was Russian River located in Santa Rosa California. After looking it up I realized Santa Rosa was in Northern California (the bad half of Cali that us So Cal people do not travel to). That drive was 7 hours one way, and that was way to far to drive for a beer run or was it. I only needed to find a Dodger Fan willing to drive through the Bay Area with me. Well apparently my ride or dies were not willing to ride, so I was forced to wait for the elusive NorCal beer to show up in SoCal again.
There was no place in Los Angeles to buy this enchanting beer. Every couple of months I would hear about a bar across town that is going to have Pliny on tap for one night. I would fight the traffic and use every rediculous trick I knew to get across Los Angeles in a timely fashion (lets be honest this was hours each time). Then I would fight for a parking spot, and then eventually manuvere my way through a sea of beard lube wearing hipsters. Only to find out that they had run out of Pliny less than 15 minutes after tapping the keg. If you do not believe I did this for over 4 years I encourage you to ask my wife how obsessed I was with finding the golden keg of IPA at the end of the rainbow.
Was I really never going to find this beer again? I was working day in and day out with big goals at my retail job. Dealing with just "wonderful customers" on a daily basis (seriously 97% of my customers were amazing but wow that 3% will ruin your day). All I wanted was an ice cold bottle of Pliny to help me hit the restart button and hope I get a day of all amazing customers the next day. I go into work on a Tuesday and the phone rings. I am being promoted to the Bay Area.
Two weeks later I am a resident of NorCal and I will finally be able to find the great white buffalow when ever I wish. It is true that I could make the hour and a half drive to Santa Rosa from Oakland, but Pliny was still not something you could find at a liquor store or bar. So Kristi and I made the pilgrimige to Russian River Brewing Company on a consistant basis to get the nectar I had been searching.
Now when I say it was everything I had remembered that is an understatement. First it was the smell, Pliny was an old friend with a citrus and floral body odor that I have missed since moving to college. Then the fresh malty, hoppy, and balanced liquid brings back all of the memories those two beers never let you forget. This beer is the perfect mix of bitter and floral flavors. It has an original gravity of 1.066 and is 8% alcohol by volume. The beer is a dark copper color and has a velvet feel.
Over a decade later my life has taken me half way across the country to Kansas City. Kristi and I work together as a real estate duo and have a 7 month old boy. His name is Pliny and he is a tan boy who smells of patchouli oil and rocks a Patrick Mahomes cut (bros I am still a Chargers fan). Ok just kidding his name is Bryce and he is just another white boy and smells like dove soap. Although, he does rock a "Tiny Pliny" shirt from time to time to match my Pliny the Elder shirt.
On the move out here we first made one last pilgrimage to Russian River (in the wrong direction by and hour and a half). We bought an ice chest worth of Pliny and drove it out. This meant that every night and morning I was at the ice machine making sure my Pliny was well taken care of. I mean a few got consumed to make sure we got better gas mileage, but only after the drive was over for the day and only if there was a great view of the Black Hills to enjoy it with. I mean who am I to deny Pliny the Elder this view of one of our nations greatest parks?
Now it has been a long time since a Pliny. I know I can not make it another 5 year stretch. So what is the plan? I was able to find a Pliny on draft in Breckenridge Colorado, but again that is at least an 8 hour drive.
I guess this comes down to a couple of questions. Who really likes good beer in Kansas City? Who is willing to take that drive with me? I am asking for you to help with the gas, but do not think for a second that you are buying the first round. I am here to lead you to the promise land of beer. Now who's coming with me?
Hops used - Amarillo, Centennial, CTZ, and Simcoe
Classification - Double IPA
Availability - Extremely difficult to find (and well worth the search)