Saturday, October 9, 2010

Russian River!

My sister in law brought me an awesome extra beer, Pliny the Elder when I asked her to get me some stuff from California.  Since I had some other Russian River beers I decided to make a night of them.

I figured starting with the Pliny the Elder would be a better idea since the strong sour flavors of the Consecration would definitely over power the hops in the Pliny.
Pliny the Elder is a double IPA which generally means that they use "double" the amount of ingredients (malt, hops, etc) resulting in an IPA that has more alcohol, more hops, more everything.  The result is a really hoppy, but in my opinion, more balanced beer.  The smell of this reminded me mostly of grapefruit with some other mild citrus flavors.  No hint of the 8% alcohol in it. The first taste followed with mostly grapefruit, but it was backed nicely by some residual sweetness.  After each sip, though, the hop bitterness lingered quite a bit.  Not unpleasantly but if you don't like hoppy beers it would drive you slightly nuts.  As it warmed up, the hops really mellowed out and Pliny became very smooth.  By the bottom of the glass, it tasted almost like a different beer.  Some of that is getting used the heavy hop flavor, but the warmer beer was much sweeter at the end with much less hop presence.  Pliny the Elder isn't available in bottles in Philly (Russian River only sends kegs over here) so this was a rare treat.  Really happy I got to try it.

After that I finished off the night savoring a Consecration.
Consecration is one of Russian River's American Wild Ales.  What this means is they start with a base beer, in this case some sort of brown ale, add brettanomyces and some other bacteria, and put the beer in a barrel to age it.  In the case of Consecration and Supplication they add currants and cherries, respectively, to the barrel before aging it.  The Consecration is aged in cabernet sauvignon barrels while the Supplication is aged in a different type of wine barrel (I can't remember, so sue me).

The first thing I noticed about the beer is the smell.  It was so strong that I could smell it from nearly a foot away.  It smelled of apple juice but with a hint of something that kept it from being over powering.  The color was a beautiful brown caramel with just a small ring of head on it.  So far, everything about the beer is just great.  The first sip was sweet, sour and all around interesting.  I felt that the brown ale base came through a bit in the sweetness of it but everything else about it was a result of the wood, the aging, and the currants.  There was a sharp front with a puckering aftertaste to it.  After a few sips, I still couldn't find the 10% alcohol.  It was just really well hidden.  As the beer warmed up, the flavors became a bit smoother and the mouth feel was a bit thicker.  Near the bottom it became sweeter with less of the sharpness the beginning had.  Throughout the glass though the flavors just lingered and lingered after each sip similar to some of the other sours I've had.  Probably the weirdest part (maybe influenced by the bottle mentioning it) is the hint of tobacco flavor that I could pick out.  It's probably a result of the wood aging or the brett yeast but still not a flavor I usually associate with beer.  By the end, the last sips were just sugary and delicious (but that may have been the 10% talking.)

All in all Russian River always impresses me.  Everything that I've tried by them is always excellent.  (See these posts for my impressions of Damnation and Supplication.)  Next time, though, I'm going to need to get a bottle of Supplication so I can finally end my flip flopping and decide which I like better, the Consecration or Supplication.  No real good reason for needing to decide but it gives me a great excuse to buy a bottle of Supplication.


  1. Glad you enjoyed Old Pliny! He's a good one.

  2. Yeah I thought it was great. Enjoyed it quite a bit more in the full serving size.