California – Where to Begin?

The observant blog subscriber will have noticed little in the way of posting here over the last week. This is because I have been on the road, from SF Beer week in the San Francisco Bay area to the Stone World Bistro’s “Winter Storm” week in Escondido to Hamiltons Tavern in the renewed 30th Street district of San Diego. With that much drinking – erm, tasting – and running around, I’ve had precious little time in which to keep up with my paid work, much less the unpaid stuff.

But I’m back now, and in answer to my headline question, I suppose the best place to begin is at the beginning.

My colleague and good friend Jay Brooks picked me up at the airport and we headed straight for Santa Rosa and the launch of Pliny the Younger at Russian River Brewing.

For those not familiar with P the Y, it is the younger but much stronger brother of the renown Pliny the Elder, and a 10.75% alcohol golden ale colossus it certainly is! Also deceptive, and in more ways than one.

First, there’s the strength of P the Y, which drinks as a beer of 3 to 4 percent less than what it is, or in other words, still strong but not quite that strong. Then there is the hoppiness, which first appears as an assault on the senses, both in the nose and on the tongue. On closer examination, however, it is the bold aroma and bitter finish of the beer that make it appear a tongue ripper when, in fact, an undercurrent of tropical fruitiness and honey-ish malt keep everything on track from beginning to end. True, the finish packs a punch, but it’s a soft smack from a velvet-lined glove rather than a chain mail fist upside the head.

If there is any of this beer left – Vinnie at Russian River brews it but once a year, and I’m told the brewpub sold through its supply by mid-afternoon! – I suggest going out of your way to try it. Far better than it’s been in years past, to my experience, at least, this is definitely a beer for the books.

More later…

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