I’m not a line person. And by that I mean I’m not the type of person who will stand in line for an event…pretty much for any reason whatsoever. When I was younger and I wanted to stand in the front row at a Smashing Pumpkins show or a Weezer show I would line up hours before events. I once left my hometown to see Weezer in Asbury Park at 11am in the morning, brought an acoustic guitar and lunch with me, just to be the first ticketholder through the door. Life isn’t like that anymore. I’m thirty-one years old. The idea of standing around for hours at a time irks me. It’s why I’ve never lined up to taste one of those one-time only beer releases. Back in November I waited about thirty minutes in a line to try four or five Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout variants. Every year for the past…I don’t know how many years…I’ve skipped the Los Angeles-area Pliny The Younger events because I really don’t want to feedÂ the absurd hype machine. I have not – nor will I probably ever – drive up to Russian RiverÂ for its release. As amazing as their beers are, it’s just not my scene. Also, honestly, a lot of the tasting events in LA are terribly orchestrated, at awkward times, and I’ve got better things to do (or work scheduled) when they occur.
Alas, this year fate conspired to put me in a position where I could finally access some Pliny The Younger with a minimal amount of work. On Thursday afternoon at 6pm the Verdugo Bar in Glassell Park was going to open its doors for a special Pliny The Younger event. Not only would they be serving both the Younger and the Elder Plinys, they were tapping kegs of several Russian River beers including Supplication, Consecration, Sanctification, Blind Pig, and Row 2 Hill 56. Since I don’t work Thursdays – and I had a chance to drink a lot of super-fresh Russian River beers in one sitting – I figured I could drive over at 4 or 4:30 pm and scope out the scene. If the line wasn’t too bad, I could stand around for 90 minutes if need be. If there was a line of die-hard beer nerds stretched around the block I’d just turn around and driveÂ home. No big deal. The loss of an opportunity to try a rare beer wouldn’t have affected me much.
As it turned out I drove by the bar at 4pm and there wasn’t a single person in line. I continued around the block and found parking. By the time I’d walked the 100 yards or there was one person in line. He was soon joined by two friends. The four of us got to talking and become fast friends. Over the course of the next 90 minutes we talked beer and music. The kid ahead of me told me he was the first person in line last year too (a badge of honor) and explained how the night would progress since I was new to this world. He told me to stick by him, grab a seat at the bar, and make sure I didn’tÂ lose your seat. I’d be served more frequently, I’d have first grabs at the Pliny, and if there were leftovers we’d be in the best position to nab them.
Doors opened promptly at 6pm. The bouncer handed us a little red ticket so we could claim our glass of Pliny The Younger (which was to be tapped at 8pm sharp). We found four seats in the middle of the bar and I ordered up my first drink of the night, Supplication. An absolutely delicious, world-class wild ale, Supplication is brewed with cherries and brett (and two other strainsÂ of yeast) and aged in pinot noir barrels from nearby Sonoma County. It’s awesome. Perched at the bar with a beer in hand, I started texting friends telling them they should come by the bar after work. Most people had grabbed their red tickets and departed. Since they were guaranteed a glass at 8pm, many left for a couple hours and returned just to get their Pliny. The bar wasn’t too crowded, I told my friends. Maybe there are still tickets, I said, naively. Oh, look at that, my Supplication was consumed awful quickly. So I ordered a Consecration.
Another wild ale – this one Belgian style aged in oak cabernet sauvignon barrels with currants – was slightly less delicious than the Supplication, but still outstanding. Somehow, it went down more rapidly than the Supplication. I had promised myself (foolishly) that I would have only four beers on this night. The three wild ales and Pliny The Younger. It wasn’t even 7pm yet and I’d already downed half of my promised allotment. Oh well, I still had time for another one before the 8pm keg tapping, I might as well order the Sanctification now, right?
Technically a golden ale, Sanctification is brewed with 100% brett so it’s the least sour of the three wild ales I consumed at the start of my night. As much as I’m starting to enjoy sours I think the addition of different yeast strains in addition to brett certainly helps the overall taste of the beer. Is it just me or are there more beers than ever touting the use ofÂ brettanomyces these days? Have I mentioned that before? I feel like I might have said that as recently as one or two blog posts ago.
Anyway, by now it was closing in on 8pm. I told my buddy Shaun he should race over if he could, and if he didn’t get a ticket he could sip off my serving of Pliny The Younger. It’s about getting to taste the beer, right? That’s the general idea of aÂ beer tasting event? So why should I be greedy when I could let some friends try it too!? Shaun arrived and received no little red ticket. No worries, they were about to pour the first glasses of Younger.
Now, for some background. For those of you who are unaware, Pliny The Younger is considered aÂ triple IPA brewed with triple the amount of hops used in a traditional IPA. If you like beers that explode with potentÂ hop flavor and aroma, you would very much enjoy this beer. The double IPA that Russian Rivers brews regularly – called Pliny The Elder – is more considered to be one of the best year-round beers in existence. The Younger is pretty much that beer amplified. The citrus and floral notes are stronger. It’s slightly less malty. It’s slightly more alcoholic. The hoppiness is all-encompassing. I wouldn’t call it the best beer I’ve ever had, but it’s definitely worthy of the praise heaped upon it.
Shaun arrived just in time to taste my beer. And, I tell you, from that “front row” vantage point, the bar didn’t really seem all that crowded. The servings were well controlled, everyone got a glass with a ticket and – wouldn’t you know it – the keg was still going strong even as the bartenders were shouting for anyone else with a ticket to come forward. My first order of business was to get Shaun a glass for himself, so I hollered over to the girl who was serving us and whispered that my buddy needed a glass, and a minute later he had his own Younger without having to wait in line. Then the rest of us at the bar started to realize there were even more glasses being filled, so we immediately began asking for seconds. And we were not denied. Remember that new friend of mine who ordered me to sit at the bar with him and stay seated for the duration because I’d get seconds? He wasn’t lying. I ordered another glass and this time giddily reveled in my luck that I should get to savor another glass. Once that second serving had been drained, I allowed myself to stand up and walk to the restroom so I could relieve myself after 5 combined hours of standing around and drinking. I was growing slightly buzzed, but I didn’t let that stop me from ordering a glass of The Bruery’s Bois anniversary ale. At 15% ABV, that was the straw that broke this camel’s back. I went from slightly buzzed to drunk in about 10 minutes. Somehow I allowed Shaun to convince me we should go to Mohawk Bend for some more beers. I wound up ordering a pint of Carnevale and then a pint of Vinaceous, and after that night is a blur. Bacon-wrapped dates and sweet potato fries were consumed. My hangover the following day at work was about a 7 on a scale of 1-10.
Of course I followed that Thursday up with a Friday night of pizza and beer with friends on my porch. Heady TopperÂ and a growler of Hill FarmsteadÂ Susan fresh from Vermont wereÂ followed by Oak Shire Big Black Jack, Belching Beaver’s Horchata Imperial Stout and finally Uinta’s Labyrinth. Thankfully, Saturday I awoke without a hangover. So for the past two nights I’ve taken it easy. Now I’m sitting here enjoyingÂ a can of Lawson’s Sip Of Sunshine – which is about as good as Pliny or Heady as far as I’m concerned – and waiting for my laundry to finish. I’d make a mix tape but really I just want to lay down and enjoy my beer. Maybe in a couple days when I’m bored again. Sorry guys!
Blue Phantom – Distillation [MP3]
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