This is a guest post by Thomas Ray, the bar manager at Square Barrels in downtown Honolulu. He recently fulfilled a lifelong (beer-wise at least) dream of tasting the fabled Pliny the Younger from Russian River Brewing Company. This is one of the most hyped beers on the planet and one that people are willing wait in line hours for. Does it live up to the hype? Is it the best Triple IPA in the world? I’ve been fortunate enough to taste Younger a few times and as Thomas recently discovered, sometimes what makes a beer so magical is experience around the liquid.
A Marathon For Younger
We were all in a marathon, but no one was panting or sweating. The strain on our bodies came from the stress of combatting boredom. We were all standing in a line that stretched for blocks down 4th Street in charming Santa Rosa, CA, and we were all patiently waiting to get a taste of perfection.
A few weeks ago, I made the journey to Northern California to experience Russian River Brewing Company’s release of Pliny the Younger, the mythical triple IPA. I wanted to understand what it is that makes Pliney the Younger so loved by so many people. Along for the ride was my mother, who hates beer but understands its importance to me, my wife, a lover of the craft, my seven-month-old daughter and my sister.
We stood in line with people from all walks of life. In front of me were two friends, one who worked for Goldman Sachs and the other a software engineer from Pittsburgh. Behind me was a couple from Washington D.C., who were making their third pilgrimage to Santa Rosa for Younger!
The line was long and moved forward at a snail’s pace. As time slowly passed, the burden of standing for so long began to take its toll and I saw a few people leave. Those with stronger convictions or just nowhere better to be, did whatever they could to pass the time. There was lots of small talk and most of the time we stared into our smartphones until the batteries were exhausted.
A hostess walked by several times asking for parties of one and the thought crossed my mind, as my family appeared to be completely exhausted, to jump ship, grab a Younger and call it a night. My wife’s encouragement was the biggest source of motivation to keep waiting and we all agree to see it through.
After nearly five and half hours in line, we made it into the storied brewpub! As we passed through the doors, a feeling of jubilation washed over my mind, body and soul. Fellow guests greeted us with smiles and raised their glasses with congratulatory cheers as we made our way to our table. The elation continued as our server, Drew, celebrated with us by offering a huge smile and quickly brought us our first round of Pliny the Younger.
If you love West Coast IPAs, the beer was perfection. To be sure I wasn’t just imagining greatness, I had to order a pint of Pliny the Elder to see if Younger was truly a superior beer. As I assessed the differences, I could only think of Irish whiskey. In that realm, my favorite available whiskey is Green Spo, which in my modest opinion, is as close to perfection as you can find. However, when the circumstances are right and I feel ambitious, I get my hands on Yellow Spot. It is the subtle differences in Yellow Spot that make it excel far beyond Green Spot. Younger trumps Elder in the same manner, the aroma being slightly more pleasant, the mouthfeel just a bit more satiating and the dry finish cleverly hides the taste of alcohol.
The experiences and moments shared with so many great people will draw me back to Santa Rosa for future Younger releases, but not just for the beer. The great conversations, laughs, relationships and sighs of relief when we finally made it through the doors are what made my Younger experience so special. The incredible beer was just a bonus. Marathon completed!