It began innocently enough. Someone goes to California on business with a side mission: “If at all possible, bring back this specific beer.” She looked. And had someone else help her. And via faithful sleuthing and persistence, she found it. She packed it in her suitcase. It survived the flight. It was delivered as requested. And then… Glory be!
The recipient shared.
“You. You. and You. Parking lot. After work.” And this is how it came to pass that a beer made in Sonoma County, California found its way east, to Georgia, well beyond its normal distribution boundaries. The beer was Russian River’s Pliny the Elder:
So what? you say. It looks pretty plain? Let me offer this description from a “beer muse” out in interweb:
The best way I can describe the drinking experience of Pliny the Elder is saying that there is a taste wave the drinker experiences. First, of course, is a hop insurgence that gives a full-bodied citrus wallop to the tongue, but not an obnoxious wallop. There’s a moment in Pliny’s taste wave, like when a surfer first hits a big wave, where everything feels like it might go wrong. I’ve had plenty of imperial IPA’s that start off magical only to land hard on a sour taste note. Not Pliny.
The next part of the taste wave is a fresh bittering flavor that lingers on the back of the tongue with a clean pine taste. It’s different than that first citrus hop hit. What you’re left with is wonderfully different than the taste you started with.
The citrus-to-pine taste wave makes you want to go back for another flavor ride.
As everyone has opinions, websites are created to capture enthusiast feedback. Hence, the Ratebeer score is 100. Beeradvocate also rates it 100. Pick a list for Imperial/Double IPAs, and it’s at or near the top. World Class.
…but. Some math. 12 ÷ 4 = 3. I know. I’m not being considerate of those who learn their math via Common Core. Trust me. The math is right, if a bit of a let down. What it means is that 12 fluid ounces split 4 ways results in a meager sample per eager participant.
The obvious solution, of course, is to supplement the offering. Hello Dreadnaught IPA from Three Floyds Brewing in Indiana. This scores a respectable 100 and 98, respectively, from cited sources. Not too shabby.
Indeed. Better than that! Two stellar beers in a tasting is inspirational. What if four like minded people assembled each month to enjoy well-reputed beers from far and wide? And met at the (seasonably opportune heated or air-conditioned) Rollin’ Golden Pub? Thus the RGP experience was born.
We don’t argue about the beer. We’re respectful of each other’s opinions, even if the others are wrong. But they’re not, because we’ve never had a
bad less than really good beer. Still, we took note of a serious challenger only three months later. Heady Topper, the sole offering from Vermont’s The Alchemist Brewing:
Now, we return to that apt critic’s comments:
What hits your tongue first is a hop wall. Like the brewer decided to bring in all of the artillery in the first lines. As the flavor spreads across the tongue the finish is clean. The hop feel at the back of the tongue lasts long, but isn’t offensive like some over-the-hop West Coast IPA’s. Every moment of this drinking experiencing is world class. Comparisons with other IPA’s is challenging, because this beer truly deserves the nods it’s getting for originality.
I poured my second Heady Topper into a glass. It has a yellowish color and is filled with sediment. I wonder if they want you to keep it in the can not to maintain the “essential hop aromas that [they] have worked so hard to retain,” as the can suggests, but, rather, to keep the feint of heart from seeing the unruly brew they’re imbibing.
After the shock wore off, because we never expected a competitor to The Champ, all four of us agreed that 1) This is better than Sr. Pliny and 2) we need more. We’re still needing more.
But we did score, as unlikely as it was, a second Pliny the Elder the following month, and we agreed it definitely finished second. Does it matter? Not really. We want more of both.
You can’t always get what you want, says The Glimmer Twins, but you get what you need.
Over the course of the year, including 34 beers, our average Ratebeer score was 98.5 if we discount the inconsiderate rating provided for Mother Earth’s Endless River.
If the raters at Beeradvocate are more discriminating, that would be evidenced by an average rating of 94. That’s quite the collection of beer, and the list can be viewed by clicking on our spiffy, but not yet trademarked, logo:
We finished the year with a remarkable month. One of us played Santa and converted Dollars to Euros, importing two (2) bottles of Westvleteren XII. Click the link; it’s quite the story. And, fortunately for all of us, it’s just as tasty as it is rare. And we have pictures to tell the story, less the flavor:
It came well ensconced with international iterations of “Don’t break the beer!”
Customs inspection, eh? These are not the droids you’re looking for. Just a sample bottle of soda. Yeah, that’s it.
The unadorned bottle seems appropriate for its origin, not to mention the inferred legal smuggling. And, yes, that is the Rollin’ Golden Pub in which it resides.
December’s line-up, including the reflections of four happy patrons of the RGP:
Disclaimer: No rollin’ is conducted during said sampling. The RGP serves as a bar counter. We sometimes bring chairs. And avoid eye contact with others lest they feel invited.