Getting older, while waiting for Younger.
Well, I’ve been tweeting about it for a couple weeks now, telling everyone I knew about it, and even posted on Facebook about it as soon as I confirmed my invitation to the tasting event. So it was shocking when I showed up yesterday afternoon and no one at Selma’s was aware of the Facebook event. D’oh!
My heart sank, my adrenaline raced, my beer soaked brain went into overdrive. I thought I had a lock on the Russian River PtY tasting presale tickets. Everything I knew was wrong.
Selma’s Pizzeria and Tap Room – Ladera Ranch
27702 Crown Valley Parkway #E1, Ladera Ranch, CA 92694
It was raining pretty hard yesterday at 3:30 pm when I arrived. I was a half hour early for the ticket presale, (or so I thought) so I bellied up to the half-full bar and ordered pint of Firestone Walker Velvet Merlin and a bowl of tomato bisque to pass the time. Both were delicious. The tomato bisque was a rich creamy bowl of mildly spicy goodness that helped warm me up on this cold rainy day. The Velvet Merlin is a hearty stout with a malty sweetness that was a nice contrast to the soup.
After about 15 minutes, I was halfway through my soup when I saw a guy with a clipboard standing off in the corner of the tap room talking to a handful of folks. So I headed over to see what the deal was. There was still some time til the 4:00pm presale started, so maybe he was just getting things prepared, or maybe he was letting them know where to queue up. Curiosity got the better of me and I left my food and got in line.
His name was Eric and I think he said that he’s a manager at Selma’s. I overheard him telling folks that the event was sold out two days ago. They had been selling red wristbands for the past two weeks and they were all gone. Since the 5 gallon keg only had a limited number of pours he couldn’t guarantee that anyone who waited around would actually get any Pliny.
I thought that my signup on the Facebook event page confirmed my reservation. But apparently no one at the restaurant knew about any Facebook event page. Ruh roh.
He created a secondary wait list, and offered to take names just in case the keg lasted that long. He said that they got a fair amount of pours last week at the Rancho Santa Margarita event. A couple folks got angry and left, understandably so, since there was no mention of the option for presale on any of the social media sites, (even the signage in front of the store mentioned that presale wasn’t available until 4pm). I opted to sign up on the wait list and I was #7. I felt pretty confident that the rain was going to keep some folks away, so I’d have a shot at some Pliny the Younger. But I wasn’t sure how good my chances were. I know 5 gallon kegs can blow fairly quickly.
I went back to my spot at the bar, which was standing room only now, and finished my bisque. I ordered a Coronado Idiot Imperial IPA. The Idiot is one of my favorite bottled beers, so having it on tap was a special treat. It was crisp, piney, citrusy, and everything I’d hoped it would be.
I wanted to get up and mingle, as I recognized a few faces from Facebook and Twitter, and probably previous OC beer tasting events. But the bar was elbow to elbow by now, and the rest was standing room only. I had a prime spot seated at the bar and I still had two hours until the Pliny tapping. I became fast friends with a guy named Mike who was seated next to me. To help pass the time I enjoyed an Alesmith IPA, and a Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA. I talked with Mike about my adventures in beer hunting. We talked about Pliny the Younger, why it was so sought after, and things I had heard about other tappings over the years.
As the clock ticked closer to 6:00pm more and more people with red wristbands showed up and I saw my chances at a taste of Pliny the Younger dwindling. Eric came around with the clipboard and started letting us know that he still couldn’t guarantee us a taste of Younger, but if we were going to stick around he’d like to sell us a t-shirt and a free pour of anything on tap. If he had any Younger we’d get that, but if it went dry before he got to us he’d pour us a pint of anything. Since I’d been sitting there for 2 and a half hours already, I wasn’t going to give up yet, so I paid my money, got my t-shirt and a green wrist band, and crossed my fingers.
The t-shirt is a dark heather grey made of soft cotton with a funny graphic on the front, (sad face + beer = happy face) with the tagline “Save the Earth, it’s the only planet with beer”. It’s got the Selma’s logo on the back and to make it special for the event it’s got the Pliny the Younger logo on the sleeve. So at least I wasn’t leaving empty handed. I had the experience of waiting around, hanging out with fellow craft beer fanatics, and anticipating a chance at getting to taste the ever elusive Pliny the Younger. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.
6:00pm, Pliny is on, they start pouring and announce that the first pour goes to the guy who brought the keg. Lucky guy.
Next, they start yelling for red wrist bands and waving scissors around and passing out glasses of Pliny the Younger to all the prepaid folks, carefully cutting off wristbands as the keg was emptying before my eyes. I watched in jealousy as I saw my chances slipping away. Happy folks toasted each other, smiling, sipping, savoring, enjoying… and I tried not to scowl at them. Time ticked by, red wristbands were all being cut off all around me. I looked down at my green wristband sheepishly, until…
Okay, any more red wristbands? Get up here! These folks have been waiting patiently and we want to start pouring for the green wristbands.
The rain stopped outside, the room had a misty glow, and it sounded like angels were singing… when suddenly I snapped out of it and saw a pair of scissors being waved in my general direction. I held out my arm, had my green wristband snipped off and was handed a golden chalice from the fountain of youth… or a wine glass filled with Pliny the Younger. (I must admit my imagination was running a bit wild by then.) The wait was over, and my fateful journey had come to an end. I set out to seek the holy grail and had fulfilled my destiny. Behold, all was right in the world again.
I’m not going to give a detailed tasting review, because there are tons of those already out there. I’ll just say it was fantastically delicious, and unlike any of the other IPAs I had already had that night. I sipped it, I savored it, I toasted with other smiling happy beer apprecionados who had shared a similar thrill of the hunt and rewarding capture of a mythical creature.
Cross this one off the bucket list.
It was a roller coaster of a ride. Had I let emotions get the better of me I might have been one of those handful of folks who stormed out at 3:30pm when it was announced that the event sold out days ago. But cooler heads prevailed and thanks to the folks who left, (and the decision of Eric to offer green wristbands), I was afforded the opportunity to enjoy Russian River’s annual release of their coveted Triple IPA, Pliny The Younger.
Beer Soaked Erik