Tustin Brewing Company is one of our favorite local watering holes. Not only do they have a host of their own brews on tap, but they constantly rotate a bunch of taps bringing in guest kegs of amazing beer from other brewers as well.
This week is Russian River Week, a favorite week of ours because we love everything that Russian River Brewing Company makes. They are well-known for their IPAs and their sours and for good reason, they make some of the best beers in those styles.
Beer Soaked Scott and I took some time off work to wait in line for a ticket to taste Pliny the Younger. This is our true story…
Last year Scott passed on the chance to taste Pliny the Younger with me at Selma’s in Ladera. He’s been hearing me talk about it all year-long and it was driving him crazy. So this year we made it a goal to seek and find the triple IPA so he could finally make me shut up about it.
We had our eye on a few different local spots that had PtY last year. We noticed that some of the pubs with a keg of Younger often surprise announced that it was “on now!” via Twitter or Facebook and only those folks who were paying attention at the moment of the announcement, and were able to head over right away, actually got to attend those tappings. We passed on a few different “pop” announcements because they were either during business hours, or we weren’t close enough to make it before the keg blew. We planned to go to the Feb 20th TBC event. Tickets on sale at 11am, keg goes on at 3pm until 8pm. Done and done.
TBC was at the top of our list because we’ve been there lots of times and it always has good food and a great atmosphere. But we were bummed when we heard that they had a surprise tasting on the Friday before their pre-announced tickets were to go on sale. We scrambled to find another location nearby but had already missed out on a bunch of tappings.
Luckily for us we didn’t have to scramble for long. TBC posted on their Facebook event page that they hadn’t done the surprise tapping instead of the planned event, but in addition to it. Whew, we still had our chance.
Scott planned our attack and we carpooled to TBC arriving just before 10am to wait in line for tickets. When we got there we were shocked to see no line. Did we have the wrong day? Nope, the early birds were sitting in the outdoor patio on the side of the brewery. There were only a handful of folks in front of us. We pulled up a couple of chairs and drank our coffee while waiting for the doors to open at 11.
We watched as all the chairs filled up and a line slowly began to form outside the patio. I walked out to see how long the line was and it was already out into the parking lot.
I saw a couple of people I knew in line and stopped to chat, then I snapped a quick photo and went back into the patio area. Since I had my camera out I asked the gals at the front of the line if I could get a photo of the dedicated souls who camped out in beach chairs and blankets to be first in line. They said sure and just as I snapped the photo, the doors behind them opened and tickets were officially on sale.
Scott and I got tickets numbered 16 and 17 and the guy taking money said that they had 240 tickets to sell. He also told us that we could come back anytime after 3pm and before 11pm to redeem our tickets for Pliny the Younger. We headed off to work, tickets in hand, and smiles on our faces.
After work we went to get our designated driver, Staci, and made our way back to TBC. We got there just after 6pm and it was packed to capacity. We put our name in for a table and made our way to the bar to order a couple of beers. We made our way through the Russian River lineup.
Pliny the Elder
RRBC is probably best known for Pliny the Elder, an 8% abv double IPA brewed with Amarillo, Centennial, CTZ, and Simcoe hops. It consistently gets rave reviews and high marks from beer aficionados everywhere. It’s brewed year-round and available in bottles. It is intended to be consumed fresh, so each bottle is date stamped and it is brewed in limited quantities. The distribution is fairly small and many bottle shops that carry it, limit purchases to 1 or 2 bottles per customer.
This is the single IPA offering from Russian River. It’s a full-bodied, hoppy IPA with citrus, pine, and fruity notes. It finishes dry and bitter. 6.1% abv
This is a Golden Ale and probably one of the easiest drinking beers from RRBC. Mainly because it is not a hop-forward beer, and bitterness is fairly low. I’d say it’s medium-bodied, with a fruity nose, and a dry, spicy finish. 7% abv
This one is a Sour Brown Ale aged in Pinot Noir barrels with Sour Cherries. Yep, that’s right, this is a lip puckering sour ale that will knock your socks off. “It is aged for about 12 months with sour cherries, brettanomyces, lactobacillus, and pediococcus added to each barrel. Flavors from the cherries, Pinot Noir and oak balance each other nicely with a little funk from the brett.” 7% abv
Temptation – (2011 and 2012)
Wow, what a difference a year makes. It was a real eye opener to taste these two vintages side by side. Temptation is another sour from Russian River Brewing. This one is a Blonde Ale aged in Chardonnay barrels, “for about 9 to 15 months (depending on the age of the barrel) with lots of brettanomyces, lactobacillus, and pediococcus added to each barrel. Medium bodied with hints of oak and Chardonnay, funky brett characteristics, with a nice, long sour finish.” I have to say that the funk really came out in the 2011, and all the floavors just seemed richer and bolder. The 2012 was still fantastic. I can see why folks cellar these beers. 7.5% abv
Row 2 Hill 56
This was the hoppiest beer of the night for us. It’s brewed with 100% Simcoe hops and named after the hop yard in Yakima, WA where Simcoe was first created. It has that trademark Simcoe nose with citrus and pine, nice bitterness and tasty hop flavors round it out. Probably my favorite IPA of the night. 5.8% abv
And last but not least… Pliny The Younger
There’s a lot of hype surrounding this once a year triple IPA brew. It’s a 10.5% abv triple IPA. It reportedly has triple the amount of hops of a regular IPA, mainly to balance out the full body of the increased malt bill. For such a high gravity beer it is extremely smooth and well-balanced.
Is it all hype? I say no. No, it’s not *all hype*. But it is somewhat over-hyped. I mean there are other triple IPAs out there that are on par with this one. I think much of the hype is due to its limited availability and “rare” status.
What makes Pliny the Younger so rare?
According to the brewery it is very expensive and time consuming to make so they only brew once per year. In order to ensure that it is consumed fresh it’s only available on tap. The distribution is very limited, only to select accounts, and each location that actually gets a keg allocated, typically only gets one keg. To call it a “limited release” may be an understatement.
Probably the best thing to come from the hype are the events surrounding it’s release. Russian River Week at TBC is a fine example of an event that results from the “hype” of Younger. If they had this taplist without Younger it would still be a must-attend event.
Last year I went to Selma’s Pizza in Ladera for the Younger release. I had a rollercoaster of a time waiting and hoping for a chance to taste Pliny the Younger, but wouldn’t have changed a thing. It was the thrill of the hunt that made it all worthwhile.