Five IPAs That Will Help You Forget About Pliny the Elder

January 2nd, 2013 · 73 Comments · California Beer

Thanks to +Russ on Flickr for the tasty image.

With the recent announcement that Russian River Brewing Company is pulling out of the Washington market, beer drinkers across Seattle are bemoaning the loss of their outstanding IPAs, Belgian-style ales and barrel-aged beers from retailers’ shelves. But, no beer will be missed by more consumers than Pliny the Elder.

This uber-popular 8% ABV Double IPA has become the stuff of legends in Seattle. Regarded by some as hands-down the best beer made in America, it is a familiar name on any “best of” ranking list. As word of the greatness of Pliny spread to IPA drinkers around Puget Sound, the demand for Pliny became insatiable over the past few years. Many retailers imposed single bottle limits to try and spread the wealth, while others jacked up the price. Regardless of what they did to try and control the flow, it was the norm for retailers to sell out of their allocated shipments the very same day they were received and put on the shelves.

So, what is all the hype about? Pliny is indeed an outstanding IPA. Anyone who tells you differently is full of shit. Pliny features a robust hop profile full of pine and fruit flavors, all the while putting a solid malt backbone to work to keep the bitterness in check. It is insanely drinkable and balanced for such a hop bomb of a beer, and that to me is what sets it apart from other imperial IPAs. I absolutely agree that when fresh it is one of the best IPAs made.

But, is it worth all the hype and hassle to obtain a bottle of this precious liquid? Not really. If you happened to walk into a bottle shop as they are putting them out on the shelf, it was absolutely worth picking one up. It’s always been hard for me to pass up a pint of it whenever I see it listed on the draft list at my favorite beer bars. But, the “Pliny chasers” that run around town constantly trying to get as much of it as they can have always amazed me. With so much other great beer available around Seattle, from local breweries and out-of-state breweries alike, there is plenty else to choose from.

Some make the assertion that Pliny isn’t that great of a beer and then tell you what is better. I’m not going to do that. The beers below are five locally-available IPAs that might help you forget about Pliny. I think they are absolutely worthy of being in the discussion for beers that are as enjoyable as Pliny, and I hope you’ll think so too.

Boneyard RPM IPA – 7.5% ABV – This IPA from the Bend, OR brewery took Seattle by storm in 2012. This fruity hop explosion is only available on draft, but better beer bars across the city have been pouring a lot of it in the past year. It’s become my go-to IPA when I see it. Bottle shops that do growler sales sometimes have this available for fills as well.

Black Raven Wisdom Seeker Double IPA – 9.0% ABV – This outstanding double IPA already has as lofty of a reputation as Pliny with many local beer drinkers. The sad news? They are currently only able to brew this quarterly, and demand is already very high. In 2012, they did release a small allotment of 22oz bottles, but most of it is poured on draft. More of my thoughts on this beer here.

Fremont The Sister Imperial IPA – 8.5% ABV – I had this at the brewery in Fremont for the first time last month, and I was pretty blown away by how fantastic it was. Full of fresh fruit hop flavor. Only available on draft, but I think they do growler fills of this occasionally as well. It is currently pouring at their taproom, but it is not always available. Get it while you can.

Firestone Walker Double Jack – 9.5% ABV – This double IPA from California’s Firestone Walker has huge fruity hop flavor, but it also has a more significant malt presence than most the other beers on this list. Available on draft and in 22oz bottles.

Boneyard Hop Venom Double IPA – 10% ABV – I can’t help but put a second beer from Boneyard on the list. Hop Venom is their Double IPA, and we also see it fairly frequently on draft around town. At 10% ABV, it’s a hefty beer that you might not want more than one of, but you’ll be tempted.

For the record, I think that Russian River is 100% doing the right thing in looking out for their home market first. One of my favorite things about Seattle is that our local breweries don’t spread themselves thin and tend to concentrate on local demand, rather than expansion into other markets. It does bother me that Washington was chosen as the single market that they will discontinue, but they have their reasons. I’ll look forward to enjoying some of their fantastic beers on my next visit to Portland.


73 Comments so far ↓

  • Drew

    Another endorsement for Ninkasi Tricerahops. Best IPA I’ve ever had in a bottle. On tap, however, is Berryessa Brewing’s Double Tap. Granted, Ninkasi is in Eugene Oregon, and Berryessa is in Winters, California.

    If it helps the Washington IPA fans, BB’s brewmaster Chris Miller came from Washington, and he’s shaking up the craft brew scene in the greater Sacramento area.

  • Sarah

    Hi Friends In WA
    I’m from Portland Oregon, and I’ve gotta tell you there are tons out there better than or at least equal to Pliny. For instance, have any of you had Fort George Vortex IPA from Astoria? Mind-blowing. Almost green in color, like the rainy NW. How about this Citrus Mistress by Hop Valley in Eugene? Don’t forget 10 Barrel, I like the OG Wheat IPA, another Bend Beauty. Breakside Brewery puts out an IPA with an almost cloudy, orange color, absolutely lovely. Seriously, Pliny is fantastic, no doubt, but the great NW is bringing it in a big way. Another bonus: we aren’t turning you on and turning you out.

  • Derek

    I get a kick out of the people that try to diminish something because they no longer have access to it. “Wasn’t that great anyway”. “All the other beers on this list are better.” Please. That’s like taking your ball and going home because you’re losing. While it may not be worth the hype, it’s still a top tier beer. To try and imply otherwise is just plain weak, and bad form.

  • Jay

    @Derek: I get a kick out of people that halfassed read an article, completely missing the point, and then have the audacity to argue with it.

  • Joanie Kerst

    Thank you! As my husband an I savor the last few bottles of Pliny we procured on a recent roadtrip to California, the suggestions on your list and in the comments pose an interesting tasting challenge until we return to Russian River.

  • Paul

    Another excellent CA beer is the Golddigger IPA by Auburn Alehouse

  • Brent

    Will try to find the others, but while Double Jack is pretty good, it unfortunately isn’t anywhere near in the same league as Pliny.

  • Matt

    Firestone Walker Double Jack is about as far from Pliny as you can get. Double Jack is sickeningly sweet, the hops aren’t nearly as floral. I question your whole sensory input system after that comparison. 😉

  • kyle

    Sounds humulo nimbus is by far the best IIpa you can find besides these, enjoy by series tied or in close second

  • Jeremy

    Bud Light. Can. Just kidding.

  • Meg

    120 minute IPA from dogfish head. By a mile

  • Craig

    At least you had it….I moved to South Carolina 3 years ago from NoCal and it is only the stuff of legend out here….so….my best friend, from Auburn just dry iced a case and sent via UPS (as olive oil of course) $300 later it will b arriving Wed. I will cherish each bottle and not share. This is the IPA that swayed a Chimay only guy! I cannot wait!!

  • Andrew

    I miss my Pliny. I pick it up whenever I’m in the S.F. area. I wish I could get it here in the Midwest. We have a few other options but it is its own beer.

  • Rick

    Best IPA I have had so far is from Northwest Brewing Company in Algona, Hoppy B1tch IPA, and during the winter Crazy HoppyB1tch IPA. Just my opinion, Im not home more than once every 2 years but I never miss a chance to visit the brewery while I am back there.

  • Dave

    Chetco Brewery…Brookings,Or…
    Thunder Rock double IPA 8%ABV .
    Totally stands up to Pliny the Elder

  • William marker

    Three Floyds Brewery in Munster Indiana has a Ipa called Zombie Dust. My absolute favorite. I know it’s not west coast. But definitely worth mentioning.

  • Dino

    I like IPAs with lower malt levels than what the NW brewers typically produce. Let’s the hops really shine through. Finally found Portland based Breakside Brewery’s Wanderlust IPA. Some brewers with a heavy malt hand would call it unbalanced, I call it perfect.

  • tiny

    Hate to burst the west coast bubble. But E-Coast is destroying sensibilities with total freshness in the can. Besides VT’s Heddy Topper, Hill Farmstead Citra, Lawson Sip of Sunshine, other New England IPA brewers are changing the game. In western Mass, Building 8, Brick and Feather, Honest Weight are game and then…Treehouse’s Julius is on another level entirely…. Makes west coast seem a little silly.

  • Eric

    what about HOP-15??????

  • John

    The best IPA I have ever had was Dante’s Inferno by the old Levenworth Brewery. It was a commemorative/seasonal beer for the fire fighters that faught the fires that wiped out a lot of the trees that surround the town of Levenworth WA. It was kick-ass hoppy with a bunch of other flavors including some ash from the fire. Sadly, when the brewery sold itself out to one of the bigger breweries, the beer was never brewed again. We used to plan our vacations around when that beer was coming out.

  • John

    Blue Dot from Hair of the Dog is also a lovely IPA

  • Ted Carleton

    Hopslam from Bell’s in Michigan is outstanding; otherwise I like Odell IPA, Schlafly “A” or “T”, and Bell’s Two-Hearted. Living in Colorado, I find good IPA’s all the time. Pliny is good no doubt, even the Blind Pig is tasty. I continue to find good hoppy beers in San Diego, especially from Pizza Port and Stone. As mentioned above, I prefer an IPA with minimal malt heaviness like you’ll find with a Great Divide Titan or Ska Modus Hoperandi. When I travel east, I really like Rajah and Head Hunter in Cleveland.

  • brandon klise

    I do think Pliny is a solid IPA, I just had it for the first time a couple weeks ago. I was a little disappointing since it didn’t live up to the hype I was expecting. I think I am just over IPA’s since drinking close to over 1000 different IPA’s in the last decade from all over the world. IPA’s used to be my go to style but now I seek for a more complex brew.

Leave a Comment