Best Elusive Beer

By Anna Roth There's a dividing line between beer drinkers: those who have tried Pliny the Younger, and those who have not. The triple IPA made by Russian River Brewing Company (725 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, (707) 545-2337. is the stuff of legend, a serious brew with 10.5 percent alcohol content that's only available in very limited quantities during the first few weeks of February. People talk about Pliny the Younger in hushed, reverential tones; they only share their sources of it with people they trust. Because kegs of the stuff usually go within an hour or two, finding and consuming Pliny the Younger takes both dedication and elbow grease.First, you have to locate a bar that's pouring it, not an easy task. Some announce their Pliny the Younger availability on the S.F. Beer Week event schedule (its release usually coincides with Beer Week), but many only through word of mouth (Twitter and beer-nerd message boards help). Once you do find the lucky bar, be prepared to wait in line — sometimes for hours.But once you deal with all the shenanigans to get it, there's no doubt about it: Pliny the Younger is a beautiful beer. It's a clear, golden color, and tastes strongly of citrus and hops without blowing out your palate. It's also surprisingly light and refreshing, considering the amount of alcohol in it. Like a well-made wine, you can tell how much technical craftsmanship went into the making of it — a large part of the reason only a limited quantity is made each year.Russian River Brewing used to let people walk away with glass growlers that would later sell on eBay for upwards of $100. Now, growlers are no longer allowed. But the beer's exclusivity is part of what makes it so special. After all, there's nothing that aficionados of all stripes like more than exclusivity.


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