In Search of: Pliny the Younger
Updated: May 4
Many aficionados of craft beer are not aware that Pliny the Elder was a Roman author, naturalist and philosopher. Neither are they aware that his nephew, Pliny the Younger, was a lawyer, author, and magistrate of Rome over 2,000 years ago. These folks do know that Pliny the Elder is a double IPA from Russian River Brewing, and that Pliny the Younger is the triple version of that IPA recipe.
Brewed only once a year, but revered across the beer fanatic universe, Pliny the Younger is considered the trailblazer, claiming to be the first triple IPA brewed at the commercial level, back in 2005. It is the Yeti, the white stallion, and a unicorn all rolled into one. Its annual release in February and March creates hours-long waits at Russian River’s original location in Santa Rosa, as well as at their newer brewery in Windsor.
Much of the ongoing allure of Pliny the Younger is its rarity. Originally only sold on draft, the brewery is now bottling a small amount and selling it online and at the brewery on a very limited basis. But seekers of this elusive beer can find a few retail locations around Southern California that are anointed as worthy of serving these rare suds. The problem is that many will be disappointed in their quest, finding that kegs that are tapped that afternoon are often gone by evening, with little need to announce that the beer is flowing.
There are a number of triple IPAs that have emerged since that first batch of Pliny in 2005, and IPAs of all sorts continue to be extremely popular. So, if you were lucky enough to track down a glass of Pliny the Younger at your local tap house, congratulations! If not, we have assembled a list of a few alternatives that should have greater local availability and are worthy of your consideration.
Chapman Crafted – Orange, CA – Thiolater, 9.6% ABV
El Segundo Brewing – El Segundo, CA – Power Plant, 11.1% ABV
Everywhere Brewing – Orange, CA – The Incredible Now, 10.0% ABV
Harland Brewing – San Diego, CA – Fortune Teller, 10.0% ABV
Radiant Brewing – Anaheim, CA - All the Things We’ve Done, 11.3% ABV
TradeMark Brewing – Long Beach, CA – Proper Modulation, 12.0% ABV
Keep in mind that these are not Pliny the Younger clones in any way. These beers have some similar characteristics and are good representatives of the larger triple IPA category, but their most important quality is that you might actually get a pour of one of these without running around town chasing after a semi-mystical creature. Outside of these local offerings, also keep an eye out for seasonal releases from bigger breweries such as Sierra Nevada (Hoptimum), Lagunitas (Waldo’s), Knee Deep (Simtra), and Bell’s (Hopslam).