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Pliny the Younger is a Triple IPA brewed seasonally by Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, California.  Touted as one of the top rated, rarest beers in America, this hophead brew sells out within minutes of being tapped; creating lines that start forming as early as 3am on tap day.  This probably seems ridiculous to those who are not a part of the ‘beer-world’, and maybe even to those who consider themselves the inner circle, but you have to respect a beer that weighs in at $1 an ounce and has people wrapped around the block for a pour.

The six-gallon kegs only made it to fourteen establishments within the state of Colorado this year, and for the first time ever, they came with a sell-by date.  Two weeks after arrival, the kegs had to be tapped and the beer sold.  Vinnie Cilurzo, owner of Russian River, believes this IPA is best when it’s fresh; therefore, no holding onto it for special occasions — the only occasion that counts is the arrival of the beer itself.

So, is Pliny the Younger worth the hassle?  Or is it the Lana Del Rey of beer — heavy on hype and promise, weak on delivery?  That depends on who you ask.  I have seen quite a few comments that declare the beer is not worth the price or the wait.  Some say they prefer the Double IPA parent, Pliny the Elder.  But there are others who savor every drop as if it truly were liquid gold.  A few hours ago I paid $10 for a 10 oz. pour at The Cheeky Monk and it was the best IPA I have ever consumed — a hundred times better than Pliny the Elder.  But…

I am not an IPA fan.  In fact, I’m a novice to this whole craft beer collective.  Sure, I was a beer snob back in the mid-90’s when I lived in North County San Diego.  I was literally 17 years old when I refused to drink keg beer at a party — bringing my own 6-pack of Red Nectar or Sam Adams, or (when they came out) Stone’s Arrogant Bastard bombers.  You could find me pulling from a 22 oz. Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout years before I was legally able to do so.  You could also find me at Pizza Port enjoying some great beer (although I had no clue Port Brewing Company was known outside of Solana Beach), but then college happened, and an empty wallet happened, and I gave into the ‘Keystone Ice/Red Cup’ culture.  It was drink piss-beer and live on my own, or drink microbrews and end up living with parents — it wasn’t even a choice.  By the time I was able to afford the finer better things in life, I got stuck in a Newcastle comfort zone and called it good.  To be honest, I became more of a liquor drinker anyway.  It wasn’t until recently (and a trip to the GABF) that I got back into beer.  The point being, why should you trust my opinion on Pliny the Younger when I am not coming from a position of authority?  That’s the question I am asking myself right now — and not just about beer, or a Triple IPA from California, but about music as well.  I am 35 years old, I don’t play an instrument, have never been in a band, and have almost zero musical training.  So why is anything I write on this blog relevant?

The answer to both questions is that I try to keep an open mind.  Sure, I’ll follow the path led by many — the path that led me to bands like Radiohead, The National, Arcade Fire and Bon Iver, but I will also follow the path less traveled…to bands such as Okkervil River, The Middle East, Chelsea Wolfe, Andrew Jackson Jihad and Future Islands.  When a friend or blog recommends a band (or a beer), I don’t turn it down because I’m too old (or too young), or because it’s a flavor I haven’t enjoyed in the past.  If I put on blinders against emocore, I would have missed out on the new Loma Prieta.  If I decided I was completely against mainstream country, I would have missed Alan Jackson’s excellent Like Red on a Rose.  If I would have decided that my divorce from metal in the 90’s was final, I probably wouldn’t be listening to half the music I am today.  Most people know I haven’t shown much love to electronic music, but goddamn if the new Burial and John Talabot arn’t incredible albums.  Same with IPA — having never been much into the hops (with the exception of Black IPAs), I was still willing to get in line to try something new.  And I’m so glad I did!

On Saturday night I will attend another tapping before heading to the Zola Jesus show at Larimer Lounge.  This time I will be with a friend I haven’t hung out with much since those days when I used to buy beer with a fake id from ‘steps’ in Leucadia, CA.  Being a hophead himself, I will be meeting him on his turf before he joins me on mine; seeing a band he’s never heard of at Larimer Lounge.  It’s these new experiences — the open mindedness — that make what I do relevant.  I realize many of you don’t have the time (or drive) to dive into world of music (or beer) like I do.  You have your own hobbies, interests and responsibilities.  I just hope that by sharing what I learn, I help you discover something new.  My promise to you is to not let my age or location act as a barrier to bringing you the best of what is out there.  I will follow the bands, the artists and today’s youth culture, regardless of where they go; and as they define the future, I will bring you the best from the front lines, while leaving the crap behind.

As for Pliny the Younger, it’s a damn fine IPA.  It brings the best of what hops have to offer, with a extremely clean finish, forgoing the aftertaste that turns me off of most IPAs.  Even at an 11% alcohol rate, it’s a very easy drink…so be careful.  And just like music, I lack the technical ability to explain it any other way.

Thanks for listening…