Pliny the Younger (PtY) is an interesting phenomenon to me. There are two general trains of thought: some feel it’s a well marketed over hyped beer while others think it’s one of the best beers in the world. I’m starting to join the camp of the former, but that doesn’t diminish my fascination with the events surrounding a PtY tapping.
For those of you not familiar, PtY is a triple IPA brewed by Russian River. If you’ve heard of their famous double IPA Pliny the Elder, PtY is basically that beer on steroids. The Elder Pliny has a pretty serious following itself and bottles typically go fast when released in its limited outside markets. Since PtY is only distributed via keg, the demand tends to reach fever pitch since you can’t trade for this shit. You have to get it on site somewhere which just adds to the hype.
My last encounter with PtY was in 2013. Now, two years later, I wasn’t even planning on acquiring the sacred brew. That non-plan was shattered with a simple text from my friend Allison. She hadn’t experienced PtY and was going to a tapping at World of Beer (WoB) in Cherry Creek. It was a Wednesday, a meeting had been cancelled and part of the proceeds from the sales were going towards a charity. How bad could the crowd be?
Well, the crowd wasn’t huge, but this is the part where I need to learn to fucking read. The tickets to get a pour started around 5. This I knew. What I didn’t know was the tickets were going to people that had WoB membership cards. “OK. How many card holders can there possibly be here?” Oh, Sam, you wonderfully ignorant shithead. There are dozens. Scores, even. Suddenly, 150 tickets seemed a little sparse.
Allison was well connected, so she was good to go. I, however, had to watch and wait patiently. An upside was I wasn’t really worried about getting a pour since I’ve had the experience. If I got some, bonus. If not, I could probably find a delicious beer in one of the bajillion taps that wouldn’t cost six bucks for six ounces. In fact, I was already scanning for my back up beer.
Finally, when the bartender had barely a fist full of tickets, a friend of Allison’s (who happened to be a WoB employee) gave me a hot tip to go get in line. If the bartender gave me shit, they’d try to help me out. So I got in line and tried to act like I was supposed to be there by mumbling something about those stupid suckers without a member card. I think my cover went pretty well. By the time I got to the counter they had gone through the members and were handing out tickets to the regular Joe’s like me. PtY had been secured and a portion of my adventure went to a charitable cause.
— sam (@BeernLoathing) February 19, 2015
This happy ending ended up convincing me that I should take time out of my precious Saturday of that same week to go back to where I first experienced PtY, Falling Rock Taphouse. It had been a few years and I thought it might be fun to compare the two events. Each bar had it’s own protocol for getting a “guaranteed” pour and Falling Rock gets a bigger allotment so their pours are a little more liberal.
I planned to take Friday night easy and catch some Z’s so I could wake up and get some stuff done without jeopardizing my chances of getting the coveted blue ticket guaranteeing me a pour. However, in usual fashion, the road to Hell was paved with the best intentions. I substituted bed with a shitload of beer and some tequila, so instead of waking up well rested and ready for the day, I woke up with a pounding head and trying not to vomit. Typical.
I make the two mile walk to Falling Rock in descent time, all the while trying unsuccessfully to get a hold of people who wanted to share the experience (looking at you Mattdog). I was doing this one solo, just like last time. I turned the corner off 20th at about five minutes to 11 and my stomach clinched, nearly forcing me to spray half digested tequila all over the sidewalk. Even from 300 yards I could see a line outside the bar without a clearly visible end. “Is this going to be a repeat of WoB? Am I going to have to sweat out another near miss?”
I walked up to the line and followed it to the end, which thankfully was just barely spilling onto the sidewalk. A single beam of sunlight punctured through the haze in the sky and blazed towards earth and struck a single blue ticket as it was handed to me. Out of nowhere, that song from “The Lion King” burst from the sewers, birds, rabbits and squirrels flocked from miles around to watch the hand off, and the ticket dispenser and myself nodded to each other, knowing the circle of life had been completed once more. I was getting another pour of Pliny.
Now my focus moved to keeping myself from spewing all over the place and getting rid of this goddamn headache. I couldn’t afford to waste my precious ticket. I have a history at this bar, whether they know it or not, and I didn’t want to give them a reason to kick me out before the kegs were tapped at one. I got some cash and order a 90 Schilling. Something mild to get me back in the game. The first sip brought me to a hot sweat. My stomach lurched, flipped and flopped. I clenched my jaw and went to a Happy Place. Only two hours. I could manage that, right?
This battle waged on for the next hour and a half.
This hangover just added a new twist: I may now be in danger of shitting my pants. — sam (@BeernLoathing) February 21, 2015
About 20 minutes before tapping, I was able to take half human sips of my now room temperature 90 Schilling. The room was getting a little more crowded. I was posted up by the phone charging station because I was concentrating on not vomiting by physically typing out this post into my phone. People were coming and going, picking up their food. It smelled both delicious and nauseating.
Finally, a voice boomed out over the sound system. “WHO’S HERE FOR SOME PLINY??” Absolute crickets. The guy next to me seemed to jolt awake, eyes wide and shouted, “Holy fuck! How did I get here??” The bar emptied out and I sat down to an open tap of PtY all to myself.
Still with me? Cause if I’m going to be honest, it looked like I was losing you for a minute and the ending is pretty anti-climactic.
Reality: I walked up to the bar, paid 8 bucks for (what I assume was) an eight to ten ounce pour of the beer I had tried so hard not to vomit for, took my change and promptly walked outside to get away from the intense crowd.
This one tasted a little better than the WoB pour for some reason. Maybe it was the wait. Maybe it was the hangover. Maybe it was because this one wasn’t supporting charity (that I know of). Maybe my palate decided to morph from tequila. The fact is, I don’t know nor do I care.
I slowly drank my PtY and overcame my crippling hangover. If there is any shining light to this story, an adversity overcome, it would be the conquering of the hangover. Sure the beer was good, but I’m still on the side of those who think there are plenty of more awesome beers in the world that don’t require tickets and line waiting to buy. That said, if you are a spirited adventurer interested in having an experience, a PtY tapping is one hell of a place to visit. Especially when all you want to do is throw up.