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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

My Pliny Diary!!

Dear Beer Diary,

The last couple days have just been crazy for me! As everyone who is everyone in Philadelphia knows, a famously bitter man is in town, and we all want to meet him! That's right, I'm talking about Pliny the Younger, the awesomely-rated triple IPA from Russian River! You know? The beer that no one else gets but us on the East coast? Wow! Wow! I can hardly write this down, Diary, I'm so excited that I got some Pliny -- not one, not two, not three, but FOUR WHOLE GLASSES! (6 ounce pours, of course, let's be reasonable.)

Well, Diary, it all started Monday evening when the wife and I headed down I-95 to Philadelphia and the City Tap House, where we had been invited to come by and try one of chef Ralph Kane's new "suppers" (Disclosure time, Diary and readers: City Tap House paid for this dinner.), a series of daily one-plate specials. Monday night's sounded so Southern and robusto: chicken-fried sirloin, sharp cheddar biscuits, herb grits, sautéed spinach, with smoked Tasso ham gravy. We found parking easily on Walnut Street and took the elevator up to the restaurant. It was busy in the big bar, but we were seated right away in the dining room.

Diary, I knew Pliny was in town, but I didn't know he was at City Tap House until the waitress came over to ask if we wanted anything to drink, and I said I'd have to look at the menu, and she said "Andy Farrell wanted to know if you wanted the last two glasses of Pliny the Younger." We sure did!! Andy is the manager, and I've done some events with him in the past, and it was just so nice of him to notice and make that offer! Two glasses of hoppy nectar came, a deep orange-gold in color, and didn't Cathy and I just love them to pieces? (I'm doing a review of PtY for a magazine, so...can't really say anything here other than while Pliny may not live up to the hype -- and what beer could? -- it's quite the pleasant smack in the chops, and yes, worth a trip to town.)

After that, did we even notice the meal? Yes we did, though when the waitress came back and asked us what we wanted, we said, we're here for the Supper...she said, You'll split that, then? That seemed odd, but we figured she knew what she was talking about, and did she ever: the 'supper' came on one big plate, and it was a great pile of stuff! A man at the next table also got it, just for himself (his date got the tartufo pizza), and my hat's off to him, Diary: he finished it and mopped up the gravy! The sirloin was tasty and tender in a crackling coating of crisp breading, the gravy was smoky and flavorful, the grits were dense and delicious, the spinach was silky. The only disappointment was the biscuit; just barely warm, a bit tough, and for being called "sharp cheddar," it didn't really come through on the cheesiness. Still, 4 out of 5, Diary! I had a Southampton Burton Pale Ale with dinner, and it was quite nice, flavorful but not intrusive, and a good beer with the food.

Did your Pliny Day have a fire-breathing dino? Didn't think so.
That was just a warm-up for the next day: My Pliny Day, Diary! (More disclosure: I paid for all the beers and food mentioned after this (with two exceptions, noted below). Just so you know.) I went down early to Resurrection Ale House, where they had sent out an email to people on their list that they'd have Pliny the Younger on Tuesday, first 50 respondents would get a glass -- I was Respondent Number 4, Diary! I was actually too early; they started at 11:30, and I thought it was 11:00. Still, they let me in, and within 5 minutes had decided that they might as well pour mine (and one for the other early bird who came in the same time I did; sorry, I'm blanking on your name, a brewer at Iron Hill North Wales...Craig?), and in less than 16 hours, I was faced with another glass of PtY!!!! 

It was still great, and when I was done, I decided to run the Russian River Hop Trifecta, and got a glass of Pliny the Elder, followed by a glass of Blind Pig. Were they hoppy? Yes they were! Were they as hoppy as Pliny the Younger? Well...yes and no. PtE actually tasted more bitter than the Younger, and I think it was because of the lower malt body; it was a different balance. But I have to say...Blind Pig, which is normally a real hop zipper-ripper, tasted...just kinda hoppy after those two monsters! Wowzer! After that, I calmed down a lot with a small glass of Birrifica Seson, a saison from that acclaimed Italian brewery. It was very nice, herbal, complex, and Brendan Hartranft and I agreed we'd have to try some more Italian beers soon!

At this point, Diary, I needed a little down time! So even though the food at Resurrection is very good, I decided to walk up the street to Grace Tavern, which I have come to believe has one of the very best burgers in the city, and had one of those burgers for lunch, and it was yummy! I also had a tastily tart glass of Petrus Aged Pale Ale, and a great conversation with Philly Brewing man-about-town Chris Morris, who gifted me with a newly-bottled Fleur de Lehigh, one of my favorite spring beers. When I suddenly realized it was almost 1:45, I paid up, and ran for the Jetta: I had another date with Mister Pliny the Younger!

SPTR: the one, the only
Fifteen minutes later I was parked and walking to the South Philly Tap Room! They were tapping their keg of PtY at 2:00, and I got in just ahead of time -- "Lock that door!" someone joked as I walked in (do you think they wished I'd stayed away, dear Diary?!) -- and was happy to find my friend Christine Gumpper there, who offered me a seat at her table of friends, so I got to meet Derek and Dave, too! And just like was Pliny Time again! We got PtY all around, and what do you think, Diary? It was just as astonishingly the third time around! Wow! The bar was buzzing with excitement. Then Kathryn (the bar manager) came by and dropped off another Pliny for me! Wow, Diary! Damn, it feels good to be a beerwrita!

I finished up my beer day -- not quite, but you'll see -- with a small glass of Allagash Saison Mihm, and it was delicate, sweet, spicy, and altogether soothing after the excitement of My Day With Pliny the Younger!!!! And you know the funny/sad thing, dear Diary? I was so excited about Pliny the Younger that I completely forgot that Kathryn had put on one of the very last kegs of the Sierra Nevada Exportation Sour Baltic Porter that I'd helped to make, a truly exceptional and one-off beer that was great, and delicious, and unique, and innovative (and aged in wine barrels for a year at Russian River...). How funny! How sad.

I had to have a coffee to get me home, and a cup of Rwandan at Brew Ultimo did me just right. But just to show that a beer-lover's totally great day isn't always over...when I came home and grilled up some bockwurst, with caramelized onions and steamed broccoli for our family dinner, I decided to settle in with a sample pounder of Narragansett Cream Ale, their new year-round brew...and it was excellent, just a bit sweet, just a bit bitter, and 100% refreshing. It was a great day in Philly with Pliny the Younger, but it was good to be home!


Is Pliny the Younger all about the hype, "dear Diary"? Definitely not, it's a markedly good beer, and truly well-balanced for its size and hoppiness. Is it something people get crazy about? Sure, and Kate the Great, and Dark Lord, and all the other limited release beers people travel miles to get; sure they are. Is it bad that they do this? No, I don't think so. I wanted to ride that wave for a day and see what it was like. It was fun being in the East Coast city that gets the Younger, and it was fun being part of the excitement, and seeing how pumped everyone was.

But I really do feel stupid for missing that Exportation tapping, and it makes me wonder what other beers get lost in the super-hype shuffle, the beers that are completely under the radar because they don't get the geekerie as excited. Honestly, I get as excited about the idea of going to Uerige and having glasses of fresh altbier, or going to Bell's and sucking down fresh Porter, or going to Victory and draining what's left in the Dark Lager tank. I'm not one of those "all beer is good!" loonies, no fear. But don't forget to be excited about the good beers we have, and can get, wherever you are. Have one today.

A clarification: it's been suggested to me that I'm being overly mean-spirited here to the people on beer rating forums and others who get really excited about Pliny the Younger. Not my intention at all: I was actually making fun of myself, because after writing about not getting excited about Dark Intrigue, and not standing in line for beer...when that email to Resurrection's mailing list came out, I knee-jerked and responded to it just like anyone else. Guess I'm a geek at heart. 


Beer Nut said...

Fun column. Sounds like a good, if not long day. I may be one of the few people who prefer PTE to PTY.


Uncle Jack said...

>because after writing about not getting excited about Dark Intrigue, and not standing in line for beer...when that email to Resurrection's mailing list came out, I knee-jerked and responded to it just like anyone else. Guess I'm a geek at heart.<

I stand in awe. You've moved from channeling John Kerry to channeling Mitt Romney.

Lew Bryson said...

Romney's making fun of himself for buying Cadillacs?

Uncle Jack said...

No, you are Romney-like for trying to please whoever you're talking to at the moment. That post was in no way mean spirited (I know mean spirited, I do mean spirited), it was funny and in keeping with a whole raft of your previous posts, and for you to wimp out and "clarify" is, or should be, embarrassing.

Lew Bryson said...

Is it okay if I only post one of the six times you posted this?

As for being

Steven said...

"Is it okay if I only post one of the six times you posted this?"

Oh, Lew -- let's not go makin' fun on us because of the hinky blog moderation you have in place! We told you about this already -- it's a PAIN!

And if it's a pain for me, I can't imagine what it's like for an old-timer like Unc'a Jack. ;)

To wit: "The characters you entered didn't match the word verification. Please try again."

Uh, yeah -- they did.

Lew Bryson said...

1. Take it up with Google (and the jerkwads who spam and dirtbomb my blog).

2. Uncle Jack told me he had a computer problem, so don't blame the moderation!

3. Yeah, it's a pain.