You have to feel sorry for poor old Gaius Plinius Secundus. Being buried alive in several tonnes of burning hot ash following the eruption of Vesuvius was probably bad enough, but the indignity of having one's name mispronounced on a regular basis must be far worse. For the record, the American Heritage Dictionary will tell you how to say it here.
Pliny the Elder is one of two from Russian River in northern California which were a gift from TheBeerGeek crew, and is a particular favourite of Chris's. I can see why. It's a strong IPA, and pours a pale marmalade colour with a light, even haze through it. Bitter? Oh yes, in a big acidic way. And yet it's not difficult or corrosive like some super-hoppy beers can be. Oranges dominate the flavour, in that oily way which reminds me of a Terry's Chocolate Orange minus the chocolate. I didn't get any grapefruit character until the first burp, which produced a taste sensation similar to chewing grapefruit rind. The label exhorts the drinker to consume it cold, and I think it might have been even more enjoyable if I'd been drinking it below 12°C, but it's a damn fine beer however you look at it. I've had bitterer; I've had hoppier; I've had stronger. But what we have here is what passes for balance among west-coast hop-bombs. And it works.
Second up is the marginally more sessionable (6% ABV) Blind Pig IPA. Here the fresh and zesty grapefruit flavours are right at the front. There's not a trace of harshness: instead it's soft and juicy, with hints of honeydew melon. The malt is just about detectable at the base, but it doesn't add much by way of warmth or weight. Instead, we get an easy-going well-balanced IPA which is all the more enjoyable for coming in a half litre bottle.
I've been listening to Chris raving about Russian River for a while now, and having tried two of their beers I can definitely say that the hype is worth believing.