At the risk of sounding like some cynical beer hipster, I had a Pliney the Elder Saturday evening and it was no longer really special. It’s been about seven years since I’ve had my last Pliny and it’s amazing how my perception of it has evolved over that time. It’s transformed from the must-have cult beer that showed the world what can be accomplished with hops to just another good Double IPA. What was once a lupulin flavor explosion now seems like a controlled use of hops which an unexpected softness to it.
You could argue Pliny the Elder started the hop arms race and it’s clear many breweries caught up and then surpassed it, using all sorts of tricks like late additions, specially bred hop varieties, hop extracts, and cyro powder. This knowledge has seeped throughout the brewing community to the point where all sorts of breweries, new and old, release Double IPA’s that rival Pliney the Elder, as blasphemous as that sounds. So if you want to see the progress brewers have made over the past few years, have yourself a Pliny. It’s still a great beer but today it is so….ordinary.