Craft Beer: Don't hoard Pliny the Elder – it's an IPA best enjoyed at its freshest

Pliny the Elder – the urge to hoard was outweighed by the insistence on the label that I drink it while it was fresh
Paul McConville

THE trailer for the new Star Wars movie ‘dropped' earlier this week, causing quite a stir in geekdom. (Mind you, craft beer has its own fair share of geeks and nerds.)

The most fervent fans of such shows have a penchant for hoarding memorabilia such as toys – sorry, action figures. The thing about ‘action figures' is that they aren't bought to play with; they aren't even supposed to be taken out of the box so as to preserve their value.

Now, many beer drinkers will hoard specific beers, either to keep for a special occasion or to age them. Getting your hands on a rare or limited-edition beer can be a bit of a thrill and the instinct will be to stow it away for another day.

I was fortunate to have been gifted one such beer last week; however, the urge to hoard was outweighed by the insistence on the label that I drink it while it was fresh.

The beer in question is Pliny the Elder and it is brewed by Russian River Beer Company in California. It takes its name from the Roman naturalist and author who created the botanical name for hops – Lupus Salictarius.

The beer itself has been regularly voted America's best beer. Its rarity is down to the fact that the brewers want this 8 per cent double IPA to be drunk when it is at its freshest and so only brew it in small batches using Amarillo, Centennial, CTZ, and Simcoe hops.

The anticipation of a new batch of Pliny the Elder is almost on a par with the wait for Beaujolais nouveau.

It pours a light copper colour and has great fresh hop aromas with lots of floral and citrus notes. It is crystal clear in the glass and on the palate there are fresh flavours of grapefruit, peach and tropical fruits before a crisp, bitter and piney finish.

It's a superbly put together beer, nicely balanced and, as recommended, drinking it as freshly as possible is key.

While some beers like dark ales, imperial stouts and some Belgian ales benefit from aging, IPAs are on the other end of the scale. They are usually crammed full of fresh hops which die off rapidly. Many brewers will stamp a ‘bottled on' date on the label to give the drinker an idea of how fresh it is.

In short, hoarding an IPA isn't recommended, no matter how long you've been waiting to get your hands on it.

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