While I had to wait a month from the bottle date, this was everything that it was supposed to be. Up until last night, this was one of my many "white whale" beers (beers that you hunt for but can never get, either due to rarity or distance from distribution or quality).
Pliny the Elder was a Roman naturalist, scholar, historian, traveler, officer, and writer. Although not considered his most important work, Pliny and his contemporaries created the botanical name for hops, "lupus Salictarius", meaning wolf among scrubs." Hops at that time grew wild among willows, much like a wolf in the forest. Later the current botanical name, humulus Lupulus, was adopted. Pliny died in 79 AD while observing the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. He was immortalized by his nephew, Pliny the Younger, who continued his uncle’s legacy by documenting much of what he observed during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Pliny the Elder, the beer, is brewed with 40% more malt and over twice the amount of hops as compared to our already hoppy IPA.
Pliny the Elder is brewed with Amarillo, Centennial, CTZ, and Simcoe hops. While the hops are definitely there, this is such a well balanced beer. I absolutely understand why this is #3 on BeerAdvocate's Top 250, only behind #2 Pliny the Younger (Elder is a limited bottle distriution Double IPA, Younger is a draft only Triple IPA) and #1 The Alchemist's Heady Topper (a Double IPA canned fresh 2x a week and only distributed within a few miles of the brewery). This is a phenomenal beer. I knew it was great, but didn't expect this much balance. Hoppy, malty, not overly alcoholic, while light and smooth. Lots of grapefruit from the hop profile lingers in the mouth, while at the same time not completely coating your mouth. If you get the rare opportunity to get this beer, do it. Do not say "maybe next time" or "it can't be as good as everyone says it is." Just get it and drink it.
Now to the official notes. We have started following the Ratebeer Tasting and Rating Sheet to help standardize reviews.
Appearance: A hard pour brings a creamy white, 2 finger head. Very good lacing, that follows the head all the way down when drinking. Clear, slightly hazy yellow/orange in the glass.
Aroma: Very light malt. Lots of pine and grapefruit in the hops. It fights its way through the head. No yeast in the smell. Very light alcohol (8% ABV). Hints of honey in the smell as well.
Palate: Very light in the mouth. Lots of carbonation, but not champagne-y. Bitter hops and grapefruit in the finish.
Flavor: The flavor is just hops on top of hops. There is no beer that I've drank that I can compare this to. It is amazingly smooth and balanced. In the words of the guy I shared this with, it's almost spooky how balanced.
Overall: This is such an incredible beer. I'm sure that it's even better fresher (this was bottled 8/2, drank on 9/6), but it was still phenomenal. Everything from the pour to the finish was excellent.