He comes only once a year, popping up in watering holes across the Bay Area. People line up to see him even before the bar is open. He is not post-mall-shift Santa Claus — he's Russian River Brewing Company's Pliny the Younger, the stronger, hoppier nephew of the same brewery's Pliny the Elder. But why the craze over a beer? The brewery releases Pliny the Younger only once a year, and as with most small batch beers, the flavor varies slightly every time they brew it. The February release also happens to coincide with San Francisco Beer Week.
This year, Younger's appearances in San Francisco included Mini Bar, Rosamunde Mission, and The Page, as well as his usual haunts, Pi Bar, Lucky 13 and Toronado. And the beer is delicious as usual. It's incredibly balanced for an 11% ABV beer, and while it certainly tastes more alcoholic than its more prevalent uncle Pliny the Elder, it's nothing compared to the OMG-so-boozy taste of most high ABV beers (more from Beer Advocate). It's also very well carbonated, something lacking in a lot of beers that pack a high-alcohol punch. It is not for the weak, and not for the hop-averse. If you haven't had the chance to taste this kick-in-the-ass combination of booze and hops yet this year, the precious nectar will make one last scheduled appearance at Toronado tonight when they tap their last keg for 2011 at 6pm. But be warned: it goes fast! On Monday, the half barrel at Pi Bar was gone within an hour and a half. So if you plan on getting a glass of this ephemeral beverage today, you should plan to get there early. Remind your boss it's Friday and head to the Lower Haight before this batch disappears from the city until next year.