Editor’s Note: The Pliny Killer IPA Beer Guide is written by Mtbr founder Francis Cebedo. Francis believes that IPA will save America.
Mtbr is getting a reputation in the bike industry for knowing a little something about beer. And lo and behold, there seems to be good crossover between mountain biking and good beer. Since Mtbr is based in Northern California, we consider ourselves experts (and biased) in IPAs. But that’s obviously because IPA is the best beer in the world and California makes the best IPA.
We have a beer here from Santa Rosa called the Russian River Pliny The Elder. It is one of the best and rarest beers around since it invented the style of floral and fruity IPAs and it’s been rated best IPA in the country for a couple of years now. But the husband and wife owners refuse to raise production (and price) so it has become one of the most coveted beers in the country and on the West Coast.
So this first list of beers is something we call Pliny Killers. A Pliny Killer is a term we give a beer that could potentially be better than Pliny. It could serve as a replacement for the precious nectar when the green label with the red dot cannot be found on any shelf or with any secret handshake. But of course they all fail since no IPA is better than Pliny, but it is good to aspire and it is better than going dry.
Note that unlike its English ancestor, the India Pale Ale which was created to survive the boat trip to India, the American IPA is best drank fresh. A few days old, not a few months old is key so know where your IPA is coming from and when it was brewed. And keep it cold until the time you drink it.
Russian River Blind Pig, Pliny the Elder, Pliny the Younger
Blind Pig is the single IPA, Elder is the double and Younger is the triple at 11% alcohol content. All three are the best, but the rarest of the trio is the Younger. It is only available for two weeks in February and is never bottled, so the true fans from around the world travel far and wide and wait in line at the brewery for hours for the Younger. russianriverbrewing.com
Ballast Point Sculpin
This expensive IPA comes from the San Diego mafia and is one of the best in the category. The best part about it is it has great distribution and is available at many places year round. www.ballastpoint.com
Stone Brewing Enjoy By …
This is Stone’s answer to Pliny with its high alcohol content, floral notes, and it tries to counter Pliny’s unfair advantage of freshness. Pliny is so rare that it is usually consumed within a couple weeks of bottling. So Stone brewing puts a date on this beer label and it is distributed only at certain periods and is supposed to be consumed before the mentioned date. www.stonebrew.com
Mtbr holds frequent tastings to see how other beers compare to Pliny.
From Michigan, this beer is strong and balanced from start to finish. Using 6 different hops, it delivers with floral, grapefruit action and finishes with honey. It is good but don’t get too hooked, as it is very rare and only available at the beginning of each year. www.bellsbeer.com
Three Floyds Dreadnaught IPA
An East Coast Imperial IPA = West Coast IPA = Colorado Pale Ale. In short, this Imperial IPA from Three Floyds has lots of flavor and is balanced and satisfying from start to finish. www.3floyds.com
Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA
Deschutes is the best ‘bigger’ brewery out there because of beer quality and what they do for the cycling community. But, they have always been lacking in the IPA department. This Fresh Squeezed IPA is a game changer for them, but it is hard to find. Hop Trip or Chasin’ Freshies are good alternatives. www.deschutesbrewery.com
The Alchemist Heady Topper
This is a damn fine beer in a can. It is rare and it is expensive in the black market. It delivers from start to finish and proves that the east coast can make a fine IPA, even though they call it Imperial. alchemistbeer.com
Sante Adairius 831
This is from Santa Cruz and it is one of the best IPAs around. They bottle once in a while but you really have to ride the redwood forests, get a growler of this and hang out at the beach for the full experience. rusticales.com
Alpine Duet IPA
Again, don’t get hooked as this is even more rare than Pliny. But everything Alpine makes is just outstanding and it will bring pure hoppiness to your heart. www.alpinebeerco.com
Lagunitas IPA, Bear Republic Racer 5, Stone IPA, Dales Pale Ale, Ninkasi Tricerahops, Firestone Double DPA, Avery IPA, Sierra Nevada Hoptimum
You’re in a restaurant looking at the beers on tap. Or you’re at the grocery staring at the six packs. Get any one of these and you’re good. lagunitas.com; bearrepublic.com; www.stonebrew.com; www.oskarblues.com; www.ninkasibrewing.com; www.firestonebeer.com; www.sierranevada.com