East meets West

I find myself in the unique situation to try two of the most famous American craft beers: Pliny the Elder and Heady Topper.

Pliny the Elder vs Heady Topper

It’s a miracle these amazing beers have even landed on my desk, but I’m not one to waste a good opportunity. Russian River Brewing Company, and The Alchemist are both well known staples in their industry, and for good reason! With every other brewery out there striving to set themselves apart from the pack, each of these has found their niche… and look at them go.

Spent a few minutes on this beautiful Sonoma County afternoon taking pictures, inspecting, and most importantly, drinking both beers. Along with some photos (that should give a good idea of what each can offer), I chose to stick with a common glass type: the Tulip. My last post did deal with the impact of glassware on a beer, and I’ll likely recreate that for each of these. For now, though, let’s get to the tasting.


Pliny the Elder

Appearance: Clear as day, likely a result of filtration. Strong Amber, with a leaning toward Orange. Lacey head, which stands just above the beer. No suds, just a consistent pattern on top. Stays on the sides of the glass evenly, clearing off slowly.Russian River Brewing Company - Pliny the Elder

Aroma: Citrus ‘bite’, with a bit of Orange and Flat-leaf Parsley. Fresh cut grass.

Mouth feel: Smooth and somewhat creamy, moving to dry within moments. Cleans off the palette quickly.

Flavor: Grapefruit on the front of my tongue, yet an earthiness that reminds you that this beer has a solid body.

Overall: As a Double IPA, Pliny maintains its Malt body against the aggressive Hop-bill exactly how you would want. The west often gets a stigma of Hop’s to sacrifice body and flavor… Pliny show’s none of that. Consistently solid flavors, all the way through.

Heady Topper

Appearance: Muted orange, and a opaque. Little to no filtration, as there is no seeing through this beer (figuratively and literally).

Aroma: Piney, and robust. Reminds me a bit of the smell a pine cone has just after picking it up.The Alchemist - Heady Topper

Mouthfeel: Somewhat creamy, with a similar drying effect as cranberry juice on your tongue. Clears off the palette very quickly, leaving a desire for the next sip.

Flavor: Hints of lemon, lavender, and apple juice. Each component of the flavor is quickly identifiable, and shines above all else. Heady does have a substantial hop profile, it certainly does not hinder any of the malt flavors from making their way to your mouth.

Overall: Extremely well balanced, with a lean towards showcasing the body. I love a big, bad, in-your-face… Hop filled beer as often as I can get them, yet in Heady Topper, the brewer has found a way to present the drinker with hops, and a surprising balanced malt profile that makes this beer such a treat.

Categories: Reviews, Sonoma County

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 replies

  1. And the winner is!? Com’on man, you gotta step out there and pick a fave! Hahah. Id take the Pliny if I had to choose one for ever.

    • If I had to pick one, it would be Heady. Huge fan of a balanced hop profile match with a solid body in the Beer. Pliny is a quintessential West coast-style DIPA, but my tastes land more on the body these days.

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