West Coast Brewer Home Brewing Blog

Category: Beer Reviews (Page 1 of 2)

A collection of West Coast Brewer beer reviews.

Pliny the Younger Review

Pliny the Younger, if you are not familiar with it, is one of Russian Rivers most elusive beers and by many, considered to be one of the worlds best examples a West Coast IPA \ Triple IPA. Many of you may be familiar with Pliny the Elder. Well,  Pliny the Younger is the Elder’s bad ass offspring. Where Pliny the Elder is a double IPA clocking in at 8% ABV, Pliny the Younger is a tripple IPA with an ABV of 10.25%. Pliny the Younger is not sold in bottles, you can not get a growler of it, and to make things worse it is only distributed by keg to a limited number of breweries; most of those are located in California. Ohhhh and did I mention that they only brew it once per year? The good news for me is that one of my local breweries, Tustin Brewing Company, out of Tustin, California is one of the distribution points in California for Russian River beer and Pliny the Younger. That being said, I have been trying to get the beer for 8 years now and not until yesterday had I succeed. The problem is that as it turns out, I am not the only person interested in having a glass. Every year at about this time the Tustin Brewery celebrates Russian River week! They bring in a wide array of Russian River beers including some of their most prized sour and wild beers like Consecration and Supplication. They also offer some of Russian Rivers best pale ales and IPA’s like Blind Pig and Pliny the Elder; but the crown jewel is Pliny the Younger. In order to secure yourself a pour of Pliny the Younger, you must line up in the parking lot at approximately 9-10:AM on a Wednesday morning.  If you are one of the approximately first 70 people in line, you are provided with a wrist band that will entitle you to a 8 oz pour of Pliny the Younger once the brewery opens at 11:AM.  Unfortunately for me, I have a job with a not so flexible work schedule that has not allowed me to take the time off for this event. This year was no different. As my hopes had all but faded, the Tustin Brewery sent out a tweet late yesterday afternoon.  It turns out that they received not 1 but 2 kegs of Pliny the Younger this year. If you were one of the first 70 to claim a ticket, and could reach the brewery by 6:PM, you could receive a pour from their 2nd Pliny the Younger keg. The process was a little confusing, and I was not certain that I had properly claimed my ticket, so I raced to the brewery. It felt as though I was competing in some form of craft beer Olympics. I had to accomplish a variety of tasks, and only the fastest participants would receive the prize.

When I finally arrived at the brewery, the parking lot was a mad house. It was packed with beer lovers and moms dropping off kids with colorful belts to Taekwondo practice. I drove to the furthest reaches of the parking lot and found one of the only available parking spots. It was hidden away behind all the buildings far from the brewery. I speedily walked towards the Tustin Brewery entrance with other middle aged men all thirsty for a taste of this rare beer. I narrowly avoided being struck on the sidewalk by a man apparently not familiar with how to park his over sized truck in a sub compact parking space; I was almost to the door. This was clearly one of those situations where nobody was going to hold the door open and let you go in ahead of them. I entered the brewery behind a chubby man who was huffing and wheezing from his long brisk walk from his parking space. The brewery was packed and energized with the voices of hundreds of patrons reveling in the atmosphere and drinking their beers.

At first I was a little overwhelmed. Trying to take it all in, I thought to myself; shit, this is a lot of people, how do I get my Pliny the Younger and I hope this ticket thing worked. Thankfully a couple of the girls who work at the brewery, Krystle and Rachel were kind enough to help me figure out where to go and what to do. I proceeded to go to a table where they verified my name on their list, collected my cash and provided me with a red ticket!

Pliny the Younger Beer Ticket

Pliny the Younger Beer Ticket

From there I was directed to a sign hung high on the wall of the brewery near the bar exclaiming  “Redeem Ticket Here, Pliny the Younger, Tustin Brewery Loves You”! I walked through the crowded bar, and stood behind another man as we waited for them to tap the Pliny the Younger keg and begin serving. Finally I could begin to relax; my beer was nearly in hand.  I heard one pub patron complain about Russian River Week as he awkwardly tried to move around the crowded bar to get a refill of his mug with Golden Spike Blonde Ale. He was clearly not impressed by the rare keg that was now being connected just feet from him. Others were just happy that Friday was upon us and that there were so many hard to find and great beers available this week. I stood silently, waiting in anticipation.  Finally, after 8 years, the moment had arrived. The man in front of me, received his Pliny the Younger and it was my turn.  I handed the bartender my ticket and he pulled back the tap handle, like some form of epic beer slot machine and filled my glass!

Pliny the Younger Animated Gif

Pliny the Younger Animated Gif

I grabbed my beer securely and began to walk to the patio. I took a quick sip; just in the off chance that an earthquake would strike and cover me in falling beams, I was at least going to get one mouthful of Pliny the Younger first! I did my best to move through the brewery, avoiding the mobs of people and avoid spilling even a drop of this rare and special beer. Thankfully there was no earthquake, but there was Juan. Juan is one of the best things about the Tustin Brewery, he is always wearing a smile, cracking a joke and slapping you on the back with the strength or Hercules and Oden combined as his way of saying, great to see you, let me rearrange your vertebrae for you. As he turned and saw me approaching, I remember thinking f#&k, here comes Juan.  A smile came to Juan’s face and I knew exactly what was next. I grabbed my Pliny the Younger as securely as I could with both hands; all I could do was hope that the collateral damage would not be too severe. WHAPPP, the shock of Juan’s hand on my shoulder sent reverberations down my arm, to my elbow and finally to my hands.  As hard as I tried, I could not stop the glass from bucking. A small wave of the cold beer rolled over my hand and slapped the hard tile floor. Juan just smiled and laughed as he saw dismay form on my face. He was right, it was a little funny. After all, I still had a nearly full glass and this was a time for celebration. After saying hello to Juan, I quickly made my way to the patio before he could shake any additional beer from my glass.

There was a small table available on the crowded patio; I set my beer down and took a seat.  This was it. I braced myself for disappointment. Recently I had watch the movie Dunkirk. I had heard so many wonderful reviews and yet when I watched it I was left so disappointed. It looked great, but there was not much to it. Was Pliny the Younger going to be the Dunkirk of beer I wondered? 8 years is a long time to wait for something, I have had Pliny the Elder probably 40 times in that time period, was this really going to be any better? Often times, Triple IPA’s are terribly unbalanced and sometimes painful to drink, would that be the case with Pliny the Younger?


Pliny the Younger

Pliny the Younger Russian River Beer

I am not one of those people who likes over the top beer reviews. You are no going to hear me say things like it washed my taste buds with the pleasant essence of virgin pine drippings, or the mouthfeel is reminiscent of  water from pristine deep water brackish caves. So here it goes.  I rate Pliny the Younger a 100 out of 100. I was not let down in anyway. I had extremely high expectations and it exceeded every one of them. Pliny the Younger is hands down the most well balanced triple IPA I have ever had and more importantly the most well balanced beer I have ever had.  Simply put, it was perfect. This sounds a little lame as I write it, but the mouth feel was exceptional.  As I slowly drank it, trying to appreciate every sip, I analyzed it; wondering if they added salt to the mash and how much; what hops were in the boil and what did they dry hop it with. I wanted to make it or myself!  The volume of my glass kept being depleted with each taste and I just kept hoping I would not have to wait another 8 years for my next glass.  If you have the chance to get some, even if it will be a pain in the ass, in my opinion it would be well worth it.

Getting a little inspiration for my next Hazy IPA

Getting some liquid inspiration at Greek Cheek Brewery in Orange, California.  They are making some of the very best Hazy IPA’s in Southern California and if you have the chance to check them out, I highly recommend that you do! They typically have 8+ beers on tap and are constantly rotating in new beers. If you are a fan of New England style Haze IPA’s, this is a great destination.

Best American Beers of 2015

Top 50-Beers of 2015

Top 50-Beers of 2015

The American Home Brewers Association has released its 2015 Best American Beer results.  For the most part it is the usual suspects rounding out the top 10 with out too many real surprises on the list. Pliny the Elder captured the 1st place spot, a nice tribute to a great beer. They also ranked the Top Breweries of 2015 and Top Import Beers.  Those lists can be viewed at homebrewersassociation.org.


1) Russian River – Pliny the Elder
2) Bell’s – Two Hearted Ale
3) Ballast Point – Sculpin IPA
4) Stone – Enjoy By IPA
5) Founders – Breakfast Stout
6) The Alchemist – Heady Topper
7) Bell’s – Hopslam Ale
8) Three Floyds – Zombie Dust
9) Dogfish Head – 90 Minute IPA
10) Firestone Walker – Wookey Jack
11) Deschutes – Fresh Squeezed IPA
T12) Left Hand – Milk Stout Nitro
T12) Sierra Nevada – Pale Ale
T12) Sierra Nevada – Torpedo Extra IPA
15) Goose Island – Bourbon County Stout
16) Russian River – Blind Pig I.P.A.
T17) Stone – Arrogant Bastard Ale
T17) Founders – KBS
T19) Russian River – Consecration
T19) Russian River – Supplication
21) Deschutes – Black Butte Porter
T22) Firestone Walker – Parabola
T22) Firestone Walker – Union Jack
T24) Firestone Walker – Double Jack
T24) Odell – IPA
T24) Tröegs – Nugget Nectar
27) Founders – All Day IPA
T28) Dogfish – Head 120 Minute IPA
T28) Sierra Nevada – Celebration
30) Lagunitas – IPA
31) North Coast – Old Rasputin
32) Lagunitas – Little Sumpin Sumpin
T33) Ballast Point – Grapefruit Sculpin
T33) Boulevard – Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale
35) Surly – Furious
36) Stone – Ruination IPA
37) Deschutes – The Abyss
38) Green Flash – West Coast IPA
39) Oskar Blues – Ten Fidy
40) Cigar City – Jai Alai
T41) Great Lakes – Edmund Fitzgerald Porter
T41) New Belgium – La Folie
43) Oskar Blues – Dale’s Pale Ale
44) Founders – Backwoods Bastard
T45) Victory – DirtWolf Double IPA
T45) Fat Head’s – Head Hunter
T45) Lagunitas – Sucks
T45) Stone – IPA
T49) Odell – Myrcenary
T49) Russian River – Pliny the Younger
T49) Ballast Point – Victory at Sea

Russian River Brewery Review

Russian River Brewing, Santa Rosa, CA

Russian River Brewing, Santa Rosa, CA


I recently had a chance to revisit Russian River Brewing when some friends and I decided to take a trip to Northern California to visit a few breweries.  For those of you who are not familiar with the Russian River name, they brew such popular craft beers as Pliny the Elder, Pliny the Younger, Blind Pig, Beatification, Consecration, Supplication and Sanctification.  In the craft brewing world they are perhaps the most highly regarded US brewery and for good reason.



Russian River

Russian River Brewery Review

In my opinion what makes Russian River so great is their uncompromising commitment to making the best craft beer possible.  What I just stated above sounds like something you would read on any brewery’s marketing material, but in this case I truly feel that that the statement is true and deserved.  Consider this, Russian River servers up flights of beer that consist of up to 16 beers on tap.  As you make your way through the overwhelming diversity of styles and variations, in addition to becoming intoxicated you are awe struck at how one brewery could master so many styles.  Not one of their beers are good, they are all either great or exceptional.  Sure, you may not be a fan of a few of the styles, but it is still a great beer for that type.  One of my friends ordered a porter for his second beer and I remember thinking, you are at Russian River, home of the best IPA’s and Sours in North America, why in the world did you just order a porter. So I asked him if I could try it before I passed judgement on his sanity and I was shocked by how fantastic it was.  If they make mistakes, they certainly do not serve the questionable beer to their customers.  I have never received a beer from them that was cloudy when it should have been clear, a beer that was still when it should have been carbonated, a beer that was bitter when it should have been subtle or a wild ale that was more skunk than funk.  That is what I mean when I say that they do not compromise when it comes to their beer.


If you are ever in the Santa Rosa area and love beer, you really owe it to yourself to stop by the Russian River Brewing Company.  There will be more than likely be a wait, parking will probably be difficult to find and the bar will probably be crowded, but it will all be worth it!



Russian River Brewing Company

Russian River Brewing Company

Pliny the Younger!

Pliny the Younger - Tripple IPA

Pliny the Younger


Well folks, it is just about that time of the year again for Pliny the Younger to make it’s very rare and very antisipated appearance!  For those of you who do not know, Pliny the Younger is one of the most difficult beers to come by.  Only a handful of breweries and pubs will receive a keg of it and most of those will sell out of it within just a few hours.


Per Russian River Brewing Company, Pliny the Younger is categorized as a Triple IPA with and ABV of 10.25%.  It is very dry for the amount of malt used in the recipe, and it is loaded with hoppy flavor and bitterness. The hops used in the 2014 recipe are Simcoe, Warrior, Chinook, Centennial, Amarillo, and Tomahawk.


If you are live near Santa Rosa, CA then the Russian River brew pub is your best bet for getting you hands on a glass.  Unfortunately they will not do a growler fill of it, so drink up and enjoy before they run out of their daily allocation.  It is available at the brew-pub from February 7th – 20th.


If you happen to live in the Orange County, CA area you can try your luck at the Tustin Brewing Co, who is kicking off their Russian River Week Celebration starting on February 17th.  Here is some information on the even from the Tustin Brewer:  “Here at TBC, the most wonderful time of year is Russian River Week. The release of Russian River Pliny the Younger is obviously enough to celebrate on it’s own, however, we like to take it up a notch. We will be showering you with as much Russian River beer as possible. The hits, Pliny the Elder, Blind Pig, Row 2 Hill 56, and a slew of the beloved “tions.” We can’t determine each year how much we will be able to hoard, but we do know we will have more Russian River than anyone else in the OC. Oh yes, I know you’re all asking yourselves…Pliny the Younger will be released Wednesday, February 19th. Event details to follow…”


I am going to do my best get secure my goblet of Pliny the Younger this year and wish the rest of you the best of luck in getting a glass as well!

Northernbrewer.com – Northern Brewer 10% Off Coupon Code

Northern Brewer 10% Off Coupon Code

Northern Brewer 10% Off Coupon Code


I don’t typically post coupon codes or promotional codes in this section of the website, but if I come across one that is just too good to pass up I will make an exception.  Right now northernbrewer.com \ Northern Brewer is offering a $25 gift card promotion if your spend $200 or more, which can work out to a 12.5% discount if you do it right.

The coupon code is valid until 2/8/2014 and the Northern Brewer promo code for this promotion is:  QUARTERBONUS


You can view the promotion here: Northern Brewer 12.5% Discount Coupon Code



For additional Northerbrewer.com \ Northern Brewer Coupon Codes and Promo Codes, we keep a running list available here:  NorthernBrewer.com Coupon Codes

Can, Bottle, or Growler? The Taste Test

Sculpin IPA, Growler, Bottle, Can Taste Test

Sculpin IPA: Growler, Bottle, Can Taste Test


I am not too sure about you, but I have always wondered if beer tastes best when stored in a bottle, can, or growler? It seems like one of those age-old questions that every beer lover has an opinion about, so I decided to do a test to see if I could figure it out.


During a recent home brewing session, I invited three of my friends (all self-proclaimed beer connoisseurs) to join me in a taste test to see if beer served from a can, bottle, or growler tasted differently, and, if so, which was best. They all happily agreed to join in the test. Before beginning the test, I asked each of them what they felt the outcome would be. Three out of four of us thought that the growler would be the easy winner, while one felt that a can was a superior storage method and would therefore be the winner. I personally thought the beer served from the growler would taste best.


I was fortunate enough to have collected a bottle, can, and growler of Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA over the last two months. All three beers were served at the same temperature in a clean pint glass for each of us (that was a lot of pint glasses!). I labeled each glass with a 1, 2, or 3 on the bottom and my fiancee was kind enough to fill all of the glasses without telling us which beer came from which storage container. We then each tasted the samples and took notes on which we preferred.


What I found most interesting was that although each beer was very similar, we could each taste a difference between the samples. I had assumed there would be less difference between them. We then one by one gave our findings. To my dismay, everyone had differing results. My fiancee told us which beer was in which container, and 1st place went to the Sculpin IPA served from the bottle, while one vote went to the can, and the other to the growler. My personal voting went bottle, growler, can. The person who had thought the can would be best also put it in last place.


So what did I learn from my experiment?  For one thing, Sculpin IPA is delicious regardless of whether it is stored in a bottle, can, or growler, and two, everyone has a different ideal of what the perfect beer tastes like. It was a fun experiment, and everyone had a great time participating in it. I highly recommend you try conducting a similar experiment yourself and look forward to hearing about the conclusions you come to.



Session Beers

Over the last year or two, session beers have been making a real name for themselves and are becoming more and more commonly featured at breweries. With their new-found popularity, many might ask, what makes a session beer a session beer?


That is a fantastic question. A session beer is typically considered to be a balanced beer with an alcohol by volume content of less than 5%. A session beer allows the consumer to enjoy multiple beers with out becoming overly intoxicated. Session beers can be a fantastic choice if you want to enjoy a couple of beers without having to worry about getting home safely.


The key to a great session beer is not simply a low alcohol content—that would be easy. It is about complimenting a potentially thin body with a great and memorable flavor. The perfect session beer is one where the drinker does not realize they are having a session beer.


Perhaps the best session beer that I have had is the Tustin Brewery Stay All Day India Session Ale. It strikes an ideal balance between flavor and body. Just before the pint glass reaches your mouth for the first sip, your nose is filled with the fragrant dry hopped aroma, and a smile instantly comes to your face. Each sip is packed with a robust hop flavor, yet does not go overboard. The body is slightly lighter than what is usual for an ale, but unless you are thinking about it, you can hardly notice. If you ever have the chance to grab a pint, or even better, a mug, I highly recommend it.


If you are looking to brew your own batch, I have an all grain recipe for a fantastic session pale ale located here. This is my second favorite session beer:


Session Pale Ale Recipe

Session Pale Ale

West Coast Brewer Session Pale Ale


Orval Belgian Trappist Ale Review

We have reviewed our top pick for the best Belgian Pale Ale, and it is the Orval Trappist Ale. If you are a fan of Belgian ales, and are fortunate enough to find this wonderful beer at your local beer store, I highly recommend that you pick it up.


Click Here to view the full Orval Belgian Trappist Ale Review


Orval Trappist Ale - Rated Best Belgian Beer

Orval Trappist Ale – Rated Best Belgian Beer

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