When you live in San Diego, it’s easy to become a bit jaded about our beer culture. We are undeniably spoiled. We cohabitate with a glut of world-class breweries. In some local areas, you can’t even trip without stumbling into a fantastic gastropub. Hell, even my local Qwik-e-Mart carries Sierra Nevada seasonals. They may be adjacent to the Four Loko, but there they are nevertheless.
That said, there’s one annual happening that never fails to cause San Diegans to lose their collective shit. Come every February, a mystical beer of legend appears from uncharted lands to the north—the triple IPA to rule them all, some say.
This “IIIPA”, Russian River’s Pliny the Younger (PtY), only appears in the company’s Santa Rosa brewpub for about two weeks. The precious few kegs that arrive in San Diego are greeted with a hysteria usually reserved for tweens fawning over a well coiffed boy-band. Voracious crowds swarm to sightings of PtY with such speed that even social-media devotees arrive well after the keg is spent.
There’s no question this beer is scarce and popular, but is it is worthy of the hype? My answer to that is a definitive, unequivocal “maybe.” This beer is certainly masterfully crafted. It has a delicious pepper-and-orange-peel flavor with a fullness that you seldom get in West Coast IPAs. It might even be superior to Pliny the Elder, which I consider fantastic. However, in a town where a solid IPA isn’t exactly a rarity, I’m not sure PtY should be the beer community’s white whale.
For those less curmudgeonly than I, there should be some remaining chances to get your hands on this endangered quaff. I have it on good authority that it will appear at Urge Gastropub on March 6, likely in the late afternoon. I also recommend checking sandiegobeerblog.com, which does a great job of keeping a current listing of PtY events, and following as many local brewpubs on Twitter as your feed can stomach.