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Belt's Beer Garden: Plin-ally the wait is over!

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This week I bring you two new beers, one of which I have been waiting for years to get my hands on.

As the San Diego International Beer Festival begins today - which of course I will be attending (today and Sunday because one day is never enough!) - I figure the perfect beer to review is one of the world's most sought after beers...Pliny the Elder.

pliny

Russian River, out of Santa Rosa, California, started back in 2004 and has made quite an impact on the craft beer world. They have since become a Mecca for great beers and have created some of the Holy Grails of the beer world with their award winning IPAs like Blind Pig, Pliny the Younger, and the beer I'm finally trying today, Pliny the Elder...but if you ever see any of their beers, it's a safe bet to buy it. Currently, they are only available in Philadelphia, Colorado, California, and Oregon.

I have been searching for this beer for a long time now. And finally, after two years, my sister found a bottle for me. The bottle says to drink this beer as fresh as possible so, between my two year wait and their instructions, I decided it was best if I just dove right in.

This is one of the highest rated beers of all time...and I can see why. This imperial IPA pours a crisp amber color and is topped with less than a finger of head. You can smell the piney hops straight away but there is also a nice subtle citrus aroma in there too.

From the first sip to the last, Pliny had a smooth and incredibly balanced taste between the hops and malts. The pine is really present, but not overwhelming, upfront with the grapefruit flavor hitting you nicely on the backend. The bitterness lingered on my tongue but the aftertaste is as pleasant as any imperial IPA I've ever had. Now, it does have 100 IBU, which means it is rather bitter, but nothing you should be scared of.

There's a nice earthy undertone to it and it is slightly carbonated and dry. For the most part though it's just a great beer! For being one of the highest rated beers, the price of only $6.99 for the 17.25 ounce bottle is well worth the cost. And the 8% ABV doesn't hurt either.

Perhaps it has been built up in my mind so much that there was no way I could dislike the beer...or perhaps the hype is well deserved. But either way, I'm with everyone else. This is a fantastic beer that is, sadly, incredibly hard to come by in the Midwest (and most other places too, from what I hear). If you can get your hands on a bottle, do it! 9.5/10

9.5

I know that's a tough beer to follow, but alas, it has to be done. So for the second beer this week I chose another California beer that's really highly rated (a 95 on Beer Advocate and a 99 on Rate Beer). Knee Deep's Simtra.

simtra triple

Knee Deep comes to us out of Auburn, California. They have been brewing beers since 2010 and have grown considerably in that time, now housing a 18,000-square foot facility and distributes to California, Ohio, Michigan, New York, and a handful of others.

This triple IPA warns you on the bottle to enjoy it fresh so, as I did with Pliny, as soon as it was chilled enough, I opened it. There was very little head when I poured it from the bottle. As it settled, the beer was a multitude of colors. At the bottom it was a crisp golden color but became darker and darker until it was a cloudy orange color at the top.

It smelled wonderful. Like hops and tropical fruits with a sweetness lingering behind it. The first sip was awesome as well. There was the hop punch (at 131 IBU, it's pretty bitter) followed a dry citrus characteristic and some pine. There was also a slight hint of cherries in both the smell and flavor.

The alcohol was hidden rather well but some of it did sneak through, burning slightly on the way down. As expected, the more I drank, the more the hop assault continued until my tongue was numb from the constant barrage...but it was a good numb (if that sort of thing is possible).

As you drank, Simtra left a very dominant lacing around the glass...marking each sip with great precision, which was surprising for the amount of head it left when poured.

Along with the hop attack, the alcohol also became more prevalent the further down I drank, but nothing too bad by any means...especially for a beer this high in alcohol. This brew carries a whopping 11.25% ABV, which is a pretty Goliath percentage for beer! By the time I was almost finished with it, the effects could be felt. Between the hops and the booze, it would definitely help to have a partner to share the 22-ounce bottle with. But for science, and our faithful readers, I pressed on by myself.

There isn't much I didn't like about this beer...except for maybe the price. At $10.49 for the 22-ounce bomber, it doesn't come cheap...which made me nervous at first. But, as this is an exceptional triple IPA, I have no problems paying that. After all, between the ABV and size, it's like five non-craft beers. This was the first Knee Deep beer I've ever had, but I can guarantee that it won't be the last. 8.5/10

8.5

And don't forget, if you're curious about all the new beers I'll be tasting today and Sunday at the International Beer Festival, check out my Untappd page, at NIUfan86.