This week I take a well needed rest from beer and turned it over to Norm, who had a special challenge in mind. A winner-takes-all battle between two of the Nation's best beers. So without further ado, the first battle of the Brew-F-C...
Not since the Michael Jordan led Bulls faced the Magic Johnson lead Lakers in the NBA Finals has a Midwest/West Coast match-up had such super-stars meet to find a winner take all. Until now. Last week I found myself out in gorgeous Keystone, Colorado for a weeks vacation. In addition to any and every kind of mountain adventure I could find, I wanted to get my hands on one of my bucket list beers unavailable in the Midwest. Specifically Pliny the Elder by Russian River Brewing, California (8% ABV and $7.99/17.25 oz bottle) who's distribution is limited to the West Coast.
I had brought along some Zombie Dust by Three Floyds Brewery, Munster, Indiana (6.2% ABV and $14.99/six pack) as possible trade bait because I was assuming any Pliny would be hard to come by. It's in the holy grail of IPA's along with Heady topper. Pliny is consistently rated as a top pale ale and top craft beer nationally. Beer advocates latest top 250 beers rates it as the #9 beer over all and the #3 pale ale. Zombie Dust ranked #18 overall and the #6 pale ale, respectively. Zombie Dust was the only midwestern brewed ale listed in the top 50. Surly Abrasive came in at # 59 and Three Floyds Permanent Funeral at #62.
I was lucky enough to be in town the week Pliny's small and coveted shipments made their way to the liquor store. After pleading like a street corner windshield washer desperate for a tip, the liquor store employee told me he had a couple Pliny's left in back. I wasn't going to believe it until I saw the bottles for myself. He returned from the back room with not one, but both Plinys. I was a beer lottery winner. On top of that good fortune, I also still had my Zombie Dust.
I later found myself sitting, staring at a beautiful mountain side view with two of the best pale ales I'll probably ever have side by side. Maybe I should just have enjoyed them, watched the sun set over the Rockies and embraced the moment. Instead I had a thought. Maybe it was even a calling. Let's see which of these sons' of bitches is better. I had to know. Midwest pride on the line I put the two juggernauts heady to heady.
(standard pint glass)
Z.D. - Awesome. Big nose. Hops, pine, and grapefruit jump out of the glass. Slightly floral. One of the best smelling pints I've had the pleasure to whiff.
P.t.E. - Pliny came across slightly more floral, but still eminated plenty of hops and citrus. A more milld nose than the Zombie Dust.
Winner: Zombie Dust. I'm a fan of in your face smelling beers. Zombie Dust has just that. You can almost taste the beer when smelling it.
Winner: Who cares. It's not a beauty patent. But Zombie Dust's label is way cooler.
Z.D. - A hoppy oil taste at first notice. Then a compliment of pine and to a lesser extent citrus. It's crisp with a bit of a malt backbone. Then it finishes pretty bitter and lingers on the tongue.
P.t.E - Mild malt body with a nice amount of hops and pines. A bit resiny, but not too much. A touch citrus but also notes of caramel. There's a touch of sweetness offsetting any hop bitterness.
Winner: Pliny the Elder. More well rounded.
Pliny in a close battle.
This was really close, and maybe for some it's just about styles. Zombie is an APA while Pliny is an IPA. Zombie is only 60 IBU's, while Pliny is 100. But for me what it came down to was balance. One beer managed to
be hoppy, citrusy, bitter and sweet, as well as clean. So putting my Midwest pride on the sideline for this one, that beer, and the winner was Pliny the Elder.
While Zombie Dust smells incredible, it's taste doesn't quite match up to the overall drinkability of Pliny's. Zombie Dust is awesome, and if you get a chance, get it. But there's just a few tiny things that don't
quite measure up when compared to Pliny. Zombie dust was more bitter on the backend, yet is 40 points lower in IBU's. Zombie Dust also is a bit resinous for my tastes. Just a bit. I'm nit picking here because I have to, but Zombie Dust came across as less complex and balanced as Pliny. A little.
Bottom line, Pliny is just a spectacular beer that edges out a great beer. Pliny goes 9.25/10 to Zombie Dusts 8.5/10