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Vacation - Russian River Brewing
Wow have we been doing a lot of traveling lately. Just one week after we returned from our trip to Florida, we jumped on a plane and flew out to San Francisco for the Game Developers Conference. While out there, we got to stay with my sister and go to lots of great places to eat in the evenings.

One of our bucket lists has had Buffalo Bill's Brewery on it for a while. We can get that beer around here and we had it pegged as a key stop on our San Francisco trip. However, in the days leading up to the trip the beer known as Pliny the Elder became the topic of several conversations.

Russian River Brewing don't distribute much (if at all) on the east coast. My other sister (who we stopped to see on our way to and from Florida) had recently had the opportunity to try it with one of her friends. She insisted that we had to have it. I did some really quick research into going to check it out and discovered that it was over an hour away from San Francisco proper. Given that, I just figured we wouldn't end up making it there on this trip.

After our long flight, we grabbed a late bite to eat with my sister and her boyfriend. While there, I jokingly mentioned that we should swing up to Russian River. Well, they both ran with the idea and the following day we were riding with them up across the Golden Gate Bridge.

From the outside of the building, the brewpub is very unassuming. Not many people would guess that it was the maker of one of the most highly rated IPAs in the world. It looks like a relatively basic bar & grill in a plaza. The crowd on this particular Sunday evening was intense though. We scurried in and put our names in for a table. The wait was about 40 minutes. We went straight to the bar and had a really hard time getting a bartender's attention. While doing the "look at me, I want to order something" dance, I was dismayed to see them go up and erase Pliny the Elder from the draft board. We came all this way and I wasn't going to get to try it on draft!

When I finally did get the bartender's attention, I ordered a bottle of Pliny and two glasses. It comes in a slightly larger and unique bottle so it was enough for us each to get a good taste. It's a very nice and smooth double IPA. We definitely enjoyed it, but I have to admit, I think there are comparable beers that do distribute on our side of the country, like Burton Baton.

What surprised us on their beer list were the sours. Oh the sours! They were aged in different types of wine barrels. We couldn't wait to try them! When we finally got our table, this was what we wanted to order. There were five different ones on the menu, so we wanted to try and get a sampler of them. When we asked our waitress, she informed us that they do in fact do a sampler... an 18 beer sampler with one of each of the beers currently on draft! We went for it and to my delight, it even included a pour of Pliny the Elder from a fresh keg that just replaced the one that kicked.

There were a lot of good beers in that sampler but there were definitely too many to talk about each in detail. Our favorite of the sours was easily Consecration. It's a dark sour ale aged in cabernet sauvignon barrels that rings in at 10% ABV. It had some very minor porter-like qualities to go with the very refreshing sourness that I love so much. We were able to buy some bottles of this but the verdict is still out on whether or not they will make the trip across the country.

Another personal favorite of the sampler was Mortification. It's a Belgian quad that is a very nice example of one of our favorite styles. It rang in at 11% ABV. It's a good thing these were all samples!

We were able to all work together to finish off the epic sampler. It was definitely a cool experience to try so many different beer styles. It's amazing that a brewpub can offer such a feat. The sampling was only surpassed by offerings at big beer festivals.

Food wise, Heather and I decided we wanted to try their Pliny Bites appetizer and split a Clipper Pizza. The bites were really interesting. They were basically little pieces of pizza dough with cheddar cheese and jalepenos on top. We dipped them in a marinara sauce and enjoyed. The jalepenos had just the right amount of kick to them. The serving was very generous. Heather and I had plenty to get our fill and we were able to share them with the rest of the table as well.

Heather picked out the Clipper Pizza for us. It had mozzarella, pesto, artichoke hearts, and bacon on it which gave it a bit of a breakfast vibe. This was oddly fitting because our internal clocks were all messed up from the jet lag. It was a really good pizza and we had plenty of leftovers to bring home as well.

The food was good but the night was really about the beer. Russian River is a great place to check out and a worthy stop for any beer lover that is on a trip. Make it a point to hit up Santa Rosa!

By Mike on March 16, 2012 at 6:41pm EDT Topic(s): beer brewpub restaurant san francisco vacation pliny the elder russian river brewing consecration



also, i think we need to have an IPA party, and you two should try a couple different IPAs in a row. I'll pick out 4 or 5, Racer 5 included. I mean, i like Burton Baton, but i can't put it on the same level as Pliny. Probably just a difference in our tastes... meaning mine are better.. ;p kidding! but i'll pick some i don't like that much, and some l love and read about them for some background.. it will be fun.
3/16/2012 at 7:05pm EDT
Mike I knew as I was writing it that I would potentially take some flack for that Burton Baton comment, but I'm just being honest. :-/

I didn't say it, but I would take other special IPAs (like Super Friends) over Pliny easily... :)
3/17/2012 at 11:08am EDT
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