A little backstory… Mike is in LOVE with Pliny the Elder. I mean, he doesn’t just like this brew. He’s head over heels for it… with good reason. It’s a phenomenal beer! So he wasn’t taking this challenge lightly.
After a sniff of each beer he was perplexed. A second sniff he was pretty sure which one was the Pliny. After an early taste he declared the one on the left the Pliny, but admitted the one on the right was an amazing beer too. We gave him one more taste, but he didn’t waver… agreeing that they were both great beers, but the Pliny had shone through. Only he’d picked the Topper. It was all in fun and Mike enjoyed the challenge just as much as we did, but it was time for us all to taste.
We agreed the Heady Topper had a more pronounced smell, producing more citrus and pine than the Pliny. Let me be clear, they’re both insanely good smelling, but the HT just has a bit more going on. As the HT warmed I started to smell a freshness I could only describe as “celery”, but neither Mike nor Shannon could find that in there.
The first taste of both is bold and finishes clean. Both have great balance and finish with a nice round of hops. The HT seems to have more depth in the mid-palate… it just seems to have more body and flavor as it’s going down. It also packed more of a wallop of hops at the finish, which is usually Pliny’s trademark.
Both are extremely enjoyable to drink (surprise, surprise). Therein lies the conundrum… Pliny the Elder is brewed on the west coast and isn’t distributed in New England. Heady Topper is brewed in Vermont, but is only available on draft at the pub in Waterbury (this bottle was part of a special 600 bottle run, the only one in 7 years of brewing). So getting these is tough… getting them together for a tasting is near impossible. It took some careful packaging in checked luggage (Pliny the Elder) and divine intervention (Heady Topper) for us to have this tasting.
There is hope though. There’s a rumor (thanks for the heads up Matt) that Heady Topper will come in 16oz cans soon. The next step is to get Russian River to start distributing in New England. What do you think?
Thanks to Mike for being a good sport with “Stump the Monkey.” I wouldn’t have stood a chance in that challenge. Thanks also to Shannon for accepting the challenge to bring back Pliny on a recent trip to San Francisco. Your motto should be “Whatever it takes!”