Drink wise, Elder

illustration By mark stivers

On the whole, I figure bottled-on dates for beer are a crock. Freshness on a Bud is just lipstick on a pig. But recently I picked up Pliny the Elder, an Imperial IPA brewed by the Russian River Brewing Company of Santa Rosa. The bottle implored: “Respect hops, consume fresh.” And indeed, this beer’s hops (one month old at time of consumption) were light and floral with a good snap, sitting high atop the palate like fresh citrus, far from Pine-Sol-sweet sludginess of many hop-heavy beers. Did this have something to do with the bottled-on date? Vinnie Curlizo, brewer/owner of the Russian River Brewing Company, was nice enough to drop some knowledge. For example: “A fresh bottle of hoppy beer … will have a strong hop aroma, a rich hop flavor and finish that is crisp and not showing any sweetness nor oxidation.” So, how does the novice brew-ficionado recognize oxidation? “Oxidation smells and taste like cardboard,” he notes.