Yes, I took some Pliny the Elder to China…

Just before our trip to China, it occurred to me that my checked baggage was well under the weight limit. And, I just happened to have 4 remaining bottles from my last case of Pliny. 

They were rationed throughout my trip, with the last one cracked after hiking just beyond the 5th tower south of our entrance to The Great Wall, beyond where any other tourist had visited (so far) that morning.

Totally worth it.


BrewgieHowser shipped these beers Tuesday and they arrived today…TODAY! That’s from Cali to NY in 2 days. Damn, gotta give a shout out and love to USPS.

While I’ve had a handful of Pliny in my time, this 2.5 week old bottle is the freshest I have ever drunk. I try not to be a stickler about age, but timing is everything if you want a wonderfully fresh and pungent hoppy experience. This, my friends, is as good as it gets.

Fantastic nose on this beer. Citrusy/piney goodness mixed with faint herbaceous notes that are melded together with a faint but present malt back bone. Wisps of garlic are evidence of a highly hopped beer. There is a reason this is one of the best DIPAs on the planet…Heady > Pliny > Abrasive

Flavor is on point, as well. Sweet orange is mixed with a potent vegetal hops bitterness that leaves your taste buds intact and not destroyed from the high IBUs. Alcohol is not a factor and the malt sweetness gives balance to, possibly, THE most balanced DIPA out there. It’s not sessionable, but I could easily kick back 3-4 of these in a sitting and still be able to function.

Russian River, keep doing what you’re doing. This is always a treat to drink.


Russian River Brewing - Pliny the Elder

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, my wife and I visited the San Francisco area for a wedding and to see some family.  I originally had not considered visiting Russian River as I did not realize how close Santa Rosa was to both San Francisco, as well as Sonoma, where we spent the previous night.  Yet the stars were aligned, and we made the trip a little farther north.

We enjoyed an amazing flight of their Belgian offerings, and then I asked the million dollar question: which beers were bottled and available for purchase.  I ended up bring home a bottle of Damnation (more to come on this one later), and a few bottles of Pliny the Elder.

Pliny the Elder is a Double/Imperial IPA, and easily sits up there with Heady Topper as one of the best I’ve ever tried.  Like any beer with a reputation such as Pliny’s, I did my best to ignore all the talk I’ve heard to avoid any influence with my own experience with the beer.  As with most Double/Imperial IPA’s, it had a strong hop presence in both smell and taste, and it really exploded on my taste buds.  It was not overpowering though, and I felt the crew at Russian River really crafted a powerful, yet drinkable, brew.

One of my favorite parts of traveling is getting to track down and try beers I may not be able to get my hands on otherwise.  If at all possible, I refuse to drink a beer that is widely available, rather it’s much more fun to seek out what the locals are up to.  Cheers!

Russian River Brewing

A is for Arum in the first ever encyclopaedia.

Arum has its place in the first ever encyclopaedia. Known as the Naturalis Historia it was written by a Roman known as Pliny the Elder in around 77 CE. It is the only one of his works to have survived to the present day.

Pliny’s encyclopaedia spanned 40 volumes covering everything which was known about everything which was known.  What makes Pliny the Elder such an amazing chap was that the entire work was written in the evenings when Pliny arrived home after his day job of administrating for the Roman Emperor. This must have involved longer hours and more stress than the average office management  job does today, yet Pliny still found time and energy to spend his evenings writing and researching, creating volume after volume of his steadily growing magnus opus. What’s even more amazing is that he wrote the entire work by hand on parchment. Presumably by the light of just his oil lamps. I guess he did a bit more at the weekends but either way, his diligence is heroic and illustrates just how much more people achieved  in the days before the Internet and TV.

Pliny’s encyclopaedia contained radical new concepts such as an index, it referenced its sources (a habit which was studiously ignored by most later herbals) and was written in a simple and accessible fashion to allow all to understand and benefit from its contents.

Arum has a number of entries in Pliny’s Naturalis Historia and he includes a large number of uses for the plant, drawn from a wide range of courses. The main section is in Book XXIV, Chapter 92, entitled The Aon: Thirteen Remedies. Pliny mentions here that Arum can be boiled in milk and used for cloudiness of the eyes, internal ulcerations and inflammation of the tonsils. It is recommended here for freckles, foreshadowing its use two thousand years later by the French as a skin cosmetic. Pliny quotes other sources as stating that Arum is good for difficulty in breathing and general conditions of the lungs and coughs, and restates its use as a facilitator of birth delivery for all animals. He also reaffirms the belief in Arum’s efficacy against serpents and snake bite.

Interestingly, he writes that already there is disagreement about whether Arum is one plant or many, on account of the different variations found around Europe, all quite similar but with noticeable differences. It is already known as ‘Aron’, ‘Dracunculus’ and ‘Dracontium’, and the Arum which Pliny mostly discusses is not the British Arum but the Egyptian Arum: a plant now known as Arum colocasia or Taro. This is a notable example of plant observation (along with that from Egypt) which was subsequently forgotten in the later herbals.

For more information, see the online version of Pliny’s works:  as well as the wiki page on his encyclopaedia at and a BBC podcast at