Pliny, Deconstructed

The third in the author’s three part series about his all-consuming obsession with locating and purchasing at any cost Russian River Brewing Company’s Pliny the Elder beer.

*   *   *

Driving home with my big game prize — six bottles of Pliny the Elder — I began contemplating the grand ordeal that had been my barely one-month relationship with the beer.

A few days before, I’d called my favorite wine store, which was listed on the Russian River Brewing Company’s distribution list, but where I’d never actually seen Pliny before. I asked the gentleman if they carried Pliny.

Pliny, crowding out the other beers in my fridge

Pliny, crowding out the other beers in my fridge

“We get it sometimes, usually on Tuesdays.” This was a Monday. “The delivery usually comes around 1 p.m. Why don’t you call sometime after that and see if we got any. It sells out fast.”

I thanked him and added an “alert” to my calendar to remind me to call. The next day, Tuesday, at approximately 1:42 p.m., I called. A friendly woman answered.

“Did you guys get any Pliny the Elder beer delivered today?” I asked, trying to sound casual.

“Umm, no, not as of right now. At least I don’t think we did. Hold on, let me check…” She went away from the phone, and came back a few moments later. “I’m sorry, I was wrong. We just got two cases.”

My casual act was fading fast. “Oh, GREAT!!! I mean, oh… good, yes. Well, I was told I could purchase some over the phone and pick it up tomorrow.”

“Sure,” she said. “How much would you like?”

“Is there a limit?” I said.

“Good question, hold on, let me check.” Once again, I was put on hold, and counted the very seconds she was away. Then she returned, and said the most beautiful three words I’d ever heard:

“There’s no limit.”

Two full cases of Pliny the Elder — 24 pints — and I could have them all. Or I could be altruistic to my fellow Pliny seekers, and only buy a couple. I clearly hadn’t worked through the moral implications of someone actually one day having as much Pliny available as I wanted to buy. I took a middle path, and told her I’d take six bottles.

The next day I rolled into said-wine-shop (and by the way, I’m not telling you the name of it because I don’t want you going there and buying all the Pliny — you need to do your own due diligence!) on top of the world.

“It’s amazing what they’ve done,” said the guy behind the counter as he processed my order.

“You mean creating such a mystique about it?” I replied.

“Well, it’s not like wine where you get a certain harvest, you produce what you can, and when it’s gone it’s gone. They keep making Pliny, they can make as much as they want!”

“You mean,” I said, tracking with his every word, “They’ve created a false scarcity!”

His face lit up. “You said it perfectly! They’ve created a false scarcity!”

Driving home, I thought about the six bottles in the passenger seat next to me. I looked at them at every red light. Maybe I should’ve gotten a case, I said to myself, and then: I’m so dumb, why didn’t I get a case!?? Why didn’t I get BOTH cases?? Then I felt guilty for thinking that, followed by feeling angry that I was feeling guilty for thinking that.

I had cracked the code of Pliny procurement, and not only did I feel curiously unsatisfied — it was undermining my very sense of self. It was as if I was locked in an internal arm-wrestling match with myself — my joy and pride at having finally bagged more than a single bottle of Pliny tangling with my shame and embarrassment at what it was bringing out in me, and the lengths I’d gone to get it.

This was now more than two weeks ago, and I have drank one Pliny. I open the fridge, there they are. I move them aside to get to the other beers — the Sierra Nevada or Stella Artois. These aren’t every day beers, I tell myself. I will save them for special moments. But those special moments never seem to come. Or rather, the ordinary moments wind up being the special ones, and I am sharing them with my Sierra Nevada or Stella Artois. And the Pliny remains, for now, undrunk.

What, then, does all these mean for my complicated relationship with Pliny the Elder? Probably not as much as I might think. I will drink the five Pliny I have left, and marvel at their deliciousness. I will buy them when I find them. But I will no longer obsess about them. The thrill of the hunt is gone.

15 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Wine Guerrilla
    Feb 26, 2013 @ 00:35:51

    Lines around the block up here when they ‘released’ the latest Pliny a few weeks ago. Now that’s marketing!


  2. Joe A.
    Feb 26, 2013 @ 00:39:11

    So I guess this is where THE HUNT FOR PLINY THE *YOUNGER* begins?


    • scolgin
      Feb 26, 2013 @ 02:44:31

      Indeed! If fresh hop double IPA is good, think how good fresh hop triple IPA must be!! A fellow Plinian sent me a link to the four places in Southern California that would be having it. I think I might just need to plan a road trip up to the brewery.


  3. pal-O
    Feb 26, 2013 @ 03:45:50

    For the sake of Mother Mary and her son Joking Jaysus boy-O just buy the entire 2 cases next time and forsake the angst and rigor of guilt. Then you may appease your moral center by sharing & enjoying your Pliny bounty with others. I’ll bet more Pliny will be drifting your way from your new Pliny disciples which you don’t have now due to your conscience diligence and the purchase of moral ground that only exists if you wish it to exist (and the ground where currently exists only 6 bottles). Pliny is the Empty Grail from another realm a million miles from me, So if you can’t forsake the moral high ground for your own sake, then do it for my sake and the ‘Oh so many others’ who will go to their graves never imbibing a Pliny until St Peter cracks two bottles at the pearly gates for the newly, dearly and beastly deceased and the smiling jokester son waiting to accept that lucky soul into his lovin’ arms knowing the devil hasn’t even heard the news of the passing ! Can there really be a heaven without a Pliny. I dare say “No”. I hope next time I pop by we have at least a couple of Plinys in the fridge.


    • scolgin
      Feb 26, 2013 @ 16:38:07

      Gadzooks! Mate, you’ve been possessed by the ghost of James Joyce mated with a drunken Dylan Thomas, from the sounds of yer rantings!!! Indeed, there will be Pliny and more Pliny when thy feets doest next grace my doorjam.


  4. Mom
    Feb 26, 2013 @ 04:17:32

    That last guy was getting on to you. The problem is you’re too Irish. Only and Irishman [ and maybe a Jewish man although they don’t tend to worship the spirits] could get into a moral dilemma over beer.


    • pal-O
      Feb 26, 2013 @ 11:32:27

      Lard knows I’m not getting on to him Andrea. Just playing off Irish “guilty pleasures” a little with me buddy. If an Irishman doesn’t feel a little guilty then some of the pleasure is diminished.


    • scolgin
      Feb 26, 2013 @ 16:39:00

      Can ye ever be “too Oyrish”!??


      • pal-O
        Feb 26, 2013 @ 19:44:41

        Me thinks more folks need to be a bit more Oyrish. I can envision a world with a new kind of Craic addiction and couldn’t our world without end use a bit more humour that is actually humorous? I thought I’d brighten your day with some entertaining writing as I was feeling a bit guilty at not repaying some of the pleasure I’ve garnered at the reading of your scritchings. You’re a fine man Seamus and I can already taste the Pliny served up overlooking that setting western sun as the wheel keeps on turning . . . Actually I just finished reading the new JJ bio by Gordon Bowker–a real Corker!! I will now always think of myself as “That Last Guy”

      • scolgin
        Feb 26, 2013 @ 19:53:25

        You ARE “that last guy”~! LOL (Mom obviously didn’t connect that post with who you actually ARE. But I think when she said you were “getting on” to me, she meant you were seeing into the real me. Which, of course, would be true.)

      • pal-O
        Feb 26, 2013 @ 20:55:44


  5. Jessamine in PDX
    Feb 26, 2013 @ 23:06:09

    your dedication to good beer is an inspiration!


    • scolgin
      Feb 26, 2013 @ 23:12:30

      I had a party once years ago. A newish friend from Pennsylvania I’d invited asked what he could bring, and I said beer. He showed up with a 12-pack of Coors. At some point, I noticed my other friend Peri moving the box of Coors in the fridge to see around it. “The beer’s gone!” he said, so we sent someone on a run. The Coors sat in my fridge for a week or so before my roommate said, “What do you wanna do with this?” I said, “Let’s put it out in the alley.” We did. And it was gone within 15 minutes. My “newish” friend is now an old friend, a much redeemed beer drinker, and this story brings him great embarrassment. 🙂


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