Early Friday morning thousands of obsessed beer fans will converge on 4th Street in downtown Santa Rosa so they can be among the first to taste this year's edition of Pliny the Younger—Russian River Brewing Co.'s intensely flavorful and wildly popular triple IPA. The acclaimed brew is only available for two weeks every February, and the combinaton of high ratings and limited availability turns this Sonoma County hub into a beer lover's mecca.
“We got schooled pretty quickly at how to manage large crowds at our pub and we’ve been refining it every year,” says Russian River Brewing Co. co-owner Natalie Cilurzo. “We’ve become a destination.“
"Pliny is only available on draft (no bottles, no growlers) and is only served in 10-ounce glasses," notes Sonoma Magazine. "Most Pliny pilgrims, especially the first weekend, can expect up to 12-hour waits to get into the taproom. Once inside, guests are allotted three hours at the pub and three 'Youngers.'"
Is it worth the wait? For the IPA obsessed, absolutely.
"Pliny the Younger is a rendition of the other Russian River favorite, Pliny the Elder, except with more hops, malt, and higher alcohol (the beer finishes around 10.25 percent ABV)," Sonoma Magazine points out, adding that the beer "is surprisingly smooth and dry for the amount of alcohol and malt."
The long lines have evolved into a festival-like atmosphere, where hop lovers hang out, compare notes, and revel in the extreme lengths they are willing to go to sample this rare and sought-after beverage.
For those hoping to minimize time in the queue, Cilurzo offers a few tips: Head to the brewpub during the Super Bowl or on Valentine's Day, when many Pliny fans are otherwise engaged.