It’s either the best of times or the worst of times, but either way, it is time. Pliny the Younger, Russian River Brewing Co.’s super-hoppy triple India pale ale, is almost here. Its 14th-annual release is expected to bring thousands of self-proclaimed beer geeks — and their money — to downtown Santa Rosa beginning Friday, Feb. 2. To get you primed for Pliny time, we’ve answered some of the most common questions about the coveted brew. Here's everything you need to know about what Beer Advocate has anointed the world’s top-rated IPA.
What’s the big deal? Russian River brewmaster Vinnie Cilurzo first brewed “Younger” in 2005 and, at the time, it was the only beer of it’s kind: the first triple IPA. Traditionally released the first Friday in February, it is only available for two weeks at Russian River’s Santa Rosa taproom, plus a limited number of other locations, mostly in California. Pliny is only available on draft (no bottles, no growlers) and is only served in 10-ounce glasses. 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."
OK, when can I get my hands on some Pliny? It’s all happening starting at 11 a.m. Friday, Feb. 2, and during Russian River’s business hours every day after that for two weeks, ending Feb. 15.
If Pliny is so popular, why not just make more of it? According to Russian River Brewing, Pliny the Younger is a very time consuming and expensive beer to brew: it requires an exceptionally large amount of raw materials – malt and hops in particular – and takes up significant tank space at the brewery. In other words, it's just not worth the money and effort to make more Pliny - especially when the limited supply seems to be working out, just fine.
Is there any way to escape the line? This year, for the first time in Pliny history, a lucky few will cut the line. Following October's wildfires, Russian River Brewing launched Sonoma Pride, which raises funds for fire relief efforts, in part, through $25 donations for a chance to win Pliny line-cutting privileges (raffle tickets are now sold out). 14 happy hop lovers will be allowed to cut the line every day; for the rest of us, there are no cuts. For the best shot at a short wait, the time to come is midweek during the evening. But, believe it or not, a lot of people actually want to experience the line - come rain or shine - because "that's where the event is," says Natalie Cilurzo, who owns the brewpub with her brewmaster husband Vinnie. Standing in lines has rules, though...