By Jay Brooks
Saturday, February 5th, 2011 at 10:41 pm in On Beer.
Yesterday was Pliny the Younger Day at Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa, California. I arrived a little before eleven, and owner/brewer Vinnie Cilurzo let me in the back of the brewpub. The difference between last year’s release day and this year’s was immediately apparent. There was relative calm in the place, the bar was not three or four deep, with people pushing against the bar clamoring for attention. Perhaps most importantly, both Vinnie and his wife/co-owner Natalie seemed relaxed, too.
Last year Russian River sold out of of Pliny the Younger, their Triple IPA that’s released just once each year, in just eight short hours. The brewpub was filled to the gills and the staff was understandably stressed and exhausted. The main reason this happened last year was nobody expected so many people to order growlers, and having placed few restrictions on them, they continued to honor orders until the entire supply of beer ran out.
Having learned from last that experience, this year no Pliny the Younger growlers were permitted. They also managed the door and made sure it was never too crowded inside, which made for a much more enjoyable experience. A line of people that stretched down most of the block outside waited patiently for their turn to come inside. As people left, a new customer took their place so there was a steady stream of new patrons.
I actually thought this year’s Pliny the Younger was even better than last year. It seemed more balanced and the hop wallop wasn’t as vegetal or oniony as I remember it being last year. There is nothing quite like having it fresh from the source on the day it’s released. And this year, they’ve allocated enough beer so it will be available for at least two weeks, giving many more people a chance to try get some.
It will also begin appearing in select accounts around the Bay Area, so keep an eye on your favorite water hole. But act fast, last year kegs of Pliny the Younger kicked at some bars in a matter of hours.