Russian River Brewing braces for Pliny madness

  • Russian River Brewing Company's Eric Kirchner measures and weighs hop pellets that will be added to Pliny the Younger on Jan. 3, 2014 in Santa Rosa. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat)

Looking to avoid the Pliny the Younger madness, to slip quietly into Russian River Brewing Company for a quick pint of the ultra-rare beer that will be released Friday?

Forget it, say the experts.

Even on weekdays, expect a line, brewery co-owner Natalie Cilurzo advises. “But on the weekends — Friday, Saturday and Sunday — plan to wait eight hours. Just plan on it.”

Russian River will pour the first glasses of the high-alcohol, super-hoppy “triple IPA” at the Fourth Street brewpub when it opens at 11 a.m. It will be available for two weeks only.

While there is no way to know how many people will show up, past experience suggests that waits could be lengthy even at the best of times. The only times when the crowd dwindles, Cilurzo said, is if there is significant rain to dampen customers' enthusiasm for standing around outside.

This is the 10th year the pub has released the winter-only beer, but only the fourth since the brew vaulted to national fame through online sites such as BeerAdvocate.com and RateBeer.com, attention that resulted in a massive and unexpected crowd gathering even before the pub opened on release day in 2010.

“We were not prepared for the onslaught of people that showed up,” Cilurzo said. “We showed up and there was this huge line down the street.”

That year, the brewpub ran out of Pliny the Younger the first day. Since then, things have gotten far more organized, with the brewery rationing the beer to ensure it lasts a full two weeks at the brewpub. Customers will be limited to no more than three 10-ounce glasses of the beer and bartenders will not fill any growlers, the half-gallon jugs that are a popular way to take home fresh draught beer.

Brewer Vinnie Cilurzo has figured out a schedule that should ensure the beer runs out no earlier than about 6 p.m. on any given day, his wife said. The restrictions are designed to make sure the beer is available to as many people as possible, she said.

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