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Buoyed by a mild winter night, crowds again turned out early Friday to wait in line at Russian River Brewing Co.’s downtown Santa Rosa brewpub for the annual Pliny the Younger beer release.

Beer lovers started placing camping chairs next to the Fourth Street facility by 4 p.m. Thursday — more than 18 hours before the Friday morning release of the triple India Pale Ale, widely regarded as one of the best brews in the world with a current ranking of No. 7 on the BeerAdvocate website.

More than 200 people were standing in line before 9 a.m. The ones at the end faced a four- to five-hour wait to get inside, the brewpub’s general manager, Michael Deas estimated.

“We got a good long wait today,” he said.

The coveted beer — a citrusy, hoppy brew with a potent 10.25 percent alcohol content — is sold only two weeks every February, a tradition that attracts avid fans and curious beer lovers from across the world. Customers are each allowed three 10-ounce pours to ensure there is enough to serve each day and to make sure they don’t get too tipsy.

One of the first people in line, David Cornell from St. Petersburg, Fla., flew in on Thursday for his first Pliny experience. He also celebrated his birthday on Friday.

He described the taste as “bright citrus, grapefruit, lemon rind” and said it was “a top 10 beer and I can see why.”

Nick Sukle of San Carlos and Courtney Dearborn of San Ramon said they felt lucky to be one of the first 50 customers in line after showing up at 3 a.m. The two did the event last year and wanted to ensure they were in the first round of customers to get a table.

“Ten more people showed up after we got here,” Sukle said.

The line typically moves in waves of about 100 people. The brewpub, which has a capacity of 135 customers, gives patrons a maximum of three hours during the event to drink their beer and eat food ranging from pizza to sandwiches and salads.

Dearborn said she wanted to go to Lagunitas Brewing Co. in Petaluma afterward, but Sukle said he would prefer a nap. The two said they were fans of Pliny the Younger.

“To me it was like drinking water,” Dearborn said. “You don’t realize you are drinking such a high alcohol because it was so smooth.”

Sukle concurred. “It’s definitely one of the top five IPAs. I think even the top one,” he said.

The long lines this year could be the last for the downtown brewpub. Next fall, Russian River Brewing plans to open a new production brewery and restaurant in Windsor, which should attract most of the out-of-town customers because it will offer nicer amenities and a larger taproom.

Vinnie Cilurzo, co-owner and brewmaster, said he would like to do a main Pliny event for the Windsor facility next year while also making the beer available in Santa Rosa, especially for locals who have been scared away from the brewpub by the long lines that started showing up in 2010 as a result of social media. For those who don’t want to wait in line, a few local brewpubs will receive their allotment of one Pliny keg with deliveries starting next week, Cilurzo said.

He tinkered a little with this year’s recipe by adding two new hops to the formula, Idaho No. 7, which gives it a little peppery taste, and Crystal, which has a grapefruit flavor. The result is a beer that is more aromatic than in previous years and carries a little more heat in the throat as a result of the bitterness.

“We’re looking for ways to brighten up the aroma,” he said.

The event also is an economic driver for the city of Santa Rosa. A 2016 survey by the Sonoma Economic Development Board found it generated $4.88 million in spending with many customers going to the nearby Starbucks and Peet’s Coffee to eat and drink while waiting in line and staying at area hotels.

Co-owner Natalie Cilurzo said she was relieved to see the lines back again this year after business dropped as a result of the October wildfires. Even with the decline, the brewpub saw almost 400,000 visitors last year.

Some took advantage of the long lines to sell and pitch products. A few Girl Scouts were selling cookies and a violinist played for tips. Rene Lucha, a sampling representative for Rockstar Energy Drink, parked his truck on Fourth Street and was handing out free Yachak Organic Yerba Mate to people waiting in line.

Lucha said he was unaware of the event and just stumbled upon it as he was driving around Santa Rosa.

“I hit the jackpot,” Lucha said.

You can reach Staff Writer Bill Swindell at 707-521-5223 or bill.swindell@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @BillSwindell.

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