Pliny fever strikes Santa Rosa

  • People wait in line for the release of the Pliny the Younger beer at the Russian River Brewing Co. in Santa Rosa, California on Friday, February 4, 2011. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

They come from near and far, the self-proclaimed "hop-heads" and folks who only half-jokingly proclaim, "Beer is my life."

Some fly in or drive to Santa Rosa for a whirlwind trip while others devise extended vacations around the release date — "a national holiday," one Santa Rosa man declared it.

But at the center of all the fuss and bother that had hundreds of people queueing up Friday morning outside a downtown Santa Rosa brew pub is a triple-IPA (India Pale Ale) released once a year in limited quantity: Russian River Brewing Co.'s Pliny the Younger.

2011: Pliny The Younger Release At Russian River Brewing Co.


Ultra-hoppy, with about 10.25 percent alcohol, the Younger draws beer lovers from around the country and the world, inspired by friends' delirious reviews and A-plus ratings on brew aficionados' websites.

"It's the best beer there is," said Peter James, 27, a resident of Shaver Lake near Yosemite who lined up with several dozen kindred spirits from places like Maryland, Grand Cayman, Pennsylvania and Scotland. "It's off the charts."

Russian River Brewing has six beers on the 2011 100-best list produced by Ratebeers.com.

Pliny the Younger is ranked third, behind a Swedish stout and a Belgian Trappist ale. Pliny the Elder, another Russian River India Pale Ale available year-round, placed eighth.

The Plinys were father-and-son Roman writers and historians of the first century A.D.

BeerAdvocate grades the Younger A-plus, world class.

Fans say Russian River brewmaster Vinnie Cilurzo, who they mostly call simply "Vinnie," has done what no one else seems able to do. He's upped the ante on the hops, raising the alcohol and the hoppy flavor, and produced a brew that's both balanced and light.

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