Craft beer fans crowd Santa Rosa, Windsor for Russian River Brewing’s annual Pliny the Younger release

Apparently eager to buy Pliny the Younger craft beer in a bottle for the first time, much larger crowds turned out on Friday for the opening of Russian River Brewing’s annual special release of the popular super hoppy brew at its Santa Rosa and Windsor taprooms.

More than 600 fans of the triple India pale ale were in line at the taprooms before the doors opened shortly after 10:30 a.m. A group of friends who traveled here all the way from Germany were among the early arrivals in Windsor to taste this year’s batch of the potent IPA with an alcohol content of 10.25%.

Before the two-week limited release is tapped out, beer aficionados from around the country and many parts of the world are expected to belly up to the bar for a 10-ounce draft or two. The daily limit is three drafts per person, at $6 each, and up to two bottles to go at $10 apiece until each day’s bottle allotment is sold.

Josh Schiager, a geology student at Sacramento State University, turned 21 in July and was eager to drink his first Pliny the Younger, as well as buy a couple of bottles.

“I have three roommates who would love this, but they are in class right now,” Schlager said. “No classes for today for me.”

Russian River co-owner Natalie Cilurzo attributed the much longer lines than last year’s first day to the availability of the Younger in the brewery’s customary 510-milliliter bottles. To avoid the busiest times and longest lines, she suggested skipping the weekends when consumers could wait more than three hours for a table or seat at the bar.

“The best bet is to come Monday through Thursday next week or the week thereafter, because we will run out of bottles every day,” Cilruzo said.

Bruce Marts of Santa Rosa took the first spot in line at Russian River’s Fourth Street taproom just before midnight Thursday. It’s the fourth consecutive year Marts was the first customer in the door to throw down a 10-ounce pour of the triple IPA.

“We basically were awake the whole night. We played cards and then just kind of relaxed. We did not do any sleeping,” Marts said of he and his friends.

Up at the Windsor brewery and taproom, Boots Byrd of Ventura showed up at 10 p.m. Thursday with friends to be the first in line. It was also his fourth year of partaking in the 16th annual Pliny the Younger limited release.

“The trip was already planned. The bottles were just a bonus when we found out they were going to release them.” Byrd said. “It’s the overall experience. ... You get to talk beer all night and everyone suffers together.”

It’s likely the overall turnout when the beer event ends Feb. 20 will exceed the 24,000 visitors from several states and countries who came here in 2019 for the triple IPA and spent an estimated $4.2 million in Sonoma County on lodging, meals and other travel expenses, according to the county Economic Development Board.

If you can’t make the trip to Russian River, the coveted craft beer will be available during the second week at select bars around the county, as well as in other taprooms in the Bay Area, San Francisco, Sacramento, Central Valley, Central Coast, Santa Cruz and Southern California; Bend, Oregon; Denver and Boulder, Colorado; and Philadelphia.

BeerAdvocate has ranked Pliny the Younger as the eighth-best beer in the United States.

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

Bill Swindell

Business, Beer and Wine, The Press Democrat  

In the North Coast, we are surrounded by hundreds of wineries along with some of the best breweries, cidermakers and distillers. These industries produce an abundance of drinks as well as good stories – and those are what I’m interested in writing. I also keep my eye on our growing cannabis industry and other agricultural crops, which have provided the backbone for our food-and-wine culture for generations.

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