Go behind the scenes at Russian River Brewing to see how Pliny the Younger triple IPA gets made

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Craft beer lovers on Friday will start making their annual pilgrimage to Russian River Brewing Co. in Santa Rosa and Windsor to quench their thirst for the limited release of coveted Pliny the Younger triple India pale ale.

Since Pliny fans from around the country and globe will join Sonoma County residents, expect to stand in line at either taproom during the two-week availability. Each person will be able to buy daily three 10-ounce pours of the super hoppy brew, with an alcohol content of 10.25%.

This year, for the first time, Russian River also will be selling the Younger in 510- milliliter bottles for $10 apiece. The caveat is customers can buy only up to two bottles per visit, while the supply lasts at the taprooms.

Each pour of the special draft beer will cost $6.

The Press Democrat went behind the scenes at the Windsor brewery to witness and photograph how the 16th annual batch of the popular triple IPA was brewed during a five-week period.

Vinnie Cilurzo, Russian River co-owner and brewmaster, made his customary small changes to the secret recipe using eight different hops — just like a chef who tweaks an award-winning dish to make it even more tasty. This year he added two new “very impactful” hop varieties: mosaic and nelson sauvin. The mosaic gives off tropical and blueberry notes, while the nelson sauvin provides aromas of a sauvignon blanc and gooseberry.

Lead brewer Zach Kelly began production at 5 a.m. on Jan. 2 with the first hop boil.

Kelly and his crew finished dry hopping the beer — adding additional hops while it rested in the cellar tank — during the second week of January. The special batch then rested in the tank until it fully fermented. The crew this week worked to filter it, add carbonation and conduct sensory tests. Finally, it was time to put 500 barrels of Pliny the Younger in kegs and bottles for sale until Feb. 20.

During the second week of the special release, the triple IPA will start selling at select taprooms in Sonoma County, the Bay Area, San Francisco, Sacramento, Central Valley, Central Coast, Santa Cruz and Southern California; Bend, Oregon; Denver and Boulder, Colorado; and Philadelphia.

The bottles of Pliny the Younger, named for the nephew and adopted son of Pliny the Elder, the namesake of the Russian River flagship beer, will be sold only at the two Russian River taprooms.

“There has definitely been a renewed interest in Pliny the Younger,” said brewery co-owner Natalie Cilurzo, noting that maybe the chance to take home a bottle of the brew will make the crowd even larger this year.

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

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