For many years we've loved tasting what is often referred to as the most-hyped beer out there, Russian River Brewing's Pliny The Younger. This over-the-top super-hopped up triple IPA is certainly one of the most delicious and sought-after hoppy beers available. Each year in mid February we scan the social media and scramble to be able to find an 8-ounce pour of this wonderful nectar in one of our local brewpubs. This year we joined a few friends and made the pilgrimage up to Santa Rosa, California where Russian River brews this beer and sample it fresh from the source.
We were expecting lines to get in, as the hype surrounding Pliny grows more each year. We were told to expect an hour or two wait from people who had gone last year. We arrived later than expected thanks to a flight delay and got in line around 2pm on the 11th.
We guessed the line to about 150 people. Russian River only can hold 135 folks at once so we figured we'd be waiting for a while. After a couple hours in line and chatting with fellow beer geeks we had moved up to at least be alongside the restaurant. I made good use of the time by handing out hop candy samples and temporary hop tattoos to many of the kind folks in line. Craft beer people are pretty cool!
After about there hours in line we were informed by a somewhat surly Russian River staff member that they only had about an hour left of The Younger. Oh crap! We were gonna be right on the cusp! We remained calm even though they seemed to be a lot of people leaving and not many being let in by the large, bearded staff member guarding the front entrance.
Finally around 6pm we got past the bouncer and got a table outside in the chilly air. We immediately ordered 18 Youngers! (3 per person limit). It was truly a delicious hop bomb mouthful and while very strong at over 10% was surprisingly drinkable. It was fresher and tastier than I had remembered. I'm not sure if that's because we were at the source or because we had waited in line for almost four hours and were damn thirsty!
Once in we had a great time and sampled some of the other excellent beers as well including a larger sampler of sours and belgians as well as Row 2 Hill 56, Blind Pig and of course Pliny the Elder. We also enjoyed some excellent pizza to soak up the alcohol. The staff was generally helpful, but not too friendly. But I gave them the benefit of the doubt because dealing with massive amounts of the general public, especially when they are consuming strong beer, must not be easy. Finally, after filling our bellies with excellent beer and food to our hearts content, we walked back to our hotel and crashed.
The next morning we rolled by to get in line again to get one more taste but the line was nearly 400 people long by 10am! We estimated we wouldn't get in until 4pm so we ditched that plan and headed north 15 miles to Bear Republic Brewing Co.
Our group decided that there'd be no pilgrimage for us any more because this Younger phenomena has gotten out of control! Once the Bay Area TV news starts covering it, the word kinda gets out a little TOO much. But, it was a bucket list thing we could all now check off our list. Yes, it is excellent beer, and certainly one of my favorites but not worth a 4-12 hour wait in line! Their system is broken and needs fixing. We all agreed a beer garden in their back parking lot with pre-bought wristbands would be the best solution for their customers.
Stayed tuned for our Day 2 write-up where we visit Bear Republic and Lagunitas...