Prized California Seasonal Beer Draws Hundreds To Line Up Overnight

by TK Sanders
(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

In the heart of Northern California’s robust wine country, the annual release of a limited seasonal beer is the talk of the town. The cherished brew goes by the name Pliny the Younger; and its delicate mix of smoothness, flavor, and high alcohol content has excited patrons lining up around the block for a taste.

To score a few sips of the coveted triple IPA, craft beer connoisseurs start camping outside of Santa Rosa’s Russian River Brewing Company before the sun comes up the morning of release.

“I usually always come on the first day,” Chris Jaramillo, a local Santa Rosa resident, told local news reporters. “We usually are always here at 2:30 a.m. or 3 just so we can get in in the first wave.”

By the time the clock strikes 11 a.m., and the Russian River Brewing Company begins pouring pints of its famed seasonal beer, hundreds of eager patrons will have gathered around the block.

“I like to tell people I will stand in line for beer, but I won’t stand in line for a phone or shoes,” Sonoma County resident Lindsey Waddell joked while waiting in line.

So what makes Pliny the Younger such a hit with seasonal beer fans?

“It’s really smooth, it’s a triple IPA like a 10.25 percent (alcohol) I think,” Jaramillo said. “It’s just a really good tasting beer.”

The seasonal beer drums up millions in impact for Northern California’s local economies

Vinnie Cilurzo, co-owner of the Russian River Brewing Company, echoed those same sentiments.

“It’s got a very pungent, resonantly citrus aroma with all kinds of fruit flavors,” Cilurzo said. “It really is an easy-drinking beer. It’s very deceptive at 10.25 percent alcohol. That’s why we limit the number per person.”

Cilurzo detailed the various rules and crowd control measures that the brewery has adopted since Pliny’s original release in 2005. Because of the seasonal beer’s popularity, he and his team had to adopt very specific guidelines for the big event.

After waiting in line for about six hours, each patron receives a custom, uniquely colored and dated wristband upon entering the pub. The wristbands have four pull-tabs to be used to purchase three 10 oz. pours and two bottles of Pliny the Younger. There is a limit of three draft “Youngers.”

The brewery’s website also details its crowd control measures, like hand-stamping and line-cutting protocols. Bottom line: if you want to indulge in this rite of passage, you’ll have to wait in line like everyone; some of whom traveled a long way for their taste.

“(I) made the trip just for that from Houston — Houston Texas!” said satisfied beer enthusiast Mike Garcia.

In 2020, the release generated more than $5 million in economic impact for the local economy. After a year off due to COVID, local residents and economic officials look forward to some new business and new buzz around the community.

“I think Sonoma County, like so many of our neighboring counties, need this,” Sonoma County Economic Development Board Aleena Decker said. “The whole state, the whole country is still in recovery.”