Are you willing to wait in a six-hour line for exceptional beer that only comes out once a year? You’ll get your chance starting Friday, as Russian River Brewing Company’s 20th anniversary edition Pliny the Younger comes out tomorrow, and will be available for two weeks.

It’s about to be the high, hoppy holidays for beer lovers! The prized, sought-after, only-once a year limited release of Pliny the Younger starts Friday at both Sonoma County locations of Russian River Brewing Company, according to KRON4. It will be available in-person at Russian River Brewing’s Santa Rosa and Windsor locations for only two weeks, from March 22 to April 4.

The triple IPA Pliny the Younger is an offshoot of Russian River Brewing’s double IPA Pliny the Elder (which is available year round), and started 20 years ago as a limited wintertime release to drum up more slow-season beer business.

Its release was pushed into the spring time in recent years because of COVID, but now the brewery is sticking with the spring release — though attendees at the SF Beer Week opening gala a few weeks ago were able to sample the first batch.

"Brewing the beer over the course of a couple of months was extremely helpful to our overall production schedule," the brewery says in their announcement. "And over 90% of people who attended in 2022, according to the Economic Impact survey, said they either preferred the new date or could go either way."

This year being the 20th anniversary edition (though it’s really a 20th annual release, and the packaging says anniversary), Pliny the Younger will be available in a commemorative, take-home three-bottle pack. There’s a limit of one three-pack per customer.

The recipe for this limited release is a little different every year. “That first batch of Younger was 11 percent ABV but still relatively dry,” Russian River Brewing co-owner Vinnie Cilurzo said in a Bay Area News Group interview, describing the beer’s first release in 2005. “Simcoe has always been the primary hop in both Pliny the Elder and Younger. Over the years, new proprietary hop strains have emerged, allowing us more creativity and flexibility with the recipe. In 2023, we added the New Zealand hop Nectaron for the first time. This year, we kept the recipe virtually the same, only adding more Nectaron because it was such a nice addition to last year’s beer.”

The first Pliny the Younger was released in 2005, but exploded in popularity in 2010, when the brewery went through the whole year’s batch in just eight hours. Since then they’ve limited orders, and no longer fill growlers.

And we gotta say, getting this beer is now a highly structured process. “Be prepared to wait 6 hours or more on a very busy day, especially on weekends,” the brewer says. Some other incredibly byzantine processes and requirements to get your Pliny the Younger are spelled out below:  

  • It’s a goddamned wristband system. You get four pull tabs on your wristband; three of which can be used for your three allowed 10-ounce pours, the fourth can be used for your take-home three-pack. You can transfer pull tabs to other people in your party.
  • The line can start forming as early as 5 or 6 am. Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays tend to be busier, weekdays tend to be less busy.
  • They will be number-stamping your hand to prevent line-cutting.
  • Each guest or party can only stay in the brewpub for two-and-a half hours.
  • Expect and be prepared that there may be rain while you are in line. There will be some amount of tents at the Windsor location, the Santa Rosa location is on a street with neighboring businesses whose doors should not be blocked.

Both Russian River Brewing locations are open from 11am-10pm. The Santa Rosa location is at 725 Fourth Street, the Windsor location is 700 Mitchell Lane. And again, Pliny the Younger will only be available from Friday, March 22nd to Thursday, April 4th, 2024.

Related: People Are Lining Up for Pliny the Younger Again, For Whatever Reason [SFist]

Image: Russian River Brewing Company via Facebook