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10 Things You Need to Know About Russian River Brewing Company's Pliny the Younger

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Pliny the Younger, Russian River Brewing Company’s super-hoppy triple India pale ale, was released on Friday, March 24, 2023. It will be available until April 6 and is expected to bring thousands of self-proclaimed beer geeks to Russian River Brewing Company’s Santa Rosa and Windsor brewpubs.

To get you primed for Pliny time, we’ve answered some of the most common questions about the coveted brew. 

What’s the Big Deal?

Russian River brewmaster Vinnie Cilurzo first brewed “Younger” in 2005. At the time, it was the only beer of its kind: The first triple IPA. It is only available for a limited time at the brewery's Santa Rosa and Windsor brewpubs. (In 2023 and 2022, it was released to bars and restaurants ahead of its official in-person release). At the brewpubs, Pliny is only available on draft and is only served in 10-ounce glasses. Patrons can also buy and take home two bottles of the coveted beer. 

OK, When Can I Get My Hands on Some Pliny?

Glass of beer

Russian River Brewing Co.'s brewpubs in Santa Rosa and Windsor will be pouring Pliny from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily through April 6, 2023. The beer will be available each day until the brewpub runs out of that day’s allocation. Pliny pilgrims can expect long waits to get into the brewpubs; lines start to form around 5 a.m. Once inside, guests are allotted two and a half hours at the pub, three "Youngers" (10-ounce pours) and two bottles of Pliny to take home. 

If Pliny is So Popular, Why Not Just Make More of It?

Russian River Brewing Company Beers

According to Russian River Brewing, Pliny the Younger is a very time-consuming and expensive beer to brew. It requires an exceptionally large amount of raw materials – malt and hops in particular – and takes up significant tank space at the brewery. In other words, it's just not worth the money and effort to make more Pliny – especially when the limited supply seems to be working out, just fine. 

Is There Any Way to Skip the Line?

Pliny the Younger line
Russian River Brewing patrons eagerly awaiting their turn for Pliny the Younger.

In 2018, for the first time in Younger history, a lucky few got to cut the line. Following the wildfires in October 2017, Russian River Brewing launched Sonoma Pride, which raised funds for fire relief efforts in part through $25 donations for a chance to win Pliny line-cutting privileges. In 2023, however, there are no cuts. For the best shot at a short wait, the time to come is mid-week during the evening (Windsor is your best bet). But, believe it or not, a lot of people actually want to experience the line – come rain or shine – because "that's where the event is." But standing in lines has rules ...

How Do I Master the Line (and Not Get Kicked Out)?

No matter how pumped you are about Pliny, waiting in line for hours can be boring, and bored people do silly things. Therefore, there are rules: No smoking, no drinking, no bottle sharing (in line or inside the brewpub), no camping in front of businesses (leave your pop-up tents and easy-ups at home) and come with your entire party – don't cut in front of people who have been waiting for hours because "your friends saved your spot;" that's not cool. 

What Happens Once I Get Inside?

Russian River Brewing Company keeps track of allotted time and pours with a four-tabbed wristband — not, disappointingly, with chalk marks like meter maids. (Tabs are removed as Youngers are poured; the fourth tab is for purchasing Pliny bottles.) Inside, Plinys can be paired with pub fare. Naturally, “Pliny” bites are the most popular pick, but “Drew” bites are also worth a try. The Windsor brewpub has more food options. 

What Does Pliny Taste Like?

Drinking Beer at Russian River

Pliny the Younger is a rendition of other Russian River Brewing Company favorite Pliny the Elder, except with more hops, malt and higher alcohol (the beer finishes around 10.25 percent AVB). The hops used in the recipe are Simcoe, Warrior, Chinook, Centennial, Amarillo, CTZ, Comet and Azacca. According to those in the know (and Russian River Brewing Company's website), it is loaded with hop flavors and is surprisingly smooth and dry for the amount of alcohol and malt. 

Who is this Pliny Character Anyway? And How Do I Pronouce 'Pliny'?

Portrait of Pliny the Younger
Portrait of Pliny the Younger, on the marble retained after the Giovio palace in the city of Como, vintage engraved illustration. Magasin Pittoreseque 1847.

Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, a.k.a Pliny the Younger, was a lawyer, author and magistrate of ancient Rome. Pliny’s uncle, Pliny the Elder (also a Russian River beer), helped raise and educate him, and later adopted him. Pliny Jr. and Pliny Sr. witnessed the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD, which took Pliny the Elder’s life. While most people pronounce the popular beer “ply-knee,” the “correct” Latin pronunciation is actually “plih-nee” – rhyming with “mini.”  

What's the Windsor Brewery Like?

Russian River Brewing Company in Windsor
Russian River Brewing Company in Windsor

The Windsor brewpub can accommodate up to 200 Pliny enthusiasts (the Santa Rosa pub's capacity is 135). The food menu offers more options than the Santa Rosa location, including burgers, double-fried Kennebec fries, fish and chips, salmon, schnitzel and salads. If you need some fresh air, you can step out on a year-round patio and 1-acre pet-friendly beer garden. In addition to Pliny the Younger, visitors can sample other popular Russian River Brewing beers. 

I’m From Out of Town, So Where is a Good Place to Stay? And How Do I Get Around After I've had My Share of Plinys?

Dancing for Pliny

Russian River Brewing Company has partnered with a number of local hotels that are extending "Special Younger Rates" during the two-week release: Art House, Astro Motel, Flamingo Resort and Spa, Hotel E, The Sandman and Vintners Resort in Santa Rosa; Double Tree Sonoma Wine Country and Oxford Suites Sonoma County in Rohnert Park; and Hampton Inn and Suites in Windsor. Want to explore Sonoma County post Pliny? Uber and Lyft are available in Santa Rosa and Windsor. The SMART train is another good option. Check out our new app for other, nearby must-see Sonoma County locations.

What If I am Pining for Pliny, But am Not Willing to Wait in Line for Hours?

Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder (Photo Courtesy Chris Hardy/for Sonoma Magazine)

No worries. Pliny the Younger’s close relation, Pliny the Elder, is available year-round — bottled or on tap. If you want to sample more Sonoma County brews, click here

Had your three Plinys in Windsor and wondering what to do next? We've got you covered with restaurants, tasting rooms and fun activities

Written by Sonoma Magazine Staff