Steve Doty is a diehard Russian River Brewing Co. fan. Unfortunately, it turns out that he's not as diehard as those who started lining up outside the downtown brewpub early this morning. On the sidewalk today at 1pm, wearing a Pliny the Younger shirt, he surveyed the line ahead of him with his wife, Erin. "I didn't think it would be this crazy," he said, shaking his head. "Obviously, I was wrong."
Today's 11am release of Russian River Brewing Co.'s Pliny the Younger—a beer of the Gods that last year sold out instantly and was then traded on Criagslist and eBay for up to $160 per growler—caused such a havoc that a line stretched all the way down Fourth Street in Santa Rosa. Steve, sadly, stood at the very end. "Last year we got in pretty quick," he said. "There's a cult for it. I mean, it's a little bit of a gimmicky thing—you really would not want a pint of this every day after work. But you can't get a beer like this, with so many hops in one beer, anywhere else. It's more like a hop wine than a beer."
Mentioning that people used to put hops in their pillows to aid sleep, Steve, a home brewer himself, says a high-hop beer like Pliny the Younger has medicinal qualities. "Or," offered Erin, as the line didn't move at all, "you could have a reaction where it's too much. An overdose of hops."
Last year, Steve and Erin had no problem getting their beer fix, but obviously, word has gotten out about Pliny the Younger. This year, Russian River Brewing Co. took a different approach to their release: rather than sell truckloads of off-sale beer for opportunist collectors to trade and sell for exorbitant prices, angering the everyman beer drinker, they're meting out two weeks' worth of the beer from a select number of kegs each day—no one knows exactly how many. The only way to get it to go, as they say, is "in your tummy," but they'll be pouring it until Feb. 17 so everyone should be able to get a taste.
And how does it taste? We caught up with Imi Doktor, a Hungarian beer fan, coming out the brewery's back exit. "It's just as good as last year," he told us. "I would travel 5,000 miles just to get it."
As for Steve and Erin, we can only guess that they're looking up Pliny the Younger clone recipes on beer blogs right now.