Finding Pliny, The Most Coveted Beer in the World
Pliny the Younger is one of the most coveted and hyped-up beers in the world. The famous triple IPA is brewed by Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, Calif., and is only available once a year. Call it what it is: marketing genius. Control the supply. Drive up the demand.
We could write a whole blog post on what makes Pliny the Younger so sought after. We could talk about its perfectly nuanced blend of hoppiness, bitterness and aromatics. We could talk about how a 10.25 percent beer can be so dangerously drinkable. But, we won't do that today. Today, we want to talk about our own experience of tracking down an elixir so elusive that it's impossible to resist. We decided that 2017 was our year to finally taste the sweet nectar of Pliny the Younger, but first, we needed to get it.
I should note, there are only three (legitimate) ways to get Pliny the Younger.
1. Get it straight from the source by making a trip to Russian River Brewing Company and waiting outside for hours to get inside the taproom. It's not uncommon for people to wait eight hours or more in line.
2. Buy a ticket to the SF Beer Week Opening Gala, which features tastings from dozens of breweries. Russian River usually makes Pliny the Younger available. This option comes with a steep price tag. But it does include a multitude of tastings and probably the shortest wait time for Pliny.
3. If you consider yourself a Pliny storm chaser, you can try to track it down at a local watering hole. Do a bit of research and find the places that have carried Pliny in the past. There's a good chance that Pliny will make a return visit there. You'll likely still have to wait in line, but nowhere near as long as you would at Russian River.
Grant and I decided to go with Option 3 this year because we didn't have a free weekend day to make the trip up to Santa Rosa and we didn't feel like shelling out the dough for a couple of beer week gala tickets. Plus, we like a good challenge.
The difficulty with Option 3 is that it can be hard to pinpoint in advance where Pliny will be and when the bar will actually tap the keg. I started following on social media some local bars that have carried Pliny in the past so that I could get a heads up in case they made an announcement that they were carrying Pliny again this year. Our persistence paid off when The Hopyard in San Ramon announced it would distribute tickets for Pliny yesterday, Feb. 20 at 10 a.m.
This was our chance. We got to The Hopyard around 8:15 a.m. and there were about 40 people camped out in front of us. I liked our chances. I hopped out and saved our place in line while Grant picked up breakfast and coffee for us from Starbucks. I pre-loaded a few episodes of The Office onto my tablet to keep us entertained. My cousin Dane later joined us and provided a second breakfast of scrambled eggs, homemade biscuits and sausage. Meanwhile, the line continued to grow. There were probably about 200 total people in line.
The Hopyard staff arrived around 9:30 and announced that while supplies lasted, each person would get two drink tickets that can each be redeemed for a 10-ounce pour of Pliny. Tickets were distributed promptly at 10, but sadly for many of the folks behind us, they ran out quickly. Those of us lucky enough to score drink tickets were told we could remain in line for another hour to wait for The Hopyard to open at its usual time or to come back later in the day to redeem the tickets. About 15 of us stayed line and waited for the doors to open. One of the times when it's socially acceptable to throw back a couple of high percentage beers in the morning. My friends and family later asked me whether Pliny was worth the wait. Absolutely it is. Neither the beer nor the experience of finding it disappointed.
Want to learn how to wait in line for Pliny (or really any other event) like a boss? Check out our gallery of tips below.