Last weekend I visited Russian River Brewing Co. in Santa Rosa to have the annual limited release "Pliny the Younger" brew straight from the source. This is the main entrance to the brewery as it appeared around 11:15 a.m. on Saturday:
The main entrance was far off for me, however, as I proceeded to walk down the block past an enormous line of people, turn the corner and kept walking past more people, until I reached the end of the line at the opposite corner of the block from where the brewery was located. I thought this would be a 2-3 hour wait, tops.
Wrong. Notice that this picture was taken during daylight hours. This will be important later.
As the day wore on, I got to know my line-mates, a couple of guys in the construction business, a software coder, a retired firefighter, and a number of others. Periodically, one or another of us would leave the line to feed a parking meter, get food, water, or coffee for the rest of us, or stop in at one of the local bars that wasn't releasing a once-a-year world-famous limited-release beer.
We crept along, discussing beer, the state of the computer industry, Mac vs. PC vs. Chrome, the morality of gambling, and the fate of the Sacramento Kings. And we stood, and stretched, and sat, and stood some more. Upon hearing of this adventure, one of my friends said it was like a marathon and I would agree, though it happened in slow motion.
It was also a bit like a Saturday morning detention or boot camp, certainly an exercise in patience, endurance, and pain, but with an ultimately rewarding outcome with all of us bound together by the shared experience.
You'll remember my comment about daylight above. Our group finally arrived near the entrance to the brewery just before 8:00 p.m. - that's postmeridian, people. It was dark:
Here's a shot of the bar inside, and of the eventual pizza I shared with a few of my line-mates:
If you like hops and the West Coast IPA-style of beers, I'm not sure you can get much better than Pliny the Younger. The bitterness was there, but it was fairly balanced by some sweetness, and the citrusy hoppiness was pegged at maximum. Also, the relatively high 10.5% ABV was not prominent.
Overall, I'm glad I made this pilgrimmage. Meeting a cool group of people and drinking a rare and terrific beer was worthwhile, but I will say that next time I will plan it so that I don't have to wait 9 hours to do it! If you want to make a visit for a future Younger release, be sure to go during the week, or as one of the brewery employees told someone in our group, come on Superbowl Sunday. Apparently no one is there.