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Pliny the Younger 2012

Younger Day! It’s almost absurd to utter these words. Pliny the Younger is a beer, nothing more. At the same time, it’s a beer that encourages people to wait for hours just to taste it. So what happened as part of this year’s release? Just keep reading for some tasty details. 

A little history for those who aren’t familiar with Pliny the Younger.

  • 2009: I casually strolled into the Russian River Brewing Company on a Monday afternoon and had a slice of pizza, a Younger and a Rejection, another Russian River February release.
  • 2010: Heeding the warning of other beer geeks, I prepared for the worse, and was greeted with something much worse. Lines formed earlier than anyone could imagine. Grolwer sales were limited to two per person, but people cheated the system, carrying cases of growlers to their cars while thirsty patrons waited, some never able to taste the hoppy brew as Younger runs out in less than 10 hours.
  • 2011: Responding to the fiasco of the year before, no growlers sales are allowed. A set amount of beer is allocated for each day of the two weeks to follow the release. Lines form early and often throughout the release with locals still able to obtain a taste as time wears on and supplies lasting through some nights.

Now, in 2012, I prepared for a scene similar to 2011. More beer was brewed in 2012, as the production facility was now involved, not just the brewpub facility. Still, the public wanted to drink the beer at the brewpub and wanted it as early on Friday as they could have it.

I swung by the pub before work on Friday, roughly 6 am, and I found the first 4 customers waiting in line. Garret, Dave and Joe drove up from San Jose for their first taste of Younger ever, while Kelly joined them from Rohnert Park. With a long morning ahead of them, I left them to the business of waiting and went to work.

Upon returning at 10 am, I found an incredible line stretching all the way to the corner of  D Street (incredible shaky video of the line). Thankfully the fog of the early morning had lifted and a beautiful February morning greeted the beer lovers who had traveled from as far away as Indiana (at least as far as I could find).

Inside, the staff was in good spirits, ready for the busy day that lie ahead of them. The small kitchen was prepped and the tanks were full of beer. It was time to let in the first customer.

The line filed in slowly. A sense of control dominated the first few minutes as the happy patrons were greeted by a server and shown a table or spot at the bar. Slowly the room filled, the volume rose and the feeling of a big event enveloped the room.

It’s worth noting here that the pub has undergone a significant remodel in the last year. New furniture opposite the bar was installed with a much darker wood paneling and new tables. Gone are the hop sacks against the ceiling being replaced by a new coat of paint and sound reducing boards. The result was a much more comfortable setting compared to the previous look. The changes provided a great flow to the room and at no point did I feel crowded or overwhelmed by sound.

The crowd continued to wait outside with the end of the line standing firm at D Street. Thankfully, there was plenty of beer to last, with Younger remaining on tap until after 11 pm each of the first two days.

With Younger still pouring from the taps of the Russian River Brewing Company for the next 11 days, it’s hard to come to any conclusions on Younger 2012. Even today, the Monday after the release, the first person to form the line arrived at 8 am with nearly 100 people waiting for the pub to open their doors at 11. What was referred to as Younger Day is now much bigger than that, with crowds destined to surround the pub for the full two weeks.

With more production of the beer this year, look for more Younger around the Bay Area, meaning less demand at the pub as time goes on. What this release continues to prove though is that the release is more than the beer. People want to experience the crush of beer geeks, the experience of sharing tales of what time you woke up, how far you drove, and how many Youngers you managed before calling it quits.