Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

The beer maker behind Pliny the Elder is selling their brewery and moving to a bigger facility.

Mike Pomranz
June 27, 2017

Right now, everyone seems to be opening their own brewery. Last year, on average about two new breweries opened every single day. When looking to get a brewery off the ground, you have a number of options: You can brew in someone else’s facilities (known as “contract” or “gypsy” brewing); you can build a brewery from scratch, filling it with used or new equipment; or on rare occasions, you can even buy a brewery as is, either because it’s gone out of business or the brand is moving somewhere else. Even more unlikely in that final scenario is that you’d have the chance to purchase a facility from one of the most highly-praised brewers in the world, but in Sonoma County, that’s exactly what’s happening: Russian River – the maker of renowned beers like Pliny the Elder – is putting their original production brewery up for sale.

Thankfully, Russian River is not coming to an end. Last year, the California beer brand broke ground on a new “dream brewery” just eight miles away in Windsor that will boast three-times their current capacity as well as other amenities like a 175-seat restaurant, tasting room, gift shop and elevated walkway for self-guided tours. Since the brand also runs a brewpub in downtown Santa Rosa, Russian River decided something would have to go. “[It’s] just too complicated,” co-owner and president Natalie Cilurzo told Brewbound. “There’s absolutely no way to run three.”

The middle-sized facility, Russian River’s original commercial brewery, was the odd man out. But though Russian River is giving up a piece of its history, another beer brand will have a chance to create some history of its own. “We are looking for a quality-focused brewer interested in expanding their operations in a turnkey brewing facility known for making pretty good beer,” Cilurzo said a bit slyly. No price has been listed for the brewery, and no potential buyers have yet been hinted at. Quite the opposite actually: Interested parties are being asked to sign non-disclosure agreements on their talks. Still, I think it’s fair to speculate that interest is probably high. Even with plenty of resources, simply setting up a brewery can be tricky. And this isn’t just any turnkey operation: Being able to say you’re in Russian River’s old brewery is probably worth a short-term sales bump alone.

All that being said, Russian River won’t be giving up the old brewery anytime soon. The new Windsor brewery isn’t set to open until late 2018, and even then, the company wants to brew simultaneously in both facilities for a while so they can compare batches between the two to make sure flavors match, quality is consistent and the transition is seamless. Once all is said and done, any buyer probably wouldn’t be able to take over until late 2018 or early 2019 at the soonest. But thankfully, America will have no shortage of craft beer between now and then.