The annual triple IPA release is as exciting for local businesses as it is for beer lovers.

By Mike Pomranz
Updated March 26, 2019
Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

These days, supposedly legendary beers seem to be as common as the latest can release. Many of the best brewers are constantly churning out acclaimed, new products on a regular basis — but often they are never seen, or only scarcely seen, again. Though this dedication to the novel isn’t inherently bad, it’s a significant change from the days when highly regarded special-release beers would return on the regular — usually annually. And in some ways, the modern obsession with one-off beers is a bit of a cop-out: It’s easy for a beer to earn praise once, but not so easy to generate such enthusiasm year-after-year. In that regard, the number of truly legendary beers is actually waning as the older brews who created such fervor simply can’t maintain such longevity.

However, after 15 years and still going strong, Russian River’s Pliny the Younger is definitely still one of those legendary beers. The over 10-percent ABV triple IPA first debuted in February of 2005 as an amped up companion to the California brewery’s flagship Pliny the Elder double IPA and has returned in extremely limited quantities every year since. The brewery’s local Santa Rosa Press Democrat newspaper recently reported on the economic impact of Pliny the Younger, and the numbers are incredible.

Only 350 barrels of the beer, reportedly double last year’s production, were brewed for 2019 — and as has been the case in the past, only extremely limited supplies were shipped to very select clients in Southern California, Sacramento, Oregon, Colorado, and Philadelphia. The remaining supplies were all consumed in Sonoma County, either in Russian River’s Santa Rosa brewpub or at the brewery’s recently opened brewery and taproom in Windsor. And yet, that small stash of beer was able to generate $4.2 million in economic impact for the county, according to a survey from the Sonoma County Development Board.

Approximately 24,700 people came from 42 states and 14 countries during the beer’s availability window which lasted from February 1 to 14, with the average beer lover staying in the region for 1.8 days. Once on site at one of Russian River’s two locations, the average bill per person was a whopping $59.38 on things like beer and food — and that’s not to mention things like the average $290-per-night local hotels were charging. Meanwhile, for the record, 10-ounce pours of Pliny the Younger weren’t particularly expensive either, selling for $5.25.

Overall, the survey determined that Pliny the Younger-related spending was up 24 percent from the previous year. And drinkers appeared to be pretty content with their decision: Pliny the Younger 2019 currently has a score of 4.59 out of 5 on Untapped, only slightly below last year’s 4.62. Regardless, the beer is still the highest rated triple IPA on the rating website.