Last year, Russian River bottled Pliny the Younger for the first time. This year, due to COVID-19, there’s another first.

By Mike Pomranz
November 24, 2020
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For two decades now, Pliny the Elder from California’s Russian River Brewing has been a legendary beer—regarded as a game-changing double IPA upon its release and still one of America’s greatest brews to this day. But for true beer snobs, Russian River’s real star is the Elder’s bigger, boozier, and harder-to-find counterpart: Pliny the Younger.

A 10.25-percent ABV, triple IPA based on Elder’s 8-percent double IPA, Pliny the Younger was first brewed in 2005 and has been a limited-release winter seasonal since the start, but the hype that surrounds the beer has continued to grow. In 2019, during the two weeks of February that Younger was available, beer tourism reportedly generated over $4 million in revenue for Sonoma County as a whole.

Russian River Brewing Pliny the Younger beer bottle
Credit: Getty Images / Russian River Brewing Company

But with the pandemic likely continuing through February 2021, Russian River has accepted that their usual big release isn’t feasible and announced they are “pausing” their plans. However, this is one cancellation that comes with a potential silver-lining for travel-adverse beer lovers: For the first time ever, Russian River will be selling Pliny the Younger online.

Prior to last year, Pliny the Younger had never even been bottled before. Now, this year, fans can grab these bottles from the courtesy of their own home. (In theory, at least. They’re likely to sell out quickly.)

“We simply cannot go a whole year without making at least some Pliny the Younger!” the brewery wrote on its blog. “Pliny the Younger 510 ml bottles will be for sale on our website for a limited time late January, early February, date TBD. At this time, we are only able to ship within the state of California for cost, compliance and legal reasons. In an effort to recreate a true [Russian River Brewing Company] tasting experience, each mixed case will include 4 bottles of Younger plus 2 each of a few other fun RRBC beers.”

Meanwhile, anyone hoping to score Pliny the Younger any other way in 2021 will be pretty much out of luck: The brewery says bottles will only be sold online, not through any other avenues, and though some very limited quantities of kegged beer may be available, it will “be a last-minute decision based on the current COVID-19 situation in California, Oregon, Colorado and Pennsylvania.”

Additionally, Russian River doesn’t want people purchasing bottles through the secondary market, either. “Each bottle will be marked ‘NOT FOR RESALE’ to discourage illegal reselling,” Russian River has stated. “If you see bottles some where they should not be, please let us know!”

All the being said, however, Russian River is staying optimistic about the future. “We fully expect to be back in business and better than ever in 2022!” the brewery added. That’s a tough promise to fill: Pandemic or not, they’re already one of the best.