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It’s beer’s biggest day of the year! When to taste the limited edition Pliny the Younger in 2024

A person in a black t-shirt carrying several beers in glasses.
Pliny the Younger pours are delivered to beer lovers at Russian River Brewing’s Windsor pub during the 2019 release. | Source: Justin Sullivan

Craft beer connoisseurs are busy making plans for the Bay Area’s biggest event of the year: the 20th-anniversary release of Pliny the Younger. 

Russian River Brewing announced its rare triple Indian Pale Ale will flow from taps in its two Sonoma County brewpubs from March 22 to April 4, 2024. Younger will also be made available in February to a select set of outlets, including Toronado in the Haight.

But hardcore fans may want to go straight to the source. The famously hoppy and tough-to-get brew flows at Russian River’s Santa Rosa and Windsor brewpubs for just two weeks, meaning drinkers typically wait in line for hours to get a taste of the cult favorite.

Named Best Beer in the World for years by readers of Beer Advocate, Pliny the Younger continues to dazzle the palates of ale critics around the world and is preparing to celebrate its 20th birthday in 2024. 

Beer Tasting in the Wine Country

Russian River Brewing brought the buzz to beer in Sonoma County. The brewery was launched by Korbel Champagne Cellars in 1997, and founding brewmaster Vinnie Cilurzo and his wife, Natalie, acquired it in 2003. Its Pliny the Elder brew—named after the ancient Roman naturalist—was the first double IPA to be brewed commercially and was voted No. 1 Beer in America for 15 years. 

A crowd of beer drinkers gathers in front of a bar.
Russian River Brewing Company owners Natalie and Vinnie Cilurzo toast employees before Pliny the Younger is released in 2015. | Source: San Francisco Chronicle/Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images

But Cilurzo wanted more hops. His winter brew of 2005 tripled the hops and pushed the malt, alcohol and aromatics but succeeded in yielding a balanced, medium-bodied taste. 

The beer was christened Pliny the Younger after the Roman naturalist’s nephew, who authored the Elder’s story. Locals and craft beer hawks recognized its unique flavor and flocked to taste the rare brew. But the work to produce a triple IPA was so intense that only a limited release made sense for the brewers. 

Everything changed in 2010, when Younger shot to the top of beer rankings around the world. Now, every year, lines wind around the block following its limited release. 

Historically released in February, Russian River had to delay Younger’s debut during the pandemic. The spring tasting window was found to be easier not only on the brewery in terms of staffing but also on folks who were forced to wait outside in the cold at dawn and dusk to get a taste.

Younger's impact extends far beyond the brewery. A new study by the Sonoma County Economic Development Board found that the 24,600 people from 41 states and a dozen countries who attended the 2023 release contributed a record $6 million to the local economy.

How To Taste Pliny the Younger in 2024

If you want to taste Pliny the Younger for yourself, it’s time to get organized. 

The brew is only poured at Russian River Brewing’s Santa Rosa and Windsor brewpubs from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. for the two-week 2024 release from March 22 to April 4.

Both spots are lively and serve excellent food. The Windsor location is larger, but both locations seem to have about the same wait times during the Younger release.

People sit at a long table drinking beer in a pub.
Russian River Brewing Company customers in Santa Rosa drink the limited-release Pliny the Younger triple IPA in 2014. | Source: Justin Sullivan/ Getty Images

By the time Younger is brewed, the alcohol level rounds out at around 10.25%. That means you’ll need to book a designated driver—and even better, a place to stay. The Santa Rosa brewpub is located downtown, with lodging opportunities nearby. 

And the Younger release is a no-reservations situation. Plan to wait two to three hours to get a table—some die-hards line up at dawn and wait six hours—but mingling with other excited Younger fans is part of the fun. Avoiding the first weekend and mornings will minimize the wait.

After you’re seated, you’ll only have 2.5 hours to drink and eat. You’ll receive a wristband with tabs entitling you to three eight-ounce pours of Younger. The server will pull a tab each time you receive a Younger, and then you’re back to water. (Pro-tip: Bring a friend who doesn’t love beer, and you’ll get their three glasses.)

In 2020, Russian River bottled Pliny the Younger for the first time. You can only buy it during the two release weeks from a table at a brewpub. Your final wristband tab can be redeemed for two bottles of the Younger to bring home and share with your very favorite friends.