Russian River Brewer Eric Kirchner transfers wort from the mash tun to the kettle at the Fourth Street brewpub, the first step in producing the annual Pliny the Younger release, Friday, Jan. 3, 2014.

Production has started on this year’s Pliny the Younger over at Russian River Brewing. A batch or so is already in the tanks over at the main brewery in south Santa Rosa and lead brewer Eric Kirchner fired up the kettle this morning for the first batch at the original brewery, next to the brewpub on Fourth Street. Release is set for Feb. 7 and the beer will be strictly rationed so as to last two weeks at the brewpub (though no promises at any other location lucky enough to score a keg). They only make about 60 barrels per year of the beer; that’s only about 1,860 gallons and that has to spread across the best accounts in four states, so supply is very tight.

Co-owner Natalie Cilurzo tells me they are looking at ways to better manage the expected crowd at the brewpub so as not to inconvenience the city or neighboring businesses. Since the beer hit the top of the ratings charts on online beer sites in 2010, lines have grown ever year outside the brewpub with chilly fans waiting hours to get a glass of the beer.

The plan is to limit customers to a max of three 10-ounce pours of the precious liquid, though bartenders will not be shy about not serving people who are overcome more quickly by the stiff 11 percent alcohol by volume of the beer (a condition known informally as “Getting Youngered”). As has been the case since the frenzy of 2010 (when the beer sold out in a single day), there will be no growler fills of the Younger.

Both Natalie and Eric say this may be the best year yet for the beer – not only do they have 10 years of experience brewing the difficult-to-make beer, but the 2013 hop harvest was one for the ages, meaning the flavors should be even more intense in this year’s batch.

A study earlier this year by the Sonoma County Economic Development Board found that The Younger alone generates about $2.4 million in economic activity for the county, both in direct sales and in associated business such as hotels and meals bought by beer tourists seeking a sip at the brew pub.

But if you miss The Younger Frenzy this year, there is still hope for a party – Natalie and Vinnie will be celebrating 10 years at the brewpub in April. No specifics on plans yet – Natalie says she needs to get through The Younger release first – but they promise a good time at their Anniversary Party.

– Sean Scully


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