One of the world’s great beer pilgrimages has been halted by COVID-19 as sales of Russian River’s Pliny the Younger Triple IPA move online only for the first time in the American brewery’s history.

For 16 years, thousands of beer lovers from around the world have been drawn to Russian River Brewing in Sonoma County in Northern California, and to venues in the area, on the first Friday in February for a taste of what is widely regarded as one of the best IPAs ever made during its annual release. People have even been known to camp out for days (most often in the rain considering the weather there in February) in the hope to secure just a glass of the 10.25% hype machine.

But due to the severity of the pandemic in the States, and to avoid enhancing it, Russian River’s co-owners Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo have made the decision to sell the famous beer in 510ml bottles for just the second time and the first it will be sold online only and shipped direct to the consumer.

Because of their inability to sell it in draught form, just four batches of Pliny the Younger have been brewed – or a third of what they would normally.

“Large crowds tend to gather wherever Younger is available, which can lead to unintended and dire consequences during a global pandemic,” Vinnie said.

“The last thing we want is to be responsible for creating a super spreader event. We want everyone to be around enjoying Pliny the Younger in 2022.

“We have had to make some hard decisions based on many factors, first and foremost being the health and safety of not only our employees and customers, but also the community in which we live. Our business operations are also dependent upon both state and local health orders which can change, and likely will continue to change, at anytime.”

This year’s Pliny the Younger release can be purchased exclusively by California residents only on the brewery’s website from January 28 (11AM PST) as part of a mixed case of 12 – featuring four Pliny the Younger bottles and eight other Russian River beers.

Each Younger bottle will be marked “NOT FOR RESALE” to discourage bootlegging and illegal reselling. Russian River are planning to host a couple of virtual tastings of it in early February.

The 2021 Pliny the Younger features the same base recipe as last year while the hop bill is mostly the same apart from the addition of Elixir, which exhibits citrus, spice and berry, specifically strawberry, characteristics. The rest of the hops are: Amarillo, Chinook, Citra, CTZ, Mosaic, Nelson, Simcoe and Warrior.

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