SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) -- In France there is an annual frenzy surrounding the seasonal bottling of Beaujolais Nouveau. In Santa Rosa, it's the limited spring release of a cherished brew named Pliny The Younger.
After a forced absence during the COVID pandemic, hundreds of craft beer connoisseurs camped out outside Santa Rosa's Russian River Brewing Company early Friday for a chance to down a pint or three of the prized brew.
Chris Jaramillo from Montclair was among those who gathered in the chilly pre-dawn darkness.
"I usually always come on the first day," he told KPIX. "We usually are always here at 2:30 a.m. or 3 just so we can get in in the first wave."
As the clock counted down to the 11 a.m. opening, hundreds had joined Jaramillo with the line spanning several blocks.
And why the wait?
"It's really smooth, it's a triple IPA like a 10.25% (alcohol) I think," he said. "It's just a really good tasting beer."
Lindsey Waddell, a Sonoma County resident, was also among the throng.
"I like to tell people I will stand in line for beer, but I won't stand in line for a phone, shoes," Waddell said.
Brewery officials have learned many lessons since the seasonal beer's first bottling in 2005. Especially when it comes to crowd control.
"Line-cutting has been an issue in the past, and we are not fans," the company said on its website. "Our security team will be coming through periodically and stamping hands beginning early each morning. If someone in your party is not around to get their hand stamped, they will need to head to the back of the line."
Each person is given a custom, uniquely colored and dated wristband upon entering the pub. The wristbands have four pull-tabs to be used to purchase three 10 oz. pours and two bottles of Pliny the Younger. There is a limit of three draft Youngers.
"It's got a very pungent, resonantly citrus aroma with all kinds of fruit flavors," said Vinnie Cilurzo, Co-owner, Russian River Brewing Company. "It really is an easy-drinking beer. It's very deceptive at 10.25% alcohol. That's why we limit the number per person."
"(I) made the trip just for that from Houston -- Houston Texas!" said Mike Garcia.
For Paul Romans of Fresno, this was his third year at the event. He says the beer is worth every second and hour of waiting in line.
"Once it hits your lips, it's so good. You just start smiling and get a little happier," Romans said.
There also is a strictly enforced time limit of two-and-a-half hours for remaining in the pub.
In 2020, the release generated more than $5 million in economic impact for the local economy. After many businesses struggled throughout the pandemic, it is especially exciting this year.
"I think Sonoma County, like so many of our neighboring counties, need this. The whole state, the whole country is still in recovery," said Aleena Decker with the Sonoma County Economic Development Board.
"I'd say if anything, that's probably the most humbling part of all of this for Natalie and I," Cilurzo said. "We know it doesn't just affect us; it affects folks flying it, buying gas, eating at other breweries and restaurants."
More information on the 2022 release of Pliny the Younger is available on the Russian River Brewing Company website.
KPIX correspondent Andrea Nakano contributed to this report
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