The Russian River Brewing Company just released their 14th batch of Pliny the Younger, a good prompt to report on my visits there last fall.
I’m pretty new to the good beer scene and I first heard about Pliny the Younger when a bar was raffling tickets for a chance of getting a pour during SF Beer Week. Ok, must be good beer.
In the following months I heard a lot more about the Russian River Brewery so was excited to include a stop in their downtown Santa Rosa location during a family trip to Sonoma last fall.
Wasn’t sure what to expect and we certainly anticipated wrong — we thought if we went late afternoon on a Sunday we’d avoid the crowds. Which we sorta did?
As we drove past the entrance we saw two lines outside, one all the way to the end of the building (which it turns out, is not that long). I dropped folks off and then grabbed parking in the back, waiting for updates. The shorter line is for those who are making purchases for off-premise. Growlers, a limited selection of bottled beers, and RRB merchandise. We went for that, since we’d only have to wait 20-30 minutes.
The next morning we planned ahead, arriving at 10:45 AM on Monday morning, 15 minutes before it opened. There were already 3 groups in line ahead of us, but there was no issue getting a seat.
A few notes on food before I jump to the beer. They have a typical bar menu–pizza, wings, sandwiches, salad. Walking by the tables, all of it looked good! We started with the Pliny Bites — crispy bites of pizza dough with a white cheddar and jalepeno dipping sauce — a little too spicy for those prefer mild foods. For the main course we got the pizza special of the day and the large was plenty of food for 5 people. Even the non-beer drinkers agreed it was worth going just for the food.
They also have a pretty great wine-by-the-glass list — reasonably priced and featuring lots of local options.
As for the beer, they feature a sampler of all the beers on tap, typically 18-20. They had 19 when we were there, you could do a flight of all for $25. Thank goodness I wasn’t traveling solo this time. 🙂
Such a great experience — all the beers were worth trying even if I wouldn’t have wanted a full pint of some.
Their IPAs are well balanced, even the hoppiest. I love sours and wine-beer hybrids so it’s no surprise that their Sanctification, Temptation, Consecration, and Supplication were among my favorites.
I was also happy to see that they offer 1/2 pints and 1/2 pours for those of us who can’t make up their minds or would only like some. An option I made use of on my next visit a month later.
It was a few weeks after the fires had swept through the area and it was a different experience. Late on a Saturday afternoon it was only a short wait and within 20 minutes of arriving we had a table outside.
Though the fires had not directly impacted Russian River, they were feeling the decline in tourism. Apparently that was the time to go when the pub was just locals and there were no lines for several weeks.
If you plan to go, plan ahead. Try to arrive before they open or near closing time. Also be aware that metered parking changed at the first of the year with a hard 3 hour limit and $1.50/hr, so you might want to consider parking garage 3 behind the pub which has no time limit and is only $.75/hr.
They also plan to open a Windsor location with an expanded menu later this year which should ease some of the congestion.