Pliny the Younger and the Endless Quest for Whales

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Pliny the Younger and the Endless Quest for Whales

I moved to San Francisco at the start of Beer Week in 2012. Before I even found an apartment, I had one thing I needed to find first: Pliny the Younger.

The infamous triple IPA from Russian River Brewing Company is only brewed once a year, is only distributed to a few venues, and is ridiculously hard to find. A few of the events show up on the San Francisco Beer Week website, but most do not, so finding the beer becomes a game of chance. You’ll hear whispers between beer nerds of a secret tapping at this bar or that, something that no one will confirm, and most are reluctant to even mention to friends. Most venues only have one keg. If too many people know, then they’ll run out fast, right?

I was lucky, and managed to get a hot tip that The Younger would be at a pizza place in a nearby town one night. Since I hadn’t started my new job, I was able to get there early, before everyone else got off work and get in line. A few hours later, I had a 10 oz. pour of the most coveted beer in town.

Other years I wasn’t quite as lucky. Over the past five years I’ve had a few chance encounters with The Younger, like the time my local bar just happened to put it on in the middle of the afternoon when I had casually stopped in for a beer, or the time I managed to schedule a lunch meeting for work that managed to coincide with the tapping of a keg at another spot. There have also been times where I’ve gotten in line hours before a tapping only to have the final tickets for a pour go to drinkers in front of me. It’s definitely the luck of the draw.

Around Beer Week in San Francisco, the tale of where you finally found Younger is a war story of sorts. Everyone has one, and for the most part, everyone’s story is pretty interesting. It’s a great conversation starter at bars, and almost always ends in a tale of odd coincidence and luck where the drinker somehow magically made it happen.

This year, my Younger tale wasn’t quite as exciting. I went to the SF Beer Week Opening Gala, and scored a pour before the doors opened for general admission. Even then, it wasn’t exactly an easy task. Check out the line 15 minutes before doors opened:

And that’s a really short line. At Russian River in Santa Rosa, lines often get so long that you’ll wait eight hours or more to get inside.

My search for Younger also isn’t exactly a unique one. There are beers around the country similar to Younger, epic brews that only get released once a year and attract lines that start the night before. The question is, are they worth it? For me, the answer I think is yes, but just once. I would have waited days for that first pour in 2012, but now, with each year, getting a sip seems less and less important.

What whales have you managed to get in the past? Would you go to epic lengths to get them again? Tell us your battle stories in the comments.

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