Russian River Brewing Co.’s Pliny the Younger beer release postponed due to omicron surge
Russian River Brewing Co. on Wednesday decided to postpone the release of its Pliny the Younger beer at its two local breweries for seven weeks due to the rise of omicron. The popular two-week event was scheduled to start on February 4.
Co-owner Natalie Cilurzo made the announcement following Dr. Sundari R. Mase, the county health officer, issued a 30-day ban on public gatherings on Monday that would end on February 11, unless extended, rescinded, replaced or modified at the county or state level.
The delay is a temporary setback for beer lovers who for the past few years have waited for hours at its Santa Rosa and Windsor locations for the chance to savor the triple India Pale Ale that is considered the one of the best beers in the world. . This year’s event was scheduled to be held from February 4-17 with great anticipation after the 2020 in-person meet was canceled due to the pandemic.
Instead, it will be held from March 25 to April 7.
“We believe this also gives us enough time for Sonoma County to weather the surge in COVID cases and get our staff back to work and healthy,” Cilurzo said. Her husband, Vinnie, is the brewmaster of the company, which was founded in 1997 and has since become one of America’s most beloved breweries.
Beyond public health concerns for the community, Cilurzo noted that Russian River itself has faced the ramifications of the outbreak, as 20 employees have tested positive for coronavirus since the week before Christmas. It has a total of 160 employees.
“In fact, we’ve never had so many employees at the same time, including during fire evacuations,” she said.
The omicron variant now infects about 700 Sonoma County residents each day, up from 120 just two weeks ago, a 500% increase in cases, county officials said Wednesday.
Supervisor James Gore, at a public health press briefing on Wednesday, said Cilurzo told him before the official announcement that she was delaying the release of Pliny, who is bringing thousands to Sonoma County. , because she didn’t want Russian River to be responsible for sending more. people in hospital and further crippling the economy. “She also said that while it’s frustrating, we need to focus on pivoting into the future,” Gore said when speaking to her about the event in recent days.
The spike in cases has forced both breweries to close on occasion over the past month and the Santa Rosa Brewery recently reduced food items on its menu due to staffing issues. Additionally, Cilurzo planned to hire temporary workers for the event as it typically draws up to 25,000 people over the two weeks.
“It’s really an unprecedented time for us internally. We’re really struggling with staffing and we were already feeling very stressed about how we were going to deal with trying to look younger as we we don’t even have enough employees to be open or normal business operations,” Cilurzo said.
Large crowds began gathering in 2010, spurred on by the advent of smartphones and social media which alerted more customers to the beer. They were drawn to visit after various online beer sites named it one of the best beers in the world.
Last year, Russian River held an online sale of bottles of Pliny the Younger, which Cilurzo pledged not to do again after it sold out in five minutes when 110,000 California residents tried to buy the beer at the same time. Those who were excluded later took to social media.
The event provides economic stimulus during a downturn for the local tourism industry until it picks up in the spring. According to a study by the Sonoma County Economic Development Council, 23,525 people visited any of the Russian River venues during the 2020 event and injected a record $5.1 million into the local economy through their hotel and travel expenses.
Russian River brewed its first batch of beer on January 3 and discontinued further batches as it adjusted to staffing shortages. This first batch, however, will allow the brewery to ship bulk for keg sales at the same time as previous years. These limited kegs are for a few long-time breweries that have marketed the specialty beer in recent years, including a few in Sonoma County. Those shipments will come out the week of Feb. 7, she said.
Staff writer Martin Espinoza contributed to this story. You can contact editor Bill Swindell at 707-521-5223 or [email protected] On Twitter @BillSwindell.