Just the thought of the annual batch of Pliny the Younger stirs beer aficionados into a frenzy.
For nine years, people have lined up outside Russian River Brewing Co. in Santa Rosa, Calif., on the first Friday of February to snag a glass of what many regard as one of the best beers in the world. (Beer Advocate rates it 100.)
The nearly triple India pale ale, which takes an ungodly six weeks to brew, is sold in California and points west. But through a long friendship with Tom Peters of Center City beer mecca Monk's, Russian River sends a limited supply of kegs to Philly each year.
The kegs have made it here. But here's a sobering piece of news:
Russian River's Philly beer distributor, Origlio, says its 2013 allotment is 20 percent smaller than last year's.
Christian Origlio said his company would receive 165 gallons, in a mixture of half-kegs and 1/6 kegs, or sixtels. (A half-keg has 15.5 gallons, while a sixtel has a little over 5 gallons.)
Russian River's Vinnie Cilurzo told me that the shortage was not deliberate. "We actually brewed the same amount but our yields were down, so each distributor received less kegs as compared to last year," he wrote in an email. He explained: "It was a change of process along with more hops added to the middle and end of the boil along with more dry hops."
This makes Origlio's job harder. So many bars are clamoring for Pliny the Younger, "it becomes political" about who gets it and how much, Origlio said. He declined to divulge his customer list.
Based on a survey of bars that have served it previously, here's a lineup of Younger outlets:
City Tap House in University City will sell tickets at 4 p.m. Saturday, March 2 for the tapping at 5 p.m.
Bishop's Collar in Fairmount will sell 5-ounce glasses from 11 a.m. Sunday, March 3.
Local 44 in West Philly will tap at 11 a.m. Monday, March 4.
Monk’s Cafe in Center City will tap at 11:30 a.m. Monday, March 11 with all proceeds bound for Alex’s Lemonade Stand.
Side Bar in West Chester will tap at 11 a.m. Monday, March 18.
Other bars are keeping plans close to their vests, mainly to manage crowds. Teresa's in Wayne, TJ's in Paoli, Iron Abbey in Horsham, and Good Dog in Rittenhouse plan to announce their date/time on Facebook and Twitter. Blue Dog in Chalfont will notify its mailing list. Another good resource is PhillyTapFinder on Twitter.
Russian River's Cilurzo declined to say how much Pliny the Younger is out there this year.
In a 2010 column, Daily News beer writer Don "Joe Sixpack" Russell put that year's production at fewer than 100 barrels (about 25,000 pints). I'll leave the description of Pliny the Younger to his educated palate: "The golden ale has the body of a Cabernet, filling the mouth with the rich, exceptionally citrus (grapefruit) flavor of hops. While it is certainly bitter, the flavor is buffered by a sweet glow that makes it easy to sip - even with its stiff (11 percent by volume) alcohol content."