When the Russian River Brewing Brewing Company announced that this year’s batch of its cult-fave limited edition beer Pliny the Younger would also be available in bottle form, it offered strict rules on how drinkers could obtain the take-home drinks, and made sure to prominently mark the bottles as “Not Packaged for Resale.” But those stipulations don’t seem to have stopped Pliny buyers from pursuing a profit for the beers, which are now available on auction sites for as much as $155 per bottle.
For 15 years, Pliny the Younger has only been available for two weeks every February. That’s because, Russian River says, the process to brew it is a labor-intensive one involving five different hops and malt — something that’s not scalable for year-round production.
While many say that the beer is amazing (beer review site RateBeer, SF Gate notes, just named it California’s best beer for 2019), some blind taste tests suggest otherwise, rating it middle-of-the-pack, at best.
Perhaps Pliny’s taste is enhanced by its scarcity, which some researchers say is one of the most powerful ways to convince consumers that a product must be acquired at any cost. That psychological effect might be further enhanced by all the hoops drinkers must go through to score some Pliny: a (potentially 3–9 hour) wait in lines at Russian River’s Santa Rosa and Windsor breweries; the donning of a tabbed wristband to ensure that the drinker only orders three draft Plinys (that’s the limit), all of which must be consumed on-site; and the purchase limit of two 510 ml bottles for consumption later, at a reported price of $10 per.
This year’s batch dropped on Friday, February 7, and already, those same bottles are available to folks who engaged is none of that rigamarole, as long as they have the cash. A search for Pliny the Younger on beer auction site My Beer Collectibles reveals multiple bottles of the elusive beer, all seemingly listed by private citizens and (presumably) against the wishes of Russian River, and all going for a hundred bucks or more.
Most are classified as “collectible bottles,” which appears to suggest that the brews are intended as status symbols and nothing more — so, perhaps, taste is beside the point. But if some well-heeled buyer snaps up some of the bottles, Eater SF would like to extend an invitation to the collector to come to our office and engage in a controlled, blind taste test of our own. Come on, it’ll be fun.