Don’t Wait in Line for Beer – A Case Against Pliny-Hunting
Pliny the Younger is an excellent beer. It is ridiculously hoppy every year. It is always perfectly dry and clean. It hides its strength remarkably well. It is a true achievement in brewing, and for that Vinnie Cilurzo and team deserve all the praise they’ve received. I have nothing but the utmost love and respect for the very fine folks at Russian River. That said, if I didn’t currently run an establishment with a Russian River allocation, it’s doubtful I would ever drink Pliny the Younger again. Put simply, I can’t justify waiting in line for beer. Any beer. Ever.
I particularly can’t justify waiting in line for hoppy beer. There is so much tasty, readily available IPA in the world that I have trouble fitting it all in my 29-faucet rotation at Library Alehouse because I have to leave room for beers that aren’t IPA (red ales and witbiers need love too). I’m not complaining, mind you. I enjoy the hell out of hoppy beer and it comprises the bulk of my beer drinking these days. I will not join the ranks of those decrying the continued rise of IPA. That said, with such a glut of accessible product, I have to wonder why people would subject themselves to waiting in line for multiple hours (sometimes in inclement weather) when they could sip something world class from the comfort of their couches.
Unfortunately, it appears that my words will likely fall on deaf ears for yet another year. If the reaction to merely putting a keg of Pliny the Elder on tap at work is any indication, then the fervor for Pliny the Younger ought to be as intense as ever. Tap a keg of Elder and put it up on the beer list and watch the calls, emails, tweets and facebook messages flood in. “Do you have Pliny on tap?” they ask. “How long do you think it’ll last?” they wonder. Then, when folks come in and see the beer on draft, they drink it almost to the exclusion of everything else. They act as though it’s the last keg of the beer they’ll ever see. All this in a bar that routinely has 7-9 other world class hoppy beers on tap.
Often driving this behavior is the same attitude that sends people to wait in line for hours to try the latest food trend or cop the latest Jordans. While those who receive the prize at the end of the line may find some intrinsic value in the good consumed, there can be little doubt that they also just want to be able to say that they got it. But I have to wonder whether the three-hour wait for a ramen burger was worth the instagram post when you could have grabbed a tasty carne asada burrito from the spot down your street and had those three hours of life back (and had a tasty beer on the couch with the burrito in question).
Part of the problem of waiting in long lines for any product is that, more often than not, nobody wins. If you wait in such a line, you’re bound to be disappointed. No product could possibly live up to the type of expectations created by such a long wait. If you wait in such a line and the product is sold out before you reach the end, you’re bound to be angry. And if you’re the producer or provider of the product in question, you’ve got a bunch of customers who are either disappointed or pissed off, rather than drunk and happy. Lose. Lose. Lose.
The solution I’ve found to alleviate this stress is to simply tap my keg of Younger without telling anyone. No advance notice. No social media post. No direct answers via phone or email. If you want to drink Younger at Library, you have to come to the bar and ask if we have it. Those who get it don’t have to wait in line or stress. Not only are they grateful for the opportunity, but also for the lack of stress. Those who miss out can only be so disappointed. After all, they didn’t have to make a trip to the bar and wait in line only to get shut out. Nothing ventured, nothing lost. And those who visit the bar on a regular basis are rewarded for their continued patronage. After all, if you show up nearly every day, then there’s a good chance you’ll show up on the day Younger is tapped.
We all love beer. If we didn’t then I wouldn’t write about it and you wouldn’t read about it. But it’s still just beer. You don’t need to wait in line for it. In most cases, you can simply walk to a local pub or bottle shop and snag a world class beverage with minimal effort. You can use the time saved to take a post-beer nap.
February 15, 2018 @ 11:00 pm
I’m with Leslie. Many times the quest is part of the whole beer experience. I love it when good beer is hard to find. It’s part of the fun. And if I have to spend some time waiting in line talking to other beer lovers, even better.
I live in the Midwest. Plenty of good beer around here. But I also like the fact than I can’t just go down to my local beer store or pub and get a some Surly Furious or NoDa Hop, Drop, and Roll. It makes those visits to Minneapolis and Charlotte a lot more enjoyable.
By the way I totally agree with your method of tapping Pliny. Better chance of rewarding your regular customers. I’m also very conscious of where I drink my beer and your establishment is at the top of my list every time I visit LA. Good work.
February 13, 2017 @ 3:50 pm
Was up there with the wife on Saturday the 11th.. 8 hour wait that we chose to forego.. we skipped to the other (merchandise) line, waited about 15 minutes, grabbed our two cases of Elder, put it in the cooler on ice and then went: 1) to a nice Italian bistro luncheon, 2) a wine tasting down the valley, 3,4) and two other great breweries to round out the afternoon/night.. We were halfway home (3 hours away South) when we noted that it was only THEN that we would be getting in the front door at RRBC if we had stayed in that line. Now don’t mistake my admiration for their product/brand… RR beer and food are quality (part of why people will sit out on that sidewalk for so long), but there is entirely too much other great hops juice out there for me to have to plant my posterior on a Santa Rosa sidewalk for such a length of time… and what if I am an unlucky one who does get in and it is that rare ‘off chance’ that their daily ‘quota’ is finished and you don’t get all three of your ‘allotted’ 8 ozs per person??… Talk about a ruinous beer experience. That is a lot for any eating/drinking occurrence to have to live up to.. I would like to try it some day for sure.. but not under those terms with so much else out there wanting my money and deserving of my attention. Thanks for the insights Alex.
February 9, 2017 @ 1:43 pm
Does this mean The Full Pint won’t be publishing the list of places to find PtY this year? That would be too bad, especially for those of us in SoCal.
February 7, 2017 @ 5:37 pm
I agree with a lot of what you say, but when I finally made it to a Younger release on day one of last year, sure I was going for the beer but also for the whole experience. Now that I’ve done it once (5 1/2 hours in line), I probably won’t go again, but the beer, the people I met, the day truly were unforgettable. Plus, it made me an even bigger fan of the Cilurzos for how amazingly well they organized every aspect of the whole two weeks each February.
February 7, 2017 @ 11:13 am
Spot on. Too many great beers out there to justify waiting for anything. I have the same policy for restaurants, clubs, etc.