Pliny the Younger brings in record $6.1 million economic impact to Sonoma County

The switch from winter to spring for the annual Pliny the Younger beer release helped to generate a record $6.1 million of economic impact for Sonoma County, according to a new survey.

In fact, the customer feedback for the new date from its traditional first Friday of February start was so positive that owners of Russian River Brewing Co. have decided to make the switch again for 2023, said co-owner Natalie Cilurzo.

“It was nice to see people really enjoying their time outside. I think we had one day where it was a little bit of rain, but it wasn't like sleeting or freezing cold,” said Cilurzo, whose husband, Vinnie, also serves as the brewer.

“It worked out better for us. The guests had a better time.”

As part of the survey conducted by the Sonoma County Economic Development Board, 45% of the respondents preferred the new date of late March and early April while only 15% liked the old February date.

The Cilurzos in January postponed the event for seven weeks due to local public health orders as the omicron variant triggered a spike in coronavirus cases.

“You really have to consider the guest experience outside because a lot of our guests will spend more time waiting in line than they do inside if they come on a weekend,” she said.

Natalie Cilurzo added weekend wait times can be as much as six hours.

Pliny the Younger is a triple India pale ale (IPA) that was first brewed in 2005 and has since become one of the most highly ranked brews in the world, according to crowdsourced beer websites, and attracts almost 25,000 customers annually during its two-week release.

The delay this year actually helped the brewery, which has locations in Windsor and downtown Santa Rosa, because it was coming off a busy holiday season and trying to manage a workforce during the January spike of COVID-19.

The dates for 2023 will be from March 24 to April 6. The brewery will continue to send out its Pliny the Younger kegs for select taprooms and restaurants during the traditional time of early February, which aligns with festivities associated with San Francisco Beer Week during the same time. That week attracts visitors from across the country for events throughout the Bay Area.

The survey found the economic impact this year was a 20% increase since 2020, the last time the local release was held as an in-person event. In 2021, there was digital-only sale for a limited run of bottles.

The average group in 2022 comprised 2.6 people who spent $299 per person during their overall visit to the county, the survey found.

The survey also found out-of-town visitors spent $578 on average to fly into Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport for the event and $548 on lodging while here.

Visitors came from 42 different states.

You can reach Staff Writer Bill Swindell at 707-521-5223 or On Twitter @BillSwindell.

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