Internet holidays are silly, but fun. I’m all for finding an excuse to celebrate something, even if it’s something you do or appreciate every day. It’s nice to add a little extra thought and effort into showing someone you care, honoring veterans, or appreciating the art form that is the India Pale Ale.
#IPAday was originally created in 2011 to celebrate this delicious, versatile beer style all across the internet. As I generally prefer bitter tastes over sweet ones, IPAs quickly became one of my favorite styles. I enjoy them frequently but IPA Day 2013 is special to me this year, because I’m enjoying an IPA I rarely get to have. That beer is the notorious Pliny the Elder.
Now I love Pliny, but Russian River Brewing Company makes me mad and I’m going to shit on them a little bit.
First of all, I’m about about an hour away from the brewery, but finding anything made by Russian River is damn near impossible. One store regularly has Damnation and Supplication but never any Pliny or Blind Pig. In order to get Pliny, this store must request a case from a store in another county even further away from the brewery. If said store has the beer to spare, the idiot beer guy at our store will just stock all the Pliny at once. So the first hop head there will buy it all up. Fantastic, right?
Fortunately, that was us last time we went shopping. Pliny wasn’t even cold when we took it out of the fridge. We also just took two bottles instead of the whole stock because we’re nice people like that and not greedy assholes. My point is, it irks me that it’s most likely easier to get Pliny in Philadelphia than one county over from the source.
Secondly, Russian River has no desire to up the supply in order to meet the demand for their beer. Ever. At all. I know they want to stay small, local, and not compromise the quality of their product. I understand and respect that completely. That being said, there is an air of snootiness about them that I do not like. If you read their FAQ page, you’ll see that they will not add any new accounts under any circumstances. If you’re an entrepreneur who just opened a new bar and want to serve some Pliny or Blind Pig to your customers, you’re shit out of luck. You’ve been out of luck for years actually, and will be for the foreseeable future. If a new grocery store opens up near you, you can count on them never having any Russian River beer either. I don’t know when they stopped accepting new accounts, but it was definitely before I started drinking.
If you continue reading their FAQ page, you’ll see you also cannot tour the brewery, book large reservations at the pub, or buy kegs at retail value. Fine, you’re within your right as a business to open or close off whatever you want to the public. But earlier this year, Russian River pulled all their business out of Washington in order to better meet the demand at their pub. Insert are you fucking kidding me face. Do I have to point at Philadelphia on a map? How dedicated to serving locally are you when you pull out of the Pacific Northwest before goddamn Philly?
I think if Russian River increased their production by just 10 to 15%, it would reach a lot more people without decreasing the quality of the product, or the demand for it. If you haven’t had Pliny, I’ll fill you in. Pliny is so popular because it’s amazing. I swear the balance and clean finish is magic. Making it more accessible would not decrease the demand and allure of it. It would do nothing but make them more money, and possibly me a little less cranky.
And I didn’t even mention the madness that happens every year for the Pliny the Younger release. People go apeshit for Russian River beer and they know it. I think they know it and test the boundaries of what they can get away with. They are more concerned with having this unattainable, highly sought-after reputation than getting their beer out to the people who want to drink it. Sure, their beer quality may be their top priority (but Philly, for real?), but customer service appears to be among their lowest priorities.
So on this IPA Day 2013, I’m going to enjoy my rare treat of Pliny the Elder and hope that one day, its creator will stop being a crotchety old man yelling, “Screw you, kids! Get off my lawn!” and embrace some growth and progress.