The results are in! For the eighth year running, Russian River’s well-known and beloved double IPA, Pliny the Elder, has been tapped for the top spot on Zymurgy magazine’s list of the Best Commercial Beers in America.
Members of the American Homebrewers Association (AHA)—which publishes Zymurgy—were able to choose up to 20 of their favorite commercial beers available for purchase in the United States in an online voting system. More than 18,000 votes poured in.
“The members of the American Homebrewers Association, made up of experienced homebrewers who participate in this annual poll, are among the most knowledgeable craft beer drinkers in the nation,” said Gary Glass, director, American Homebrewers Association. “It is no surprise that the beers and breweries they select as the best in their opinion reflect the highest quality beers available from the best brewers out there. The consistency with which some of the beers in the poll win is a testament to the value of quality over hype.”
“We just don’t expect this each year, especially in this age of great beer and new breweries,” said Russian River co-owner and brewmaster Vinnie Cilurzo. “We know we have to earn our customers’ loyalty and business. We are very thankful for everyone who spends their hard-earned money on our beer.”
Top-Ranked Beers (T indicates Tie):
1. Russian River Pliny the Elder
2. Bell’s Two Hearted Ale
3. The Alchemist Heady Topper
4. Ballast Point Sculpin IPA
5. Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin
6. Founders Breakfast Stout
7. Three Floyds Zombie Dust
8. Bell’s Hopslam
9. Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout
T10. Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA
T10. Stone Enjoy By IPA
1. Russian River Brewing Co., Santa Rosa, Calif.
2. Founders Brewing Co., Grand Rapids, Mich.
3. Bell’s Brewery, Inc., Kalamazoo, Mich.
4. Stone Brewing Co., Escondido, Calif.
5. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico, Calif. and Mills River, N.C.
6. Firestone Walker Brewing Company, Paso Robles, Calif.
7. Ballast Point Brewing, San Diego, Calif.
8. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, Del.
9. Lagunitas Brewing Company, Petaluma, Calif. and Chicago, Ill.
10. Deschutes Brewery, Bend, Ore.
How Pliny the Elder Got its Name
Source: Russian River Brewery
Pliny the Elder is brewed with Amarillo, Centennial, CTZ, and Simcoe hops. It is well-balanced with malt, hops, and alcohol, slightly bitter with a fresh hop aroma of floral, citrus, and pine. Best enjoyed FRESH! That is why we make it in such limited supply. Actual bottling date is printed on each bottle!
Where did we come up with this name? Back in the year 2000, our friend, Vic Kralj, who owns the Bistro in Hayward, California, decided to have his first ever Double IPA festival. Vic invited 10 breweries, 6 of whom (including us) had to brew something special for him since we had nothing that would fall under this style category. Vinnie had made a Double IPA at Blind Pig in 1994, but was not brewing one at Russian River Brewing at the time. He had an idea for the recipe, but not a name. After much research in beer books, brainstorming, and deliberation, we came up with "Pliny the Elder". Pliny, the man, lived in the first century- 23 to 79 A.D. According to our brewing references, he and his contemporaries either created the botanical name or at least wrote about Lupus Salictarius, or hops, currently known as Humulus Lupulus. That was a very early reference to an important part of any Double IPA! Pliny the beer has now become one of our flagship brews!
Pliny the Elder was immortalized by his nephew, Pliny the Younger, who wrote about his uncle succumbing to ash and smoke during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. while rescuing people. Cheers to the scholar, historian, officer, writer, and Roman Naturalist- Pliny the Elder!
Pub draft and bottles, local distribution draft and bottles, all distributors draft, West Coast and Colorado bottles, year-round
Alcohol by Volume: 8.0%
Owners, Russian River Brewing Co.
Natalie Cilurzo - Co-Owner/President
Natalie and Vinnie Cilurzo have now been together longer than they haven't, which is, in itself, one life's great accomplishments! Their first date was in 1990 on Vinnie's 20th birthday, which meant Natalie, ironically, had to buy the beer! Natalie comes from a small business-owning family, as well, but knew a lot more about cars than beer.
But it was her interest in the wine business that took her to Temecula where she met Vinnie. Natalie started working at Menghini Winery in Julian, California, in the mountains of San Diego at just 16 years old, labeling wine bottles on weekends. This was the beginning of a 19 year career in the wine industry for her while maintaining a presence in the background of the brewing career Vinnie had chosen.
Natalie eventually earned a Bachelor's Degree in Business from Sonoma State University. During that time she worked at several wineries, Silver Oak being her favorite. After college, she spent several years at Kendall-Jackson and a quick jaunt at Franciscan Estates doing sales analysis and gaining experience in working with distributors.
It was not until Korbel offered Vinnie and Natalie the Russian River Brewing brand that she decided she was ready to switch to beer! She kept her day job while they wrote a business plan and convinced family and friends to invest in their little brewery project.
She left the wine business forever a couple of weeks before opening their brewpub in Downtown Santa Rosa. Natalie not-so-fondly remembers that spring day opening the doors to let the first customers in at 4 pm with 28 employees, several months of rent past due, and a dwindling bank account.
One of her favorite quotes is "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger!"
Vinnie Cilurzo - Co-Owner/Brewmaster
Vinnie Cilurzo grew up in a winemaking family in Temecula, California, where his parents owned Cilurzo Family Vineyards from the late 1970s to the early 2000s. Vinnie and his sister, Chenin, learned all aspects of owning and operating a small family winery. By the time he was 18 years old Vinnie had taught himself to homebrew in the basement of the winery. In 1994, Vinnie, a business partner and an investor opened Blind Pig Brewing Company in Temecula, California. They owned it for about 3 years during which time Vinnie earned awards at the Great American Beer Festival and the critical acclaim of being the first brewer to make a Double I.P.A. commercially (Blind Pig Inaugural Ale in 1994).
In 1997, Vinnie and his wife, Natalie, moved to Sonoma County, where Vinnie took a job as the sole brewer at Russian River Brewing Company, then owned by Korbel Champagne Cellars. While at Korbel, Vinnie started experimenting with brewing funky beers in wine barrels (he had just one barrel at the time) and created RRBC's flagship beer, Pliny the Elder.
In 2003, Korbel decided to get out of the beer business and sold the Russian River Brewing Company brand to Vinnie and Natalie.
Over the years Vinnie has become a well-known brewer in the craft-beer community by not only making great beers but for his innovation and willingness to share everything he learns along the way. Vinnie has earned dozens of awards for his beers at the Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup.
But his most prestigious professional accolade came when he received the Brewer's Association Russell Schehrer Award For Innovation in Craft Brewing in 2008. He continues to be innovative and enjoys playing with a wide variety of funky bugs and critters with 600 wine barrels! One could say he has gone back to his roots!
Vinnie's sister, Chenin, and her husband, Sean, have their own wine brand, Twist Wine Company, in Pacific City, Oregon. Parents Vince and Audrey Cilurzo are enjoying retirement in Murrieta, California.