SANTA ROSA, Calif. - You've heard about happy hours? For the crowd we found lined up in Santa Rosa Friday morning, it was the aftermath to a happy night. Stranger still -- at 10:30 a.m., few of them had even had a drop.
"What time did you get in line last night?" we asked first-in-line, Lindsey Waddell.
"1:30 yesterday afternoon," she said.
That would be standard stuff when the revered beer known as Pliny The Younger goes on sale for two weeks every year at the Russian River Brewing Company. The world literally lines up outside its front door. One visitor today made the pilgrimage from Finland.
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"From the time we open to when the end of the 14 days, there will always a line," said master brewer and owner Vinnie Cilurzo. He owns the brewery with his wife, Natalie.
They have always regarded these annual crowds as a gift from the Beer Gods, this year with a built-in give-back. Knowing there would be so much demand, they raffled a ticket a day for line cutting privileges and raised $140,000. All the proceeds go to fire relief. In total, this year, they raised even more than that.
"Well so far, $900,000 but my goal is a million," said Natalie.
Now add all the money that 1,500 people a day bring into this economy -- close to $5 million a year. One person made the pilgrimage from Finland.
"Is it that much better?" we asked Amy Manke from Phoenix.
"Yes it is," she said.
Amy Manke and her boyfriend, Brad Lien, came all the way from Phoenix for this.
"You had to pay for airfare, car, how much for the beer?"
In short, it's liquid gold. Nirvana, as beer snobs say.
An inexplicable matter of taste...until you try some.