Russian River Brewing Company Withdraws from Washington Market

January 1st, 2013 · 17 Comments · California Beer, General Beer News

Russian River Brewing Company, the Santa Rosa, CA, brewery best known for their popular Pliny the Elder Double IPA, recently announced their decision to withdraw from the Washington market. Ultimately, the demand for Russian River beers in their home market, in particular at their brewpub, led to them making this decision. Russian River does distribute to a handful of other states, and that will continue. Why Washington? According to the letter below, “This is the only market where, due to state liquor laws, we have little or no control over the managing of our own brand.”

Their final shipment to Washington has already been received and has likely made its way out to retailers’ shelves. What you see is what you get, for now at least. Who knows what the future holds for Russian River, but chances are that if and when they do expand, we will see their beers back in Washington again. They finish the letter below with, “We hope to be able to return to the state of Washington someday!”

Cheers to Natalie and Vinnie Cilurzo for giving Seattle a taste of Russian River beers for the past 4 1/2 years. While the hype and demand around certain beers has been a source of controversy for many, Russian River does nothing but make exceptional beers. They are sure to be missed by many, myself included.

The full letter sent to Washington wholesale customers follows.



17 Comments so far ↓

  • Jon Susalski

    So sad to see you go from the Washington State market. Really enjoyed ALL your brews, -plus the periodic announcement that my local craft-beer store received a new delivery of Pliny The Elder was always met with the same reaction as Pavlov’s Dog. (salivating!)

    If I knew of a store in Portland that had Pliny The Elder in stock, I’d make the drive from Olympia, WA. Perhaps you could suggest one?

    Good luck in your future endeavors! Happy 2013!

    Jon Susalski
    Drinker/Homebrewer since 1981

  • Eric

    Jon, check out Gravity Beer Market in Olympia!! On 4th ave.

  • Brian in Tucson

    Isn’t it fortunate that Washington State hops growers to return the favor?

    I’m formally declaring that I’ll boycott Russian River brews. . .oh, wait. . . they aren’t available in Tucson, either? Well, never mind!

    Lot of other craft brews to try, at least.

  • Dude

    LOL. Oregon FTW, Washington suxxxxorz

  • Bobbi Davis

    Is this all there is to it or does this have a BIG something to do with our states outrageous liquor/posting laws? I am very concerned about a domino effect with other breweries pulling out as well. We’ve already lost Shelton Bros. and all the Cantillons, now Russian River. Who’s next?

  • SteveE

    Soooooo close to the Younger again, UGH. I am glad I got to try the Younger once, but DAMN IT! I wanted it again this year. 1 bottle left of the Elder, when to break it out….

  • P.

    I think you guys are missing the larger picture.

    The way the state operates, it’s illegal to pre-sell your beer before it arrives on the warehouse floor. Top that off with the fact that R.R. isn’t producing nearly the same volume as a Deschutes or Sierra Nevada.

    Plus, if some of you are going to boycott R.R. I would suggest you also do so to Allagash, Speakeasy (despite their return back to WA) to name a few.

    It really boils down to choice and it appear that RR is pulling out for business reasons, mostly around supply and demand and keeping that balanced. If they keep operating in a market like Washington they will eventually have no one to sell to since they will be looked as an unreliable business (regarding supply).

    “… just my two cents”

  • The BeerCliff was not avoided

    I am also concerned about what liquor laws have forced them to leave. If there is a petition to change the law sign me up!

  • Worth My Weight in Pliny

    I was at the RR brew pub a few weeks ago. As I understand it, demand is enormous locally for their beer, but the craft-minded brewers refuse to amp up production. They fear the quality will drop if they do. I suspect that they simply can’t supply all the markets they were in, and felt the need to cut one. Also, I understand that they deliver all their beer themselves, and Washington is a long drive…

  • Adam

    We will miss thee, Pliny.

    Bright side, confidential to Washington brewers: step your game up, now’s the time! Bring us the heir to Pliny and ye shall reap rewards and glory.

  • KendallJ

    Seriously, make the trip to Santa Rosa. It is a worthy pilgrimage. When the enormous sampler tray landed on the table in front of me, quite honestly, I fought back tears. I still get goosebumps when I think about it. Somewhere amidst all those amazing beers was the one that gets all the hype. Indeed, thank you to Vinnie and Natalie.

  • Zack

    Anyone have info on how the WA liquor laws put restrictions on RR? P. mentioned something about pre-selling the beer, but I’m not sure how that might have played into RR’s decision.

    That notwithstanding, I think it’s pretty clear that if/when they ramp up production they’ll be back in WA. The market is here and already established, so from a business decision it would be a no-brainer.

  • Rich

    If you guys are looking for a good beer shop in Portland for your Pliny fix, check out Belmont Station @ 4500 NE Stark. They’ve got a fairly up to date website with their inventory as well.

    Alternatively, if you’re looking for something to fill the void, I’d recommend Old Schoolhouse’s Ruud Awakening. Cheers!

  • kyle

    I live in Santa Rosa , so I go to RR brewery all the time. Two of the last Three times I went they had run out of Pliny on tap. You could still buy it out of a bottle but couldn’t drink it in the pub. They just dont have the supply for the demand.

  • drmcootics

    Used to live in Sonoma County and would frequent Russian River brewery quite a bit. While this is a respectable IPA, there are plenty of other good ones here. It would be great to have it again but we’ll survive. In all honesty, Racer 5 and the Bear Republic is a much better destination if your going to make a pilgrimage to Sonoma County for beer. The food and beer are much better.

  • Justin

    Hold on guys, don’t go calling your representative just yet. Remember, Washington has some, if not the most, liberal liquor laws in the country. Passing 1183 almost helped dismantle the 3-tier system. Cheers to that!

    More than likely the law under question is that a wholesaler cannot “ration” inventory to customers. If a wholesaler has 15 pallets of RR product in their warehouse and I’m the first person to place an order, I can buy all 15 pallets.

    This means that the big guys (BevMo, Total Wine, etc) can buy up all of the inventory of a wholesaler thus producing a monopoly on the consumer availability of a product.

  • Eric


    There are a lot of bitter people (pun intended) on this blog who apparently either a) don’t understand the simple economics of supply and demand or b) think that somehow Natalie and Vinnie, who are two of the nicest people in the booze industry that I know, are out to screw them out of their “rightful” beer and feel the need to “boycott”.

    As a resident of Santa Rosa and former resident of Seattle who sells wine to the very pub referenced here, I can say this: the place is ridiculously busy. To wit: I sell $30,000 of wine…WINE…in the brewpub annually. Anyone who knows the booze business will tell you that’s a ridiculous amount of wine to sell in a brewpub. Yet, I only have 1/3 of the wine available there.

    Why do they sell so much wine in a brewpub? Because at 3pm on a winter Tuesday, it is 80% full. At lunch during summer months, there is a 90 minute wait for a table. And, no, summer is not the Younger release.

    They simply don’t have enough beer. Period. Go to Elysian, Pike, etc, at 3pm on a Tuesday, and it will not be 80% full. It was either run half the taps at the pub dry, or cut one market out. Having sold wine and beer in WA, I can tell you the liquor laws, though with some recent reform, are still stuck in 1931. When you have as large a Sales Prevention Department as the Liquor Board is in WA, it was an easy decision which of the 5 states RR distributes in would get the axe. Plus, unlike some other breweries (Pyramid? Widmer?), Vinnie and Natalie will not reduce quality to push out the door. So, show some respect for that and hop the Amtrak to Portland, order up a nice Black Butte Porter or 3, and drink it in Portland. Cheers!

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