Russian River Brewing’s grand expansion to Windsor

Depending on how you look at it, the enormous new Russian River brewery that opened in Windsor today was four or 24 years in the making.

Russian River Brewing owners Natalie and Vinnie Cilurzo got their start in 1994, when they opened the Blind Pig Brewing Co. in Temecula. That’s where Vinnie brewed the world’s first imperial or double IPA. Korbel Champagne Cellars hired Vinnie three years later, first as a consultant on their Russian River Brewery project and soon after as head brewer.

When Korbel decided to divest itself of all its non-wine properties in 2002, Vinnie was out of a job. Instead of taking a severance package, he negotiated to take the brewery brand, logo and recipes with him. With help from friends and family, he and Natalie opened the Russian River brewpub on Fourth Street in Santa Rosa in 2004.

Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo’s new Russian River brewery in Windsor measures 85,000 square feet. (Photos courtesy Jay R. Brooks)

Accolades and awards soon followed. Their double IPA, Pliny the Elder, was named the best beer in America by the American Homebrewers Association’s Zymurgy magazine eight years in a row, and their seasonal triple IPA, Pliny the Younger, was ranked the No. 2 beer in the world by Beer Advocate and Rate Beer in 2010.

Long lines began forming outside the brewery every February, as eager fans waited for the newest Pliny the Younger release. (That release became so popular, the County of Sonoma actually tracks it: In 2018, Pliny the Younger drew more than 12,000 visitors and added $3.4 million to the local economy.) And the long lines weren’t just restricted to the two weeks when Pliny the Younger flows. Russian River Brewing was packed all the time.

“It got too busy. We had a lot of demand for our beer, but it was more demand for seats, I think, that drove the decision to build another brewpub,” Natalie says. “Going around town, I’d run into old customers at the grocery store or REI. They were great customers, so we’d ask them ‘Hey, we haven’t seen you in awhile, where’ve you been?’” They told her that while they still loved their local brewpub, they didn’t want to wait in line, feeling like they couldn’t get in. “After hearing that over 100 times, we felt we needed to give our downtown pub back to the locals and the regulars.”

After buying out their remaining investors in 2014, the Cilurzos began pondering possibilities. They toured breweries in the U.S., Belgium and Germany, and asked questions about philosophy, practicality, design and equipment — and how to design a brewery that could include tours.

“We had a vision of what we wanted,” Natalie says. “We wanted to design a brewery with a focus on hospitality, the customer experience. We also were committed to getting the best quality equipment that we could. We’re always striving to make better beer.”

They hired architect Peter Stanley, of ArchiLOGIX, whose firm designed Napa’s Carneros Inn and Sebastopol’s revitalized Barlow. …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Lifestyle


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