Russian River Brewing releasing beers for Ukraine

Worldwide, communities have tried to do their part to donate aid to the war in Ukraine. Bay Area breweries are now crafting beers specifically to raise money for those humanitarian efforts.

Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa is one of those beer makers taking part.

For the last week, and likely the next week, a long line wraps around the building as people wait to get their hands on the limited edition Pliny the Younger beer.

"It's something that's been on the bucket list for quite a while," said Troy Schwedhelm from Santa Rosa.

The bar is in the middle of its two-week release of the Younger, but it's arguably not the most important drink on the menu.

Russian River is releasing two more limited-edition beers, an IPA and a golden ale, and money earned from those sales will go directly to the World Central Kitchen, a worldwide humanitarian group offering aid on the ground in Ukraine since the beginning of the war.

"We felt like we needed to do something," said Natalie Cilurzo, co-owner of the brewery. "We are leaders in the craft beer industry in the United States, and we felt we needed to step up and do something to help these people."

This is part of an international effort among brewers to help raise funds for relief in Ukraine, which was invaded by Russia. 

SEE ALSO: Molotov cocktails on the menu: Ukrainian brewery switches from beer to bombs amid Russian invasion

Russian River connected with the Pravda Beer Theater in Lviv, Ukraine. Owners there asked breweries around the world to raise funds to support Ukraine, so the North Bay brewery decided to do just that.

Customers are attracted to the bar because of the Pliny release, some even saying they had no idea the Ukrainian fundraiser was even happening. Now that they are aware, they say they are willing to pay the extra money to support the cause.

"I think that's really good," said Brianne Howell from San Francisco. "You get so many people here to spend money, I think they always do charitable things like, after the fires, they did a fundraiser too."

"We're definitely going to buy some Pliny's and figured a couple more beers wouldn't hurt," said Schwedhelm.

The fundraiser is happening in the middle of one of Sonoma County's largest revenue drivers. According to the county's 2020 economic impact report, the two-week release brought in more than $5 million in revenue. Unfortunately, the bar did receive some criticism and lost some business for having the word "Russian" in its name.

"You need to change the name of your brewery to ‘Ukrainian Brewing Company,’" said Cilurzo, recalling some comments made to her. "'I'm not drinking your beer anymore because of the name of your brewery.' It's very unfortunate because we are named after a geographical feature in Sonoma County, having nothing to do with Russia or [Vladimir] Putin."

With Pliny's popularity, the bar hopes to take advantage of the annual attention as they expect to run out of the two beers within the week. To get the beers, you do not need to wait in line as you would for the Pliny release. The owners say customers can walk right into the brewery and head to the gift shop to take a 4-pack of beers to go.

Fieldwork Brewing in Berkeley has also participated in the effort to help Ukraine with a special concoction.