(02-07) 11:43 PST SANTA ROSA -- You would have thought there was a new iPhone for sale or something. But no, the hundreds of people who queued up in the rain in downtown Santa Rosa early Friday - some who arrived Thursday night just to get a spot in the line - were there for beer.

This wasn't just any beer. Russian River Brewing Co., starting at 11 a.m., rolled out its Pliny the Younger Triple IPA, a super-hoppy, high-alcohol elixir that has silenced the whiniest of beer snobs and put a small microbrewery on the map as one of the nation's best beer makers.

Some call it the greatest beer on earth. And with just a limited supply available, the release of Pliny the Younger is a major affair in the expanding world of craft beer and draws enthusiasts from across the state and beyond.

"I always wanted the chance to try it," said Bowman Chaney, 24, of Sacramento, who was first in line to get in Russian River's brewpub. "It's like Disney World here, but for adults."

Chaney actually closed the bar in the taproom Thursday night, then stepped outside and sat in his lawn chair until morning. He knew space at the 135-seat bar was expected to fill up quickly. Last year, some waited eight hours for a seat.

"It looks like this year's line is longer, even with the weather," said Natalie Cilurzo, who owns the brewery with her husband and brewmaster Vinnie Cilurzo.

In its 10th year of production, the beer is released on the first Friday of February. Brewery staffers say they plan to ration out this year's supply over a course of two weeks, through Feb. 20.

The beer is named after the storied lawyer and author from Ancient Rome. The makers of Pliny the Younger describe their acclaimed draft as chock full of hoppy bitterness and aromatics. They say they push the limits on flavor, but rather than overkill, they arrive at a flawless balance of taste, or so say the critics.

Kurtis Alexander is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: Twitter: @kurtisalexander