Throughout 2017, a curious amount of media coverage emerged regarding the craft beer devoted and their willingness to wait for long hours in lines at popular breweries for limited releases. Breweries like The Alchemist in Vermont, Other Half in Brooklyn and outside of Boston breweries Trillium and Tree House all have seen fanatical drinkers arrive in droves for some of the suds they put out. One writer generously called it a rite of passage for a beer geek to bear the wait. Another blamed the phenomenon on millennials trying to escape adulting. One even pleaded with drinkers to stop waiting in line for beer altogether.
Quickly approaching the Holidays — Thanksgiving Day, in particular — we’re now provided with some sobering perspective. In almost comedic contrast to the criticisms we’ve seen of beer lovers this year, we’ll all be in anticipation of the melee that without fail happens each Black Friday. But instead of getting into which retail merchandise stores will have the longest lines for America’s annual post-feast ritual and whether it’s rational to set up camp at BestMart at 2 p.m. on Thursday for that free 27 inch TV, let’s just watch this GIF together.
And suddenly, performing a standing marathon for a beer that only comes around once a year doesn’t seem so extreme. As the self-respecting, beer-drinking, social-media-obsessed American you are, you’re being given a pass to forego staying in bed and the wallowing in self-pity which often follows our nation’s biggest day of indulgence. Instead, you’ll wake up at a fairly normal time — compared to the holiday shopping mobs — and #beerline — as in, wait in line for beer.
— Richard Carhart (@rickdmer) September 1, 2017
In case you didn’t know, standing in line for beer on Black Friday is a thing, and it was a thing long before the modern juice bombs began their siren calls. Aside from tenure, the defining difference in the Black Friday release is that it’s typically the polar opposite beer style — an Imperial Stout, usually aged in bourbon barrels. Many would say that’s the appropriate style to get excited about this time of year, given the temperatures. It’s debatable when the beer lines in Chicago first started forming, but the beer that sparked their creation was launched in 2006.
Most millennials weren’t even the legal drinking age back then, and Goose Island was still an independent craft brewer. The beer that eventually made the geeks get in line was Bourbon County Brand Stout (BCBS), first released on Black Friday in 2010. After word got out about its boozy notes and velvety mouthfeel, it didn’t take long for a new tradition to be born. In the following years, fans would make annual treks to the Chicago brewery or head to a local high volume craft beer retailer the day after Thanksgiving just to get their hands on a couple of bottles — or as little as a single pour in some places.
Eleven years in and the beer which was once on every beer fan’s bucket list is now having progressively fewer recommendations. For one, you may have heard that the Bourbon County program has had some slight quality control issues of late. To be fair , Josh Noel of the Chicago Tribune did write a piece about how Goose Island has learned from their mistakes and to make up for them will be releasing a whopping seven Bourbon County beers in 2017 — there’s no better way to prove you can master a simple lineup of four beers than by releasing seven of them. To boot, there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 6,000 breweries in the U.S. today, making it easier than ever for craft loyal beer drinkers to find outstanding alternatives to AB-InBev-concocted barrel-aged stout release celebrations.
That brings us to the reason for this list. BCBS has had a nicely hyped run, and it will probably be pleasing the palates of drinkers well into the future. But in 2017, Brew Studs thought supporters of independent craft brewers might want to know about some other great line-worthy beers being released on Black Friday. These releases take place throughout the country on November 24th, and are poured 100% guilt free.
BrickStone Brewery: If you’re lucky enough to be in or near the Windy City at Thanksgiving time and want to avoid those other guys, travel to Bourbonnais, IL to BrickStone Brewery for their Black Friday Secret Bottle release. It will include three variants: Original Barrel Aged Dark Secret, 18 year Elijah Craig Barrel Aged Dark Secret or Maple Syrup Barrel Aged Dark Secret, as well as a full draft line up of Dark Secret.
Arclight Brewing: Another Great alternative to BCBS is as close as the east side of Lake Michigan in Watervliet, MI. Arclight Brewing Company is offering four Soursmith varieties: Black Raspbery, Pear, Mango, and Kriek (Cherry). The brewery’s Facebook page also writes, “after a two year hiatus we are bringing back and releasing Hail to the Darkness! Our Imperial Porter aged in 12 year old Elijah Craig barrels.” It’s a 2-hour drive plus a 1-hour time difference, so plan accordingly.
Station 26 Brewing: Perhaps one of the biggest Black Friday beer celebrations happens each year in Denver at Station 26 Brewing’s Inaugural Black Friday Invitational, where during multiple ticketed sessions, Station 26 will pour their annual round of Dark Star Barrel Aged Imperial Stout variants alongside pours of partner breweries’ imperial stouts and others of their darkest and most succulent mid-Fall brews.
Others present and pouring at the Black Friday Invitational will be: 4 Noses Brewing Company, Call to Arms Brewing Company, Melvin Brewing, Powder Keg Brewing Company, River North Brewery, TRVE Brewing, Our Mutual Friend Brewery.
Dark Star, our annual batch of bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout, is about ready to go for the Black Friday Invitational. We will be pouring Dark Star and multiple flavor variants at the event alongside imperial stouts and other specialty beers from our partner breweries. : Tickets go on sale TOMORROW, October 24, at 10:00 a.m. Buy your tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/black-friday-invitational-tickets-38746517878 : A ticket affords you 13 drink tickets for 3oz pours of imperial stouts and other specialty beers, passed appetizers, and a commemorative Black Friday Invitational glass. #blackfridayinvitational #imperialstout #blackfriday #foryouforall
Odd13 Brewing: Just north of Denver, Odd13 Brewing is also releasing four new taproom only cans as part of their biggest taproom only can release ever at its Black Friday Cans-For-Cans, which also benefits a local nonprofit. Something unique about this release party is that it will include popular New England Style IPAs.
“Given the name Black Friday, releasing all black beers was how we initially approached the releases,” said Odd13’s Kristin Scott. “However, since we are more known for our hazy IPAs, we chose to mix it up a bit this year, and offer both hazy IPAs and a few black beers.”
Beers being released at Odd13 include: Saint Newcole – Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout w/subtle vanilla; Vanilla Coconut Saint Newcole – Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout; Intergalactic Juice Hunter – Double IPA and Master of Buckets – IPA with Sach Trois.
Blue Owl Brewing: If you missed the lotto, you won’t be able to purchase a 2017 分桃 (Fēn táo) magnum bottle from Jester King on Black Friday, but you can head to Blue Owl Brewing for the release of Adjunct Prof Black – Salted Chocolate 2X Cherry.
Blue Owl Brewing’s Facebook page reads, “Imagine if the cherry tree that Professor Black is standing under was twice as big. And produced salted chocolate. I know, right? This one’s going to be perfect for your post-Thanksgiving recovery.”
Enlightened Brewing Company will be releasing an extremely limited 2 pack of 750 ml bottles including a French saison The Human Condition with lemon peel and elderflower as well as Table Beer, a low-ABV feast beer.
Lakefront Brewery will host their annual Black Friday release, featuring their Imperial Stout Aged in Bourbon Barrels as well as a Vintage Reserve Imperial Stout created from their 2014-2016 Imperial Stouts. Their doors open at 8 a.m., and they warn that they’ll likely be sold out by noon.
Listermann Brewing: The release of Imperial Nutcase at Triple Digit Brewing and Listermann brewing on Black Friday has become quite the occasion for Southern Ohio beer fans. This year Triple Digit will be releasing four different beers, including: Imperial Nutcase, an Imperial Nutcase variant, and two others which are TBD, according to the event on Facebook.
Monocacy Brewing in Frederick, Maryland will host a Black Friday release of Death Eater Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout. According to the brewery’s website, this huge beer is brewed with copious amounts of malt, Wisconsin Grade B maple syrup, and brown sugar. It’s then aged in Heaven Hill whiskey barrels and flavored with coffee and cinnamon, making it extremely complex and a great beer for the season.
Death Eater Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout will be available on draught and for take-home in crowlers. In order to prepare for demand, the brewery has offered a crowler pre-order.
The Veil Brewing: Newcomers to the Black Friday release phenom in 2017, The Veil Brewing Co. will launch the first annual Dark Daze, a celebration of stouts and other dark, complex, malt forward beers. In addition to over ten different dark beers on draft, The Veil will release 500ml bottles of Whangdoodle, the 11.5% Imperial version of their robust chocolate milk stout Hornswoggler, aged in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels for 14 months.
They will also be releasing 4-pack 16oz cans of Double Espresso Hornswoggler and the return of their once a year Black DIPA with Citra and Nel.
As some breweries wait until closer to the release day in order to control crowds, there will likely be more craft breweries around the U.S. who will release some special brews on Black Friday. If you plan to partake in the annual celebration of rare beer, keep an eye on local brewery Facebook pages and be prepared to stand in line, which is perfectly okay.