Black Friday is no longer just about good deals on appliances or mayhem at big box stores. It has become a really big day in the craft beer world, and that's a good thing.
The day after Thanksgiving is now a huge day for craft beer fans looking for rarities and limited brews. I admit to waiting in line on an early Black Friday morning or two so I could get my hands on a Bourbon Country varietal. Goose Island was a pioneer in both barrel aging and bringing whale hunting to Black Friday, but savvy craft breweries have followed the lead.
Lakefront Brewery got the ball rolling in Milwaukee. In 2012, Lakefront released Black Friday Imperial Black IPA only at the brewery and only on the day after Thanksgiving. Lakefront switched things up in 2014 by bottling a Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout, which has been the offering since. The release is a huge event, with a massive line that forms in the wee hours of morning.
“In 2012 we wanted to have a event that would cater to the people shopping early so we thought early tours for them would be the way to go,” said Lakefront founder Russ Klisch. “We had the early tours, and we had good crowds, but no shoppers on the tours. We found people just wanted to get up early on that day and drink beer. Maybe they just wanted to get out of the house and away from their relatives.”
This year, Lakefront is upping the ante. Black Friday Vintage Reserve, a blend from barrels of the last three Black Friday stouts, is available along with the standard Black Friday Barrel-Aged Stout. The doors open at 8 a.m. but get there well before then to claim your spot in line.
Lakefront isn’t the only game in town for Black Friday. There are dozens of other beer-related events.
“With all the events around town, it shows that Milwaukee has a vibrant, creative, thriving and entrepreneurial beer scene,” added Klisch. “It should be a fun day for the beer lover.
Here’s a sampling of a few of your options for Black Friday. Check with your favorite brewery or beer bar for more events.
Third Space Brewing (1505 W. St. Paul Ave.) releases its second In the Spirit beer, Liquid Layers Barleywine, at noon. Four barrel-aged variants—rye, bourbon, rum and port wine—are available.
Explorium Brewpub (5300 S. 76th St.) has a limited amount of bottles of a bourbon barrel-aged version of its Cherry Chocolate Stout, a collaboration with Cigar City Brewing, available at 6 a.m. Bottles are $16 and the limit is two.
Enlightened Brewing (2018 S. 1st St.) hosts its second-ever bottle release at 3 p.m. It’s actually a two-pack, featuring a bomber of The Human Condition, a saison made with lemon peel and elderflower, and Table Beer, a 3.5% ABV brew. Pre-order the pair for $40 or show up on Black Friday to get the duo for $30. There are just 250 two-packs available.
Satisfy your Bourbon County craving during brunch at Stubby’s (2060 N. Humboldt Ave.). The bar is open at 10 a.m. and tapping this year’s Bourbon County Stout and Bourbon County Barleywine at 10:30 a.m.
MOTOR Bar & Restaurant at the Harley-Davidson Museum (400 W. Canal St.) hosts its 6th Annual Black Friday Beerfest from 4 to 7 p.m. Tickets are $45 for general admission and $60 for VIP, which gets you in the door an hour early at 3 p.m.
The two-day White Whale Weekend Sale at both Discount Liquor locations (5031 W. Oklahoma Ave. and 919 N. Barstow St.) starts at 9 a.m. on Black Friday. Bourbon County Stout is just one of the hard-to-find brews that Discount will have for sale.
Raised Grain Brewing (2244 W. Bluemound Rd.) taps Santa’s Sack Christmas Ale at noon. It’s becoming an annual tradition at the Waukesha brewery.
Black Husky Brewing (909 E. Locust St.) has an approach perfectly suited for a brewery with an irreverent streak. At 11 a.m., brewer Tim Eichinger is tapping a few “mistakes” that he was able to salvage and calling the event “F^%^%ed up Friday”. The highlights include a Barrel-Aged Imperial Harold the Red with sweet cherries that were added after the beer went sour and a Smoke Monster Rauchbier that has been “lost” in the walk-in cooler since 2014. Pair these brews with empanadas from La Masa. This is as unique a beer experience as you can find on Black Friday.
Biloba Brewing (2970 N. Brookfield Rd.) releases bottles of its barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stout at noon.