Black Friday has long been a day for shoppers to mob malls and big box stores, but it's becoming an increasingly big day for craft beer too.
Lines form outside Region liquor stores in search of limited-edition and hard-to-find variants of Goose Island Bourbon County Brand stout beers that are aged in 12-year old Elijah Craig and Heaven Hill bourbon barrels and made with ingredients like orange peel, cocoa nibs, Madagascar vanilla beans, and Guatemalan coffee beans.
Local craft breweries increasingly have been looking to capitalize off all the craft beer shopping on the day after Thanksgiving by putting out special releases on their own on Black Friday, including many potent barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stouts.
Ironwood Brewing Co. in Valparaiso is releasing its Nigrum Venerus Russian Imperial Stout at 2 p.m. Friday at its taproom at 6 Roosevelt Road in Valparaiso. Also on Black Friday, Windmill Brewing at 2121 Gettler St in Dyer is releasing Hey Mikey, a cinnamon maple stout that was aged in rum barrels for six to eight months.
"The Black Friday thing is a big thing," Windmill owner Justin Verburg said. "People chase the Bourbon Country in Illinois and Indiana. People go everywhere trying to get all the variants. We're only going to have one beer but it's a good beer."
Windmill brewed eight barrels of Hey Mikey, which it will have on draft and sell in 22-ounce bombers.
"Goose Island started it by dropping the beer on Black Friday, which has definitely become a beer holiday," he said. "We trying to tap into it. The lines at Binny's get just as bad as the mall or Best Buy at midnight."
New Oberpfalz again teamed up with Wise Guy Liquors this year to release a limited supply of its Barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stout with Maple Syrup on Black Friday. The 12-percent ABV beer that was aged in Elijah Craig bourbon barrels will only be available at the brewery's taproom at 121 E. Main St. in Griffith and at Wise Guys Discount Liquors' three locations in Hobart, Merrillville and Chesterton.
"It's a very busy day for us and our taproom," New Oberpfalz owner and brewer Dan Lehnerer said. "Because of the highly sought-after Goose Island beers, it's become where people are buying beer instead of TVs on Black Friday."
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New Oberpfalz's Black Friday release is different this year because it was made with maple syrup from Wisconsin that accounted for 6.5 percent of the volume during the brewing and was aged in an Elijah Craig barrel Wise Guys gave it.
"The barrel is quite a bit different," Lehnerer said. "It's a little more boozy, so it picked up a lot more bourbon character. That's the thing about barrel-aging: it can pick up more vanilla or bourbon notes depending on the wood and what it does to the beer."
The brewery will produce 64 cases of the Russian Imperial Stout, keys of which also will be distributed to Doc's Smokehouse and Craft Bar in Dyer, Octave Grill in Chesterton, the Tomato Bars in Schererville and Valparaiso and Brew Fest in Highland.
"Whole Foods in Schererville plans to hold it for a year and release it next October," Lehnerer said. "That's what they did this year and it sold out in a day, so that works for them."
Lehnerer described the Barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stout with Maple Syrup as a big beer that should be reserved for a special occasion like a Christmas dinner, sipped in moderation, and not be enjoyed if one plans to drive.
"Most of our beers are more sessionable, but this is pretty high alcohol," he said. "It drew pretty big lines last year. It was a busy morning that the staff in our taproom had never seen before."
Some customers grabbed the coveted beer and took off, while others stuck around for a pint."
"People need to know there are some options other than the shopping mall on Black Friday," Lehnerer said. "You can avoid the crowds and have some fun and relax."
Other Region breweries also already have recently put out special releases craft beer aficionados might seek out on Black Friday, including 3 Floyds' Alpha Klaus "big American X-mas Porter," 18th Street's Brewery's Barrel-Aged Hunter and Devil's Spear, and Off Square Brewing's Barrel-Aged Bitchin’ Betty variants, New Donk City Barleywine, and Red Ryder Farmhouse Ale.