When I was in elementary school, before cellphones, other hand-held devices, and even home computers (yes, I typed my papers on an electric typewriter), my parents took me to an exhibit in Chicago. At around 3 a.m., by far the earliest that I had ever voluntarily woken up, we went to stand in line with hundreds of others to get tickets for the King Tut exhibit. This is about the closest experience I have to those who stood in early morning lines, waiting for Black Friday deals. It was difficult for me to understand as we passed people huddled together under sleeping bags outside big box stores as we were headed to spend a meal and afternoon with family Thanksgiving Day. I guess I’m just not much of a shopper.
Black Friday, however, is becoming a day in which many breweries are releasing limited edition brews, the most notable being Goose Island Beer Co. I first became familiar with Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout in 2007, when I found a lone bottle on the shelf at Chalet Party Shoppe. It was a bit pricey for a 12 oz. bottle, so I thought it must be a really good beer. My thoughts proved me right, and I still have bottles in my cellar from 2008 through 2014.
Goose Island wanted to do something very special for its 1,000th batch of beer at its original Clybourn brewpub, so they brewed a huge stout with a huge malt bill. Then it was aged in bourbon barrels for 100 days, then Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout was born. Since then, they have brewed many variants, including past favorites Backyard Rye, Cherry Rye, Rare and Bramble Rye, just to name a few.
Releases for this year include Bourbon County Stout (14.4 percent ABV), Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout (12.6 percent ABV, brewed with Intelligentsia Zirikana coffee from Rwanda), Vanilla Rye Bourbon County Stout (13.6 percent ABV, brewed with a combination of whole vanilla beans from Mexico and Madagascar), Bourbon County Brand Barleywine (12.3 percent ABV) and only available in Chicagoland, Proprietor’s Bourbon County Stout (14.1 percent ABV, Made in Rye barrels with Cassia Bark, Cocoa Nibs, Panela and Coconut Water).
This marks the fifth year in a row Goose Island has released its Bourbon County barrel aged beers on Black Friday, and last year more than 500 people waited in line for the chance to purchase bottles.
Andy Goeler, Goose Island Beer Company CEO, told CNBC, “We appreciate that every year we have people that stand in line waiting for the BCBS release. We are constantly innovating and trying to create things that are out of the box, create new beer experiences.”
Goose Island Bourbon County beers are very limited in other markets, but some bottles did make their way to Michiana. I was lucky to pick up my allotment — however, I still have not had the opportunity to enjoy the Proprietor’s Bourbon County Stout. If anyone has a bottle they would like to share, please let me know.
Right here in Elkhart County, Iechyd Da Brewing did not release any special beers, though they did open an hour earlier Friday and served biscuits and gravy and frittata pizza. I could see myself enjoying a Breakfast Cookies Stout with frittata pizza for breakfast.
Paw Paw Brewing, just about an hour north of Michiana, released several beers on Black Friday, including: Black River oatmeal stout (5.8 percent ABV), Coconut Porter (5.6 percent ABV), vanilla bean porter (6.3 percent ABV), Rum coconut Porter (6 percent ABV), cherry chocolate cordial (6.3 percent ABV), Bourbon Barrel King James (8.5 percent ABV), Bourbon Barrel Black River (6.1 percent ABV), free range sour stout (6 percent AV), and Cafe 237 coffee stout (6 percent ABV).
Beginning at 9 a.m. Black Friday, Odd Side Ales of South Haven, Mich., offered two different barrel aged beers that were only available at the pub. Hipster Brunch Stout (imperial stout, 10 percent ABV), was brewed with coffee, maple syrup and cooked bacon, then aged in bourbon barrels. Although this beer has been on tap at the brewery in the past (barrel-aged and non-barrel-aged versions), this is the first time that the barrel-aged version has been released in bottles. According to the brewery, this will be the last year Morningwood Stout (imperial stout, 9.5 percent ABV) will be sold in bottles. Both beers were offered in 12 oz. bottle four packs.
Flat 12 Bierwerks had quite an impressive Black Friday beer list. For the first time, 12 oz. bottle four packs of Pinko! Russian Imperial Stout were available for sale. In addition, nine versions were offered on tap, including the 2013 and 2014 vintages, Willet Rye Pinko!, Willet Bourbon Pinko!, Pinko! 10 — aged in 10-year Pappy Van Winkle barrels, Pinko! 23 — aged in 23-year Pappy Van Winkle barrels, Triple Smoke Pinko! — aged in Corsair Triple Smoke Whiskey barrels, Briar Pinko! — aged in second use bourbon barrels with raspberry and blackberry puree, and R.I.S.S. Russian Imperial Stout Shandy — 2014 Pinko! blended with Sprite.
Of these beers, only the Bourbon County Brand beers will see any distribution, and it will be very limited. Other Flat 12 beers are available at bottle shops and on draft around Michiana, and it is a rare occurrence that you can find Iechyd Da beer anywhere other than at their brewery on the north end of Main Street in Elkhart. At this time, Paw Paw Brewing does bottle some of its beers, but those are only available in Michigan.