Holiday Central

What's brewing for Black Friday? Beer


Although many retailers like Wal-Mart and Macy's are getting an early start on big holiday sales by opening their doors up on Thanksgiving this year, there will still be plenty of consumers standing in line on Black Friday.

But instead of being on the hunt for cheap electronics, there's a good chance they may be after something even more limited: beer.

"Our fans will be out there going to the Walmarts of the world looking for the latest appliance and toys for their family and we thought what's in it for them? Can we give them a reward?" said Mark Hegedus, senior director of marketing at Anheuser-Busch-owned Goose Island Brewing.

What Goose Island is offering Black Friday shoppers is one of the most-anticipated beer releases of the year: its line of Bourbon County Brand Stouts.

It's the fourth year in a row Goose Island has made Black Friday synonymous with a Bourbon County Brand Stout release, but it's the first time it is expanding the Black Friday celebration outside Goose Island's home base of Chicago.

More Black Friday brews

Goose Island is not alone in offering up Black Friday brews. Several other brewers are hopping on the bandwagon.

(Read more: How this ale became craft's most popular brew )

Lakefront Brewing in Milwaukee is releasing a special Black Friday beer for the third year in a row. Named Black Friday, the Imperial India-style Black Ale is available for purchase at the brewery only on Black Friday and only until supplies run out.

Last year people lined up more than two hours before the brewery opened and its 1,200-bottle supply of Black Friday beer sold out in 90 minutes. This year, Lakefront has produced more than 5,000 bottles in order to meet the expected demand.

(Read more: Boston Beer Co. CEO Jim Koch on his best beer ever)

Portland, Maine-based Allagash Brewing is also having some fun with the Black Friday theme. It is releasing Allagash Midnight Brett Ale in bottles at the brewery on Friday.

"We knew the beer would be ready around this time of year, and it's a dark beer, so we thought doing a black theme would be fun," said Dee Dee Germain, an Allagash spokeswoman. "We decided why not have a little fun with the Black Friday phenomenon."

The brewery has made a mock doorbuster-style flyer to spread the word of the release, and Germain said Allagash fans reacted positively.

"We try to schedule our releases on days when the most people can come out to the brewery and the response has been great because we chose a day when a lot of people don't have to work," she said.

While Lakefront and Allagash will drive consumers to their own breweries on Black Friday, Goose Island will have consumers lining up at liquor stores nationwide.

A barrel of brews

Goose Island is sponsoring Bourbon County Brand Stout release events in Austin, Texas, Chicago, San Francisco and New York, but consumers can expect other national retailers to have their Bourbon County supply by Black Friday as well.

"Our partners love it because you get customers to come back the day after Thanksgiving," said Hegedus. "They restock for the holiday weekend."

The good news for beer drinkers is there is more Bourbon County to go around this year. The bad news is the beer, one of the highest rated in the world on sites like, is still in limited supply.

Part of the capacity constraints lie in finding an adequate supply of used liquor barrels. Goose Island was the first brewer to age beer in bourbon barrels back in 1992. Since then plenty of others have followed suit, increasing the competition for the all-important barrels.

"We were fortunate this past year because we were able to secure about 2,500 bourbon barrels, and compared to what we had a year or two ago, it's probably about twice as much. But still a drop in the bucket as compared to what we'd like to have," said Hegedus.

(Read more: First tulips, then housing...Is beer bubble next?)

Booze news: Seasonal beer

In addition to getting its hands on more used barrels, Goose Island officials said the increased Bourbon County Brand Stout production is a direct result of Goose Island's sale to Anheuser-Busch in 2011. Many year-round brands are now brewed in facilities outside of Chicago, a move that allows Goose Island brewers to focus on limited-edition releases.

The result is three new variants to the Bourbon County line. In addition to Bourbon County Brand Stout and Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout, the brewery will offer: Bourbon County Brand Barleywine, Backyard Rye Bourbon County Brand Stout and Proprietor's Bourbon County Brand Stout, a small batch brewed exclusively for release in Chicago.

So while beer drinkers nationwide will get the chance to enjoy new varieties of Bourbon County Brand Stout on Black Friday, it doesn't mean they should hit the snooze button.

"Pretty much everything we've got goes out and it's very limited in the scope of what's available," said Hegedus. "It's a first-come, first-served situation, and the old expression 'the early bird gets the worm' definitely applies."

—By CNBC's Tom Rotunno. Follow him on Twitter @TomRotunno.