The line stood more than 100 people deep as it wrapped past the dumpster and around the corner. As the clock ticked toward the magical hour on a cool sunny mid-December day, a somewhat startled Josh Hamilton peeked his head out the door to the delight of those waiting outside.
No, Hamilton isn’t a famous celebrity or the Major League Baseball player with the same name, but to those who waited he was a rock star. His Hamilton Family Brewery was releasing its Big Night Oil bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout. With fewer than 200 of the $19 bottles available to purchase, and only a small amount on tap at the Rancho Cucamonga brewery, you were left out if you didn’t plan ahead.
Such is the case with special craft beer releases. Many coincide with brewery anniversary celebrations, while others are timed with first-time or exclusive once-a-year seasonal offerings. Dale Bros. introduced a new beer for its Brews and Bros festival in January, and Claremont Craft Ales has tapped special brews at each of its three anniversary events. Such occasions are definitely cause for celebration – and a new highly anticipated beer.
Of course, the introduction of a new beverage could be cause enough for festivities. Rök House in Upland recently celebrated the draft release of its new Sledge Hammer quadruple IPA with the bottle release of its Hammer of Thor IPA.
Most craft beer makers also limit the number of bottles of a special brew they’ll sell to each customer, in part to slow potential secondary market sales. Resale, trade and the collection of highly desirable craft beer is not unlike buying sporting event or concert tickets from a scalper – it will cost you.
The fall and winter months bring a lot of barrel-aged releases. Goose Island’s famed Bourbon County stouts are traditionally released on Black Friday after Thanksgiving. Hangar 24 in Redlands hosted its annual Barrel Roll series release in December, with bottles sold online in advance of an afternoon bottle “pick up” event in which new and past Barrel Roll brews were offered on tap. Not surprisingly, the bottles sold quickly and the kegs emptied rapidly.
The Lost Abbey/Port Brewing in San Marcos released its “My Black Parade” in October, and despite its $41 per 750 ml bottle price tag, it sold out within minutes. I’ve since seen it listed by after-market sellers for upwards of $200.
Local beer aficionado Bob Grider made the long trek to Truckee, Calif., in December in the snow for this year’s release of the Eclipse Fifty-Fifty barrel-aged imperial stout series. He came home a happy man with new additions to his “Imbibery” collection.
Brewery anniversaries and festivals also are cause for anticipation. Online tickets to this summer’s Firestone-Walker International Beer Festival in Paso Robles began at 10 a.m. on sale Feb. 1 and were completely gone by 10:02.