Great beer is everywhere. Bars, restaurants, brewery taprooms, and even grocery stores—they have it. So, why do we wait in lines outside of breweries for hours on end to get sometimes-tiny amounts of beer? We asked the Fervent Few to tells us what they think of limited beers, waiting in lines, and the increasing amount of beer that is sold exclusively at breweries.
Nycbeerrunner: “Starting with the particulars, I attend a release at least once a week or at least pick up beer from a release that didn't sell out a day or two later. Overall, I would say releases are about 90% of the beer I buy, if not more. The primary reason is that I'm grabbing one four-pack (max 2) of fresh IPA from Other Half, Interboro, etc. for the weekend. That is my weekly thing.”
Caldwell Bishop: “The only time I've waited in line for a beer release was to get BCBS on Black Friday this past year at my local Harry Teet. I got there about 15 minutes before they opened and was one of the first ones in—not a particularly long wait.”
Jim Doolittle: “I've never waited in line for a beer release. I joked on Twitter that I might for Revolution's Deep Woods in cans release(s), but it's honestly pretty unlikely I actually will.
I have gone to KBS week at Founders for three years now. Really, [that's] the only release thing I've done. Ticketed, barely any line for pickup of your beer. Go into the brewery to get some pours of interesting stuff if you want. It's busy, but no hours-long line to wait in.”
Jaron Wright: “An example of a great time I had was picking up bottles at Holy Mountain last December. It was 25 degrees out, but there were tons of people around, pizza being sold, special releases on tap, and coming out of it was an experience that I get to talk about every time I open the bottles that I got from the release.”
Zack Rothman: “I attend beer releases almost weekly at Trillium. The reason I am attracted to them is because I'm able to buy fresh IPAs the day they were canned and if I don't then they may not be available later.”
Chris Sadler: “I have to admit that I've stood in line a few times for NE IPA cans since they can be so damn good when fresh, and you usually can't get them any other way, but I have a low tolerance for any line-standing situation. Hopefully either ticketing, increased supply, or something else will curb the increasingly crazy lines. In the meantime, I mainly try to catch these beers on tap.”
Nick Naretto: “I have never attended a beer release before. I’m not saying that I never would, but I think the odds of me doing so are pretty slim. I don’t really have the time or dedication that it takes to stand in line for a beer. I’d rather just go drink some of the already amazing beers that are readily available. Of course, I would never pass up the chance to drink some of these limited-release beers, you just won’t find me in line for them.”
Alex Marino: “I've done a couple of beer releases over the past few years. One at New Glarus, another on Black Friday for BCS, and another for Spiteful. All were for different reasons (I was driving to somewhere else in Wisconsin that weekend, I wanted to do Black Friday at least once in my lifetime, and Spiteful's release was ticketed so it was a pretty low time investment). I waited in line on Black Friday for ~5 hours outside in Chicago while it snowed on us and I lost feeling in my toes (double up on wool socks, people). The store I was at (Binny's, but not the flagship one) had a generous allotment, so I was able to get everything that I wanted, unlike the flagship where they had to lower their limits due to demand, so I felt like I made out like a bandit. But after that, I swore I'd never do Black Friday again.
Living in Chicago there's always some kind of beer festival coming up that has a rare tapping or two, so those are now my go-to method for trying the sought-after stuff. And I've been living in Chicago long enough where I've got to try most of the WHALEZ the city has to offer, so releases don't have the same appeal as they used to.”
Dave Nelson: “Been tempted by a few Side Project ones, but they always seem to conflict with my schedule. Thankfully, there's plenty of great stuff for me to drink without the hassle.”
It's one thing to get in line and wait your turn for a beer, but what about getting to the release two, four, eight hours before the sale even begins? What was the longest we’ve waited in a line and was it worth it?
Nycbeerrunner: “I've waited 4-5 hours multiple times for Tired Hands, Other Half, etc. And yes, I have absolutely been disappointed. But the ones I have been disappointed at have tended not to be the longest lines, but more the 2-3 hour waits, which were likely the result of a mismanaged line rather than me being incredibly far back.”
James Raynon: “The first time Bottle Logic released their Ground State, I spent 6 hours in 100+ degree sun with no shade. Beer black market sellers/traders would re-cut back into line with other friends and pick up cases (which they’d walk by and advertise selling as they walked to their car). The line was not managed at all.”
James Hernandez: “Most I've waited is 4 hours in line for a DIPA from KRBC (Citra) about 5 years ago. It's a lot easier to get now with brown paper ticket and lottery systems. If it's a beer I really want and I have the time, I'm all for waiting a few hours.”
This week we close out with more from Nycbeerrunner and his tips for running a successful beer release. Hopefully breweries out there will give this article and these tips a read and try to make things go as smoothly as possible for the legions of fans who wait outside their doors.
Nycbeerruner: “1. Set the purchase limit clearly before the release & stick to it, no exceptions.
2. Set the expectations for whether a release is per customer per day or per customer lifetime (as necessary)
3. Wristbands or a numbering system are a must.
4. Pre-package as much as possible, and reward those who buy those pre-packaged amounts with a quicker line.
5. Use social media and common sense to determine how many point of sales systems you'll need. (IE: if you're having a release that 300+ people are going to attend, two Square systems are rarely, if ever, going to be enough).
6. Don't rely on stationary POS if you can separate buying and pickup. It can definitely speed up the process.
7. If you know you're going to have a crazy line or you frequently do, please try to respect your customers and provide a few amenities. (A port-a-potty or open bathroom ahead of the release makes a huge difference. Bissell even had free coffee and doughnuts at a release last year.)”