I am not a patient person. The longest I will wait for anything is usually 20-30 minutes. I also loathe waking up early. Goose Black Friday combined both.
My aversion to waiting usually extends to beer. I am not the type of person who will typically wait in line to buy a rare beer. Even when we drive up to Maine a few times a year I think the longest I have ever waited at Bissell Brothers is probably half an hour. Last week I made an exception.
Every Black Friday Goose Island releases their Bourbon County line of beers. These beers are highly sought after and sell quickly. These beers are in excess of 12% alcohol by volume and aged in used Heaven Hill bourbon barrels for at least six months.
The Bourbon County Brand Stout was one of the first barrel-aged beers when it was first released in 1992. Since then Goose Island has added several variants, and every year releases different ones. The variants are harder to come by than the stout. Last year I was able to buy the stout and barleywine locally in Beverly. I wasn’t able to buy and bottles vanilla rye or coffee, but I was able to find the coffee on draught at Sylvan Street Grille.
This year I saw online that Redstone Liquors in Stoneham was having a Goose Island sponsored event on Black Friday. They would be selling the stout, coffee, and regal rye. Redstone probably has the best selection of craft beer and bourbon on the North Shore. They recently moved to a new space. The new location actually has a classroom for tastings. The first event in the new classroom would be a special Goose Island tasting event. When I was able to score Jennie and I a couple of tickets on Wednesday I decided to make the trip down for the release at 6:00 a.m. That was when the line started, the store didn’t open until 8:00 a.m.
We arrived at Redstone right around six and there may have been 5-10 people in front of us in line. Goose Island brought donuts and coffee. There was enough stout to go around for the folks who arrived early, but the variants were very limited and there were games to determine who would have the opportunity to buy one.
They started with trivia. The first question was where was the original Goose Island brewpub located. Jennie yelled out “Lincoln Park!” which was correct. She had her choice of Coffee or Regal Rye. I told her to get coffee, so she chose rye. Welp. After that chuckle I asked how she knew the answer. While we were driving to Stoneham, she was reading about Goose Island on Wikipedia. Luckily I was able to win the chance to buy the coffee playing cornhole so it all worked out.
In the end we were able to buy both variants, four bottles of the stout, and a bottle of the stout from 2014. Redstone also has a tap system in their new store for sampling. Going forward the plan is to charge $2 per sample of rare beers with all of the proceeds going to charity.
The classroom session was excellent. We viewed videos produced by Goose Island showing how Bourbon County is made, The Grit and the Grain, while sampling brews. Seeing the effort that goes into producing these beers gave me even more appreciation for them, especially as a brewer myself.
We got to try two previous Bourbon County beers, and several of the even more elusive “Sour Sisters”. The Sour Sisters are sour beers made by Goose Island in even lower quantities than Bourbon County. They were all exceptional and it was a great experience to try them.
I can’t ever see myself hunting for “whalez bro” or being an avid beer trader. More often than not I am content to buy beer at the store that is readily available. I told myself if I only resort to waiting in line for beer on special occasions I am not like those retail customers that I used to hate who waited for hours on Black Friday to buy a crappy TV.
Out of curiousity I looked to see if there were any Bourbon County clone kits available. An all-grain kit was $82.95 and extract was $118.25. In contrast my typical 5-gallon batch costs anywhere from $20-45. That is just a small example of what goes into making these special beers.
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