New brews can be worth the queue

December 15, 2018

I absolutely hate waiting in line for anything.

I vowed never to do it again after waiting in line for a Nintendo Wii and a TV for my mom, once upon a time. But then beer happened for me. Instead of waiting in line for cheap electronics on Nov. 23 this year, I found myself with a buddy in Milwaukee. We got in line around 4 a.m. for Lakefront Brewing Co.’s Black Friday stout and its rare variant.

Ask a group of beer fans and you’ll hear three reasons why they wait in line for beer: the camaraderie, sharing beers, and being able to buy something only a select few can. Heck, at Lakefront, I met a guy who brews at Third Space and used to hang out with my brother-in-law in Baraboo, Wis. Making those connections over beer is amazing.

“I know it seems psychotic at face value, waiting up to 12 hours in line for beer, but craft beer is a passion of mine,” enthusiast Jake Larson said. “I get to spend time with my friends. I get access to a rare beer that I might not get another chance to try. It’s exhilarating knowing that you are one of maybe 200 people that will get to buy this beer. (It’s) a lot more exciting than waiting in line for Black Friday deals, that is for sure.”

Exclusivity isn’t the only reason to line up, though. Bottles of a short-lived stout also make good bargaining material.

“Anything I line up for, I generally plan to trade at least half of my allotment to try something new from out of state that I’ve had my eye on,” Julian Booher added. “It’s a very strange way of looking at it, but rather than pay an inflated secondary price, it’s the easiest way to acquire new things. For a lot of people, there is the financial incentive of just selling all of the beer they’re waiting for.”

If you haven’t been to a bottle release where you need to wait in line, it can feel daunting.

“For someone who has never stood in line, be prepared for all the conditions,” Keagan Burdorf, an avid craft beer trader (and friend I made while standing in line for Forager’s Nillerzzzzz beer), said. “Weather is number one; being prepared for the weather is critical for line survival. Second is bringing your own glasses and water for hydration and tasting beers that may be in line. ... Third – and most important – don’t be a jerk. Being a jerk in line can be a critical (reason) for breweries not doing bottle shares anymore. Be polite, try to remain sober, and be hydrated. Don’t ruin the fun for everyone else.”

Another important must: bring a chair to sit and nap in, and to help keep your spot if you have to go to the bathroom.

While waiting in line can be a very fun, if tiring, experience, bad things can happen. At a Pulpit Rock release, someone chugged a crowler and proceeded to vomit in line. Pulpit doesn’t allow shares in line anymore thanks to shenanigans like that and more.

“Unfortunately, there are people who abuse those group shares in line by showing up late and pulling the infamous ‘Chat and Cut,’” craft beer lover Jordan Lofgren said. “Trying to police that is often hard to do, though. When you notice someone coming in late and cutting in line in front of people who have been waiting hours, sometimes even overnight, it can be pretty frustrating.”

Thankfully, the positives of beer lines usually outweigh the negatives. And when a beer release comes together, it’s fun for the breweries, too.

“It is an honor that people want our product enough to wait in a line for it,” Forager’s head brewer Austin Jevne said. “I remember waiting in line for concert tickets when I was younger. I have heard that people wait for limited edition shoes and new video games. It is fun to see the beer industry (be) part of that kind of excitement for new products.”

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