There are certain expectations that accompany brewery-only beer releases: throngs of people, long waits for samples and possible cuts to the bottle limit.
This has not always been the way the beer community handled bottle releases. Once, breweries like Russian River Brewing Co. and Three Floyds Brewing Co. made big beers and released them to the public where bottles would sit for days or longer. It was a natural release into the marketplace and those customers who purchased a bottle learned to appreciate the beer, one sip at a time. When Cigar City Brewing first opened, Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout was on draft at bars around Tampa Bay for weeks.
Today, releasing the same beer has become big business and many have taken their own day on the calendar (in many cases, the only day where these beers are available). Three Floyds’ Dark Lord Day in 2005 was a night in the brewery with a few hundred of the brewery’s biggest fans buying bottles of imperial stout. The idea of a special release day grew and groups of people became crowds, cases of beers released became pallets, and the beer’s popularity amplified to 11 via trading demand and curious onlookers. Dark Lord Day ticket sales have crashed websites; Russian River’s Pliny the Younger takes over an entire week at the Russian River Pub; and Hunahpu’s Day sells out thousands of tickets in mere minutes. Beer enthusiasts travel from all over the world to attend these releases. Breweries and brewers have to manage people, set up spaces, pick up empties, clean toilets and start making beer again. With every bottle release seems to come the issue of managing expectations and people’s experience of the day.
While release days are lucrative and fun for breweries and their patrons, the breweries who join the fun are realizing that logistical hurdles can be a heady problem requiring solutions as creative as the beer they brew.