In Bars & Clubs

A creative, limited edition craft beer can only make the holidays that much more special. (PHOTO: Enlightened Brewing Co.)

A guide to Milwaukee holiday craft beers 2019

There are so many reasons why the rise of craft beer is a wonderful thing, but surely near the top of the list is the seemingly endless avalanche of inventive and interesting limited and special release brews.

As we approach the most wonderful time of the year, there are plenty of celebratory brews on tap from Milwaukee-area craft brewers. And with so many of them landing on Black Friday, I think it might be time to give the day after Thanksgiving a happier name.

Here's some of what you can taste this holiday season. But don't hesitate as supplies of these special brews will, as always, be limited.

Take note, too, that the kind folks at City Tours MKE will run three free shuttles from 11 .m. until 4 p.m. on Black Friday, stopping at Dead Bird, Hacienda, both Good City locations, Water Street Brewery, Broken Bat, Eagle Park and Milwaukee Brewing Company.

The first shuttles will leave from Dead Bird, Water Street Brewery and Good City on Farwell. (Hint, hint: there are parking lots at Dead Bird and Good City on Farwell.)

1840 Brewing Company

Owner Kyle Vetter says that Bay View's 1840 will release "Plumpy - Black" on Black Friday.

"It is the next iteration of our Plumpy series," he explains. "Plumpy is a superfruited oat cream ale with lactose and each time we release it we change up the fruits. This one will have all the black fruits. Blackberry, black currant and black cherry."

By the time you read this two new dark beers have hit the taps, too: a new variant of the Drinking Chocolate series and a draft-only Imperial Porter.

"Mexican Drinking Chocolate is an imperial stout made with cacao, cinnamon, Mexican coffee, Mexican vanilla and three types of Mexican chili peppers," says Vetter. "We are planning to release one drinking chocolate a month during the winter. The porter is called Raspberry Truffle. It is an almost 12 percent ABV Imperial Porter with cacao, vanilla and raspberry."

This weekend, 1840 launches a saison called Rouge.

"Saisons are our favorite beers to pair with meals so we thought it appropriate to release one prior to Thanksgiving," says Vetter. "It is a straw-colored beer brewed with spelt and wheat and dry hopped with French Barbe Rouge hops."

Biloba Brewing

Head out to Brookfield at 5 p.m. on Black Friday for a Russian Imperial Stout, aged in bourbon barrels, in 500ml bottles for $10 and 750ml bottles for $15. There will also be a stock of Biloba's Cherry Lambic bottles for $8 (500ml) and $12 (750ml).

Black Husky Brewing

Owner Toni Eichinger says that Black Husky will launch a sweet potato beer at its Ahead of the Pack beer release on the day before Thanksgiving, Wednesday, Nov. 27.

"The recipe is meant to highlight the difference between pumpkin pie and sweet potato pie," she says. "The sweet potato beer – The Great Yamkin – is an Imperial beer brewed with baked yams, caramel malted barley, lactose and we are using a Hefe Weiss yeast to accentuate the traditional holiday pie spices. Deep amber in color with an ABV in the 10 percent range."

Eichinger also promises holiday season releases of St. Nikkilaus spiced Brown ale and limited Twelve Dog Imperial Stout variants. Stay tuned for details.

In related news Colectivo's Troubadour Bakery is making a cake with Black Husky's Twelve Dog Imperial Stout and you can get a sample of the Molasses Stout Cake at the brewery on Black Friday from 2 to 4 p.m. The bundt cakes, with Letterbox Sugar Plum tea icing, are available for preorder at all Colectivo locations and online by Sunday, Nov. 24 for pickup on Wednesday the 27th.

Brewfinity Brewing

The Oconomowoc brewer unveils a chocolate-covered cherry stout to kick off the holiday season at noon.

City Lights Brewing Company

Owner Jimmy Gohsman says that City Lights will have two special holiday beers this year.

"One is a Doppelbock coming in at 7 percent ABV. It's rich, malty, chocolatey and bready; a full-bodied beer that is very smooth with a little bit of residual sweetness."

This one will be sold in six-packs around town and will be on tap at City Lights and select bars.

"The other beer we are doing is an Imperial Coconut Porter," says Gohsman. "This is the same version as our standard Coconut Porter, but literally doubled the malt, hops, coconut and vanilla. We'll also be aging this beer on some sugar maple wood which is going to lend notes of maple, pecan, bourbon and vanilla.

"This one is a big beer; it will come in around 11 percent ABV."

It'll be available at City Lights and select bars around town as well as in four-packs of 16-ounce cans.

Company Brewing

The Riverwest brewery will open at 11 a.m. to launch a Belgian Quad aged in rum barrels, called Holiday Party.

Component Brewing

Co-owner DJ Kowalske says that in November, Component will offer a variant of the Coffee No Coffee imperial stout with a secret ingredient.

"On Black Friday we will have a black currant and cocoa nib sour," he adds. "For the next few months we will also have a rotational double dry hopped IPA series. It's always the same base grain beer with at least two different hop combinations."

All of these brews are available on tap and in cans at the Component taproom in the Lincoln Warehouse.

Dead Bird Brewing Co.

One of the city's newest breweries will open its Halyard Park taproom at 11 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 29, because says owner Nick Kocis, "we're going to be releasing two big stouts on tap only for Black Friday."

Kocis and crew will pour 10- and four-ounce pours of the 10 percent ABV Beanut Putter, which he says is, "a big rich oatmeal stout with roasted Texas peanuts."

Meanwhile, the ever so slightly tamer Bean Water (9.5 percent ABV) is an imperial stout with dark roasted cold brew coffee, Mexican chocolate and Tahitian vanilla.

Eagle Park Brewing

Eagle Park will debut four new beers on Black Friday at 11 a.m. They are the Evil Ways New England IPA, Wrong Way Peanut Butter Imperial Stout, a dragon fruit, orange and mango slush sour ale and Melt: O'Paya, the final installment in a trio of collaboration brews with Melt Chocolates.

The next day, you can try two bourbon-barrel-aged brews – the Huey Lewis and the Booziest oatmeal stout and Booze for Breakfast – on draft.

Enlightened Brewing Company

"This season we're rolling out our Sustained Thought Coffee Stout on draft and in cans in the taproom and at retail outlets around Southeastern Wisconsin," says co-owner Tommy Vandervort. "We're actually going to hold the release of the beer on Black Friday this year and we'll have six-packs available to purchase in the taproom, no limit."

Vandervort says the stout, made with Valentine Coffee's cold brew, clocks in at 6 percent ABV.

"The name comes from a Volatire quote that goes, 'No problem can withstand the assault of Sustained Thinking.' It's creamy, robust and toasty without being overbearing or too strong. It pours jet black with a creamy tan head and is blended with the cold brew coffee to be balanced with the roasted malt flavors. It's my personal favorite beer that we make."

The Explorium Brewpub

The Explorium Brewpub in Southridge Mall will open at 6 a.m. on Black Friday to sell its special Milwaukee County Stout, which spends a year in Maker's Mark bourbon barrels (jealous! hic).

Guests can take they edge off the Black Friday mall mayhem with 12-ounce pours on tap for $7.50 or $16 wax-dipped (Maker's!) 22-ounce bottles (limit two per person).

"Last year we sold out before 1 p.m. and we would expect the same this year," says owner Mike Doble. "The day of the event, people waiting in line can wait in the warm mall corridor where we'll be serving coffee and donuts from 5:30 until 6 a.m. when we open. We'll be selling bottles right away when we open and we only have 450 bottles available."

In addition, The Explorium will serve brunch from 6 until 11 a.m., when it will switch to its regular menu. Doghouse Charlie will provide live music beginning at noon and the brewpub is giving away a $4,000 Cheata Bike at 3 p.m. as part of its Fall Fundraiser.

The Fermentorium

The Fermentorium will get a jump on Black Friday by releasing Sweater Weather, an imperial milk stout, and three variants – Cookies & Cookies, Coffee – in cans on Wednesday, Nov. 27, at both its locations: in Cedarburg and East Tosa.

From Wednesday through Sunday that week (they're closed on Thanksgiving), you can get a free $5 gift card when you purchase a $25 gift card and a free $10 gift card when you buy a $50 gift card.

They'll also offer 20 percent off mix and match cases (excluding Sweater Weather and its variants). Those new brews are available in regular four-packs of 16-ounce cans and mixed four-packs, too, so you can try them all.

Gathering Place Brewing Company

"Our holiday release, The Wonderworker, will be released on St. Nick's Day, Friday Dec. 6," says Joe Yeado, who is perhaps wisely avoiding the Black Friday onslaught. "In addition to the 2019 version, we will have the 2018 edition aged 13 months in chardonnay barrels and a 2018 non-barrel-aged version."

The new beer will be available on tap and in a limited number of 500ml bottles.

Yeado says, "we'll have a special Wonderworker flight to try them all, along with a food truck," on launch day.

Good City Brewing

On Black Friday, Good City will release Days of My Youth, the first wild ale in the brewery's new Deer District wild ale series.

"Days of My Youth is a foeder-aged farmhouse-style saison that showcases aromas of orchard fruits, particularly apricots and mild oaky vanilla," says Good City's Karlie Winchester. "A delicate spice profile intertwined with mildly sweet cereal grains presents a balanced bitterness, finishing with toasty oak tannins."

It'll be available in a limited run of 750ml bottles at both taprooms.

And get ready for the third annual Density Day, slated for Saturday, Dec. 14, where you can breathe in the 2019 Density bourbon barrel-aged Imperial Stout, available in limited bottles and on draft, the more extremel, higher ABV barrel-aged High Density, a Wild Ale #2 bottle release and the last Scarcity of 2019, called Scarcity: Coffee Density, available in 16-oounce cans, four-packs and on tap.

"Throughout the day, we will be offering food specials and several timed tappings that include 2017 BA Density, 2018 BA Density and a couple variants from last year's release party," says Winchester.

Members of the Good Citizens loyalty program get priority entry with early access, an indoor VIP lounge and first shot at purchases.

Hacienda Beer Company

According to Hacienda, two beers will be set for release on Black Friday: L'hiver, a foeder fermented saison conditioned on foraged spruce tips and juniper berries as well as dried orange zest (a silver medalist at the Festival of Wood & Barrel Aged Beers in Chicago), and Velvet Bulldozer, a big imperial stout conditioned on Madagascar vanilla beans landing at 11 percent ABV.

Starting at 11 a.m. on Black Friday, the taproom will have both special brews on draft, as well as available to purchase. L'hiver will come in 500mL bottles set at $10.99 (limit six bottles per person per day), while Velvet Bulldozer will sell in four-packs of 16-ounce cans for $19.99 (limit three four-packs per person per day).

Hacienda will also have a pair of stouts ready for release in time for Christmas, including a Mexican hot chocolate inspired stout called "A Means To An End" and Tropi-Choco, a chocolate/orange milk stout, along with a foeder-aged mixed fermentation saison called Forbidden Phrases.

Indeed Brewing Company

On Black Friday, our new friends from the Twin Cities will have a special release of what the brewery's Kelly Moritz calls, "a super limited infusion of our Maple Stick Stout.

"We will also be releasing a Chocolate Orange Stout closer to Christmas, which will be very reminiscent of the gold-wrapped oranges some of us used to get in our stockings!"

Lakefront Brewery

On the day after Thanksgiving, Lakefront brings back its five very-limited Black Friday variants, which has been a tradition since 2011.

"In the past couple of years, we've offered the regular Black Friday as well as a Vintage Reserve blend. This year, it's an amazing collection of high-gravity, single-cask beers," said Lakefront Brewery's Brand Manager, Michael Stodola. "The 2014 Black Friday has been sleeping in just two brandy barrels for 5 years, 10 months. Due to barrel evaporation over that period of time, the number of bottles is extremely small."

There will be two four-packs of bottles available at $80 each.

The first four-pack has three 22-ounce 2019 Black Friday bottles and one 2017 Rye Barrel Edition, which is rich in dark chocolate and spicy rye notes. The second has two bottles of Fruit Cake strong ale with its dark malt, dried fruit and cocoa flavors, and two bottles of the warming, jammy cherry Barleywine (which served as the base for Fruit Cake).

If you get there early enough – that is, be among roughly the first 250 folks in line – and you'll be able top get a 750mL bottle five-year old 2014 Black Friday, for $100.

That one is a chocolate cherry bomb, with a mouthfeel like a fine wine or even a viscous balsamic.

Doors open at 8 a.m. and the beers are sold on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Milwaukee Brewing Co.

On Dec. 7, MKE Brewing will unleash Louie's Cherry Bounce, a 10.2 percent ABV amber ale "stuffed with Door County cherries" and then aged in brandy barrels.

Meanwhile, on Black Friday, the first 250 guests at MKE Brewing and the adjacent Glass + Griddle restaurant will get an envelope – which must be opened between Jan. 1 and Feb. 1 in front of an employee – containing a voucher for prizes from a dollar off a beer to MKE Brewing swag to event tickets to beer for a year.

There will also be an all-day happy hour and deals on food, too.

MobCraft Beer

On Black Friday, the Walker's Point brewery will launch a quartet of specials.

At 4 p.m., MobCraft will begin selling two packaged beers: MooWaukee White Chocolate Milk Stout – which will also be on draft – is a seasonal with white chocolate, vanilla, cacao nibs and lactose wrangled into a four-pack of 12-ounce cans; and the extremely limited Wisconsin's Old Fashioned is a 2018 vintage release brewed with cherry, orange and spices and aged in brandy barrels, and comes in 22-ounce bottles.

At 6 p.m., the brewery will tap Liquid Dessert, a bourbon-barrel-aged imperial stout with candi sugars, peanut butter and maple syrup. It'll be available until the keg is bone dry. At 7, you can taste Stitch and Snitch, a 7.2 percent ABV peach and raspberry sour.

The fun continues with two additional brewery tours at 5 and 6:30 p.m. Tickets, which are $12 and include a pint glass and two select pints of beer, are available at the website. The taproom will remain open until midnight.

MobCraft celebrates Small Business Saturday the following day with specials running from noon until midnight, though carry-out beer sales end at 9 p.m.

Mobtoberfest Martzen cases will be on sale for $25 and Mug Club memberships are $5 off. A bunch of new merch will be unveiled, too, and if you spend more than $20 on clothing, accessories and packaged beer to-go, you'll get a free pint of select MobCraft beer at the taproom.

On Saturday, Dec. 14 MobCraft will release its newest annual, the Padishah Imperial Stout and its variants, and 2018 Padishah,
2019 Padishah, and 2019 Heaven Hill Bourbon Barrel Aged Padishah will be on tap all day. Five other variants will roll out during the afternoon, including versions aged in barrels that previously held Jefferson's Reserve, Weller Reserve, Central Standard, Great Lakes and Old Sugar whiskeys, as well a version blended with Philocoffia barrel-aged coffee. At 3 p.m. there will be a limited bottle release of the Great Lakes, Old Sugar, Central Standard and Jefferson variants, as well as one aged in Heaven Hill barrels.

Of course, there's tons of fun on tap during Stout Fest, so head to the MobCraft website to learn about the ugly sweater contest and more.

Raised Grain Brewing

Out in the 'Sha, Raised Grain will bring back its Santa's Sack Christmas Ale again this year, says co-owner Nick Reistad.

"It will be a four-pack, containing one can of the 'original' Spiced Ale version, one aged in tequila barrels, one aged in bourbon barrels, and one aged in sour mash whiskey barrels," says Reistad. "Our Christmas ale is a red ale is brewed with nutmeg, cinnamon, star anise and fresh ginger."

The taproom opens at 11 a.m. on Black Friday.

Sahale Ale Works

Grafton's Sahale Ale Works hosts a double can release on Sunday, Dec. 15 at noon, including El Fuego Mexican hot chocolate imperial stour and Cocoa Currency, a hazelnut and cocoa imperial brown ale.

"We're starting to do monthly can releases and (this is) our first one," says owner Matthew Hofmann. "We hope to do these on the second Sunday of every month, although we may stop during the busy summer months."

Third Space Brewing

Over at Third Space in the Valley, co-owner Andy Gehl says that there are some winter beers and, "a brand new one that is great for the holidays."

The Ice Bear Baltic Porter is back a little earlier this year, arriving in early December. It's a smokey number, clocking in at 9.5 percent ABV and it'll be available in six-packs, too.

Acres Edge Toasted Oatmeal Stout and the Happy Happy Double IPA are already on draught in the Third Space taproom. The former is a cocoa-y, coffee-ish stout brewed with crystal oat malt and available until March, while the latter is a hopped up take on Happy Place. It's double dry hopped and full of fruit and flowers and is 8.5 percent ABV.

As for the new one?

Cranberry Gose Winter Sour is a kettle sour that uses Wisconsin fruit for a tart and salty little number that launched on Nov. 8 and will be available in the taproom and at retail "into the new year."

On Black Friday, it launches four variants of its Liquid Layers barleywine – aged in rum, rye, bourbon and whiskey pumpkin barrels. A four-pack with one can of each variant is $20. (On the following day, hit Ray's Wine & Spirits in Tosa to get in line for Third Space's super-limited hazelnut brews.)

Three Sheeps Brewing

Our Sheboygan friends have three "holiday-ish" brews, though some are already familiar to beerspotters, including the year-round Rebel Kent Amber Ale, with sweet Belgian yeast and a dash of mild rye malt spice that's perfect for the Thanksgiving Day feast.

The limited release Veneration quad – a salute to Belgian Trappist brewers – makes its return, bringing with it figs and molasses and hints of rye whiskey picked up from the barrels in which its aged. It also packs 13 percent alcohol, so go slow, folks.

Meanwhile, Bon Bon Chocolate Milk Stout – also a limited release – arrived last month with a quaffable 5.5 percent ABV and it's dark and chocolately and rich. Leave it out with some cookies for Santa and you might get something extra nice.

Urban Harvest Brewing Company

Owner Steve Pribek says, "We have done our Imperial Chocolate Whiskey Stout for Black Friday since year one. This year we are also releasing a brand new beer in Two Step, a Belgian Dark Strong.

"In addition we will be releasing our Alice who the Helles Alice (on) Dec. 26 as a Christmas gift to our customers."

That's a pretty nice gift, if you ask me.

Water Street Brewery

Milwaukee's oldest brewpub will launch a limited Kladruber Baltic-style porter on Black Friday with strong coffee notes, along with toffee, chocolate and dark fruit. Did I mention that it's aged in Wild Turkey barrels, for the win?

The brew – called Barrel Buster Porter – is part of WSB's ongoing We Brew It - You Name It series, and Kylie Kubash came up with the winning moniker.


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