By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Nov 18, 2022 at 10:02 AM

Black Friday beer releases have become a tradition and nowhere in Milwaukee is this annual event ingrained more than at Lakefront Brewery, 1872 N. Commerce St.

Of course, it’s the beers – the annual weighty brews aged in oak – but it’s also the experience; the camaraderie of lining up early with fellow malt mavens and hop heads to nab bottles of precious, extremely limited, nectar.

This year Lakefront will release four Black Friday brews at 8 a.m. at the brewery.  There will be an imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels; an imperial stout aged five years in rye barrels; Double Barrel barleywine ale aged in Great Lakes bourbon and rye barrels; and Christmas Cookie imperial stout aged in rum barrels.

“People love coming here to the brewery,” says Lakefront Brand Manager Michael Stodola. “It’s tradition.

“This year, they're going to be outside in line. They're going to come in and buy it inside and then they'll have to go right back outside and they can drink it out there. The party will be out there due to our limited space (while some renovation work is done).”

The food truck will be outside operating and there will, as always, be a festive atmosphere.

This year the brews are so limited that they will only be available in bottles – not on tap – and all the bottles will sell out, which means that in future years, 2022 will likely become a holy grail ... the year that got away, if you will.

Most years – including this one – Lakefront puts limited amounts of past years’ Black Friday brews on tap for those who come out to the taproom on the day after Thanksgiving. But that will never be the case for the 2022 brews.

Stodola says there are roughly 3,500 bottles of the original Black Friday brew and 1,100 of each of the three variants. However, by the time the doors open to the public, expect more like 900 of each of the variants (employees get first shot, as is only fair).

You’ll also be able to get the three new Brewers Reserve series beers in bottles. Those are: Agave Ale with Raspberry, aged in Tequila barrels; Old Fashioned Blackberry Ale, aged in Wollersheim Brandy barrels; and Baltic Porter aged in Wollersheim Distillery Bourbon and Brandy barrels.

“These will be brewery-only releases that are one-off liquids,” says Stodola, who adds that a Wheat Wine and a Honey Bock are also in the pipeline.

“We’re releasing three Brewers’ Reserve beers initially, with more planned in the spring of 2023. These beers are great tasting and sold in 12-ounce bottles.”

They sell for $4 a bottle or $20 per six-pack.

We tasted through all seven beers this week at Lakefront and here’s what head brewer Luther Paul had to say about each ...

Black Friday 2022: “We get the barrels through the Barrel Broker and because we order so many at a time, they come directly from the distillery and they're usually emptied within that week or sometimes the day before. You can tell the barrels that have a lot of remains in them ... (the beer) gets hot and it almost overwhelms the beer. This one this year is a little calmer and not so hot with alcohol. There's definitely variance every year, just depending how much like booze is in the barrel.” (14 percent ABV)

Double Barrel (which is best barrel-aged beer I can remember tasting, with its rich black cherry and dark chocolate notes with a hint of booziness): “This is double-barreled. Both in Great Lakes barrels: bourbon and rye barrels. This is the barleywine. I've been finding that barleywine seem to be the ones that I enjoy the most, flavor-wise. Imperial stouts are delicious, too, but this one, there's so many flavors you can get from it. The first thing you notice right is alcohol. It's pretty hot. It warms you up a bit. This is a favorite of all the brewers downstairs. This is our first time doing it.” (16.3 percent)

Five-Year: “I think we had six barrels, which are 53 gallons, and the angels’ share was actually a little bit less than we anticipated, but it is what it is. This is what we have. What can I say about this one? Five years of barrel. Can you taste it? You can taste the dryness. You also get that very big oak tannin and kind of vegetal note.” (14.4 percent)

Christmas Cookie: “I don't know if I should tell you (the secret to recreating the taste of a frosted holiday cookie), Bobby. (Laughs) The ingredients are listed: vanilla and cinnamon are the spice adjuncts. I think that rum barrel has a certain amount of character to it. And then that broad term of barleywine. Every time I make a barleywine or imperial stout, it's always different. I try not to look at the other ones so much and think of different malts that I can use and stuff. So it's just another branch on the tree basically. The (adjuncts are added) after barreling. I'm not sure if I have answers for the reason, but I just feel that it's easier. When we taste barrels and we're emptying them in a tank we go through and taste each one of them (separately) and just get the vibe of it, before it gets mixed into the big batch.” (12.6 percent)

Brewers’ Reserve Tequila barrel: “A very blonde barley wine base. We didn't want any caramel flavors in there. And then to get the alcohol up and make it a bigger beer, we added agave syrup or agave nectar to it, which is highly fermentable. But there's still a bit of flavor that comes out of it. Especially when you have a high gravity beer, it won't ferment out as quite as much. Then we had raspberry concentrate, which is like the orange concentrate you buy in the freezer section. So it's very, very intense and we had a decent amount of it added to this. And then the last thing is we put it in a tequila barrel, aged it for about six months, and that rounds it out with that woody tequila and it almost gets the vibe of a raspberry margarita or something.”  (12.3 percent)

Old Fashioned Blackberry Ale (jammy like a mouth-coating wine): “Originally the blackberry was a play on Wisconsin old fashioneds and the fact that blackberry brandy is a very popular thing (in the state). So it was kind of playing off of that. It's in a Wollersheim brandy barrel, blackberry fruit added. And honestly at first I was going to add some orange peel and cherry to it, but after tasting just the base with just the blackberry in it, I'm like, ‘Wow, this is perfect here.’ I didn't want to overwhelm with other flavors that were just going to muddy it. So I just let the blackberry do its thing. And we felt that the barleywine itself almost gives the characteristics of that, too.” (13.4 percent)

Baltic porter (a blend of brandy- and bourbon-barrel-aged, not double barreled): “What makes the beer a little interesting is that those Wollersheim barrels are very, very nice in flavor profile. And it's a Baltic porter, which is a lager, so it is a little bit smoother in taste and it's almost a little bit drier, too, (than) a imperial stout that has that really heavy caramel punch to it. It's a little bit smoother, like the doppelbock. What I get out of it now – I think it was about a year in the barrels – is the taste of the brandy and bourbon, but I'm starting to get the wood flavors in there. It's leaching out some of the oak flavors, too, which goes really well with the smoother Baltic porters.” (12.1 percent)

Black Friday Stout and Christmas Cookie are $20 per bottle and 5-Year-Old and Double Barrel are $30.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.