Black Friday, typically about the shopping, was also about the hopping — as in beer.
Nearly 50 people lined up outside Akron craft brewer Hoppin’ Frog’s tasting room before an earlier-than-usual 10 a.m. opening. They were there to be the first to buy two specialty beer releases, sit and sip samples and enjoy fresh-cooked chicken and waffles.
Strongsville residents Darrell and Karen Marsh got up at 6 a.m. to shop for deals. They timed things to get to the opening of Hoppin’ Frog, off U.S. 224 eastbound overlooking Akron Fulton International Airport.
“You don’t think of this as a Black Friday event,” Darrell said.
But it is. Hoppin’ Frog is among craft brewers around the nation capitalizing on Black Friday to kick off sales of specialty beers for the holiday season. For the occasion, Hoppin’ Frog released a reserve version of its B.O.R.I.S (Bodacious Oatmeal Russian Imperial Stout) The Crusher and what it calls its Infusion A Coffee Porter.
This was an annual trip for the Marshes and for other craft beer enthusiasts who filled the tasting room.
“We were here last year for Black Friday,” Karen said. Having a late morning beer and hot food after shopping is a good way to “sooth aching muscles,” she said. “It helps take the edge off.”
Hoppin’ Frog founder and brewmaster Fred Karm was happy with the morning turnout.
“We like to release some of our most special offerings on Black Friday,” he said. “It’s the start of the holiday season for us. And it makes sense. So this year, we really went all out.”
The B.O.R.I.S. Reserve substitutes a Belgian chocolate malt that is low in bitterness and high in chocolate flavor for the roasted barley that would normally be used in the brewing process, Karm said. “I would say this one will be more chocolatey and richer,” he said.
Hoppin’ Frog has brewed the beer annually for Cleveland Beer Week, previously naming it Cleveland Crusher, Karm said. “We like it so much, we decided to call it B.O.R.I.S. Reserve. ... Now we’re making it all year, available in very limited quantities. We went all out for this beer.”
Hoppin’ Frog wants to offer its most special beers at this time of year, Karm said.
The Infusion A also being sold on Black Friday is Hoppin’ Frog’s version of a peanut butter chocolate porter, he said. It has the “A” designation because it was the first infusion beer Hoppin’ Frog did and has proved to be extremely popular.
“It’s so good,” Karm said. “Man, the result is something awesome. ”
Katrinka Bond walked into Hoppin’ Frog with her mother, Sandi Kiefer, to buy beer for Katrinka’s brother. The pair got up at 6:30 in the morning to first shop at a Kohl’s store.
Katrinka called herself and her brother fans of Hoppin’ Frog.
“My brother had me come in and get his beer because he’s not in town,” she said. She was buying bottles of the Infusion A and the B.O.R.I.S. Reserve.
This was Sandi Kiefer’s first time at Hoppin’ Frog and she admitted she does not like beer.
“I can’t believe people are drinking this early. That’s amazing to me,” Kiefer said.
Sandy Folland drove up from North Canton to the tasting room to meet her daughter Kristen Ferrell and Kristen’s craft-beer enthusiast husband, Greg. The couple, who live in Stow, got up at 4:30 a.m. to do Black Friday shopping and planned to shop some more after leaving Hoppin’ Frog.
“This was a surprise for me. It’s a new experience,” Folland said. “I can’t believe that this many people would stand in line ... to get beer. It’s a whole new concept for me. I grew up in the Budweiser era. Oh, my, this is a whole new ballgame.”
Folland opted to drink sweet tea instead of beer. “I’m drinking light here. I feel out of place,” she joked.
Greg Ferrell said he came to Hoppin’ Frog to buy the Infusion A beer. He said he likes the peanut butter flavor with the porter beer.
Krisy Randall and boyfriend, Mark Gibson, kicked off Black Friday shopping at Hoppin’ Frog. Both like craft brews and Hoppin’ Frog; Krisy said she was buying beer there as a Christmas gift for Gibson. Then they were going to shop at stores.
“This is how she figures she can get me to shop all day, to start at a brewery,” Gibson joked.
“That’s the easiest way to drag your guy out of the house, to say, ‘You can start at the brewery,’” Randall said, laughing. “And then you will end up at Hobby Lobby.”
Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ. His stories can be found at www.ohio.com/writers/jim-mackinnon.