Shortly before 11 on a Friday night in January, Justin Saurer parked his car on a gritty Brooklyn street that was best known for its McDonald’s and proximity to the toxic Gowanus Canal until Other Half Brewing Company opened in 2014.
Mr. Saurer craved a first crack at the special India pale ale that Other Half had created to celebrate its third anniversary. But the cans wouldn’t go on sale until the brewery opened at 10 a.m.
What was 11 hours, given his plum perch?
“When you’re the first one here, you don’t have to worry about parking,” Mr. Saurer, 38, said the next morning. A firefighter and a father of an infant daughter at home, he drove in from Amityville, on Long Island, with a sleeping bag. “I have the best sleep in the car,” he said. “There are no kids screaming.”
The frigid daybreak had revealed a high-spirited line hundreds of beer lovers deep, snaking around several blocks. Among those waiting, many of them drinking cans from coolers, were Michael Roulhac and his wife, Kim Roulhac, who had left Richmond, Va., at 1 a.m. and driven straight to Brooklyn. “We’re road warriors,” said Mr. Roulhac, 40, who regularly makes the round trip to Other Half.
Scenes like this play out nearly every day across the country as supplicants (“kind of like a beer brotherhood,” Mr. Saurer said) queue up outside breweries for new releases of I.P.A.s — in particular, a cloudy, unfiltered New England style that is loved for its flavors of citrus and tropical fruit.
“People are fanatical about it, to the point they don’t want to drink anything else,” said Sam Richardson, the brew master and a founder of Other Half. “Everyone has this expectation of getting hazy I.P.A.s in a can directly from a brewery.”
The fan base for these special-edition ales has been growing since the early 2010s, creating excitement and a new revenue stream for the craft-beer business. But the waiting lines for each new release have become so unwieldy that many brewers are taking steps to contain or manage them.
Modern Times Beer in San Diego and Threes Brewing in Brooklyn presell cans online and provide pickup windows for the beer. Maine Beer Company and Hoof Hearted Brewing in Marengo, Ohio, sell advance tickets to limit crowds.
“There were a couple times where we thought we’d have a riot,” said Trevor Williams, the brewer and an owner of Hoof Hearted.
Monkish Brewing Company in Torrance, Calif., resisted the pale-ale madness for its first four years, specializing in Belgian-inspired beers and even posting a sign declaring, “No MSG, No I.P.A.” But last year it caved to popular demand and started canning fruity I.P.A.s like its Sip the Juice.
The owner and brewer, Henry Nguyen, expected a line but not a crowd of more than 300 enthusiasts in his parking lot at 3 a.m. “People were camping out,” Mr. Nguyen said.
With each new release, fans would arrive earlier and earlier, when the brewery was still open. “They would set up chairs, go inside and drink and come back out and spend the night in the parking lot,” he said. “It was about 15 hours of waiting, sometimes for only six cans.”
To curb that behavior, Monkish began in September to release ales at unpredictable times, announcing them on social media with only a few hours’ notice. All the same, he said, he spots cars of people lurking outside, waiting for word, every day. “People just show up,” he said.
Tree House Brewing Company in Monson, Mass., posts daily Twitter updates on which brews are available and their quantities, but it sometimes maintains silence to dampen demand. Most small brewers, after all, would rather sell to a broad audience than to see supplies swallowed up by a few zealous shoppers.
“You have this beer that you’ve busted your butt for, had steam in your face, gotten blasted with hops, and everybody at the brewery is jazzed — and you can’t tell anybody,” said Nate Lanier, a founder and the head brewer. “It’s the weirdest thing.”
Still, on most days, more than 2,000 people visit Tree House, which makes a transaction every seven seconds during the most hectic days. When the brewery announces on Twitter that the day’s stock is running low, Mr. Lanier said, “all walks of nature pop out of their car and sprint across the parking lot.” From men in suits to older women, he said, “it touches all facets of life.”
As the breweries have become more creative at managing waiting lines, so have the customers.
The line at Tired Hands Brewing Company in Ardmore, Pa., is notable for what’s lacking: people. The hordes leave chairs as placeholders, then go inside to drink until sales begin, an arrangement that grew organically. “We don’t encourage or discourage chairs,” said the brewer and owner, Jean Broillet IV.
But the brewery forbids chairs before noon and polices the lines, 800-strong during the frenzy for its Milkshake I.P.A.s. “It’s a phenomenon, and if you want to work with it,” it will work for you, Mr. Broillet said, adding that a local hairstylist and employees of a sushi restaurant hit the line to drum up business.
The prize is not just beer. There are bragging rights for those who post photos of their haul on Instagram. Others trade the ales with fellow beer lovers.
Brewers put up with the fuss because the lines are economic lifelines. On-premises sales cut out the middleman distributors and increase profits, letting a beer maker control its path in a crowded field. “This is the best thing that’s happened to breweries in the 30-plus years of the craft-beer revolution,” Mr. Richardson said.
But the long lines can be a migraine as well as a boon.
In November, the Longmont, Colo., outpost of the Oskar Blues Brewery peddled cans of Ten FIDY Imperial Stout aged in bourbon barrels. They sold out within two and a half hours because the brewery had failed to limit sales per person.
“We had some people drop, like, $3,200 on beer,” said Chad Melis, its marketing director.
A 12-can limit was in place for a release at the brewery in December. “It was negative 5 degrees here in Colorado, and we had up to 400 people outside,” Mr. Melis said. “We had a meeting the night before, and we were like: ‘Hey, this is not good. There are serious health risks.’” (Customers congregated inside before the orderly sales began.)
An often-suggested solution — make more beer — is usually unfeasible. “It’s all we can package,” said Mr. Nguyen of Monkish. “Our goal is not to be a big brewery.”
To make waiting for its in-demand Swish double I.P.A. less onerous, the Bissell Brothers brewery in Portland., Me., upgraded its internet speeds to trim seconds off transactions, and it serves free doughnuts and coffee. “If people are going to wait in the cold, we need to do something for them,” said Peter Jensen Bissell, the business director and an owner.
As the clock inched toward the start of sales at Other Half in Brooklyn, Kevin Weinisch was tailgating around his station wagon, drinking a beer. “You party in the morning, then dad in the afternoon,” said Mr. Weinisch, 36, a traffic engineer who planned to drive home later to Patchogue, N.Y., to be with his two children.
The first in line, Mr. Saurer, was ready to buy his cans and leave. “After waiting here all night, all I want to do is go home,” he said. “I’m broken.”