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Angry Orchard is experiencing one of the biggest growth spurts in bars and restaurants. Photo: Flickr via Adam Barhan.

Thanksgiving is when everyone comes home to visit family and old friends. The folks at AAA say over 46 million people in the U.S. plan to travel for this week's holiday. That's the most since 2007 and a 4.2% increase over last year.

But with big dinner celebrations planned for Thursday, no one wants to entertain the night before. That's why the industry watchers at Technomic say the day before Thanksgiving should be called "Black Wednesday."

Home for the holidays
According to the market analysts, Thanksgiving Eve is one of the busiest nights for bars and restaurants. With most people having the following day off from work, a Wednesday night bacchanalia has become a tradition in its own right.

Unlike Cyber Monday, which was popularized up by the National Retail Federation's Shop.org division to get people to spend more money on Christmas, or Small Business Saturday that American Express (NYSE:AXP) exploited to do the same (but with small, local businesses), Technomic says "Black Wednesday" is a trend that has evolved all on its own.

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Just because we're coming home for the holidays doesn't mean we want to wear out our welcome. Photo: Flickr via Satya Murthy.

"This isn't a trumped-up holiday -- without any prompting from marketers, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving has evolved organically into a huge on-premise night," say Technomic senior director Donna Hood Crecca.

While that should mean a big uptick in business for bars and restaurants, the real winners will be the makers of alcoholic beverages.

Raise a glass
Technomic says there are bound to be some specific winners on Wednesday. Producers of the hottest brands will likely see the biggest sales as people loyal to them and those wanting to try new tastes order them up.

The top spot will probably going to Boston Beer (NYSE:SAM). It makes the wildly popular Angry Orchard brand of hard cider that's expected to see a 200% increase in on-premise volumes. The brewer said Angry Orchard sales continued to ferment.

  • Third quarter core shipment volumes jumped 23% from the year ago period.
  • Depletions surged 21%.
  • Year-to-date core shipments were approximately 3.1 million barrels, or 26% higher than in 2013.
  • Nine-month depletions grew by 25%. 

Depletions are sales made by distributors to retailers, which are considered a reliable proxy for consumer demand.

A hard look at hard cider
Earlier this year I forecast hard cider sales would be the talked-about story of 2014.

On-trade volumes, or sales made to bars, hotels, restaurants, and cafes, surged 49% last year. Over the past decade consumption of hard cider has grown globally by 50%.

Declining beer consumption led many brewers and distributors to diversify their portfolios by investing in hard cider brands. Boston Beer launched Angry Orchard in 2011 while MillerCoors, the joint venture of SABMiller (NASDAQOTH:SBMRY) and Molson Coors (NYSE:TAP), bought the Crispin brand in 2012. It debuted its own Smith & Forge hard cider this past March.

Similarly, Anheuser-Busch InBev (NYSE:BUD) began marketing new ciders under both its Michelob and Stella Artois brands.

But it's not only cider that will see a boost at the bar. Higher sales will be seen across all categories. Technomic shows these to be the some of the winners this year based on projected on-premise volumes.

Brewer/Distiller/Vintner

Brand

% Increase

Hard Cider

Boston Beer

Angry Orchard

200%

MillerCoors

Crispin

50%

Beer

Anheuser-Busch InBev

Stella Artois

13%

Heineken

Dos Equis

11%

Spirits

Sazerac

Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey

68%

Fifth Generation

Tito's Handmade Vodka

25%

Wine

E & J Gallo Winery

Barefoot

5%

Constellation Brands (NYSE:STZ)

Woodbridge

4%

Home for the holidays is a common refrain heard this time of year. Brewers, and wine and spirits makers are certainly welcoming the opportunity to sell more of their alcoholic beverages.

Retailers look to the five-day period between Thanksgiving and the following Monday to find out whether they'll be finding presents under the tree or a lump of coal in their stockings. Boston Beer, Anheuser-Busch, and other adult beverage makers are looking to extend the season by one more day, to Black Wednesday, to put themselves in high spirits.

Follow Rich Duprey's coverage of all the restaurant industry's most important news and developments. He has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends American Express, Boston Beer, and Molson Coors Brewing Company. The Motley Fool owns shares of Boston Beer. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.