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Dark Lord Day 2011

This past Saturday, I was able to be a part of what has grown into probably the biggest beer party in the country – Dark Lord Day at Three Floyds Brewing in Munster, Indiana. While I had an awesome time, it has probably ruined every other beer release for my by comparison, because nothing can live up to this thing.

So yes, I was one of the lucky 6,000 to get tickets when the went on sale online back on March 19th. The fact that tickets sold out in about 5 minutes gives you an idea of what kind of demand there is for this event. So I have been planning this trip, along with my friend Kyle from Cleveland Hops since then. On Friday afternoon, we headed out for the 5+ mile trek west to Munster, which is the next-to-last exit off the Indiana turnpike before you hit Illinois. We made one pitstop along the way, at Fatheads in North Olmsted to pick up some growlers to share with others at the event (Headhunter IPA & Stone Age Imperial Stout).

After checking in at our hotel a few miles away, we decided to try to check out Three Floyds, expecting we little chance of making it in. But low and behold, we arrived and had to stand outside for 25 minutes or so to get let in, but then got seated at a table and it was surprisingly not crazy. There is apparently some weird restriction on how many people they are allowed to have inside, to where they only let in about as many people as they have seats for (most bars around here let in about 4x as many as they can seat). So I got my first taste of Three Floyds in a while. I started with the Zombie Dust which is really, really good. Kyle got the just-tapped Brandy Barrel Aged Alpha Klaus, a Christmas porter, which was solid. We shared a goat cheese pizza that was good, and I finished the night with a Three Kings, their recent collaboration with Sun King Brewing, a mix of their respective Alpha King and Osiris beers, a very solid combination. Was hard to stop there, but it was getting late and we had a big day ahead of us.

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The next morning we awoke before 7, stopped for a quick breakfast and coffee, and headed over to Three Floyds in hopes of finding parking. We were in luck to find free parking on the street that was quickly filling up. So we got our gear and headed to get in line. I had a backpack with a ton of water, gatorade and snacks (all of which came in very handy), in addition to the growlers and bottles we brought. Despite being 2+ hours early, there were probably about 300 people already in line, and it quickly grew and grew behind us. It was kind of nasty for a bit with some stiff, cold winds, but once everyone started cracking some beers, the weather was an afterthought. We ended up behind some people from Wisconsin who we spent most of the time chatting with and sharing beers. We poured some of our Fatheads, which everyone liked, and they shared several Wisconsin beers from New Glarus Brewing, including the very tasty Wisconsin Belgian Red. Pre-arranged trades were going on all around us and there were some very impressive beers trading hands. Our WI friend pulled out a very sought after Bruery Black Tuesday and poured it all around, and wow, that was one heck of a beer. The definite highlight of the beers we shared that day.

At 10am, the sun decided to come out and stay for most of the remainder of the day, warming it up to a perfect temperature, and we made our way inside and went straight for the bottle line as we had group A tickets to get our bottles first. The line moved quickly, and once we got inside the warehouse, we traded our generic ticket for a Golden Ticket which we scratched off in hopes of getting the chance to buy one of the four special-edition varieties of Dark Lord. I did not win, but my friend Kyle did, so he got a bottle of Dark Lord aged in 23 Year Pappy Van Winkle brandy barrels, alongside the four pack of regular Dark Lord bottles that myself and everyone else were able to buy with their ticket, at $15 a bottle. (With bottles now going for over $60 each on eBay, seems like quite a bargain.)

After securing our bottles, we headed over to the guest taps line which had gotten quite long at this point, even though not nearly everyone had even made it inside yet. We were in that line probably a half hour, and sadly the highly sought after Goose Island BCS Rare was long gone by then (since everyone we had talked to was looking to try that). I ended up getting an Oakshire Heart Shaped Box which was great. We then wandered around a bit and finally ran into some Cleveland friends at one of the picnic tables where we ended up sitting down at for quite a while, making all kinds of new friends along the way. Most of the table we shared with a crew that came by bus from Chicago. They had all kinds of beers, food and conversation to share. It was just a parade of beers, with people pulling out one after the other of really top notch stuff, including some really great homebrews. I did bring a bottle of my most recent homebrew, a Maibock, and got some really positive feedback from it (granted it was from people who had been drinking for several hours, but I’ll take it). We ran into more Clevelanders, including some people from Fatheads, who got us more food and more beers, and more of the guest tap beers that kept turning over.

Finally, when it started getting a little later, we decided to get in the line to go into the brewpub to try out some Dark Lord, what we had all come for after all. We were in that line for probably close to an hour, but I got more free food and we ended up behind some guys from Columbus who we talked with and eventually shared a table with once we got inside. I had a glass of the Barrel-Aged Dark Lord and the regular Dark Lord, and I sampled someone else’s glass of the Vanilla Bean version, and they were all top notch. While the entire event is a party that no one would want to miss, ultimately it is a result of the great beer that they produce, and this year is no different. I have heard some veterans say it is as good or better than any of the previous versions. I’ve only had it once before, and it blew me away then just as it did on Saturday.

I had no idea what to expect from my first Dark Lord Day, but it exceeded all of my expectations. Normally I am not one for big crowds and crazy events, but it was very well organized by the folks at Three Floyds, and everyone we met was very cool, and friendly, and super generous. Not to sound like a hippie, but there was just such a good, positive vibe that lasted for the entire day (despite all of the heavy metal blaring from speakers and the live stage). While the drive from Cleveland is pretty long, I will definitely be trying to get my hands on some tickets again next year and will hopefully get to share in this party again.

Here is a definitely incomplete list of the beers I drank (or at least sampled) on Dark Lord Day, in approximate order of drinking:
– New Glarus Spotted Cow
– Central Waters Brewhouse Coffee Stout
– Fatheads Stone Age Imperial Stout
– New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red
– The Bruery Black Tuesday
– Lowdive Brewing something
– Oakshire Heart Shaped Box
– Firestone Walker Double Jack
– Port Brewing Older Viscosity
– Sprecher Czar Brew (’09)
– Firestone Walker Reserve Porter
– Excelsior Thirteen Anniversary Ale
– Rogue Old Crustacean Barleywine (’08)
– Andelot Cuvee Angelique
– various homebrews
– Upright Brewing Late Harvest
– Haymarket Brewing IPA
– Fatheads Headhunter IPA
– Revolution Brewing Barrel-Aged Sodom
– Three Floyds Barrel-Aged Dark Lord
– Three Floyds Vanilla Bean Aged Dark Lord
– Three Floyds Dark Lord