Five in the morning. Am I really waking up to go stand in line for seven hours in 35 degree weather to get the chance to buy six bottles of beer? Considering it’s one of the ten best beers in the world, you bet your ass.

Darkness Day was a success. I got my allotment of Surly’s finest, a couple commemorative snifters, and a seriously sore back standing around all morning talking to fellow beer geeks and enjoying fantastic beer brought from all corners of the country.

When I showed up at 5:30 a.m., there were already 38 people camped out ahead of me in line. And I mean literally camped out. There were several tents spread out near the brewery, and a massive mobile home parked near the front gate with Missouri plates. As I walked to my spot in line, I noticed most of the cars parked up and down the street were from out of town…Georgia, Maryland, Ohio, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin. These were serious beer lovers. My mild discomfort waking up extra early to drive less than two miles to get to the brewery paled in comparison to the dedication these beer nomads exhibited.

As soon as I settled into what would be my home away from home for the foreseeable future, I tried striking up a conversation with the beer freak in front of me. Within 10 seconds I realized it could have been one of the biggest mistakes of the day. Nice guy, but seemed to be suffering from Aspergers, so for the next seven hours I was locked in to awkward and strange conversation about the virtues of Leinie’s Summer Shandy, and how he had never tried an Imperial Stout in his life. Quite a place to start.

Around 7 a.m., Omar walked out of the building wheeling a keg of Coffee Bender, compliments of the house. Everyone grabbed a cup and enjoyed what was one of the freshest samples I’d ever tasted. Fantastic.

Thankfully, I also met a very nice couple who drove up just hours earlier from Chicago, and they knew their beer. We chatted about home brewing, beer styles, and all the different beer trips they’d taken. At about 9 a.m., a slew of beer traders came around corralling everyone’s samples together, popping bottles and pouring with reckless abandon. Old Rasputin. Kentucky Breakfast Stout. Dark Lord. Supplication. You name it, it was probably there.

Having nicely solidified my place in line, I decided to take a stroll down the street to see exactly how many people were hoping for a shot at Darkness. I was amazed to see the line snaked nearly five blocks, with more and more people streaming in. It was at that moment I appreciated my decision to wake up when I did.

The anticipation kept building throughout the morning. We waited several more hours, until we were greeted at 11:30 with a set of bag pipers ringing in the beginning of Darkness Day. Somehow along the way, about 50 additional people snuck up in line ahead of me, so when the gates opened I was actually more at about the 100 position. But it didn’t really matter. We fairly orderly walked through the gates, and made our way to the merchandise stalls to get our beer and swag. I plunked down my money, grabbed my box, and made my way home. It was 12:15.

So, mission accomplished. Can’t wait to try it. But first, I’m going to take a nap.

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