The previous day, I’d spent a total of 20 straight hours traveling/working for a one-day business trip to Toronto, spending the majority of that time sitting in various airport terminals, running at breakneck speeds to make connecting flights, or slowly working my way through customs. I’d gotten home about midnight from Minneapolis/St. Paul International, and had slept for seven or eight hours, but I still felt completely exhausted. After sitting in uncomfortable airplane seats all day, my back ached like someone had dropped a 16 pound bowling ball on my lower vertebrae. And to add to the malaise, the severe head cold I’d been dealing with the previous two weeks was still maintaining dominance over my general well-being.
In short, I felt like a can of smashed assholes.
I laid there staring at my bedroom ceiling, wiping the cloud of sleep from my eyes, and wondering how in the hell I was going to summon the energy to move on. And then it hit me. One simple motivating image crept back into my mind…a review that I had read on Beer Advocate:
“The taste of Dark Lord is hard to explain. Imagine you’re walking down the street and someone just shoved a sandwich in your mouth. You’d be shocked, and I still am every time I drink it. Sorry I can’t go any further than that…just get some.”
I sat bolt upright, leaping out of my bed like Jarron Gilbert out of a pool, because this was no ordinary day folks. No illness or sore back was going to stand in my way. I was about to embark on what very possibly would become the greatest beer adventure of my life…the legendary Dark Lord Day, held at Three Floyds Brewery in beautiful Munster, Indiana.
I packed up the car and picked up my brother-in-law about 10:30, a trunk filled with various Surly stuff for trades (Furious, Bitter Brewer, Coffee Bender), and a couple growlers of Town Hall Masala Mama. I figured folks down at DLD would be clamoring for what were for most a couple very difficult breweries to come by, and I’d hopefully get some great stuff in return.
We drove about four hours to the outskirts of Madison, making our first stop of the weekend at Tyranena Brewing in Lake Mills where we met my good buddy Stu at Friday Night Beer. Jessie Nimm, beer evangelist for the brewery, greeted us in the lobby and was kind enough to show us around the place. We grabbed a pint for the tour, trying their Benji’s Chipotle Smoked Imperial Porter, which was an incredibly well-crafted beer. I’m usually not a big chipotle beer guy, but this one really stood out for me. Beautifully balanced chocolate notes mixed with pepper and bitter smoke. Fantastic.
We checked out their brewhouse operations, which were pretty impressive. A number of fermentors, each lovingly named after a friend or family member of head brewer Rob Larson. Most interesting for me was taking a peek in their cooler room where they kept their store of hops and aging beers in bourbon barrels, including Rocky’s Revenge. Along the way, we had the fortune of also meeting Nevin McCown, assistant brewmaster for Tyranena who was extraordinarily gracious in sharing his knowledge and perspectives on craft beer and Tyranena’s brewing process. Really smart, thoughtful guy who knew his stuff.
We ended up hanging with Nevin for a while in Tyranena’s tasting room, enjoying their just-tapped Scurvy IPA, a very unique beer brewed with orange zest, giving it a very nice citrus quality in the nose and a bitterness that explodes off the tongue. Nevin talked about his experiences as a homebrewer and how he parlayed that into a career in commercial brewing, which evolved into conversations about hot side aeration, beer distribution in the United States, and hop growing techniques. Coincidentally, I’d brought along some of my own homebrew to share with friends in Chicago (including my dubbel, port barrel-aged Belgian brown ale and smoked porter) and offered some to Nevin who agreed to sample a few. He provided some very nice and insightful comments which I found incredibly useful.
After a very nice experience at Tyranena, we continued our journey south to the west side of Chicago, home to Two Brothers Brewing in Warrenville. To say Two Brothers is a little tough to find would be an understatement, as we drove through every street in the area looking for the place. My college friend from Chicago who we were staying with for the weekend was already at the brewery, so he helped us navigate to what was a non-descript industrial park where Two Brothers was located, not a sign on the place. Kind of odd, especially if they’re interested in people actually patronizing their establishment.
But any misgivings we had about the location were quickly erased as we walked into a very nice brewpub with loads of people enjoying quality craft beer. In fact, a local Beer Judge Certification class was being held in the back corner, surely the mark of a well-regarded local brewery. My brother-in-law and I grabbed a burger and a snifter of their Northwind Imperial Stout, a very nice beer loaded with malty sweetness and a nice, smooth finish. My other friend sampled their Domaine Du Page biere de garde at my suggestion, which he found very nice and refreshing on draught.
With many miles and many craft beers under our belt, we headed back to my friend’s house to get some rest for what was sure to be an eventful Dark Lord Day…