Saturday morning couldn’t come fast enough.
I’d spent the night on my buddy’s couch, which really wasn’t all that uncomfortable, but still didn’t do any favors for my ailing back. The weather forecast for the day didn’t look real good…very windy with a high probability for rain mid afternoon. Luckily we’d brought some rain gear just in case considering we were most certainly going to be outside most of the day. But part of me almost wanted it to downpour to keep some of the non-diehards away from the event (unlikely), leaving more potential beer for the rest of us. So after a quick breakfast of donuts and juice for that all-important base, we packed up the car and hit the road to Three Floyds in Munster, Indiana.
As we got off the highway and approached the brewery, I luckily got a call from Stu at Friday Night Beer informing me that the parking situation near the brewery was a nightmare, and we should try to find a spot at a nearby city park. When we pulled into the lot, I saw a childrens’ soccer game taking place at a nearby field, with happy little families of soccer moms and kids running about enjoying the day. I prayed that this wasn’t some kind of all-day tournament, considering that several blocks away was one of the largest beer release events in the country, and within hours there would be streams of beligerent drunkards staggering their way back to the park with bottles of Dark Lord in hand. I envisioned frightened parents swooping up their children and scrambling to their cars or hiding behind bushes as the zombie horde of Dark Lord fanatics passed by, vomiting on everything in their path.
We walked the several blocks to the brewery, Surly beer in tow, and saw the extraordinarily long line in the distance. Wow. There had to be at least a few thousand people there, much larger than I remembered from Surly Darkness day. We started walking to the back of the line, and I heard someone calling my name…it was Stu and his friend John, who offered to let us cut in with them. As I stood there for a moment, I wondered “why in the hell are we standing in line if we have the so-called Golden Tickets?” It didn’t make any sense to me…I was under the impression that possessing the Golden Tickets gave the bearer the luxury of simply walking up to the brewery at any point between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. and buying your bottles, sans massive line. I decided to check out the situation. I journeyed up to the brewery to the head of the line, and after talking to a few folks quickly realized that everyone in line actually had a Golden Ticket. So this wasn’t just the Golden Ticket line…it was the ONLY line.
I trudged back to where I’d left my friends, but they were nowhere to be found. I glanced ahead in the line, and was delighted to see that in the five minutes I’d been assessing the situation they had moved about 100 feet or so. My spirits lifted, as things seemed to be progressing along pretty darn fast. Within an hour, we’d moved at least another block or so, and had also made friends with the folks in line around us. Beer was flowing freely…we shared my Surly stuff with folks from all over the country, some of which had never heard of the brewery, and got to try some other stuff we weren’t familiar with as well. It was a really cool vibe…everyone was just happy to be there, knowing full well that they were guaranteed to get their Dark Lord, and in the meantime they were happy to share their wares, talk beer with fellow craft beer lovers, and enjoy the day, regardless of how windy or rainy it was.
When we finally got to the front of the line, we were in the middle of what could only be described as a beer circus. There were mobs of people walking every which way, making it nearly impossible to determine what was a line and what was just a string of people standing around. When we finally did get up to the front of the line where security guards checked our ID’s and Golden Tickets for authenticity, we were ushered into a warehouse area where dozens of workers waited to hand out bottles of Dark Lord. I plunked down my cash and got my four bottles, giving my other ticket to my brother-in-law who did the same. It was a big feeling of joy, relief and satisfaction…we’d driven many hours to get to this place, and we had our beer in hand. I felt very grateful to be able to not only sample, but actually own multiple bottles of the stuff.
Once we got out of line, my brother-in-law cracked a bottle of Dark Lord for the group to sample, and it was heavenly. Seriously the most viscous, gloppy beer I’d ever experienced. The smell was incredible with huge chocolate, prune, cherry, port and molasses notes coming at you. A pretty intense hoppy quality as well in the aroma, which was far different than what I recalled from the only other beer I can justifiably compare it to, Surly Darkness. Not as overwhelmingly sweet as I expected, very nicely balanced. The malt also did a nice job of balancing the alcohol heat, which only slightly came through in the finish. To quote the reviewer from my earlier post, I did indeed feel a sense of shock like someone had just shoved a sandwich in my mouth*.
As we tippled our Dark Lord, I noticed a long line of people on the south side of the brewery waiting their turn to get inside the Three Floyds brewpub where they were pouring special stuff like Vanilla Bean Dark Lord. Based on the amount of time it was taking people to get in there (I’m assuming one in, one out) I opted not to waste my time with it. We spent the rest of the day hanging out on the nearby grassy knoll with all the other Dark Lord fans, sharing beer, making some trades, and generally having a good time with like-minded craft beer lovers.
My buddy Stu eventually decided it was time to head back to Madison where he was staying, so we parted ways. Unfortunately for Stu, he left too early, as we ended up sticking around until 6 p.m. when the brewery opened the doors up to anyone who had cash in hand and wanted to buy more Dark Lord. So the three of us sprinted to the ATM and pulled out as much money as we could. We each walked away with a dozen bottles, my brother in law had 16. My entire trunk was filled to the gills with Dark Lord, Pop Skull, and other phenomenal craft beers I’d traded for like Kentucky Breakfast Stout. The entire day was really more than I could have hoped for.
But we weren’t done yet.
On our way back into Chicago, we decided to stop off at the original Goose Island Clybourn brewpub for dinner and to sample some of their rare stuff on draught. I ordered their Willow Street White Ale which was far too yeasty for my liking…looked like an extra-pulp glass of orange juice, and tasted rather weak (4.2% ABV). During dinner, I moved on to a bottle of their Sofie, part of their Reserve collection and a very nice Belgian-style farmhouse ale full of spice, carbonation and citrus notes. Really very enjoyable, so I picked up an extra bottle to take home with me. Unfortunately, they were fresh out of their other Reserve offerings including Juliet, but by this point in the evening I wasn’t in need of any more beer.
We left the brewpub and headed home, pleasantly sated with a day filled with outstanding beer and great fun at what is sure to become an annual tradition for me. My hats off to Three Floyds for putting on what was a very well-organized and enjoyable event.
* I’ll do a more thorough review of Dark Lord in the weeks to come.