I was fortunate enough to attend my third consecutive Dark Lord Day at Three Floyds Brewery in Munster, Indiana, on Saturday. One of the most highly rated and sought-after beers in the world, Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout is made available for purchase only one day every year, and people from all over the country vie for a ticket to this festival. Below is a running diary of my Dark Lord Day. Kudos to all those who had a hand in making this yet another successful event.
11:26am - My tickets are in hand and I'm ready to cab it to the bus pickup
11:48am - I arrive at The Beer Temple. The weather could not be more perfect for an outdoor fest.
If you haven't been to The Beer Temple, this place is a fantastic spot for craft beer. Corner of Elston and Belmont.
12:14pm - The Chicago Brew Bus has departed and beers are already flowing. The spirit of sharing is what makes Dark Lord Day such an amazing event.
12:38pm - Kevin breaks out a special treat he brought back from his recent California trip. The crowd rejoices.
12:52pm - Another rarely seen beer in this neck of the woods is unveiled and shared
12:58pm - Calumet Avenue means we're close
1:04pm - The Brew Bus lands just outside the fest grounds for our dropoff. You can feel the excitement in the air.
1:12pm - As opposed to previous years where a long line stretched down the street, the fest entry is relatively hassle-free. For those who have attended previous Dark Lord Days, it is quickly apparent that this year's event is completely different. Instead of being held only on Three Floyds' property, the fest has expanded to neighboring business' grounds. This vastly improves the general comfort of being able to walk around the fest.
1:14pm - The first tent I run into is dedicated to beer sharing/trading and is jam packed. It's also one of the few spots to grab some shade.
1:15pm - We spot Nik from Chicago Beer Geeks (center), who is getting hounded by fest-goers like a movie star
1:26pm - I sure could go for a beer. The guest taps are set up in a long line of tents.
1:32pm - Upon getting to the front of the line, I take in the list of available beers and can't get over how many rare and sought after beers are being poured. This picture doesn't even come close to doing the overall list justice.
1:34pm - I order a Cigar City Cucumber Lager. A few more servers would have helped the lines move quicker.
1:40pm - I spot a group of friends who have been here since 9:30am. Dark Lord is apparently the breakfast of champions.
2:02pm - Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout (2011) is on tap?! Three, please!
2:23pm - I learn more about Dryhop's plans for opening its brewpub this summer from brewmaster Brant Dubovick (right) and get to know Michael Gemma, Haymarket's bar manager
2:26pm - I spot Sean from Franklin House in Valparaiso. It's great how beer festivals bring together cool people you've met in the past and allow you to catch up.
2:29pm - Only a few minutes later, I run into a couple guys that rode the Brew Bus to the fest with me. They are sharing amazing beers, including a whole growler of Pliny the Elder brought back from a honeymoon in California a few days prior.
2:52pm - I decide to explore more of the fest grounds and come across a station selling only Three Floyds beer. I can't pass up Space Station Middle Finger, a deliciously hoppy IPA.
2:54pm - The new fest layout really opens things up (btw I found Waldo)
2:56pm - The merch tents are selling some cool stuff, including Dark Lord Day collector posters and tons of t-shirts you normally can't find at the brewpub in sizes larger than medium. I pick up a Zombie Dust army t-shirt that I've been hunting down for over a year. Score.
3:13pm - Some people just can't handle the wrath of the Dark Lord
3:19pm - Former Chicago brewer Brad Davis (2nd from right) reunites with some old friends
3:39pm - More friends of mine pop up
3:47pm - I decide to share my bottle of Pliny with said friends. Thanks for the gift, Salvi!
3:58pm - I run into Josh Seago (left), an organizer of the upcoming Naperville Ale Fest, and Don DiBrita (right), one of the bloggers for Beer Dogging
4:13pm - This seems to be one of the few patches of dry, green grass for people to take a load off
4:16pm - On past Dark Lord Days, this area of the Three Floyds parking lot was crawling with hordes of people and barely any room to walk (found Waldo again)
4:17pm - The brewpub was closed to the public this year. No worries though, as Dark Lord and a few variants of it were being poured in a couple areas of the fest.
4:19pm - Despite the look on his face, Alpha King was having a blast
4:21pm - The one glaring problem with this year's event was the group lines for buying the coveted Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout. I'm not sure of the reason, but delays grew and grew throughout the day.
4:24pm - A rare sighting of the line actually moving
4:48pm - The Dark Lord stage was impressive to say the least. In past years, the bands played on a cramped stage in the brewery, which trapped the sound. The lineup for the day included Bloodiest, Lair of the Minotaur, Sweet Cobra, Pig Destroyer (pictured), Municipal Waste and High on Fire. Metal up your ass indeed.
4:52pm - Needless to say, there were no couples slow dance songs during Pig Destroyer's set
5:09pm - Dark Lord Day is for lovers
5:23pm - Dark Lord Day is also for trying new beers...in ridiculously sized cups
5:58pm - Is this the typical Municipal Waste fan? Probably a good idea to keep the disguise on, honey.
6:38pm - Uh boy...these two again?
7:14pm - We decide to finally get in line for our Dark Lord. We're in the last group (E) and it's roughly an hour and half behind schedule.
7:58pm - This was the eye of the storm as far as the line went. Just plain brutal.
8:34pm - Obligatory Munster water tower shot
8:36pm - As usual, the pain of the Dark Lord line is lessened by the mass amounts of awesome people you meet and the beers being shared
8:42pm - This is the point in line where my heart starts to beat a little faster. For right around that corner is the open door to the brewery.
8:47pm - The light at the end of the tunnel
8:49pm - Here we exchange our tickets for the "Golden Ticket," which has a scratch-off to win the chance to buy a limited-edition, barrel-aged Dark Lord bottle.
8:51pm - I'm unsure why they call this a "Golden Ticket" when the majority of them come up as losers (including mine)
8:53pm - Step right up. Each ticket holder is sold an allotment of up to three bottles of Dark Lord this year (15 dollars per bottle as usual). I'm assuming this allotment (which has been four for the last several years) is due to an increase in overall ticket sales.
8:55pm - At a few points during the night, I feared that I would not have these beauties in hand due to the line backups and trying to keep the Brew Bus on schedule. Alas, they are mine.
8:56pm - Those with winning scratch-off tickets were able to purchase a limited-edition Dark Lord bottle for 50 dollars. The choices this year included Port Barrel Aged, Moscatel Barrel Aged, Bourbon BBL with Chilis (Muerte) and Bourbon Vanilla.
9:01pm - I can only dream of what these barrels will one day produce
9:02pm - It looks like the long line took its toll on a couple of my friends
9:03pm - Exiting the brewery, where all the magic happens
9:34pm - Heading back to the Brew Bus. It's mind-boggling to think about how big Dark Lord Day has grown over the years. While I agree that there is some degree of over-hype, I'm glad I've been able to experience it the last few years.
9:34pm - You can also expect heavy crowds, heavy piles of White Castle burger boxes, heavy beer bottle littering...
10:24pm - The Brew Bus crew continues the party on the way back to Chicago. Even more awesome beers are shared. As are awful 80s metal songs from someone's iPhone.
10:26pm - Well, maybe not everyone is partying
10:43pm - The Brew Bus arrives back at the Beer Temple. Too bad it's not open. I had my eye on about 20 different beers I wanted to bring home.
Sunday - The new Dark Lords join their older siblings