Heading into Dark Lord Day for the first time can be a daunting task. One of the biggest days on the craft beer calendar seems like more trouble than it actually is, even if you don’t realize that until you are in the midst of it. I approached my first time at the event with plenty of planning, and a little fear that I would make that awful rookie mistake. Would I bring the right beers to share? Would I get in line at the right time? Would I bring the right things and buy the right things?
More questions than one should ask, but as a planner, they seemed perfectly normal to me.
Dark Lord Day veterans are probably already snickering at my over-planning mentality, but I think it served me pretty well for the first time through the ringer. Here is a blow by blow of my DLD weekend.
Friday afternoon: Drove with a buddy straight to the Three Floyds brewpub. We wanted to get our fair share of Zombie Dust and didn’t want to have to lug it around the grounds the following day. Turns out, this worked like a charm. We drove right up to the pub, parked and walked to the bottle line, which had only about 5 or 6 people waiting. Bought a couples cases of beer and some bombers, and took off in about 15 minutes total. It felt too easy.
Friday night: Thanks to some generous Beer Advocates from Cincinnati, we were invited to a grill out / bottle share at a local residence. Plenty of good people and plenty of good beer was flowing. I brought a growler of Mt. Carmel’s new Imperial Coffee Stout, which went over pretty well, and tried some really tasty stuff as well. Among the things I had that night was Beatification, Barrel Aged Yeti, Twisted Jim and quite a few things through a Randall Jr. Overall a great night, but we played it safe and were in bed before 11. Smooth sailing so far.
Saturday early morning: The morning of the festivities. We woke up at a time that seemed entirely too early (5:30 am) and trudged out into the cold, and worst of all, the rain. Picked up a couple breakfast sandwiches, parked our car and headed to the line. The rain was pretty bad, and the cold wasn’t helping. There were probably over 100 people there already, and we heard the guys at the front of the line arrived at 3am. At this point, I’m thinking to myself, what the hell are we doing? So you mean I have to stand here for four hours and wait for them to let us in? It didn’t seem like a plan anyone should attempt, and yet here we all were, waiting.
Saturday mid-morning: The rain finally stopped and suddenly, what seemed like a ridiculous idea turned into an amazing experience. People started to open bottles of best beer you can imagine and share it like it was on fire. The line was loose and easy, people bounced around and made new friends, and it seemed like the collective spirits of the entire line had gone from depressed to awakened in a really short period of time. I had samples of Cantillon Lou Pepe, 2006 La Roja, Fantasia, Chocolate Rain, Dark Lord from 2011, Cuvée Saint-Gilloise from 2003, Hair of the Dog Fred from a 2004 Magnum, 2005 Bourbon County Brand Stout and lots more. The time flew and I almost wish we could have waited in line another hour. I know, that sounds crazy, but it was really a great time.
The rest of Saturday: The gates opened and we were in pretty quickly. Since I was in Group A for allotment of Dark Lord, we went straight to that line while others headed for the brew pub, guest tap lines or to buy bottles and merch. We got through the allotment line fast, with the only downside being the ‘sorry’ message on my scratch off card. So I was not given the option to purchase a 50$ bottle of a barrel aged Dark Lord. The varieties were Bourbon Barrel Aged Dark Lord, Vanilla Bean Bourbon Barrel Aged Dark Lord, Cognac Barrel Aged Dark Lord, and Cognac Barrel Aged Dark Lord de Muerte. After getting my allotment, by buddy and I hit the guest tap lines. Lots of great stuff to choose from, including beers from Stone, Pizza Port, Founders and Cigar City. The Cigar City Hunahpu’s was what piqued my interest though, and I was ready to try it. The keg kicked well before we got to the front though, and had to settle for some Apple Brandy Marshall Zhukov, which was fantastic. We hit the bottle line for some Baller Stout (and more) and then wandered around for awhile taking things in (more beer and food.) At this point, I think we were both ready to leave and headed for the car. In retrospect, I think this was our only big mistake of the weekend. We should have stayed longer and enjoyed the day. But with the brew pub line stretching for hours and the cold starting to get to us, we took off. I was happy to get home sooner, but feel like we might have missed out on some other awesome stuff as a result. That said, no regrets!
Finally, now that I’m no longer a rookie and have a year of DLD under my belt, I can honestly say it is worth the hype. It’s like a big spring break (minus good weather) for beer geeks and if I could do it all again next month, I probably would. If you made it out, I hope you had a great time, and if you didn’t consider this your first invitation for next year.