From beer slushies to 22% homebrew (and the famous stout itself), Dark Lord Day 2018 was another one for the ages.
All photos courtesy of Travis Schoening, T9 Creative.If you were among the nearly 15,000 people who attended Dark Lord Day this weekend, you’ll be able to tell friends what it was like back in the old days.
That’s because next year’s Dark Lord Day – and those that come after it – will take place on brewery grounds that will look nothing like they do today. Three Floyds Brewing is just days away from beginning a massive redevelopment project, demolishing buildings, adding hundreds of trees and greenspace as they transform thousands of acres into a grown-up Disneyland dedicated to craft beer.
Of course, no one was thinking about that on Saturday. It was Day Two of Illinois Craft Beer Week, but thousands of people flew in from around the country – and abroad – to take part in the annual festivities one mile over the state line, in Indiana. With mid-range hotels nearby charging $500 a night and area bars and restaurants tapping rare beers all weekend, it’s become a bit like a holiday weekend in Northwest Indiana, pumping millions of dollars into the local economy.
All of that being done to secure a bag filled with four bottles of Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout and a flavored variant of that beer, then enjoy many other beers on tap (and even more brought there in backpacks).
Amid a day of controlled chaos set to the soundtrack of metal music, craft beer fans waited in hours-long lines for a taste of some of the most sought-after beers in the world, shared bottles with friends and made new friends either in those lines, in the mosh pit or sharing bottles under tents.
A few notes from the Dark Lord Day that was:
If at all possible, get there later in the day. Multiple beer stations dot the festival grounds. Each is home to timed releases of various rare beers. That means many people simply held a spot in line waiting on that release. And then there were the line jumpers. Or those willing to pay someone at the front to order extras. That resulted in most beer stands having lines of up to 2 hours, whether you wanted a rare Dark Lord or just a refreshing Gumballhead.
But as the day went on and the crowd thinned considerably (for various reasons), those lines were virtually non-existent. And timed releases of rare beers were still going strong to the very end. Craft beer too often brings a need to be “first.” But if you can get a ticket to get your Dark Lord allotment later in the day, consider yourself lucky.
Speaking of timed releases, the 2pm drop of Modern Times’ Monster Tones was remarkable to witness. It’s the highest-rated beer the highly-regarded San Diego brewery has produced and what was touted as the very last sixtel of it dropped in Munster. It didn’t last five minutes, which a Modern Times rep said was the fastest he’d ever seen it go.
It’s a blend of their Monsters’ Park and Modern Tones stouts, aged in maple syrup barrels which later housed bourbon, then conditioned on coffee beans, toasted coconut and vanilla. When it was tapped, no one respected the line, as a mass of bodies pushed in to get a pour. The beer was indeed every bit worthy of its hype. It’s extraordinary.
Amid a sea of thick and heavy stouts, the Three Floyds beer slushies seemed just gimmicky enough – and a sharp turn far enough away from the norm – that they had to be tried. Glad we did. They took Deesko, their Berliner Weiss, blended it with ice in a slushy machine and then added flavorings, as you might anyway with a Berliner Weiss. The pineapple version was sweet and refreshing – just what was needed for a brief respite from what otherwise ruled the day.
Speaking of thick and heavy stouts, this year’s Dark Lord variants were solid, with two 15% standouts: ChemTrailMix, barrel-aged with cinnamon and pink peppercorns, as well as Marshmallow Handjee, barrel-aged with vanilla beans. Those lucky enough to have either in their tote bag of Dark Lords were mere steps outside of the building when they were getting offers of hundreds of dollars in cash, on the spot, for that one bottle. Having sampled both, it’s fair to say the hype is real for both, particularly this year’s ChemTrailMix.
One of the highlights of Dark Lord Day is their welcoming of bottle shares among attendees. That leads to the opportunity to try beers brought in from those who attend from around the world. Two of the very best tastings we had this weekend came from brewers you’ve likely never heard of before, because neither is fully functional just yet. But they soon will be and they won’t be off your radar for long.
- Boneflower Mead is a Northwest Indiana meadery that’s set to launch this summer. Owner Aaron Schavey has spent the last year making meads in his Hobart, Ind. basement and handing out bottles to friends for sharing. That’s led to a following that has grown organically, as he waited for his production license. His Blueberry Apple Inception is extraordinary. And according to those who’ve tried his other meads, it’s not even his best. He took second place in this year’s Mazer Cup International, for his Cherry Apple Melomel mead. Boneflower is worth finding and, once they’re up and running, trying as much of it as you can.
- Remember the name Burning Foot Brewing. Two of the very best beers we tried the entire weekend came from three guys brewing in a Louisville garage (for now) who brought bottles of their own product in backpacks for sampling. Focusing efforts on flavored stouts with high ABVs, they brought several of their bottles to share with strangers and introduce their brand. The name? The result of when, during their first-ever home brew together, boiling mash splashed and landed on their feet. The beer? Absurdly good. We sampled Thoroughbrewd, their maple-coffee stout aged with bourbon-soaked oak chips, as well as S’morgasbord, a macadamia/mashmallow/dark chocolate stout. Both are 22%, a deliberately high ABV, as they say they want their 12oz bottles to be shared among friends. No problem. We’ll race to jump in on the crowd-sourcing plan they have scheduled in the months ahead to secure the funds needed to help begin production.
Need more Dark Lord? Check out all our previous DLD coverage here.