by Mr. Brent Shumard, Lush beer nerd
Dark Lord Day…the name has ominous overtones and conjures up images of people summoning evil things from the nether-regions of the universe to serve their dastardly purposes…but it shouldn’t.
Say those three words to a beer geek and expect to hear a gasp, a smile, and possibly a couple of stories if they’ve managed to make it there.
I’ve been to the last 3 Dark Lord Days (DLD), and each one has increased my respect for both the Three Floyd’s Brewery as well as the beer community as a whole. For the largest part, beer festivals are set up as a pay-a-flat-fee-drink-till-you-fall-down event. There are likely scads queues lining up to umpteen brewers (some you’ve heard of, some you haven’t) so they can offer you a 1.5-2oz taste of their wares. Dark Lord Day is set up a little differently.
Dark Lord Day isn’t a beer festival in the usual sense. At the core, DLD is just the one calendar day a year that you could buy this sought after beer. Since its initial release in 2003, the word of mouth has spread and the devotion to the beer has increased so much that people will camp out overnight and wait in line to buy this beer. In order to make sure that the diehards that travel from around the country are accommodated, the gracious folks at Three Floyds have set up a festival around it. There are the requisite porta-johns, and food vendors. There is live music (generally of the Heavy Metal variety (Imperial Battle Snake was the band with the best name)). You can even buy beer from the Three Floyds brewery as well as visiting breweries (this year had Russian River and Stone on hand).
It’s a party and the people there are as friendly as they come (for the most part).
The Lush bus departed from the Halstedshop at 12 noon after a brunch of eggs, Founder’s Breakfast Stout, Metropolis Flywheel, and Bloody Marys. After a nostalgia inducing ride on a giant cheddar cheese yellow school bus, the Lush faithful arrived at the Three Floyds Brewery. This is where I get to ex-bound on the wonder that is Dark Lord Day and the generosity that exists in the beer community on days like this.
Before stepping of the bus, Chuck (an acquaintance of no more than 2 hours) offered me one of his two Golden Tickets. The same Golden Tickets that guarantee the purchase of the storied Dark Lord, yeah, he gave me one of those…why?..because I was a fellow beer geek. I got to buy an allotment of Dark Lord (which turned out to be 4 bottles).
(As an aside, I feel like the advent of the Golden Ticket actually increased the fellowship of the.)
I had come prepared.My backpack was stocked with 4 of the most rare beers that I personally had in my collection. And I, like the like the vast majority of the attendees, was ready to share. What I had with me is inconsequential, but if you’re curious what I brought and what I tasted as a result, please feel free to comment. I found some fellow beer nerds that I had been previously acquainted with and popped one open. I poured myself a taste and then offered some around. The atmosphere is such that if you have something to offer (usually something rare, or at least difficult to get in the area), then you’ll be met with souls in kind who are also looking to both share and partake of your beverage. So share and share alike we did.
The time came for me to get in line to buy Dark Lord in a transaction that could only be described as CASH ONLY. There was a temporary ATM set up that was blinking OUT OF ORDER. I checked my walled and it screamed at me, EMPTY! then it spontaneously folded into a frown and spit moths at me. (ok, not really, but I thought the dramatic effect might be entertaining). I was thwarted, I had no way to purchase the beer that I had journeyed for. I slowly walked over head down (you’ve seen Snoopy do his sad walk, it was like that) over to another group of souls, this time from Ohio (my native land). I’ve never met these fellows before, but I was about to make friends. I opened up another bottle of beer and before too long was chatting with these fellows from Columbus like we’d been old buddies. Before too long this exchange took place.
Dude from Columbus (DFC): Have you gotten your Dark Lord yet?
Me: Nah, I have the ticket in my pocket, but the ATM is out of cash and I didn’t bring any money because I’m dumb.
DFC: How much do you need?
Me: Sixty bucks.
DFC: Here (pulls out seventy dollars), go get your beer.
Me: (Jaw on floor). Seriously?!?!
DFC: Yeah, just go get your beer.
There was an exchange of addresses and I’m going to send him a box of beer to make up for this act of generosity, but seriously, in what alternate universe do we live in that a perfect stranger can walk up to you talk for a minute and a half and then you offer them $70 to go buy beer. It’s insanity, and a perfect example of the kind of camaraderie that exists in the beer community on days like this. He just wanted me to get the beer that I came there for.
While I’m showing you this through rose colored glasses, and there were horror stories of vandalism, public intoxication (and all the various idiocies that go with that), and even some blatant PDA going on those are bound to show up with a group of 2500+ people that are just there to drink beer and have fun. The main point of this post is to show the alternate universe that people exist in for this festival.
It’s great and if you make it, come prepared with rare beer and you’ll make friends everywhere.