Monday, May 14, 2012

Dark Lord Day '12 Recap

Better late than never - my account of this year's Dark Lord Day at 3 Floyds.  As I'm typing this recap, I'm noticing how long-winded it's becoming. This is quite a read, so don't get too emotionally involved if you aren't able to stick with it.

This year was my first official Dark Lord Day. I had tickets last year, but managed to convince a handful of great friends to go in my place, and bring me back a cache of bottles. Hearing that the event becomes more organized and better run with each passing year, I decided this was the year to attend. As you may recall from previous posts, I wound up getting a ticket from a really generous fellow craft beer fan, and was lucky enough to land two more for some great friends to come along. All tickets fall into 3 different groups, A, B, and C, with which you can enter the event at any time, but only purchase your bottles of Dark Lord during this allotted time, or later. We were in group C...

So the story goes, hordes of people lined up outside the brewery in the wee hours of the morning, just to be one of the first few to enter, which I later learned was probably the smart way to go... but more on that in a bit. Due to my responsibilities as a soccer dad/rowdy soccer hooligan, leaving the South Bend area as early as some of my fellow Dark Lord revelers would not be possible. Instead, we opted for a smash and grab approach to the event; show up, get bottles and head back. We understood the perils of long lines, drunken hipsters losing their irony, and all manner of lunacy; in short, we were prepared.

Arriving at the brewery around 4pm central with my good friends, whom for this purpose I will refer to as, "AV" and "Todd," we quickly found parking a short distance away for $20. We were told at the time that all proceeds went toward some charity... well worth not having to walk back a significant distance with several hundred dollars worth of beer.

From there we made our way through the front entrance, quickly assessing our surroundings and realizing that the line to pickup bottles of Dark Lord snaked all the way to the corner of the property, by a large bank of porta-johns. Roughly 300 people were in line before us, which we were certainly prepared for, so we set out on a mission to find beers, leaving Todd in line to keep our place.

On the site were several tents for food, brew and merch. Having had most of what 3 Floyds was offering, and knowing there was not a shot in hell that we'd be able to get a spot inside the pub, we hit up the Guest tent, with breweries from all over such as Pizza Port, Pipeworks, Founders, etc. Both AV and I snagged a Tarantula 2.0 from Pizza Port out of California. For me, this is one of my favorite styles - a Black IPA. Also a bonus was that it was from a brewery that doesn't distribute in our area, and I had never experienced. This beer was incredible! A huge up-front hoppy bitterness was nicely balanced out by intense roasted malt. Over, this is one of the best Black IPAs I've ever had.

Heading back to our spot in line, by this time roughly 4:45, we were slightly surprised to see that Todd had not moved more than a few feet. On top of that, the line we had got behind turned into a crowd, not at all resembling a line by any definition. Still, no problem. We knew we'd be there for at least 3 hours, drinking, standing in line and spreading holiday cheer. After about two hours of standing in line, not moving more than about 8 feet, we noticed something quite peculiar. The other end of the line, up by the brewery, was moving at a fairly sustained and steady clip. This is quite odd and mildly frustrating, since we weren't moving at all. By this time, our once orderly line had turned into a large group of people standing shoulder to shoulder. No more single file, just chaos.

Then we did the unthinkable... the unimaginable... we line-skipped....

Unlike many, we didn't go all the way to the front of the line that was gated off to prevent skipping, but instead just moved ahead of the large mass of people corralled in the back. Simply enough, we just ordered some beers at the 3 Floyds tent not far passed the porta-johns and directionless crowd... then didn't leave. After about 15 minutes of trying to blend in with some hipsters that were there the entire time, they called us out for what I can only assume was not being ironic enough. The spokesperson for the disgruntled few, a 5'2'' bearded hipster of similar stature to a leprechaun gave us his best talking to, clearly irate with finger pointing and all. After failed attempts to calm him down peacefully, I made it quite clear we weren't going anywhere. From our standpoint, there was no way in hell we were going to return to the stagnant mass in the back. Displeased but powerless, they went back to discussing a band we had never heard of.

Now that the line was moving steadily, maybe 10-20 feet every 15 minutes, we were free to make friends, drink some really damn good beer, and wait patiently for our turn to purchase bottles of Dark Lord. During this time, I had the opportunity to try Rye'd Da Lightning, a newer rye beer from 3 Floyds. As usual, this was an over-hopped, completely awesome beer, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Having another beer though, turned into a bit of a conundrum... Toward the last 1/3 of the line, people passed through a section of guard rails to prevent those evil line-skippers. Once through this line, there was about 45 minutes left to wait. The good news is that they were selling more beer, the bad news... no porta-johns. As my friends will tell you, I have the bladder of an infant, so I was posed with a dilemma - risk not getting back to my spot in line to use an actual restroom, or follow the lead of my fellow drunkards; urinating on the large AC unit next to the line. I'd like to think I have more scruples than those relieving themselves on the AC unit, even after being branded a line-skipper... so I braved the perilous journey to the porta-johns.

The way back was paved with anti-line-skipping neighborhood-watch types. I was yelled at and blocked at several points, but through a combination of explaining my predicament and moving quickly, I somehow made it back, incident free.

Finally, the entrance to the brewery, where everyone receives scratch-off cards, revealing the ability / inability to purchase a special Dark Lord variant, of which four were available. Despite the serious hit to karma from our previous line-skipping transgressions, all three of us were able to buy bottles. Two of the four varients, Barrel Aged Dark Lord w/ Vanilla Beans, and Cognac Aged Dark Lord, were sold out, leaving Cognac Aged Dark Lord de Muerta (spicy chilli peppers), and Barrel Aged Dark Lord, as our options. Since Todd was not interested in purchasing his, I walked away with both bottle options, and a smile. On top of this, we obviously purchased all four bottles of Dark Lord that each one of us were allotted.

Although a bit bumpy at times, our beer run mission was successful. Aside from the line issues at the beginning, the event seemed to run peacefully. Most people were friendly, lines for beer and food weren't bad, and the weather turned out great toward the end. I'm glad I finally made the trek to 3 Floyds for this special day, and look forward to many more!

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