Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Darkness Falls Across the Land

Last Saturday was Christmas for beer geeks across the land, for it was Darkness Day at the Surly brewery. Darkness Day is the one day out of the year that you can buy the holy grail of beer, Surly's Russian Imperial Stout - Darkness. (Actually, this year if you're lucky you might be able to track some down at liquor stores somewhere but I digress).

I've been up and down the spectrum on Darkness Day starting with "oh, that sounds really cool, I'll have to check it out" to "it costs HOW MUCH per bottle???" to "well, maybe I'll just get a bottle or two" to "people start lining up at WHAT TIME??? guess I won't be getting any" to finally "screw it, I'm just gonna wait in line behind the total die hards but ahead of the lazy wannabes and see where it gets me."

My plan was to get there at about 9:00 on Saturday morning and hope that I was one of the 800 lucky people to get a wrist band that allowed me to buy my allotment of 6 bottles of Darkness. I talked Allison into coming with me both for the company (although I made so many new friends that day it wouldn't have been an issue) and for her wrist. I'm not sure how many of my friends that wanted me to get them a bottle actually had plans or how many just didn't want to put in the effort but I'm a trusting guy and a good friend (I think) and bought some extras for them. I feel a bit responsible for getting my small group of beer disciples into loving good beer so I thought I owed at least a few of them a bottle.

I envisioned the scene at the brewery dozens of times the week before DDay both while awake and while sleeping and as I was getting ready Saturday morning I decided at the last minute to push it and get there a few minutes earlier. When I came around the corner and didn't see masses of people lined up for miles I figured I got lucky. Sure enough, we set up our chairs at about the #225 spot in line (according to the rough count of our new neighbors in line). That was at about 8:45 and by 9:00 there was probably another 50-100 people behind us and shortly after that we were now in about the middle of a 400+ line of people.

So it seemed that we got lucky showing up when we did and even luckier because the weather was picture perfect. Sure, there was a brisk fall chill in the day but it was finally sunny and after a few Surly Coffee Benders to kick off the day and warm me up a bit I didn't even need a jacket. Speaking of Coffee Bender, Surly c0ntinued to be a kickass organization by bringing out a keg of Coffee Bender for those of us waiting in line. It's a true sign of class to support your fans by bringing out free beer when you have nothing to gain from it and that's a shining example of why Surly is as great as they are.

It didn't take long to find familiar faces in the crowd and to make friends with new faces because everybody there was there for the same reason, they love good beer and wanted to have fun. Because of that reason and because of the nice weather, the time seemed to fly and before we knew it they were opening the gates and Darkness had begun to descend upon us (I swear they picked Darkness as the name of the beer because it's so fun to write shit like that).

Once we got inside the gate we met up with Phil and Becky and proceeded to get the business side of things done. We hit the Surly swag room to buy a couple t-shirts and some glassware and then got in line to buy the beer. The girls went on a beer run while we waited in line to buy our Darkness.

Allison brought me back a Birch Aged CynicAle (I liked it, I think I like regular Cynic better though) Then, I heard the news... there was one keg of Darkness tapped and for sale. The girls went to wait in that line while Phil and I bought our bottles and brought them to the car and I returned to the beautiful sight of a goblet full of Darkness.

I had it for the first time a few weeks back when they tapped a Firkin of it at the 501 Club (see Surly Darkness and Surly Wet) and thought it was pretty good but I wasn't sure that it was worth all the hoopla. I'm not sure if it was the extra bit of carbonation zip that the keg provided over the firkin but that glass of beer was maybe the best glass I've ever had. The flavors were alive and dancing through my mouth like nothing I had ever tasted before. It must have been the slowest I've ever drank 12 oz of beer before, I'd take just enough to coat my tongue and enjoyed every drop I could.

The highlight of my day happened when I met one of my Twitter buddies, Surly Boy Wonder who I saw walking around. We had been chatting back and forth leading up to Darkness Day and when I saw him, I walked up to introduce myself. After a few words he handed me a bottle of 2008 Darkness. I thought he just wanted me to check it out so I gave it back to him and he told me it was a gift. I've always said that you can't beat free beer. Well, good free beer is better. A free bottle of vintage Darkness? Well that just cannot be beat. It definitely made my day and that says a lot considering how great my day was.

We spent the rest of our day there just taking in the scene and trying some new beers. After my Darkness was gone I decided to try the Smoke. I thought that even if I couldn't get any Darkness I could at least drink something that looked close to it. It was pretty tasty. Another highlight of my day came when I decided to try a glass of the Tea-Bagged Furious. It was right in line with the Darkness for me for how great it was. It bums me out that a lot of these beers aren't available year-round but I guess that just makes days like today that much more special.

I wished that we didn't have plans that night because it meant we had to leave a couple hours earlier than I would have liked. But since that was the only minor downer of the day, I can't complain. I got Darkness for myself and for some of my friends and had a blast doing it. Just like after Surlyfest, I'm already looking forward to next year's Darkness Day and will be bringing more people with me.

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