On Saturday, beer geeks from across the country converged on Munster, Indiana for Dark Lord Day, the annual release party for Dark Lord, the Russian Imperial Stout from Three Floyds Brewing Co. that is consistently rated among the world’s best beers. Over the decade since its inception, Dark Lord Day has gone from being a small gathering of devoted fans of Three Floyds to a stunningly disorganized mess to, this year, an impressively well-orchestrated party with some of the happier people we’ve run across in some time. Our report and slideshow is below.
Estimates of the number who were able to snag the $30 tickets ranged from 6,000 to 10,000; they began lining up before sunrise for the 10:00 AM opening. While everyone was allowed to enter the grounds at 10:00, a new system was devised this year in an effort to keep lines under control, in which ticket holders were divided into six two-hour time slots for buying their allotment of three $15 bottles of Dark Lord (down from four the last several years). Each guest also received a scratch-off Golden Ticket that gave them a one-in-four chance to purchase a special barrel-aged version of the thick black nectar with notes of chocolate, toffee, vanilla, and caramel.
This new degree of organization on Three Floyds’ part showed; where we had waited nearly five hours in line in 2010, lines were much more manageable this year. We arrived just before 10:30 AM to see a line approximately half a mile long, but entered the venue a few minutes after 11:00, and the line was completely gone by early afternoon. In fact, other than time spent in the line for the brewery to pick up bottles of Dark Lord, attendees were free to relax on a gorgeous sunny, 70-degree day and spend their sampling beers they brought, beers people were happily pouring for strangers, or any of a few dozen beers on tap from Three Floyds and several other top-notch craft brewers.
Even with the more efficient ticketing system, the lines to get the actual bottles of Dark Lord were still pretty long. We were in the B Group, which was supposed to run from noon to 2:00 PM. We got in line at about 11:10 AM and made it into the brewery at 12:35 PM. To those who have never experienced Dark Lord Day, standing in line that long (or longer - the lines got worse as the day went on) for the privilege of buying beer might seem absurd. But these aren’t so much lines as they are slowly moving celebrations of beer. Virtually everyone at Dark Lord Day entered the venue with a supply of beer that was eagerly shared with anyone holding a cup. We suppose any gathering built around booze is going to be a pretty friendly place, but even with all the new rules that have been implemented over the last couple years, Dark Lord Day still stands out as must-do experience for anyone serious about beer.