Darkness is about to fall. Surly Darkness, that is. The annual release of this most sought after imperial stout happens Saturday at the Surly brewery in Brooklyn Center. Darkness Day, as the ghoulish gala is called, is a beer-nerd pilgrimage event. People come from far and wide and stand in line for hours to be among the lucky few to purchase precious bottles of this inky elixir. But be warned, if you want to be among them you'd best arrive betimes or you'll find yourself departing empty handed.
Surly will be handing out wristbands to the first
800 1200 people in line when the gates open at 11:00 am on Saturday. Those with wristbands will be able to purchase up to six bottles of Darkness at $18 each - cash only. Without a wristband there is no guarantee that you will get beer, although I am told that in past years there have been a few bottles made available for purchase later in the day. Anyone purchasing bottles must do so before 6:00 pm.
People I have spoken to say they will start lining up anywhere between 2 to 8 am. A Surly spokesman warned that they expect the line to start forming as early as Friday afternoon. I'm told that if you arrive by 7 am you should be okay, but these kind of special-release events have been growing more and more popular in the last couple years, so I would plan on arriving early.
Darkness day is an event of national notoriety. People come from all over the country to attend, some returning year after year. For those who make the trek, the beer is only part of the reward. The real draw is the impromptu community that springs up among those who wait in line. Attendees meet people that they only know from Twitter or Facebook and reconnect with folks that they may only see this one time of the year.
"It's more about the community than getting the beer." explained Brad Chmielewski of the Chicago-based Hop Cast video blog. "The beer is just an excuse to get together. It could be almost any beer." It was this sense of community that motivated every beer pilgrim I spoke to. According to Beer Genome Project co-coordinator Mike VanDelinder, "It's a gathering of people who are all into the same thing but that you don't get to see every day. The brewery sets the stage that brings people together. It's more about the people." Chmielewski continued, "It's like going to a concert. You go for the experience and you get to hear the band as well. In this case the beer is the band."
And there will be bands at Darkness day. Attendees will be entertained by God Came from Space, Guzzlemug, Droids Attack, and Ambassador Gun. Food will be available for purchase from The Chef Shack, Natedogs, Playball Catering, Potter's Pasties and Pies, and Cupcake. Plenty of Surly beer will be flowing from the taps, including a couple of limited releases. Drink tokens are available on site for $4. Neighboring businesses have made their parking lots available and there will be overflow parking at the Caribou Coffee across Highway 100.
Cheers, Michael Agnew Certified Cicerone A Perfect Pint