Three Floyds Brewing's Dark Lord Day 2011

May 02 2011 - 11:42 AM

Never has beer geekdom been so cool.  The culminaiton of weeks, if not months, of excitement in the beer community, on April 30, Three Floyds Brewing hosted Dark Lord Day. DLD is the annual party to celebrate the release of its highly acclaimed Russian Imperial Stout, the aptly-named Dark Lord. It seemed as if every beer lover, bartender, liquor store owner, and partygoer in Chicago was there partaking in the festivities.  Chicago Foodies was represented as well as Josh and I were fortunate enough to be able to attend.  And we lived to tell about it.

DLD was scaled back this year from previous years, not suprising since they instituted a policy this year that attendees had to have a ticket to be on the facility's grounds.  There was not nearly as large of a crowd this year in the area surrounding the brewery's property.  In previous years, the party spilled over to the pond area on industrial property south of the brewery and across the drive to the huge grassy – make that muddy – field to the east.  I didn't see many barbeque grills going, bags games, or nearly as much congregating outside the brewery property. 

Inside the grounds we were packed like bleacher bums at Wrigley in July.  The famed beer tent where attendees share various brews with one another – always the highlight of Dark Lord Day and what makes it special – was much smaller.  In its place was a smaller such tent and a nearby food tent that allegedly had tacos although the line stretched for days.

Dark Lord Day is always best enjoyed if you go in a group of 4 or more, which we did.  You obviously need a designated driver if you plan on staying all day because there are too many beers to try, and one of our friends graciously accepted that role.  Also, you're going to be standing in line a heck of a long time and will want to bring a line buddy while your other pals wait with your food and guest beers. 

Every ten feet there's a line for something, all moving at snail's paces.  There's a taco line.  There's a line for the guest beers.  There's a never-moving line to get in to the brewery.  And, of course, there's the line for picking up Dark Lord.  Not to mention the line to buy Dark Lord by the cup outdoors which was probably somewhere on the premises but obscured by the crush of people. 

My biggest complaint concerns the guest beer tent.  As Josh posted on Foodies, a fantastic lineup of guest beers was featured, including Schlafly's Brewing whose heradled beer I've yet to try.  Unfortunately, the lines for the tent were allegedly an oppressive 2 1/2 hours which is just not worth it for a 12 ounce pour for a beer that might be gone when you arrive at the taps.  In the future, they need more guest beer stations and even more guest beers in order to cut down on wait times.  The new policy of organizing pick up times for Dark Lord into groups was clever, and the line seemed more manageable than in past years; but, make no mistake, this was a pretty long wait too.

All gripes aside, DLD was an undeniably fun affair.  People brought hundreds of beers for sharing and proudly offerered you their various brews from around the U.S. and the world.  You meet dozens of beer lovers, males and females, Boomers and twentysomethings, Chicago denizens, Ohioans, New Yorkers, Californians, from myriad careers and backgrounds.  The predicted rain stayed away.  We got to sit in lawn chairs for a good part of the afternoon, converse, try homemade cheddar squares, and drink varied delicious beers.  Home brewers brought their curious offerings in dark bottles for the daring to sample.   Only $5 got you an 8 ounce pour of the acclaimed Dreadnaught IPA, fresh from 300 feet away at the brewery.  As always, the staff at Three Floyds was friendly and cheerful despite the day's madness.

As for the beer responsible for all of this fanfare, the Dark Lord itself?   It delivered the goods as usual.  One sip recalls why the beer became so legendary in the first place.  The rich coffee, chocolate, licorice, and roasted grain flavors are, well, intoxicating.  We got to try some of its other variations, notably, a vanilla bean version and a bourbon version, although I found the standard concoction of Lord to be supreme. 

The one constant between previous DLD's and this year is the feeling I am left with. No, not inebriation from too much Dark Lord although it's a powerhouse of a beer.  I simply mean the feeling that the beer community is a special one whose members are high quality individuals.  It was great to congregate with them for a few hours to celebrate something that felt worthy of the hype. 

–Mark Sheppard