In fact DLD 2009 was a damn good time, despite the cold, wet turn the weather took late in the day.
My girlfriend and I rode one of the Quenchers buses to Munster. Each ticket was $20, and included free pizza at the bar before we left and a couple bottled beers on the road–the bus was definitely the way to go for us, since we didn’t have to find parking, stay sober enough to drive, or pay for a rental car.
We didn’t arrive till about 2:15 PM, at which point Three Floyds‘ famous Dark Lord Russian imperial stout had been on sale for more than three hours. But we sailed through the line for bottled Dark Lord in 45 minutes or so–a huge improvement over 2008, when we waited for five hours only to be told the bottles would run out before we got to the head of the line. (I heard that in the morning the wait was more like three hours, which made me feel even better about spending that time eating pizza and drinking Left Hand Juju Ginger on a school bus.)
That’s my haul pictured above–six bottles of Dark Lord (white wax this year, and metallic labels–about the only way they could get more metal than they already were), three of the new Dogfish Head/FFF collaboration Popskull (which I haven’t tried yet), and two of Dreadnaught, just because it was cheaper at the brewery and I love it so. My two DLD Golden Tickets entitled me to eight bottles of Dark Lord, but I figured 11 22-ounce bombers was quite enough to be hauling around for the rest of the day.
The relatively brisk speed at which the bottle line moved appeared to be due to the much larger number of staffers inside selling and packing beer. The brewpub line, on the other hand, was just as ridiculous as last year. The indoor menu looked great–mussels steamed in Gumballhead with bacon, fennel, celery, garlic, and dried chili!–but because I am not patient enough I had to be content with a pulled-pork sandwich and some coleslaw from the tables outside.
Thanks to a generous friend, though, I got to try two draughts from inside the pub. Omeganaught is a small beer brewed from what the menu calls the “second runnings” of Dreadnaught, and mellows all the flavors of that brew except the bitterness, leaving it with an impressive afterbite. Hyena is a Belgian-style pale ale that, like Black Sun stout, demonstrates Three Floyds’ talent for integrating a fruity hop zing into styles that aren’t usually associated with it. I liked Hyena at least as much as the Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel, which attempts something similar.
The highlight of the event for me turned out to be the taps just inside the brewery doors, opposite the merch table piled with T-shirts and hoodies. There was never much of a line, and crazy small-batch beers just kept showing up all day. (Given how strong many of them were, I am lucky to have survived.) I started with the Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout, aged in wine barrels that’d been used to store maple syrup. This is a heretical thing to say in a review of Dark Lord Day, but I think it might now be my favorite stout in the universe. And I’m not alone: read the reviews at Beer Advocate. Of course, Dark Lord remains extraordinary–the 2009 is less syrupy than the 2008 but just as complex, with notes of brandy, burnt dates, chocolate, coffee, plums, pralines, and more–so let’s just call the Canadian Breakfast a new crush.
The bourbon-barrel Behemoth brewed with cherries (I misunderstood somebody and for quite some time labored under the misconception that it was sherry finished) had a surprising evergreen kick, which I suspect is what my confused palate made out of the combo of whiskey and sour fruit. Far more straightforwardly satisfying was the Surly Tea Bagged Furious, a double-dry-hopped version of the brewery’s already impressive Furious IPA: candied grapefruit, mandarin orange, pine resin, peat moss, sweet biscuity malts, basically everything you could want in the style.
The last thing I tried was Stone‘s Arrogant Bastard strong ale, finished in bourbon barrels (I missed the brandy version by minutes), and I’ll be honest, I barely remember it. My reporting skills decline in direct proportion to the number of 10+ percent ABV beers I’ve sampled.
I’d be remiss not to give props to the bands, especially since several of them had to load out in the rain–it started in earnest shortly before dark. I caught great sets by four Chicago acts: Pelican, Bible of the Devil, the Waco Brothers, and Sybris. Everybody sounded surprisingly clear despite the cavernous space, thanks no doubt to engineer extraordinaire Elliot Dicks.
The verdict? At this point last year the future of Dark Lord Day may have looked pretty grim, but it has most definitely not jumped the shark.