24 November 2012

Road Trip: Surly Darkness Day

Jake Wrote:

On October 27, 2012, Surly Brewing in Minneapolis, MN held their sixth annual Darkness Day event. I attended last year and had a blast, so even though this year's event came in the middle of a crazy three months of travel, me and my buddy, Caleb Dann, loaded up my truck with coolers, tents, tables, beer to share, and some snacks for the trip north from Indy. The drive itself was supposed to take 10 hours, but we stopped at a couple of places in Chicago on the way and it took us 14-ish to get there.

For those that have not heard of Surly, they are one of the top breweries in the country in my opinion. However, due to the familiar capital and supply constraints, plus distribution choices, their beers do not make it far from Minneapolis. In addition to making kickass beers, they are all around good people that give back to the community through their "Surly Gives a Damn" program. Go to their website (Here) and read more.

When I attended in 2011, the place was an absolute zoo by 5am even though the gates do not open until 11am (We got there at 3am). Based on that knowledge, Caleb and I committed to camping out the night before with some coordination and warming hut help from my buddy, Scott, who does tours at Surly. When we arrived, I was completely shocked that the entire business park was full at 11pm. For those of you that have been to Three Floyds, imagine the entire area from the Floyds parking lot, through the Cul-De-Sac to the east, and to the Hospital at the front being full of cars, tents, and campfires 12 hours before it starts.

The night consisted of us walking up and down the line between our sitting spot and Scott's group at the front (They got there at 1pm on Friday). We did take a nap in the front seats of my truck from 2-5:30, but I am not sure how much that helped. At 6am, the Brewery workers came around with a bullhorn to wake everyone up and get them to pack up all of the tents. At 7:30am, we were instructed to line up to get our wrist bands. This was my most feared point, but we worked our way into the line and got our wristbands with ease.
As you can see, Surly made the incredible decision to divide the bottle sales into timed groups. This was a vast improvement on last year where the lines wrapped inside the brewery for quite a while with no bathroom available. We got through and got our bottles, plus the awesome carrying bag, with no issues and were able to enjoy a few samples and some music before we headed for the hotel to get some actual rest. 
The fest itself is a lot like Dark Lord Day, except you cannot bring in beer to share.They have special firkins available and tap Darkness on the hour from 11a on. You can also get all the Swag you need before they open the gates and at the store inside.

I am going to try to close out my posts about travel with a few tips, so let me know if they are helpful or if you want more info. I'm new here.

Would I do it Again? Probably. I feared this year would be when it hit the tipping point, but there were still wristbands available at 11am. It will be interesting to see what happens next year as there were some issues with the crowd from what I hear.

If you're going to do it:
- Plan your purchasing ahead. Minnesota does not allow carryout beer sales on Sunday, so you need to buy on your way in or on Saturday after the event (Not good). Also, the bottle sales and sample tickets are cash only. I would suggest $250-300.
- Minnesota is also cold in late October. Take handwarmers, extra layers, etc and find nice locals who have a fire/Space Heater/RV.
- Make a weekend of it. Avoid Chicago by stopping in Bloomington at Destihl, or go through Chicago and Hit the Half Acre tap room and Solemn Oath tap room on the way. Both routes put you through Madison as well for you New Glarus fans.
- Even if you do not get a wristband to buy bottles, go inside. If you talk to enough people, you will not go home empty handed. It is free to attend.

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