I can’t remember any of their names, but they are all my best friends. That’s how I regard the thousands of beer geeks who made the pilgrimage to Munster, Ind., for the annual Dark Lord Day. Not the Satanist convention it sounds like, Dark Lord Day is a holy grail trek for people like me. It’s the one-day release of Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout, a 13 percent ABV beer that ranks among the highest-rated and hardest to find beers in the craft world.
After flying into Chicago’s Midway Airport (so named because it is midway between Albuquerque and Chicago; it takes forever to get anywhere from that place), I was inching my way from one red light to another along Cicero Boulevard, singing “Where the hell’s the liquor store?” to every song on the radio. There’s a great beer store on that street, Kenwood Liquors, that I finally stocked up at before hitting I-294. After mistakenly bypassing the toll booth via the E-ZPass lane, I drove into Munster toward my hotel.
The night before the main event is a beer-nerd fest of its own, with guys gathering in the parking lot or one of the rooms, jamming out to Billy Ocean, and trading rare beer vintages. I visited one of these parties and it reminded me of a bachelor party without the strippers, though no one here cared. I poured a Marble DIPA for the gatherers and was showered with dollar bills for my effort.
Noon Saturday, armed with my rolling cooler of beers, I arrived at Three Floyds Brewery, home of Dark Lord. Since people arrive at dawn for this, the line was stretched way down the block to buy the sacred beer. Since I had paid online to guarantee myself eight bottles as long as I purchased them by 5 p.m., I passed that crowd and made my way to the communal tasting tables.
The tables are where the real action is. They’re loaded down by all the beers I dream of and ogle online but can’t try here in Albuquerque. The folks here may be considered nerds, but they’re generous ones, with people gladly setting out beer after beer for a sampling buffet. It’s a food buffet as well, showcasing local goodies like my Wisconsin buddies’ fresh cheese curds and brats. I came armed with that Marble DIPA, plus a 2008 Santa Fe State Pen Imperial Porter, Chama River’s High Five Barleywine and a 2009 Anastasia Russian Imperial Stout. “Moderation” is my middle name, but “Screw” is my first, and when I put them together, I can’t remember my last name—so I tried anything I could find and made a note of each in my trusty notebook. And of course, I misplaced the book somewhere at the fest. When will I embrace technology like an actual nerd and use my phone or an iPad to take notes? No matter—my thirst was sated for another year, and the rest of the geeks are back at home using their math skills to concoct more great beer for the next go-round.