by Matt Kuhnen
For those of you who have attended Dark Lord Day (DLD) you’re familiar with the good, the bad, and the ugly that comes with attending the annual fest celebrating the release of Three Floyds Dark Lord. The Good: Bottle sharing, constantly rotating taps, metal bands, food, and the moment when you finally get to wrap your grubby little hands around the elusive Russian Imperial Stout that is Dark Lord. The Bad: Lines, lines, and more lines. The Ugly: 10,000 extremely drunk people, the elements (this is a rain or shine event), and last but not least, when one of these extremely drunk people inevitably drops their allotment of Dark Lord seconds after receiving it. Ouch.
My DLD was somewhat different. I traded my beer geek badge for a red t-shirt with a swashbuckling skull and the word MINION splashed below it. Upon doing so I committed myself to serve The Dark Lord for the next 12-14 hours, no questions asked. This is a day in the life of a Dark Lord Minion.
7:00 AM – Fellow soon to be Minions gather at my house. We have about an hour before duty calls. Naturally, we open Pentagram – Surly Brewing (6.66% ABV) to kill the time. This well balanced sour, yet earthy beer puts a spring in our step. I kiss my wife and children goodbye, and disappear into the horizon. There is a chill in the air as it begins to drizzle. The Dark Lord has risen.
8:05 AM – We arrive at the brewery with specific instructions on where to park. After fucking up these instructions, we find the designated Minion parking and we head into the brew pub for breakfast. Along the way we notice there is already a healthy line of people popping bottles, chatting, and trying to stay dry. We nod our heads in approval as we identify a few “whales” being shared. This is the first of many lines these people will encounter today.
9:00 AM – All of the Minions are summoned to the brewery for work assignments. There’s roughly a 100 of us this year, and we’re all eager to learn where we’ll be stationed. Considering its 40 degrees and raining at this point, I hope for bottle sales over draught sales. All the draught sale duties are announced and wave of relief washes over me. Although you can haul in some hefty tips on the draught line, I prefer the comforts of the brewery that bottle sales has to offer.
10:00 AM – Finally all Minions have been assigned work duty. We patiently await instructions from Rob, our boss for the day. Rob is intense to say the least, but this out of necessity which I completely respect. After all, he is in charge of making sure everyone who is entitled an allotment of Dark Lord receives it in a timely and orderly fashion, as well as collecting all the cash and making sure us Minions don’t do anything stupid. Last time I checked the phrase “timely and orderly” is not synonymous with “drunk and confused”, so I listen closely to Rob’s direction. Rob proceeds to explain all the scenarios in which someone may try to get more than one allotment of Dark Lord. His answer to these scenarios echoes, “Only one allotment of Dark Lord per person”. Even though this may sound like a simple answer to a myriad of situations, it’s good to know that Rob is there to pass ruling on all questionable situations. Rob, if you’re reading this, you’re the man!
10:30 AM Session A – Release the Kracken! Beer nerds from near and far flood the brewery with bright eyes and wide smiles despite the fact they’re numb from the cold and rain. Mass confusion also settles in. “Where do I go? What do I do with this golden ticket? Did I win? Can you help me scratch my ticket golden ticket?” they feverishly ask. I feel for these people. I’m usually one of these people, but today I am on the other side, and my goal is to sell them their beer as quickly as possible with the same enthusiasm as they have to buy it. This is where the fun begins. “Beer here! Beer here! Step up! Step up!” I find myself shouting to grab their attention. “Four bottles per person. That’s going to be $80” I explain to my first customer. He wrestles to get his wallet free as he’s soaked head to toe from the rain. Fingers blue, he is literally peeling back a ball of sopping wet twenties. We finally make the exchange and he is on his way. “NEXT!” I yell like the Soup Nazi. The pace is fast and furious and that’s the way we like it. Soon session A is over and it’s time for a beer and a quick bite. I grab a Dark Lord hot dog which is actually a pork sausage with pickled red onions, brown mustard, and red pepper aioli. I wash this down with a Permanent Funeral -Three Floyds Brewing (10.5% ABV), a big double IPA with tons of citrus hop flavor and a balanced malt profile. Free of charge with my cool new Minion t-shirt.
12:30 PM Session B – Our short lived break is ended by a stampede of debauchery. Session B is well lubricated, and once again the confusion sets in. By now I have my sales pitch down to a few sentences which is half instructions, half information. “You need to scratch off that ticket. If it says “Yes”, you can buy a Dark Lord Variant on your way out. I can sell you four bottles of Dark Lord here for $80”. It’s visibly apparent the rain has not let up, but everyone seems to be in good spirits. I take a selfie with a guy from Brazil, high five a father and son team, and watch a first timer with a winning scratch off shed real tears of joy. These positive interactions not only begin to fill our tip jar we’ve strategically placed in front of us (Draught sales are not the only folks scoring tips today!), but also make the experience of finally purchasing Dark Lord a positive one. Once again my thirst compels me to sneak away for a few moments to grab a beer. I choose Baller Stout – Three Floyds Brewing (13.80% ABV), a blended Russian Imperial Stout made from Dark Lord –Three Floyds Brewing (15% ABV), Darkness – Surly Brewing (10.30% ABV), Black Albert – De Struise Brouwers (13.00%), and Beer Geek Brunch – Mikkeller (10.90%). This was brewed in honor of Three Floyds’ 15th anniversary and it is drinking super smooth with a big roasty-chocolatey-boozy notes. I also grab a 2015 Dark Lord (15% ABV), because I can.
2:30 PM Session C – By now it seems that word has gotten around on what to expect when purchasing Dark Lord. I am doing less explaining, and people actually have their cash out and ready to go. On the flip side, up to this point in the day I have seen multiple people drop their bottles. Please note, do not try and pick up your broken bottles of Dark Lord. One long haired gentleman learned the hard way and was sent off to the medic with sticky blood covered hands. One guy bought his four bottles, then forgot to take them with him. It’s heart breaking. Time for a few more beers. I visit my favorite beer tent which is coincidentally located steps from the brewery, and wait all of 30 seconds to get my beers. My red Minion t-shirt proving its worth once again. I order Deesko -Three Floyds Brewing (6.50% ABV), a Berliner Weissbier with a bready nose and a clean, crisp tart finish. I like this one! I also grab Big Freedia – Three Floyds Brewing (6.50% ABV), a strawberry Belgian IPA named after the New Orleans hip-hop-bounce act playing the second stage that evening. Strawberry and other fruit notes shine through quite nicely with a semi-dry finish.
4:30 PM Session D – Feet don’t fail me now! Just as fatigue begins to set in a fellow Minion taps me on the shoulder and tosses me a cold PBR – Pabst Brewing Company (4.74% ABV). I know what you’re thinking, but as I popped the top and took a huge slug off this crisp lager I felt revitalized. Hipster Gatorade to the rescue. I down a brisket taco, and I’m ready to go! By now the rain has stopped and party goers are starting to dry out. I see a couple of familiar faces in the form of ManBQue founding members Jesse “The Godfather” Valenciana and John “Death Toll” Scholl. They look weathered, but their spirits are high. After scratching their golden tickets and seeing the word “No” staring back at them, I quickly remember a guy from Group A who didn’t want his winning golden ticket. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. I happily slide it to The Godfather. Death Toll Scholl drops a dollar into the tip bucket (what a class act), we exchange pleasantries, and they’re on their way. By far the best customers of the day!
6:30 PM Group E – These people are drunk. I am starting to catch a little bit of a buzz myself as I sip on a Yum Yum – Three Floyds Brewing (5.50% ABV), a hopped up American Pale Ale. I pair this with a chipotle bacon cheeseburger and continue to crank through the line in between bites. Around 8:00 PM the flow of people starts to die down a bit. I notice a guy out of the corner of my eye swaying back and forth. He is wearing a hooded Fresh Prince of Bel Air jump suit and squinting down at his phone as if he lost his glasses. A brewery worker kindly guides him to our table where we go back and forth on whether he is actually going to purchase beer or not. “I have to buy beer?!” he slurs. “Can’t I just hang out here for a while?” This guy is a douche. After a few exchanges, he reluctantly purchases four bottles of Dark Lord and is quietly escorted out.
8:30 PM – The bottle sales have concluded for the day and I finally sit my tired ass down. As a reward for all my hard work a sip on a Barrel Aged Owd Engwish Barleywine -Three Floyds Brewing (12.20% ABV). Flavors of vanilla, caramel, bourbon, and berries dance on my tongue. This is delicious! One of the head Minions pools up the tips for the day and we all get an extra $52…Score! We retire to the brew pub for the comforts of a chair and some tall boys of Vander Mill Hard Apple Cider (6.90% ABV). This is a crisp and refreshing change of pace after all the beer. About an hour later we’re summoned once again to the brewery to turn in our banks and collect our pay. In addition to the tips, we are paid a flat $300 for our services. This is also the moment where we get to purchase our bottles Dark Lord! Four bottles was the limit for the day, but at the end of the night there is only enough left over for one bottle per Minion. This is a little disappointing at first, but then I remember it’s only beer, and I belong to a strong community of beer nerds always willing to share.
10:00 PM – I take a lap around the nearly empty grounds and catch the last song from Corrosion of Conformity. The remains of the biggest bottle share event in the country litter folding tables and over filled trash cans. I can only imagine the array of rare beers that were poured. We leave the festival grounds exhausted, but wired from the excitement of the day. Thankfully we have a designated driver for the night and we arrive home safely – drunker, and slightly richer than when the day started, and with another Dark Lord to add to the collection.