Another year, another ambitious move for Surly Brewing.
The ever-popular Minneapolis brewery is just days away from putting on one of its biggest annual events: Darkness Day. The mega-party has been held at Surly’s original Brooklyn Center brewery site for 10 years, celebrating the once-a-year release of its acclaimed Russian imperial stout, Darkness. For Surly fans, it’s sort of like Christmas – but with heavy metal bands and a lot of dark beer.
But just as Surly outgrew its old brewery, Darkness Day is moving to a much bigger location this weekend. The outdoor concert/drink-a-thon will take place at the Somerset Amphitheater in Somerset, Wis., on Friday and Saturday (Sept. 28-29). (About 35 miles east of the Twin Cities.)
“Simply put, we ran out of room at the Brooklyn Center brewery,” said Surly owner Omar Ansari. “Cramming that many people and that many campers into an industrial park was a study in chaos and a credit to the very tolerant businesses who share the neighborhood with us. We looked at a lot of places when we decided to move it, and selected Somerset Amphitheater because of the countless benefits.”
About 4,000 people attended last year’s Darkness Day, which is part concert, part beer-buying extravaganza. About 9,000 bottles of Darkness were sold at the 2017 party, with people given wristbands to stand in line to purchase. The bottle-purchasing process will be different this year: People will need to buy bottle packages in advance of Darkness Day (Surly will have 1,500 ticket packages available; each package has at least three bottles of Darkness. Go here to get your ticket. Though, you can buy tickets to the festivities sans bottle.)
Here’s what else to expect at the new Darkness Day(s):
– The flagship Darkness beer is packed with rich, chocolatey flavor and clocks in at a whopping 12% ABV (this year’s design is a minotaur escaping a labyrinth by Twin Cities-based artist Michael Iver Jacobsen). This year, for the first time, Surly also is releasing three Darkness “variants,” including a bottle of bourbon barrel-aged cherry vanilla, a rum barrel-aged coconut and a fernet barrel-aged (the fernet barrels are from Minneapolis’ Tattersall). (See the bottles in the top photo.)
– Another first: The event also will feature more than 60 guest breweries. There will be a tapping schedule with pints available for purchase. Expect local favorites and many from elsewhere, such as Half Acre (Chicago), Mikerphone (Chicago), Cigar City (Tampa) and Sixpoint (Brooklyn).
– Two days of bands, mostly metal, or as Surly describes it: “traditionally dark music” to match the dark beer. Bands include: Carcass, Murder City Devils, Off With Their Heads and other names that will make Grandma shudder.
– In the past, one of the most talked about parts of Darkness Day was the “secret” bottle share that took place the night before. Attendees would bring their rare and/or favorite beers, sharing how these bottles ended up in their collections. This year, attendees can officially share info about what they’re bringing. The brewery has even created a website where people can share what they are bringing and what they’re searching for. See here.
– Getting to Somerset: The brewery has added shuttles from the main Minneapolis brewery to Somerset on Sat., Sept. 29. The shuttle is $15 round trip, departing at 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.
– The ticket tiers: $35 general admission (includes both days, campground access). $120 includes admission, three bottles of 2018 Darkness, four beer tokens. $200 includes one bottle each of three Darkness variants, three bottles of 2018 Darkness, four beer tokens. There’s also a $25 camping upgrade that includes access to one electrical campground for your RV.
Friday: Campgrounds open at noon, gates at 5 p.m.
Saturday: Box office opens at 10 a.m., gates at 11 a.m.
Where: Somerset Amphitheater, 495 Main St., Somerset, Wis.
More info: surlydarknessday.com