In the beginning, there was Darkness.
And the people said, "Let there be more Darkness."
And there was, and the people came to celebrate. They called it Surly Darkness Day, and every year thereafter beer lovers made the pilgrimage to the Minnesota brewery for the release of its Russian imperial stout.
The first batch of this blacker than black stout was brewed and sold without much to-do in 2006. Then in 2007, on the morning he was set to release the second ever batch of Darkness, Surly owner Omar Ansari arrived at the brewery to find a group of fans huddled around a fire, keeping warm in the mid-December cold and waiting for a chance to purchase the fresh brew.
The first Darkness Day was born.
In the ensuing years, Darkness Day became an official Surly event. It grew in size and scope until it was moved in 2018 from the Brooklyn Center production brewery to a larger venue in Somerset, Wisconsin.
This year, on Sept. 27 and Sept. 28, fans will gather at Somerset Amphitheater (495 Main St., Somerset, WI) once more to celebrate and drink the familiar beer and three variants: rum barrel-aged Double-Stuffed with vanilla bean and cacao; Mole aged in bourbon barrels with cinnamon and chili pepper; and the Old Fashioned aged in rye whiskey barrels with sweet orange peel.
You'll be able to purchase bottles of these flavor variants, but only at the Darkness Day event and only with a Saturday ticket or weekend pass. Prices range from $35 for admission to Saturday's event to $200 for a weekend pass plus six bottles of Darkness and variants (surlydarknessday.com).
The flavor experimentation doesn't end with these bottled brews. Event attendees will also have a chance to sample from kegs called "kilderkins" with one-off Darkness variants like S’Mores Darkness, Nutella Darkness and German Chocolate Cake Darkness. If you've found yourself at Darkness Day with a hankering for something other than Darkness, you can sample small-batch brews like Blood Orange Axe Man, Horchata Dark Phase, Rose with raspberries and lemon, Liquid Stardust with white grapes, One Man Mosh Pit double dry-hopped with El Dorado hop hash and Cynic with passion fruit, elderflower and white ash wood.
Surly is also releasing three exclusive canned beers at the event: a pilsner (Campground Beer), a hazy double IPA (At the End of the Internet) and an imperial kettle sour (None More Black). But they won't be the only brewery represented this weekend. They've invited 23 breweries from across the country (specifically ones who don't distribute in Minnesota or Western Wisconsin) to participate in a traditional beer festival on Friday night from 6-9 p.m.
As for the musical accompaniment, no Darkness Day would be complete without a lineup of metal bands, including Black Lips, the Blind Shake and God Came From Space, a local band that has performed at every Darkness Day since 2008.
The label designs for the bottles have also become part of the Darkness tradition, a showcase for terrible creatures: a grim reaper (2007), a devil (2008), a mummy (2009), Dracula (2010), a zombie (2011), a werewolf (2012), Brewcifer (2013), a harpy (2014), a vampire bat (2015), Cerberus (2016), Baba Yaga (2017) and a minotaur (2018). The label this year was drawn by artist Tim Chapman and features "a fearsome, unknowable six-limbed creature that is destroying the brewery."