Monday, December 17, 2007

Surly Darkness

Surly is a small brewery near Minneapolis, MN. It was on my list of things to seek out during my trip to St. Paul, but didn't have time. I have gotten the chance to try some of their Coffee Bender at Beeradvocate's American Beer Fest a couple of summers ago and it was fantastic. This marked their "coming out party" so to speak as they were very new at that point and only distributed to MN. Since then their popularity has exploded (not necessarily because they participated in the American Beerfest, mind you, because they make fantastic beer).

On Saturday they released their annual Russian Imperial Stout, Darkness. They followed Three Floyds example and created a special day for its release with the intent of selling all the bottles at this one event. Apparently there was music and food along with all their regular beers on tap. Every Spring, Three Floyds has their Dark Lord Day . I guess the difference between the two is that Dark Lord Day has becom so big they're looking into off site locations to hold it because the lines have gotten so large. People travel from all across the country for this and turn the day into one big party and beer tasting event. Three Floyds wins by guaranteeing their Dark Lord will sell out at $15 a pop, not to mention all the other beer they sell that day. I guess the guys at Surly realized what a good thing this was and decided they wanted in the game.

The result of this was to create demand for the product that may not have existed otherwise. Now all of a sudden it has become the beer to obtain. If you glance at the beeradvocate and ratebeer trading forums, it seems every thread is devoted to looking for Darkness or figuring out what people are willing to give up for Darkness. The beer is seen as rare because only a select few were able to get it. The rarity seems to create a sense of demand for the product that wouldn't exist if it was more readily available and it keeps people interested in the breweries that hold these events (another example is The Angel's Share from Tomme Arthur at The Lost Abbey, which is also a hot commodity in the beer trading circles).

I'm not trying to make a value judgment about these breweries because, frankly, I think it makes great business sense. I guess what I don't understand are the people who feel such a need to try these beers. I've never had Dark Lord, or Darkness, or The Angel's Share, but I can't help thinking as I'm enjoying a more readily available imperial stout: "how much better could Darkness really be?" Is it really worth getting upset about not being able to try it? My answer is a resounding no. I'll continue to enjoy Southern Tier's Oat or Storm King or Smuttynose Imperial Stout and let other people arrive in Minneapolis at 2AM when it's below zero to wait for a beer that they must absolutely have. I guess I just don't understand this need people have to try everything. People even get mad at the monks of Westvleteren because they don't make more beer and distribute to the USA. Like the monks care about that. Sorry, but I'll wait until I make it to Belgium to drink Westvleteren...and if I never make it? I'll drink biggie.

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