Good Beer and Good Books

The first-generation Surly Darkness, brewed in early 2006, was rated the third-best beer in the world on It seems that last-year’s production slipped a bit, as Darkness is now rated #5 among the world’s beers. Regardless of its current rank, it remains the highest-rated beer that can be purchased in Minnesota and by far the highest-rated beer brewed in Minnesota.

So, when I heard that the Acadia Cafe, over in Minneapolis, would be tapping a keg of 2006 Darkness for their grand opening, I figured I ought to taste what all the craze was about. After failing to rouse Andy from his “other plans” (which seemed to involve a girl and some potential romance), I gobbled down an overly large dish of Malaysian curry chicken and squeezed into the standing-room-only confines of the cafe, only to learn that I would have to wait another 40 minutes for them to tap the keg. Under normal circumstances, having extra time in a place eager to serve me very good beer of many varieties would be a good thing, but given my present need to drive home after consuming beer, I had to watch and wait as more and more people crammed in, eager to pay $5 for a little glass of Darkness. Eventually, Todd from Surly brewery arrived, tapped his keg, and started pouring as the throng of people ceased their alcohol-enhanced milling about and pushed toward the bar as one, eyes on Todd, imagining the taste of his award-winning hop-filled concoction. I got in a slow line and waited about a half-hour, all the time wondering exactly when that little keg would run dry. But the keg held out, and I got my Darkness.

I am not a great beer critic, but I can say that Darkness is one of the best–perhaps the very best–beer I have tasted. By style, it is an Imperial Stout, the “king of beers” made with thick, roasted malts and extra sugars, fermented to a high alcohol concentration, and aged to allow the flavor to develop. But Surly made the bold step of adding plenty of high-alpha hops–about the same amount as in an IPA–with the result being a pitch-black, well-balanced, almost syrupy beer well deserving of its reputation. I probably wouldn’t wait in line for a half hour again, but if I ever find Surly Darkness for sale, you can bet I will be stocking up.

Aside from drinking beer, transcribing, and attempting to find a job, I have been reading the extremely-absorbing Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix–so absorbing in fact that I finished the entire 1500+ pages in about three days. Now I either need to find some more good fantasy or go back to meatier, more realistic books about social ills, the environment, or consciousness.

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