Thursday, September 19, 2013

Dark Lord: Revisited

First off, big thank you to Parker!

I've never been to Dark Lord Day at Three Floyds. Its been at the tippy top of my bucket list since I first got my hands on a bottle of Dark Lord 2012. Sadly, before this weekend it was the only year I'd tasted, and I liked it so much, that it became the stout that I judged all other stouts against. Now its been a long time since I've had it, so my memory was a little bit shaky but it just tasted so good.

So this past weekend I was able to try six years of Dark Lord at a bottleshare with some awesome and crazy experienced Indy beer geeks (thanks to Parker for the invite and bringing the vertical). Dark Lord is an incredibly difficult to get Russian Imperial Stout by Three Floyds. It is only released on one day a year, and you have to get tickets just to be able to buy it. Its highly collectible and totally cellarable. We lined up Dark Lord from 08, 09, 10, 11, 12, and 13 that have been aged by Parker.  Each one has a color coded wax seal so you can tell what year the bottle is from (2008 has black wax, 2009 has white wax, 2010 has olive green wax, 2011 has yellow wax, 2012 has red wax and 2013 has orange wax).

I ranked them as follows:

1st - 09
2nd - 11
3rd - 08
4th - 10
5th - 13
6th - 12

Most of the tasters agreed that the 2009 and the 2011 were the two best years for Dark Lord. The 2009 was my favorite. It was still big and boozy, but the sweetness was tempered by some nice spicy hops and great boozy heat. It was well balanced and really stood out as being outstanding. The 2011 was great but there was more dark chocolate flavor with a solid hint of bitterness. The 9, 11, 08 and 10 were really solid 5 head beers. The 13 will be amazing in about three years but was still pretty great now.

Since I've already done a review of 2012 Dark Lord, I wasn't planning to talk about it much. I mean what more can I say about the greatest beer I'd ever had, right... Well I found out something interesting. As you drink different craft beers and try new styles, your pallet stretches and evolves. You learn to like more subtle qualities in your beer. On top of that like with some ex girlfriends the memory can be way better than the reality.  Unfortunately, the 2012 was my least favorite of all six years. It was the sweetest, almost like a sledgehammer of flavor on your tongue. I still enjoyed it, and it was a solid 4.5, but I was shocked to have my bubble burst so quickly. At first, I figured it was because the beer was a little bit fresh, maybe it needed some time to age a bit and let the sugar and booze flavor mellow out, but that wasn't just the case because the 13 had better nuances to it.

From what we can tell the beer recipe hasn't changed too much. Each one tasted mostly the same as the last just with subtle differences in the flavors that were shinning through. These can be explained by differences in grain and hop crops or changes in their equipment at FFF. All in, this is rated as one of the best beers in the world, and no matter what bottle or year you get it really does not disappoint. The beer is big bold but still nuanced enough to really get you excited. The general consensus was 3 to 5 years of cellaring will probably do wonders for the beer and let it get even more complex. I am excited to have a few of the newer bottles sitting at home right now.

I can't say enough about the guys we were drinking with. You know you are with A+ beer people when there is a line to take pictures of the bottle, and there are people getting pictures of people getting pictures of the bottle (so meta). One of the guys runs a blog, Beer Daddy Blog which really is a fun read and another runs Hop Glass which showcases some really cool glassware. Andrew, the head brewer from the Ram showed up for a bit and Cy from Flat 12. Thanks again to Parker for setting it all up. It was great to meet everyone else. I can't wait to do it again. Best wishes and Cheers!


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  2. I only got to go to Dark Lord once, 2009, and I have to agree that year was the best - by far for me. They have changed the format of Dark Lord Day since I went, and it seems (so I have been told) some of the heart/spirit of the event just isn't the same. I am looking to get back east in time for the next one, so I hope to see for myself.