WHY GO TO MICHIGAN AT 4:00 AM?
With scores of diverse and bold beers on tap, a battle of the bands, and an eclectic mix of offerings such as elk ribs, muscat brains, and Rocky Mountain oysters, the party to celebrate the first tapping of a Marshall Michigan brewer’s limited release holiday beer, may e reason enough for a beer lover to take a trip to Dark Horse Brewing. On top of all that, DH offered a battle of the bands and the sale of bottles, such as Bourbon Barrel Aged Plead the Fifth and Barrel Aged Monster 29, an imperial barley wine. These beers in particular sell out quickly, meaning you get in line early or get left in the cold.
And cold it was. Arriving around 7:30 AM, we approached an already winding line in a cold rain. Despite having left at 4:00 AM, our place was over 50 deep in the queue, and the temperature dropped every hour. We had some time to wait until 11:00 when tickets were handed out, assigning your spot in line for the beer buying at 3:00. Thankfully, the line was packed full of friendly beer geeks, ready to share a bottle or two of some rare tipple they had acquired along the way. the rain turned into snow, but we all felt warmer with the convivial atmosphere and delicious samples warming our souls.
Following the passing out of numbered tickets for those wanting to buy beer later, there was a three hour lull. This might of been a good time for a nap, or in our case, some well needed lunch. Food at the cozy Dark Horse bar was a tasty mix of pizza and garlic bread. While none of the special party beers were on tap at this time, I got to sample the delicious Thirsty Trout Porter, a Baltic Porter. Don’t recall seeing this one at my local shops, but try it if you can find it!
At 3:00 another lined formed for those buying beer, and the party started inside the brewery. Lots to be had:
Special Bottled Beer Release Availability:
2011 4 Elf Winter Ale: 19 cases / 2 – 4 pack limit – $13 a 4 pack/$4 a bottle
2012 4 Elf Winter Ale: 180 cases – no limit – $70 a case/$12 a 4 pack/$3.50 a bottle
2011 BBL Plead the 5th: 9 cases / 1 – 4 pack limit – $26 a 4 pack/$7 a bottle
2012 BBL Plead the 5th: 432 cases / 2 case limit – $130 a case/$22 a 4 pack/$6 a bottle
Monster 29 (Imperial Barleywine): 37 cases/1 – 4 pack limit – $26 a 4 pack/$7 a bottle
BBL Monster 29 (Imperial Barleywine): 73 cases (375 ml bottles)/2-4 pack limit – $30 a 4 pack/ $8 a bottle
MMMMM (Chocolate Rye Porter – (Rye Whiskey BBL Aged): 33 cases (750ml Bottles)/3 bottle limit – $15 a bottle
Ginger in Your Pants (Imperial Red – Rye Whiskey BBL Aged): 33 Cases (750 ml bottles)/3 bottle limit – $15 a bottle
Militiagan (Potable Oat Wine – Angels Envy BBL Aged): 33 cases (750ml bottles)/3 bottle limit – $15 a bottle
King of the forest: 67 cases (750ml bottles)/4 bottle limit – $15 a bottle
Aigre Plead the 5th: 33 cases (750ml bottles)/3 bottle limit – $15 a bottle
Whiskey Richard: 33 cases (750ml bottles)/3 bottle limit -$15 a bottle
Lambeak wants dragon fruit: 33 cases (750ml bottles)/3 bottle limit – $16 a bottle
Lambeak wants blood orange: 33 cases (750ml bottles)/3 bottle limit – $16 a bottle
- Crooked Tree IPA 2. Raspberry Ale 3. Amber Ale 4. Boffo Brown Ale 5. Reserve Special Black Ale 6. ONE Oatmeal Stout 7. TOO Cream Stout 8. TRES Blueberry Stout 9. Plead the 5th Imperial Stout 10. Bourbon Barrel Plead the 5th 11. Monster 29 12. Bourbon Monster 29 13. Thirsty Trout Porter 14. Scotty Karate Scotch Ale 15. KBE Dark Horse Volume II (coconut raspberry porter) 16. Tall, Dark, and Crunchy’s 17. Death Star Lover 18. Artic Dekoorc Eert 19. Ollirama Dekoorc Eert 20. Sc-7 Dekoorc Eert 21. GingeRed 22. Militiagan 23. Ginger in yer Pants 24. MMMM 25. HomoBourbonSapien 26. Whiskey Richard 27. Lambeek wants Dragonfruit 28. Lambeek wants Passionfruit 29. Perkulator Coffee Dopplebock 30. Aigre Plead the 5th 31. King of the Forrest 32. Sour 3 Guy off the Scale Old Ale 33. Lost Droid Chenstnut Porter 34. Wassupwiththemonkey Blueberry Ale 35. F.F. Dekoorc Eert 36. Edacsac Dekoorc Eert 37. Belgianator Belgian IPA 38. Bourbon MMMM 39. Sarsaparilla 666 Stout 40. Sahti 41. Westy Wendell’s West Coast Wheat 42. 4 Elf 2011 43. 4 Elf 2012 44. Kmita Kolsch 45. MBG 15 Ann’y Ale 46. Bourbon Militagan
Of the draft beers I tried, Dark Star Lover, a raspberry chocolate stout aged in oak barrels was an amazing mix of flavors, possibly the best beer Dark Horse brews. Other stand outs were the odd but fun Ginger in your Pants, hop variants on their Crooked Tree IPA (named backwards as in ‘Ollirama Dekoorc Eert’), and the tasty chocolate based MMMM. The lambics were not to my liking, unfortunately. Best part of the sampling was that we were able to do it while waiting in the very slow line.
But we didn’t rise at 3:00 AM for just a party, no matter how fun the tap list. Bourbon Barrel Aged Plead the Fifth is the prize I was after, and at our spot in line, I had no problem getting some, along with some Monster 29, BA Monster 29, Ginger in Your Pants, and MMMM… Mission accomplished.
But was it worth the cold temps, early rising, and long day? If your only enjoyment will come from scoring bottles, the costs may out weigh the benefits. There were a number of people that were shutout from some or even all of the beers they were hoping to buy. But if you are there to take in the massive selection of delicious drafts, try some succulent, obscure creatures, and hang with pleasant locals and generous beer geeks, the Dark Horse 4 Elf Party is a great event. One I will hopefully be returning to next year.