Surly Darkness Day Moves States, Keeps Its Metal Spirit

Photos courtesy Surly Brewing Co.

We love metal and we love craft beer at Decibel, something we don’t limit to just our own Metal & Beer Festivals. That’s why we had to find out more when Surly Brewing Company announced that they had moved their annual Darkness Day event—a celebration for the release of their extremely-limited Darkness Russian imperial stout—from their home of Minneapolis to Somerset Wisconsin and scored grindcore/death metal gods Carcass as the headliner, plus support from Sick of it All, Modern  Life is War, Decibel faves Khemmis, Murder City Devils and more.

Growing from a small gathering of 100 people who just wanted to acquire the limited beer, Darkness Day reflects the love for both extreme music and good beer that the staff at Surly hold. We learned a few things—a conversation with regional sales manager Cory Just can be read below—including the knowledge that the move to Wisconsin allows Darkness Day to include a legal bottle swap, giving beer nerds from around the country to enjoy rare beers. Check out the full conversation below, and be sure to grab your tickets to Darkness Day (September 28 & 29) here.

Has music and extreme music always been a part of the Surly brewery? 

We’ve done collaboration beers in the past. We did a collaboration with Amon Amarth, Uncle Acid, Pig Destroyer. We’ve always done collaborations with bands that we love just on small scale stuff, like if they were coming through town we’d brew a specialty beer for them just available at that show then we’d have it at the brewery.

We do all kinds of shows at our brewery too, outside of the metal and hardcore punk genres, but Darkness Day has always been for us and me personally, that’s always gonna be where our core is and what we want to do. Obviously featuring metal, punk and hardcore is really important to us for that day.

The Darkness is a Russian imperial stout and there are variants of it that are specific to Darkness Day? 

In the past, we’ve done a barrel-aged version of Darkness which was always aged in whiskey barrels that we released laster in the year, but this is the first time ever that we’re doing variants available at Darkness day. We’re doing three different variants, all barrel-aged.

Three different variants available as well as the original Darkness Russian imperial stout on Darkness Day.

You can only get the variants at Darkness Day?
Yup, that’s the only place they’ll be available.
How do you go about choosing who’s gonna play? Do they have to have some correlation to craft beer already, is it just bands you really like? 

We’ve always in the past reached out to bands we love. Last year, Toxic Holocaust, Khemmis, Ghost Bath and a couple other local bands played. Prior to that we’ve had Goatwhore play, Revocation, Exhumed, so it was always bands we really liked and we know that with moving it to Wisconsin this year, we needed it to be bigger in scope and because we have a much larger space and there’s a lot more hype, we really wanted to up the ante on that.

We started reaching out to bands we love and one thing for me that’s really important—my favorite fest that I go to every year, Maryland Deathfest and Psycho Las Vegas, there’s really a curation behind it in that there’s bands that play out of Maryland that you haven’t listened to in 20 or 30 years and you’re like “How the fuck did they get on this bill?” Evan and Ryan do such a great job of curating that fest and really surprising you and the same thing goes with Psycho Vegas.

That’s what we try to do with Darkness Day and especially this year. Carcass being a headliner was huge for us.

Say you’re a Carcass super fan, is this the kind of fest that if you’re not someone who drinks—maybe you’re straightedge and a Sick of it All or Modern Life is War fan—is this the kind of fest that you could go for Saturday or to see Modern Life is War play on Friday and still feel like you’re not super out of place?
At Surly, we’re all about the experience and the best beers I’ve ever had—I was just telling someone the other day. This past weekend in was like 90 degrees and humid as fuck. Someone handed me a Miller Lite and I haven’t had a Miller Lite in like 20 years. I had it and I was like “Holy shit, this fucking beer is awesome! I can’t believe it!” and then I bought a six pack on Monday, tried it and was like “Oh man, it was all about the experience at the time I had the beer and everything.”So that’s what we’re always trying to create at Surly, that experience. Beer is a part of that experience. That’s why we exist, to make great beer, but if you’re not a craft beer fan and you just want to come out for the show, that’s perfect because the more people the better. The more people that have the experience, the more walks of life that come there, you’re brought up being straightedge, come out to the show. No one is gonna force you to drink. Come out to the show and have fun, because the show is just as important to us this year as the beer is. We booked these bands because we love them and we want other people to experience these bands who may not have ever heard of them before.