Darkness Day 2020 - On Hiatus

Discussion in 'Midwest' started by SudsSavant, Feb 27, 2020.

  1. SudsSavant

    SudsSavant Aspirant (244) Jan 9, 2007 Minnesota

    Well, it looks like Surly's throwing their lot in to having the Minnesota beer laws revamped to let them sell beer directly from the brewery.


    Here's the verbiage of their communication:

    Regarding Darkness Day

    Darkness Day is over. For now, at least.

    The annual celebration of our legendary Russian imperial stout is officially on hiatus. The move from Brooklyn Center to Somerset, WI, while necessary to keep it safe and create a better experience, also made it very apparent that this event needs to happen here in Minnesota. And, since the laws prohibit us from doing so, it won’t be happening.

    The craft beer industry is changing, and we need to change with it. Craft breweries outside of our state are growing through more options to sell beer, including directly to their customers. These opportunities are limited in Minnesota.

    The Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild is working to change our current laws and give consumers more choices. Currently, laws prohibit breweries that brew more than 20,000 barrels to sell growlers directly to consumers. The new bill would allow these sales, regardless of brewery size. We need to work with the Guild and our local legislators toward this end, hoping to give craft beer drinkers this option.

    Put plainly: We want to sell Darkness bottles for you to take home from the Destination Brewery. Once we can, Darkness Day will return to Minnesota at our Destination Brewery.

    Surly Nation changed the law before. It’s time to do it again. Even with change, some traditions will remain: We’ll keep brewing Darkness, a local artist will design the bottles (see below), you’ll find Darkness in local liquor stores, and we’ll continue to raise a toast with all of you. Cheers.

  2. islay

    islay Disciple (333) Jan 6, 2008 Minnesota

    I'll point out that the bill recently introduced by Dan Wolgamott that has received a lot of media attention for some unexplained reason merely doubles the cap on eligibility to sell off-sale from 20,000 to 40,000 barrels per year, and that would continue to exclude Surly (and Schell's, Summit, and Cold Spring / Third Street). Hopefully this will be an impetus to push for real reform instead of the half-ass measure. I'll note that the ability to sell pre-filled packages in a variety of sizes, not just 750 ml and 64 oz., in the version that the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild supports, could be a game changer in this state (every brewery could sell 4-packs of 16-oz. cans or 6-packs of 12-oz. bottles; many states already allow this practice).
  3. JMN44

    JMN44 Initiate (171) Sep 19, 2013 Minnesota

    I'd guess Surly is cancelling Darkness Day more due to financial issues the past 2 years in WI than as a protest to get MN to change their laws regarding selling beer at their brewery. Isn't Surly still allowed to sell Darkness bottles through the local distributor/liquor store like in the past at their Brooklyn Center location?

    I expect a big fight from the distributors and liquor stores to stop Surly and other breweries to be allowed to sell pre-filled packaged cans/bottles directly to customers at their breweries.
    hopb4fg, maximum12 and cmannes like this.
  4. maximum12

    maximum12 Poo-Bah (4,639) Jan 21, 2008 Minnesota
    Society Trader

    This was my first thought as well.

    Though instead of pushing for (needed) change that is out of their immediate control, Surly could become the change we all need: put Darkness in 12 oz. packages you assholes!!
  5. SudsSavant

    SudsSavant Aspirant (244) Jan 9, 2007 Minnesota

    That was never "Surly" selling those bottles on Darkness Day though. Brooklyn Center is a municipal controlled liquor store town. Surly always struck up an agreement where the city basically created a pop-up liquor store for one day in a warehouse on the same street and all they sold was Surly Darkness. Surly still "distributed" the bottles while it was the city that was selling them to the masses.

    The catch now is with the big brewery located in Minneapolis, they can't go that route and have the big festival on their grounds. Minneapolis liquor is done through private stores so if they try to mirror the same effort then the city is either playing favorites by allowing one private store to sell in the city above all others or if the city itself does it now they're competing against all the other private stores in the city.

    Surly could go back to the old way if they really wanted to. The two things working against them though (never mind the sheer volume and availability of Darkness now) are 1) the head count of participants was dwindling in Brooklyn Center before they moved it out to Wisconsin and 2) they would really like to capitalize on the whole festival by using the big destination location. Hitching their wagon to the recent movement in St. Paul now of allowing sales at any volume and any container size is just gravy.

    Stopping here before I get a reputation of long winded replies on here... :sunglasses:
  6. muck1979

    muck1979 Initiate (68) Jul 3, 2005 Minnesota

    Regardless of their actual motivation for cancelling Darkness Day, good for Surly. It'd be nice if Minnesota wasn't the total assbackwards state in the country with regards to our alcohol laws.
  7. mjryan

    mjryan Zealot (520) Dec 22, 2007 Minnesota

    What’s this about St Paul then?
  8. gudbrande

    gudbrande Initiate (149) Jul 10, 2009 Minnesota

    I assumed Mr Suds was referring to the movement of proposed legislation in St Paul. @SudsSavant
  9. SudsSavant

    SudsSavant Aspirant (244) Jan 9, 2007 Minnesota

    Bingo! Also, thanks to you for addressing me with the title. It's like the New York Times is writing about me!
    gudbrande likes this.
  10. HawkEye19

    HawkEye19 Initiate (125) Jun 15, 2006 Minnesota

    Why did Darkness Day work in 2015, 2016 and 2017 at Brooklyn Center? The big, pretty new brewery opened end of 2014.
  11. islay

    islay Disciple (333) Jan 6, 2008 Minnesota

    I'm not sure I follow, but @SudsSavant explained the arrangement with Brooklyn Center in the post that you quoted. Minneapolis and St. Paul don't have municipal liquor stores, so that's not an option at the big MSP site. If Surly weren't (way) over the production cap to sell 750 ml bottles, it could host Darkness Day at the MSP location, and I suppose it could have the party anyway without the off-site sales, although that arguably would undermine the purpose of the event. I think folks at Surly would tell you Darkness Day really wasn't working at Brooklyn Center by the end of its run: Too many people were coming too early and causing too much disruption to nearby local businesses. @BillManley
    Victory_Sabre1973 and SipIt like this.
  12. SipIt

    SipIt Initiate (191) Jul 18, 2013 Minnesota

    While fun for the most part, I definitely agree with you. Not only did it appear to be troublesome for the surrounding businesses, but I certainly wouldn't want to be Surly managing the madness when much of it wasn't even on their own property.
  13. BillManley

    BillManley Aspirant (244) Jul 2, 2008 Minnesota

    True story. Darkness Day at Brooklyn Center towards the end got downright dangerous. Too many people in a space not designed for it. Also, the camping and the open containers on non-bonded property was always a little sketchy, but it was a legacy thing so the city sort of looked the other way. I don’t think D-Day would be allowed to go back to Brooklyn Center even if that was on the table. Sommerset was a great venue, but it was a PITA to wrangle the logistics to get everything there, and a full two day festival where you either had to drive, or get locked-in wasn’t ideal. It’s a huge commitment for fans and staff and vendors to lock-in for that long.
  14. MNPikey

    MNPikey Devotee (450) Feb 27, 2011 Minnesota

    The history that created the growler cap to begin in with is no longer applicable. It was done to "prevent large production breweries from selling growlers and taking business from smaller, craft breweries". I don't think anyone wants to take home a growler of Budweiser.

    In 2013 it was raised from 3500 to 20,000 barrels per year. Doubling it is pointless and it should simply be removed all together.
  15. MNBeer1017

    MNBeer1017 Devotee (473) Mar 27, 2013 Minnesota

    I’ll take a case of Budweiser growlers for my cabin
    Victory_Sabre1973 likes this.
  16. MNAle

    MNAle Poo-Bah (1,827) Sep 6, 2011 Minnesota

    IDK if it is pointless. It does serve a point in that it encourages the growth of small breweries. Removing the limit altogether may, therefore, be opposed by those same small breweries.

    If there is to be a limit, they should remove the restriction on the kind of package the breweries can choose to sell. Just let them sell 4 / 6 / 12 packs, etc.

    Political reality is, though, that this is likely to be a slow slog over several years, mirroring what it took for the Sunday sale law to pass. There will be entrenched focused opposition that contribute to campaign funds (liquor stores, bars, distributors, and possibly unions come to mind) and diffused proponents (tap room customers, larger breweries), and most of the public won't care one way or the other.
    JMN44, DNW620 and Victory_Sabre1973 like this.
  17. nograz

    nograz Disciple (390) Oct 30, 2013 Minnesota

    The bill last year brought forth in part by the MN Craft Brewers Guild and supported by a large amount of breweries was pulled due instead of making major concessions. The two big ones included raising the growler limit to a much higher limit and if I remember correctly, high enough that all breweries in the state would have been able to sell growlers again (including Schells). It also changed the container size to include 12oz all the way to 2 liters I believe.

    The Teamsters used their bullshit strong arm statics to threaten they would torpedo it if their changes weren't met. Their requests were a total joke, the growler limit and container size had to be cut and they only moved on another small and less important part of the bill. They also said that for them to agree, none could bring another bill to change liquor laws for another six years.

    The MN Brewers Guild decided to pull the bill instead of caving to the demands. I have never liked the Teamsters since watching there tactics with the liquor law change battled over the year. They have way too much power and I feel like they are abusing it. They keep claiming it is going to hurt them, trying to pass it off as this would cripple their "small" business and put people out of jobs. When they unwillingness to compromise is hurting other small businesses.

    Bottom line for me, fuck the Teamsters.
  18. islay

    islay Disciple (333) Jan 6, 2008 Minnesota

  19. BillManley

    BillManley Aspirant (244) Jul 2, 2008 Minnesota

    To be clear, there are two competing but similar bills being brought forward.

    Bill #1 HF 3758 -- championed by a handful of brewers, proposes to raise the
    "Growler Cap" allowing brewers who produce up to 40,000 barrels annually, to maintain growler sales up to 750 barrels per year of 64-ounce or 750mL size for growlers. Read about it HERE and HERE This is the bill lamented by Mr. Kolve of Wabasha Brewing.

    The second bill is proposed by the MN Craft Brewers Guild. (No bill number as of yet)
    This bill would allow brewers of all sizes to sell up to 750-barrels worth (768-ounces per day) of 12-ounce, 16-ounce, 750mL and 64-ounce containers on-site. Additionally, it allows liquor stores/bars/restaurants the ability to sell growlers as well. Read about it HERE

    Surly supports the bill proposed by the MN Craft Brewers Guild, and not the half-measure proposed in the first bill. The Guild's proposal would truly modernize Minnesota's antiquated beer laws, offer greater choice and availability, and ultimately benefit brewers, distributors, retailers, and most importantly consumers.

    The MN Craft Brewers Guild is hosting a Rally at the Capitol Rotunda to support the modernization of craft beer laws on Tuesday March 3rd, at 1:00 PM Read about that HERE
    Sign up, write your legislators, and show up to have your voice heard.
    Eggman20, sjguglielmo, nograz and 2 others like this.
  20. ZAP

    ZAP Poo-Bah (4,308) Dec 1, 2001 Minnesota

    I'm all for the Guild bill. A lot of good things in that one.
  21. SipIt

    SipIt Initiate (191) Jul 18, 2013 Minnesota

    As a destination brewery, do you think the cap on the amount you are able to sell per day/year would be an issue? I mean, if two people bought a case of beer from your shop, you'd be at the max for the day. Do most states limit the amount of off sales breweries are allowed to have? I assume breweries will take what they can get, but find that limit a bit absurd as well.
  22. BillManley

    BillManley Aspirant (244) Jul 2, 2008 Minnesota

    It works out to something like 28 cases (or case equivalents) of beer a day. We could likely sell more, but we'll take what we can get. For us, it's really not about the beer volume or the money. The law change would allow us to do so many more things, on-site, and to utilize our destination brewery for what it was designed to be. A Darkness Day here would be fantastic, beer releases at the facility that can support it would be fantastic, growler fills of some of the 40-odd beers we have on tap at any given time would be fantastic.
    The distribution game these days is so tough. There are a finite amount of SKU's that can be supported in the trade, so we have to be super-calculating about what can go to market when, but we've always got cool new things in the hopper that people are constantly asking for. To be able to provide our fans the beer they want in a take-home package would be a dream.
    ElmerLovejoy, cmannes, JMN44 and 4 others like this.
  23. MNBeer1017

    MNBeer1017 Devotee (473) Mar 27, 2013 Minnesota

    This all seems logical - weird MN lawmakers can’t comprehend this
  24. kinglouisIII

    kinglouisIII Initiate (84) Mar 18, 2010 Minnesota

    If Surly and the Guilds bill passes with no cap on brewery size to sell package what would prevent a very large global company to build a brewery in MN and sell their product for extremely cheap? Once they had a foot in the door they would ask for no cap on direct to consumer sales and now we're back to pre prohibition tactics where a very small number of breweries control pricing and there is no buffer to help spawn competition and quality. They say antiquated beer laws but they've been working very well since 1933 and we have unprecedented beer choices today and a booming craft beer scene. Tell me again what's wrong with the current laws?
  25. Eggman20

    Eggman20 Initiate (77) Feb 14, 2017 Minnesota

    Because it would make no financial sense for them do it. This isn't 1933 where transporting large quantities of beer is expensive and/or nearly impossible. The large breweries already win the pricing war in liquor stores (and with no cap on sales to customers!) so how would opening a physical location that people would have to drive a longer distance to acquire said beer (versus just going to the liquor store down the street) give them an advantage?

    If you want to argue there should be a cap on direct to sales then I will argue there should be a cap on all sales! Budweiser is pricing Surly out of the market and it's not fair!
  26. MNAle

    MNAle Poo-Bah (1,827) Sep 6, 2011 Minnesota

    Since it is all about me... :wink:

    I'd rather see them remove the limit on the number of tap rooms a distributing brewery can have.
    tonye and Eggman20 like this.
  27. islay

    islay Disciple (333) Jan 6, 2008 Minnesota

    It could revert to the 250,000 barrel cap that's in place on taprooms (i.e., current state law prohibits taprooms for breweries that produce above that level). Either way, I don't see the problem in practice; I believe AB InBev rather harmlessly already sells packaged beer off-sale at many of its crafty-brand taprooms throughout the country, and I'm sure it has no interest in starting up a Minnesota plant just to sell 750 barrels per year off-sale. These are scare tactics with little grounding and reality, and the supposed* fears behind them can be addressed in very simple ways that don't have a serious deleterious impact on craft beer producers and consumers.

    * I question how seriously and honestly those fears are held; they seem to accrue massively disproportionately among distributors and retailers who benefit from existing restrictions and much less so among consumer advocates.
    maximum12 and Eggman20 like this.
  28. kinglouisIII

    kinglouisIII Initiate (84) Mar 18, 2010 Minnesota

    I guess what I was trying to say is Surly and many local breweries have benefited greatly under the existing system and laws that were in place when they started their business. Deregulation chips away until there’s nothing left. Look how direct to consumer sales went in the retail industry. Amazon dominates and has all the control. The weed industry is begging for a system like beer. Just saying our system works very well for Brewers, retailers, and consumers this bill is the breweries trying to take someone else’s lunch money.
  29. BillManley

    BillManley Aspirant (244) Jul 2, 2008 Minnesota

    I have to say, as a fan of craft beer, and as someone who wants to see more of it, I don't understand your line of thinking here at all. Virtually every other state in the union has looser liquor laws than Minnesota has, and it hasn't spelled the death of the three-tier system, NOR has it hampered beer sales in any way. Look at Wisconsin, look at Iowa, people are drinking beer there, and in fact, the access and selection often times surpasses what we have here in Minnesota.
    If anything, these laws are hampering the beer scene. If I were thinking of starting a brewery with any hope of growing into a distributing player, I would definitely look outside of this state.
  30. BillManley

    BillManley Aspirant (244) Jul 2, 2008 Minnesota

    I just left the MN Craft Brewers Guild rally at the state capitol this afternoon, and I misspoke about the first bill details. That bill is a placeholder bill put forward by Representative Dan Wolgamott of St. Cloud and not championed by any specific brewers or entities. Rep. Wolgamott is an ally for the cause, and waiting until the details of the MN Craft Brewers Guild to come out of the revisors desk. All beer related bills are scheduled to be heard on March 13th.

    Time is of the essence -- Please, if this is a topic that interests you, contact your representatives and have your voice heard. Go HERE to find out who your representative is and let them know your thoughts.
  31. Eggman20

    Eggman20 Initiate (77) Feb 14, 2017 Minnesota

    Your Amazon comparison needs some serious work. Are you saying Target and Wal-Mart or any other businesses don't sell directly to consumers? If anything the Amazon comparison argues for being able to sell on-site.

    Just because a regulation has been in place for years doesn't mean it works or that any successful business in that time has obviously benefited from it. Businesses can succeed in spite of harmful regulations. The recent brewery boom has come directly from the consumer not because Ab-InBev can't sell a beer to me at a brewery.
  32. MNAle

    MNAle Poo-Bah (1,827) Sep 6, 2011 Minnesota

    Businesses (successful ones, anyway) adapt to the laws that are in place. When a law has been in place for decades and decades, businesses build their business model around the law. Any change to the law will affect those businesses. Many of these are small businesses without large financial reserves. They will be naturally opposed to any change that has the possibility of reducing their revenue and profits.
    You need to be cautious in using long-standing laws in other states to forecast the immediate impact of changing the laws in MN. See my comments just above.

    I'm not opposed to the changes being proposed; I'm just trying to explain the reaction that is likely to happen from some businesses (such as retail liquor stores).
    kinglouisIII likes this.
  33. Eggman20

    Eggman20 Initiate (77) Feb 14, 2017 Minnesota

    The big hit would come to liquor stores and distributors for sure. Small businesses will always be afraid of anything new but its pretty unlikely to matter much to their bottom line. Consumers will go where good beers are and not just because you can buy a growler there. Now not having a taproom limit would put them at some risk. Surly or Castle Danger opening a spot in the same city would certainly put you on notice if you're beer isn't great. Of course that happens all the time now in other industries so not sure why breweries have to be excluded.
  34. kinglouisIII

    kinglouisIII Initiate (84) Mar 18, 2010 Minnesota

    My thinking is that MN is pro independent liquor store which has been very beneficial to craft breweries. Other states are chain and grocery driven who take a very narrow look at beer segments including craft. I think it’s very irresponsible to say we should tear down a system because other states have loose beer laws when many indi liquor stores and bars have built businesses around our current system that works very well. I’m waiting for your argument on why you should take sales away from small liquor store businesses because Surly needs to make more money? If you’re going to encourage people to call their congress men and women it’s important they understand the consequences.
  35. kinglouisIII

    kinglouisIII Initiate (84) Mar 18, 2010 Minnesota

    Still not sure why we need to make a change, you can buy local beer at local liquor stores. Seems like everyone wins in this scenario.
  36. islay

    islay Disciple (333) Jan 6, 2008 Minnesota

    @kinglouisIII, do you have any industry connections (own or used to own a liquor store, work at a liquor store, family members or close friends who own a liquor store, etc.)? If so, I hope that you'll state your interests publicly. I'm not asking you to reveal identifying details, just to be open and forthright if you have skin in the game here (as @BillManley always has been). I'll readily raise my hand and admit to being a craft beer consumer who, as such, would personally benefit from this legislation (although I'd support it on principle -- that individual consumers and producers in the market, not the government, freely should decide the winners and losers in these scenarios barring overwhelming reasons for [continued] intervention, which I don't think come close to existing here -- even if I weren't).
    #36 islay, Mar 4, 2020
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2020
  37. kinglouisIII

    kinglouisIII Initiate (84) Mar 18, 2010 Minnesota

    I’m happy to tell you that I drink beer and sell beer. I also very strongly believe people only hear 1 side of this argument that comes from the for profit breweries that are looking out for their best interest. Just want people to hear the other side which doesn’t make the news or forums.
  38. maximum12

    maximum12 Poo-Bah (4,639) Jan 21, 2008 Minnesota
    Society Trader

    Is Darkness Day on hiatus?
  39. islay

    islay Disciple (333) Jan 6, 2008 Minnesota

    Thanks for your honesty. I think craft beer consumers are well aware of both sides of the argument on this issue, and they side overwhelmingly with the argument that involves more freedom and is of obvious and significant net benefit to them. I also think people are very frustrated that special interests are able repeatedly to stall and torpedo this sort of popular and common-sense legislation in this state. But, luckily for you, I don't think most legislators care enough about the principles involved or their constituents' preferences on this issue, and I don't think people's preferences on this issue result reliably enough in votes, to overcome the special interest forces that you favor and that have extraordinarily outsized influence in these matters. The breweries have -- through open campaigning -- captured the people's hearts and minds, but the distributors, liquor stores, and bars have -- through closed-door meetings -- captured the legislators' votes. Prove me wrong, St. Paul!
    Eggman20 and eggsurplus like this.
  40. MNAle

    MNAle Poo-Bah (1,827) Sep 6, 2011 Minnesota

    Why are retail stores "special interests" and breweries are not?

    Also, I don't think most voters, or consumers in general, care about this issue at all.

    Hence, both sides are "special interests."
    maximum12, JMN44 and kinglouisIII like this.