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Surly cancels Darkness Day, blames Minnesota growler law

If Surly can't have Darkness Day in Brooklyn Center, dammit, they won't do Darkness Day at all!

If Surly can't have Darkness Day in Brooklyn Center, dammit, they won't do Darkness Day at all! Image courtesy Surly Brewing Co.

Surly Brewing Company announced Thursday it's canceling Darkness Day, the annual release party for its hugely popular Darkness series.

And it's all Minnesota's fault.

In a message from owner Omar Ansari, the brewery declared the end of a tradition that dates back more than a decade. 

Starting in 2018, the brewery moved its celebration of black beer and heavy metal from its brewery in Brooklyn Center to the Somerset Amphitheater, about 40 minutes' drive and precisely one state border away. Though it retained its original, singular name, the event also played out over two days, plural, at the end of September. 

Ansari said Thursday that move happened "to keep it safe and create a better experience," though there's a legal underpinning to it, too: Under existing Minnesota law, breweries that produce more than 20,000 barrels per year can't sell growlers directly to consumers onsite.

Surly's been past that threshold since at least 2012, and, as the Star Tribune notes, also produces more than the 40,000 barrel-a-year cap proposed by two DFL lawmakers earlier this week. Instead, the brewery's backing the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild's notion of allowing any Minnesota brewery to sell "sell beer in the container most appropriate (350mL to 2L or 12oz to 67.6oz)."

The guild says this change would be advantageous to not just breweries and consumers, but also liquor stores—which would "have access to new products put into market as breweries begin to invest in new packaging"—though we wonder if liquor stores agree...

Staging its event in Wisconsin posed obvious logistical challenges, and Surly acknowledged as much in response to a Facebook-er's guess that the "real reason" for canceling Darkness Day was "lost money."

"The cost is the cost," Surly's Facebook account wrote back. "Much bigger factor is the staggering amount of person hours the brewery dedicates to the event (venue, beers, booking bands/vendors, security, staffing, marketing, everything). Combined with customer feedback and our work with the Guild, it makes more sense to redirect that effort to an event on our own property."

Ansari hinted to the Star Tribune that Surly could still whip up a Darkness Day(s?) party this fall, if the Legislature hops to it and passes a bill lifting the growler sales cap. "We can react quickly if there was a change to the law this year," he says.

Barring that, devotees will have to get their Darkness like the rest of us, at liquor stores, and get their heavy metal fix by turning up the speakers at home. Sorry, those people's neighbors. Blame state law.