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Darkness descends: Surly celebrates release of popular seasonal brew

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People will have the opportunity to get their hands on bottles of Surly's Darkness brew – a seasonal Russian Imperial Stout with a limited run – on Saturday for the seventh annual Darkness Day release party at the company's Brooklyn Center brewery.

But before we get into the beer news, let's do some quick math, with numbers provided by Surly.

A total of 1,500 people will be given a wristband at the event (on a first come, first serve basis), guaranteeing them the opportunity to purchase up to six Darkness bottles apiece – so if every one of those wristband receivers buys their full allotment, that means 9,000 bottles are needed.

Each of those bottles costs $20 a pop (cash only), meaning Surly can pull in a cool $180,000 just from Darkness sales Saturday.

Now you may be thinking, "Well that's good for them in theory, but is the demand there?"

And for what is arguably one of the most sought-after brews, from one of Minnesota's most popular craft brewers, you betcha there is.

WCCO's Rachel Slavik visited before the 11 a.m. event actually started, and the crowds had already filled the site.

Slavik estimated more than 1,000 people were there – as of about 8 a.m. Saturday morning.

She noted people had been in line since Friday afternoon (the earliest they were allowed to begin camping out was 3:30 p.m.) to get their hands on some of the bottles.

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If you didn't quite get there early enough for a wristband, the Star Tribune said leftovers from the Saturday event go on sale at 3 p.m. And a select number of bottles will be available at stores starting Monday.

Surly describes Darkness (which is tweaked every year) as having chocolate, cherries, raisins, coffee and toffee flavors, with "a touch of hops" added in for good measure. It was aged in whiskey barrels for 2014, a change from the previous iteration.

On the website Beer Advocate, Darkness has a "world class" rating, getting a perfect score of 100.

Admission into Darkness Day is free. There are live bands and food trucks, as well as beer tastings, until the event closes shop at 5:30 p.m.

Craft beer sales strong

Craft beer sales in America have been quickly climbing in recent years – despite overall beer sales actually trending downward, according to data from the Brewers Association.

In 2013, the association – an advocate for craft brewers – says total beer sales fell 1.9 percent compared to the year prior, but craft sales shot up 17.2 percent.

The Wall Street Journal pulled out more data from the association, looking at craft beer's overall market share. It found that in 1998, craft beer made up 2.4 percent of all beer sales, with non-craft taking up 89 percent. By 2013, the craft sales had jumped up to 8 percent, with non-craft falling to 78 percent. (Imports made up the remaining purchases.)

According to Statista, there are 2,768 craft breweries operating in the U.S., with retail sales in the country reaching $14.3 billion in 2013 – up from $10.3 billion in 2012, and $8.7 billion in 2011.

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