THE BLOG
04/26/2014 09:00 am ET Updated Jun 26, 2014

Music, Beer and Summer, or Why Craft Beer Fests Are My New Rock Concerts

I've always loved music.

In fourth grade, I saw Led Zeppelin's concert movie The Song Remains the Same and the crunch of electric guitar became part of my DNA.

In high school, with both a job and a driver's license, I attended as many rock concerts as my schedule and funds would allow. Mostly, that meant outdoor shows. The major summer tour dates were announced well in advance, so I could target those I most wanted to see. With lead time, I could plan financially and juggle schedules at work.

The hardest part was getting the tickets.

Back in the day, tickets were sold either over the phone or over-the-counter at a department store. Sales would typically start at 10 a.m. on a Saturday. This meant I spent many Friday nights "sleeping out" for tickets -- kind of an event itself. Imagine 50 cars worth of teenagers staying up all night in a shopping mall parking lot.

My favorite shows were at Alpine Valley. Besides loving the acoustics, I was able to buy beer legally at 18 in Wisconsin.

Music, beer and summer.

In the mid '90s, I spent a lot of time in Belgium for work. I loved the culture, and I first connected with people in a bar talking about music and guitars. I made friends who introduced me to a whole new world of beer. Unfortunately, the work ended, but I came home to a burgeoning craft beer scene. Thank God -- I didn't want to return to a Bud life.

These days, my passion is craft beer, and I plan my summers around craft beer festivals.

There are parallels between my old and new passions. When I was a kid, my favorite artwork was on album covers and concert posters, and my t-shirts were mostly music-related. Now, my favorite artwork is found on beer labels, and my t-shirts are usually purchased under the influence of beer. I always drank beer at concerts, albeit bland domestic beer. Now, delicious craft beer is the main event, and there's usually good music too.

The hardest part is getting tickets.

One of my favorite events is Dark Lord Day at Three Floyds Brewing in Munster, Indiana. Dark Lord is the name of their legendary Russian Imperial Stout, and a festival has grown around its release. Roughly 6,000 tickets are sold, and the once-a-year brew sells out the same day. Tickets are sold online, and a few years back, servers crashed due to overwhelming demand. Even now, you can spend hours in a virtual queue, and still come up empty.

I'm lucky; this Saturday, April 26th I will attend my fourth consecutive Dark Lord Day with my friend Brad Davis. He is the reason I attended the first 2, we both scored tickets last year, and this year only I got through the queue.

The brewery is within an industrial park, and my first year the line of people waiting to enter amazed me. People come from many states and countries, and bring special beers to trade and share freely. They come not just for Dark Lord, but to enjoy the wide world of craft beer in general. I met people that first time that are good friends today.

The second year, I went into the brewery to watch a band, and saw a weak mosh pit in front of the stage. There was one giant guy everyone else was afraid to slam. Unacceptable. I calmly asked the guy standing next to me to hold my beer, and entered the pit. I slammed that giant as hard as I could, and within seconds, it was complete chaos. Days later, I confirmed two things: I had a cracked rib and I'm too old to slam dance.

Last year, I went to the Great Taste of the Midwest my first time. This festival is held in August, in Madison, Wisconsin and it's a blast. It's a gathering of about 100 different breweries and brewpubs, from the Midwest and beyond, on the shores of Lake Monona. Tent after tent, tap after tap of craft beer heaven.

I was able to attend through the graces of friends once again. They drove to a brewery outside of on the first weekend of May, where there was room to set up tents and camp out for tickets. I went for a long overdue family visit instead, but vowed I would sleep out this year.

We just learned that there will be no ticket sales at that particular brewery this year, and no other vendor offers camping. It's advised to be in line no later than 5 in the morning, so we're thinking of leaving Chicago at 2.

The hardest part is getting tickets.

PHOTO GALLERY
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BEFORE YOU GO
Craft Beer Fests - My New Rock Concerts
PHOTO GALLERY
Craft Beer Fests - My New Rock Concerts