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Dark Side Vanilla Porter - Empyrean Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Dark Side Vanilla PorterDark Side Vanilla Porter

Educational use only; do not reuse.

316 Ratings

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Ratings: 316
Reviews: 140
rAvg: 3.7
pDev: 13.78%
Wants: 22
Gots: 40 | FT: 0
Brewed by:
Empyrean Brewing Company visit their website
Nebraska, United States

Style | ABV
American Porter |  5.70% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 11-27-2002

An infusion of an old-world beer style and contemporary soul. Smooth, dark and roasted with highlights of chocolate, coffee and vanilla. Brewed with American, Canadian and English grown barley, American hops, Madagascar vanilla beans and natural vanilla extract.

23. IBU
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Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 316 | Reviews: 140
Photo of kels
2.67/5  rDev -27.8%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

Looks great - dark chocolate brown and completely opaque off the pour. There's a nice 1 finger initial cocoa-brown head that fades to a pretty well-retained milky skim. Not much lace to speak of.

Very little nose to speak of. There's a hint of the vanilla, and a spent-coffee grounds sort of aroma. There's also a hint of something akin to old milk meets wilting vegetables. Not very pleasing at all.

The taste possesses many of the nice qualities of a porter - roasted malts, chocolatey sweetness, fullness without heaviness...BUT those are all offset with that veggie flavor. I don't get any of the vanilla, and there's a hit of metallic in there as well. The feel is well-carbonated, but can't make up for the unnerving off-tastes.

Drinkability is low simply because I don't want to drink it anymore.

Photo of Beertracker
3.57/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Empyrean's Dark Side Vanilla Porter pours up with a compact tannish-brown head that covers the dark brown-russet body. Head retention is slightly poor, but decent for a SHV beer. The aroma is lightly roasted with a some chocolate that underlies the wonderful Madagascar bourbon vanilla bean character. Hints of cocoa nibs & espresso beans only add to the wonderful aromatics. The flavor starts off with some chocolate & dried cocao powder before the vanilla bean character becomes predominate and moves towards a dry, rather thin finish. The aroma is far more generous than the flavor suggests, but pleasantly enjoyable nontheless. Light carbonation, body is medium-thin per style. Empyrean really showcases the vanilla in this beer with good finesse, but the lack of body is slightly distracting. More caramel character would certainly benefit. This beer would be great paired with a simple vanilla custard or crusted chocolate pudding.

CHEERS! Beertracker

Photo of Jayli
3.01/5  rDev -18.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Acquired this from a77cj7 via Under 100 Fishing for Minnows BIF so a big THANK YOU goes out to him!

A: This beer pours a deep ruddy brown with red hues around the edges. One finger of khaki colored head that recedes to a film that retains the entirety of the beer. Wispy chunks of lacing left on the glass.

S: Nose is charred malts, chocolate, and a good deal of vanilla.

T: Taste is ridiculously vanilla up front. It dominates the forefront on this one. Burnt malts and bitter chocolate come through in the middle. Finish has an odd vanilla, medicinal taste to it. Somewhat watery in the finish as well.

M: Lighter side of medium body, medium carbonation, watery, thin mouthfeel.

D: Goes down ok, not too filling, not much of a kick, I would opt for others of the style. Not a bad beer, but not one that I would reach for again.

Photo of JohnGalt1
3.32/5  rDev -10.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Very cool extra received from a77cj7... Thanks a bunch Chris! Poured into my Old Guardian goblet while finishing up some late night lawn work.

2 finger tan head holds well .. pretty nice lacing.. cap sorta disintegrates quickly.. the brew is expected deep dark brown but with some good ruby highlites.

Nose is better than I was hoping for... I normally don't appreciate vanilla spiced brews.. and honestly, I normally don't really like standard porters either, but this is pretty pleasant and certainly inviting.. lite roasty malts, cocoa, and the vanilla gel well right up front... but that's about it... but the aroma really is pretty good.

Ooooh... ahhh.... ewww... the vanilla is too much for me at the front and seems too ambitious.. and a bit chemically or artificial... the rest of the regular porter flavors are there, but are stained by the lingering vanilla notes.... like a cream soda ... a pretty good cream soda, but it is too much for beer.

Body is solid medium with an about medium carbonation...

Ehh... this is a pretty good beer.... don't let my personal prejudices change your mind.... I still have a quarter of the bottle left, but I doubt my review will change much.


Thanks again Chris.... I wish I had saved this to try with by few beer buddies, but oh well. :-)

Photo of orbitalr0x
3.38/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Deep dark murky brown with a finger of khaki foam that quickly falls to a ring around the glass. Aromas of mellow roast with vanilla extract. A touch of coffee and cocoa along with some mineral notes. Kinda understated overall.

First sip brings a nice mellow roasted dark malt upfront alongside some sweet vanilla extract flavors. Hints of cocoa and a very light coffee work through as well. Flows down with more vanilla that lingers on into the finish of the brew.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied and somewhat smooth with steady carbonation. A tad light but overall it's pretty well on. A bit to sweet for me and the vanilla seems a bit too heavy on the extract. Overall, glad I got to try it but not something I would drink regularly.

Photo of koopa
3.43/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours a fairly matte black with a 1 finger off white crown that displays moderate retention and medium lace.

Smell: Roast malt, the faintest hint of vanilla, and a hint of caramel like sweetness. I'd give it a 3.7 if I could.

Taste: Same as nose but not as inviting or pungent.

Mouthfeel: A bit thin with good carbonation.

Drinkability: Goes down easy but the mouthfeel and the flavor keep you from wanting more.

Photo of lespaulrocker
3.96/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I had this while in Nebraska for a friends wedding. I had never had a vanilla porter and I wanted something local, the restaurant we were at had this so I decided I'd try it.

A: Dark, lets through a little bit of light when held up to lamp. Decent head which gives way to a little bit of lacing.

S: Good vanilla nose, hints of some malts.

T: Amazing taste. Malty with a good bit of the vanilla flavor, almost a nutty finish.

M: Smooth, good amount of carbonation, not too much but it could be dialed back a little bit.

D: Very drinkable and sessionable.

I really enjoyed this. Nebraska had some of the best breweries I've encountered, I wish I could get some more of this down here in TN.

Photo of JohnQVegas
3.85/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle into Sam Adams lager glass, with a big thank you to Chris (RedHaze) for the bottle!

Pours dark to very dark ruby brown, red highlights peeking through clearly, with a creamy half-finger head that settles down into a long-lasting creamy cap.

Nose is carries sweet vanilla extract front and center, with some underlying red-berry sweetness and a solid base of slightly-astringent roasted malt. Vanilla is definitely the star in this one, though it's maybe just a tad bit artificial, mainly because there's just so much of it.

Taste follows suit - vanilla up front is smooth and works well with the creaminess of the mouthfeel, while a bit of astringency from the roasted malts trails right behind, giving a strong impression of morning coffee heavy on the milk and sugar. Straightforward and with little complexity, but really a pretty effective combo.

Mouthfeel is medium light bodied, but the light carbonation and persistent head lend a welcome creaminess.

Drinkability is, all in all, decent. Definitely a sweet porter, and bringing to mind a classic milk stout in a lot of ways, this isn't a porter for everyone, but what it does it does respectably enough.

Photo of clarkm04
3.95/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Appearance- Fairly dark, decently carbonated, the expected appearance for this style

Smell- You definitely smell the vanilla notes and some of the other roasted/darker malts that make up the beer. The vanilla notes don't dissipate like some vanilla porters. It always seems to exhibit this nice vanilla taste.

Taste- A little roasty on the front with a nice vanilla note. Very smooth aftertaste. The vanilla notes are present throughout the entire beer.

Mouthfeel- Very smooth on the palate. A very well balanced porter. It might be just ever so slightly overcarbonated but I might be just being overly picky.

Drinkability- Very sessionable

Overall: I love vanilla porters and this is an outstanding example of the style. I had the prilvedge of talking to their head brewer and they use really vanilla beans, no extract. Easily one of my favorite beers brewed in Nebraska. Too bad their distribution isn't more, I think they would achieve a decent following with this beer.

Photo of beveritt
3.5/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Presentation: thanks to my wife for bringing this back, along with a sampling of other beers, from a recent road trip she took. Poured from a stubby 12 oz brown bottle into an Imperial pint glass. Label is a dull purple with a man in a top hat superimposed over an orange moon. Best enjoyed by 10/10.

Appearance: Pours with 1 finger of medium tan head. This settles slowly, leaving behind a still complete coating of foam. The beer itself is dark mahogany and allows a fair amount of light to penetrate the beer towards the edges. No sediment in the bottle.

Smell: Mild aroma of roasted barley with undertones of black coffee.

Taste: Mild roastiness with fairly strong vanilla flavor against a backdrop of lactose sweetness.

Mouthfeel: Lower than average carbonation. Body is decent; very creamy.

Drinkability: Average to above average. Nothing great, but I could see this being a periodic revisit if it were distributed here.

Photo of BieresDesMoines
2.83/5  rDev -23.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 3

I can't put my finger on it but the label for this beer couldn't be further from what I like in a beer label. Truly like something from the early 90's in the worst way possible. But this isn't ratelables.com now is it? What comes out of this silly looking bottle looks impressive enough It's got a very deep almost black color with a big tight head and some very good lace. The aroma is roasty and lightly smoky with some almost burnt toast kind of character. One thing I can certainly say that I like about the flavor is that the vanilla bean is very under control, this is in no way like the sickly vanilla character of say Breckenridge or others I've tried. The vanilla is there, you would be crazy not to notice it. But by no means does it dominate the flavor of this beer. Beyond that there is almost a cream soda kind of flavor here paired oddly with a very roasty burnt toast character that doesn't particularly mesh all that well. The palate is a bit thin. Overall I liked it more than I expected to, and I liked it a lot more than I dis-liked it.

Photo of katan
3.36/5  rDev -9.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12 oz into a pint

A - Pours a deep dark brown color. Very opaque, almost fully dark. Head formation is light, a small film, mocha in color.

S - Roasted and almost burnt flavors, very edgy, almost woody astringent. Light amount of grainy husky notes.

T - Starts off with a roasted malt flavor, combined with just a little bit of 2 row sweetness. Very husky and grainy at times. Mid-stream is more bitter, but little hopping detected. Finishes with the lightest hint of the vanilla flavors - which only begins to build in the aftertaste.

M - Moderate beer body - strong carbonation profile. A bit biting on the tongue. Finishes with a clinging texture to the tongue.

D - Moderate drinkability. ABV is manageable. Flavors do become a bit overwhelming over time - needs more to counterbalance the burnt flavors. Not filling.

A solid beer - just not as potent in vanilla as I thought it would be.

Photo of Joeynocturnum
4.16/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Received via trade and drank during the snow storm after a Nugget Nectar

A- Deep brown with a light brown half a finger head.

S- Toasted Malts and Vanilla with slight coffee after taste.

T- Very well balanced porter, no one characteristic over powered.

M- Not overly carbonated very smooth and clean mouth feel.

D- Went down easy and was very enjoyable wish i had a couple more.

Photo of womencantsail
3.78/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to BigDank for including this bottle as an extra in a recent trade.

A: Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a glass to reveal a dark brown beer with a tan head.

S: The nose is primarily roasted malt with a few hints of vanilla and coffee.

T: Like the nose, the flavor is primarily roasted malt with a stronger vanilla presence. There is also some chocolate and a bit of coffee.

M: The body is medium and the body is medium.

D: A pretty decent beer with a really cool name. A nice porter and I like the addition of the vanilla as it adds a little bit "extra".

Photo of ckeegan04
3.56/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

A -a Very dark burnt nut brown with a creamy light brown head. Head is about two fingers thick and slowly fades to a 1/2 inch cap. Solid sheet of lacing left behind.

S - Roasted malts with a hint of vanilla coffee, almost like something I would expect at Starbucks. The vanilla is very mild and the roasted malts are definitely the most dominant aroma.

T - Oddly sweet roasted malts initially. Strong vanilla taste comes through quickly and tastes alost artificial. Light bitterness but not as much as you get from alot of porters. I think the vanilla sweetness overwhelms the taste a little too much. Still a well crafted idea and certainly not a bad beer, just not a really good beer.

M/D - Medium boided with a silky smooth finish. Vanilla tastes are a little too strong for me to put the drinkability too high but certainly still a drinkabl;e porter.

Photo of scruffwhor
4.19/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Pours a medium brown to a deep garnet when held to the light. Very quick head recedes to nothing after a few sips. A drop of vanilla extract and some morning roast Folgers hit the nostrils in subtle ways. Not too mention the havy roast and light smoke aroma as well. The taste starts out subtle upfront. Light vanilla and coffee, then dark chocolate and coffee gorunds hit the middle. By the finis, theres a light vanilla liquer flavor on the back burner keeping the roasted malts in check....a little. Nice session ale with tons of flavo and not palate busting.

Photo of beertooth
3.67/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to Ben(madorb) for sharing this with me on the train ride down to Flossmoor last weekend. Review is from notes taken.

A cola brown liquid with a thin layer of white head that drops fast and forms a collar.

The nose is interesting and what you'd expect from a vanilla porter. Dark malts, coffee, sweet, but not cloying vanilla. There's isn't much else going on.

The first sip gives me some sugary vanilla up front followed by a mild coffe flavor and finishes with some more bitter burnt malts. It is enjoyable, but would fare better with a heavier malt bill.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied and well carbonated.

I'm glad I was able to try this, although it reminded me more of a brown ale with coffee creamer in it. It's worth a try if you come across it.

Photo of shanem
4.77/5  rDev +28.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Had this in Lincoln on a cross country road trip and finally obtained some bottles! Best beer we had on the trip through random discovery. Not quite the same as the draft I had there, but it never is...

A: dark brown(light shines thru towards the bottom} with tiny light head

S: vanilla with some roasted malts and bit of chocolate

T: The vanilla is definitely the star, but not overpowering at all, very well balanced with the other flavors of chocolate, and maybe caramelish taste also with a bit of nuttiness

M: has a darn good feel. almost perfect for a porter

D: Very good, I enjoy this with just about anything. I really like the sweetness to it, with everything else. Much more of a complex beer than I expected, has a lot going on

Highly recommend!

Serving type: bottle

Photo of orcasteve
2.76/5  rDev -25.4%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

poured a brownish black color with a small white head, the sent of this reminded me of green olives out of a jar, this turned me off instantley, the taste is a tuch sour in the begining (not what i'm use to in a porter), the midle is hops that come in to way to strong and a tuch each of coffie and vanilla, and the end is just bland. this is a beer that i dont think i will revisit any time soon

Photo of tpd975
3.97/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A big thanks goes out to swid for this one, and an assload more NE brews. It is a state I have been wanting to cross off the list and he more than took care of it.

A: Pours a nice nutty brown hue with a nice tall creamy tan head. The retention is good with some spotty lace noted.

S: Aromas of nice toasty malt with notes of sweet caramel, chocolate, and vanilla beans.

T: Rather flavorful, but nothing overpowers. What this one is, is a wonderful mix of flavors. Wonderful caramel malt with hints of darkened brown sugar. Vanilla comes next with slight tones of chocolate and coffee. A touch of smokiness seems to peek thru as well. Very complex, one NE should be proud of.

M: Medium in body, smooth, creamy, with great carbonation.

D: Wish they bomered this one. Just got home from a trip to San Fran and dropped this one in the ice box for a few min to put a touch of chill on it. It is the perfect way to end the night. Smooth and tasty goodness in a bottle. Thanks swid!

Photo of mikesgroove
3.88/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Big thanks goes out to Swid for sending me a fine selection of brews from NE to close out another state on my list. I went for this one first as it defintley seemed intresting to say the least. Served cold and poured into a pint glass. This one was consumed on 11/23/2008.

The pour was very nice. A rich dark brown color coming through on the initial pour. Almost opaque in its color, with just the slightest bit of light shining through on the tops and bottom on the glass. Nice touch of light tan head on top, this faded and left behind only a minimal crown and a small amount of side glass lacing.

The aroma was nice, hints of vanilla were layered on top of roasted malts and a nice touch of caramel. Some light touches of chocolate as it warmed up, but the aroma was a bit lighter then I was expecting. Decent flavor though, until it warmed when it really hit the spot. Nice touches of caramel and vanilla, especially in the finish. A very sweet porter, though an almost smokey note started to take over after a while, it was always checked in place by the dominance of vanilla. Smooth, creamy, medium bodied feel was just what the doc ordered this afternoon, and I could have easily thrown down another in the long run.

Overall for my first beer from Nebraska, I was somewhat impressed. This was a very solid beer, and something I would not hesitate to try again.

Photo of Viggo
3.46/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Big thanks to RedHaze for hooking me up in a recent trade.

Pours a lightly hazed dark ruby red/brown, nice tight thick tan head forms, dense, drops some nice lacing on the glass, settles to a thin ring. Smell is neat, brown sugar, some light chocolate and roast, vanilla beans, dark fruits, yeast, a bit bready, quite sweet, some aroma going on I can't place. Taste is a little weird, like a mix between root beer and cream soda. Tons of vanilla, some brown sugar, light bit of maltiness and a bit of dark fruit, but mostly sugary vanilla. Kind of neat actually, not sure I would call this a porter, but I'm quite enjoying it. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, very smooth, medium carbonation. Very easy to drink, especially for someone who likes cream soda/root beer. I wouldn't mind getting this on a regular basis. Scorewise I'm not sure because its a crap porter, but a very good and drinkable beer. Thanks Chris!

Photo of treyrab
3.48/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a pint glass

A: Deep brown with much ruby hues that come through. Rather light looking for a porter

S: Smell is rather light with black and chocolate malts with no vanilla noticed yet

T: The vanilla comes through very slightly, barely any at all. The coffee and light cocoa is what I feel, but it is extremely light and watery

M,D: Very watery for my expectations, and not enough vanilla.

Photo of Georgiabeer
3.35/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Thanks to RedHaze for the chance to try this. Pours black with brown highlights and a short head that fades to a ring. No lacing. Aroma and taste are virtually identical. Strange notes of scented pipe tobacco with dusty notes of vanilla, tobacco, and spice. Strange, but not owerwhelming or unpleasant. The mouthfeel is firm and dusty. I don't know if I could drink more than one of these. Definitely a bit bizarre.

Photo of CamuMahubah
4.15/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

What a corny label! Reminds me of a Broadway Musical poster. Fortunately a gorgeous porter flows from the bottle to the snifter. Don't judge a book by its cover!

Smells of dark cacao milk...

Nice cocoa splendor wrapped in a vanilla wisp...

Coats my mouth my chocolate milk!

This is not a quaffing porter. This is a dessert beer all the way. A local favorite that I have had many times before. Proud to serve this beer at dinner parties!

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Dark Side Vanilla Porter from Empyrean Brewing Company
84 out of 100 based on 316 ratings.