Darkness - High West Rye Whiskey Barrel Aged (2014)
Surly Brewing Company

Darkness - High West Rye Whiskey Barrel Aged (2014)Darkness - High West Rye Whiskey Barrel Aged (2014)
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Stout - Russian Imperial
4.5 | pDev: 7.56%
Surly Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States
Retired (no longer brewed)
Darkness - High West Rye Whiskey Barrel Aged (2014)Darkness - High West Rye Whiskey Barrel Aged (2014)
Notes: Bottled 2014 Darkness was aged in barrels that previously held High West Rye Whiskey and then Surly Eight.
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Reviews: 69 | Ratings: 724 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of mjpolzin
mjpolzin from Wisconsin

4.24/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

I know the general consensus is that this vintage of Barrel Aged Darkness is inferior to the version that came out in 2015. I disagree and actually prefer this beer to the higher rated 2015 barrel aged Darkness. A few reasons I think this is the case....
1. I had 2015 Darkness right after having Central Waters Rye Black Gold which happens to be my #1 favorite beer. So I probably rated it lower than I should have
2. Regular Darkness gets much better with age. I suspect that is the case with this one also. Although the barrel character is just okay, the malts have really started to shine through. This beer is probably better now than it was when it was fresh.

In a very competitive barrel aged stout category, this one is far from the best. But I still really enjoyed the complexity this beer had to offer.

Dec 24, 2016
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Treyliff from West Virginia

4.37/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

750ml bottle poured into a tulip

A- pours a deep black color with a small foamy khaki colored head that reduces to a ring around the edge

S- smells of dark cherry, rum raisin, caramel, spicy rye, vanilla & oak

T- opens with dark chocolate and sharp black cherry, followed by vanilla and caramel. Chocolate and spicy rye. Barrel notes are very light, but they're is definitely present. The finish gives more cherry and light coffee, lingers of chocolate and cherry

M- medium body with moderate carbonation leads to a slightly foamy mouthfeel and a warming finish

O- classic dark cherry Darkness flavors, would like more barrel notes though

Dec 17, 2016
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aleigator from Germany

4.48/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Pours a viscous pitch black color with a solid, stable mohagony head.

Smells of an interesting interplay between toasted malts, leafy hops and spicy coconut with a decadent chocolate coating. Awesome, just like the original, enhanced by a nice oaken note, which adds even more complexity on the nose.

Incredibly smooth and thick on the tongue with a nice spiciness as an antagonist to loads of whipped cream and melting milk chocolate. Has a bigger body, revealed by the Rye barrel, producing a pleasant warmth.

Tastes of untamed hops with ripe oranges and leaf wrapped lime, coated by rich, smooth milk chocolate. The chocolate then turns dryer, more bitter, as toasty malts turn more present, spiced up by a hot, dry Bourbon bite. The beer never loses its balance though, mainly due to its well functioning malt foundation and gentle smoothness with an awesome interplay between chocolate, hops and the barrel. Finishes with alcohol soaked pralines, firewood, bakers chocolate, fudge and and a hint of glazed caramel, again, pleasantly soothed up by cream.

A real treat! Definitely lets the base beer shine through, but it allows the barrel to develop beautifully atop. Decadent and rich, while remaining easy drinkable, featuring an amazing amount of milk chocolate, amped up by the tasty hops, which cut through.

Nov 13, 2016
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dcotom from Iowa

4.59/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Sampled on review date. Poured cold from bomber into a Craft Beer Club sampling glass. Deep, lightproof blackish-brown color with a decent tan head that left some pretty lacing. The aroma was heavy on the whiskey barrel character, with notes of chocolate and dark fruit. There is a lot of complexity to the flavor, which seems to come alive as the beer reaches cellar temperature. In addition to the whiskey, roasted malt, cocoa, and raisin, notes of licorice begin to come through. It is quite sweet and a little boozy, but finishes crisply without any lingering sweetness or oakiness. Mouthfeel is just right, silky but not too heavy. Overall, a world-class BA stout that is incredibly smooth after two years in the cellar.

Oct 17, 2016
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mwilbur from Minnesota

4.42/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2014 vintage: Poured from 750 mL bottle into small snifter.
A: Pours a thick black with a nice 1 inch super dark mocha head with pretty good retention. Eventually settles to a thin skim around the edges of the glass.
S: Smooth dark chocolate, molasses, vanilla, rye whiskey, raisin, charred wood, and a hint of sweet tobacco.
T: Smooth dark chocolate, rye whiskey, charred wood, tart cherries, raisin, vanilla, and hints of citrus and pine resin hops.
M: Amazingly smooth. Moderately heavy body, but still drinks lighter than the ABV would suggest. Silkily sweet. Fairly mild alcohol burn. Lingers and matures very nicely on the palate (the cherry and hop notes become even stronger here).
D: Eminently drinkable especially for style and ABV. Wonderful dark complexity. I really enjoyed the tart cherry note which played off the darker and sweeter notes very well. I look forward to this one every year!

Oct 10, 2016
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cvm4 from Mississippi

4.33/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

L - Pours the typical motor oil body with one finger espresso colored head. Not much retention or lacing to the head.

S - Cocoa nibs and rye spice. Roasted malts, vanilla and oak.

T - Cocoa nibs, rye spice and marshmallows. Faint raisins and vanilla, along with roasted malts throughout. The taste is so unique. So many flavors coming at me that I can't pin down.

F - Medium bodied, low carbonation. Creamy mouthfeel. Slight alcohol heat, but it's not bad.

O - Very well done beer. From the smell to the taste, this beer brings it in the aroma/flavor department.

Jul 06, 2016
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nawpnawp from California

4.51/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Drinking this in 2016.

Pours nice and thick with surprising carbonation. The nose is sweet and bourbon with very little booze. The taste however, is quite different. It is pretty boozy and not as sweet as the nose would have you believe. There is a pretty nice bittering aftertaste.

I find this a nice balance compared to other extremely sweet, high ABV stouts. It's definitely seeking out if you can get it for a reasonable price/trade.

May 09, 2016
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Pauken from Ohio

4.49/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Great beer and on my "want" list for awhile. Especially growing up in MN (now living in Ohio). I can't beilieve my first taste of this happened in Ohio due to a trade. Had this on a bottle share night and crazy rare beers were being thrown out like it was Bud Light... Up against all the heavyweights this was somewhat lacking. The base beer tasted great but it was hard to pick out through all the barrel and booze. The "hottest" beer we had all night and this was up against the like of Tweak, Ground State, and probably 10 other beers with higher abv's. Definitely liked it but my question is, if this is 2014 consumed in 2016 and is still really hot, will it ever mellow out? I don't mind hot but for 9.8% this was rediculously hot. All 8 of us agreed...

Apr 30, 2016
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brentk56 from North Carolina

4.25/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Appearance: The darkness of the pour was as to be expected, with a bubble show producing a decent beige head; viscous and leggy

Smell: Chocolate and rye dominant, with some roasted tones and vanilla

Taste: Chocolate with a touch of roast forward, with hints of vanilla and marshmallow developing; after the swallow, the rye comes through but the punch is modest, just enough to shade the flavors rather than dominate

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with moderate carbonation; slight warmth

Overall: To be honest, I was expecting this to be bigger - not that I am complaining; a nice beer, with solid chocolate flavor and the rye barrel treatment makes it distinctive

Mar 27, 2016
Photo of bennyman12
bennyman12 from Missouri

4.12/5  rDev -8.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2014 ba version
A bit one note, with a slight chlorine aroma from the excessive hopping. Also overcarbonated and fairly thin.

One of the many beers that would be more impressive if bcbs didn't exist.

Feb 27, 2016
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Stevedore from Oregon

4.03/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

750ml red wax bottle from 2014. Served in a snifter glass.

Pours a dark black body, one finger offwhite head, nice retention, no lacing. Appears fairly thick bodied on the pour. Smells of rye whiskey, dark chocolate, a bit of roast, mild grassy hops. Oak. A bit of espresso. Reasonably complex. Flavour is a bit odd, with a bit of grassiness to it, a fair amount of roast, espresso, a fair amount of dark chocolate and a bit of whiskey burn. Mouthfeel is medium-fuller bodied, good carbonation, a bit astringent on the finish. Hefty hop presence still, not mindblowing but a nice one to try.

Feb 09, 2016
Photo of Jeffo
Jeffo from Netherlands

3.1/5  rDev -31.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Got this one from Rutger this past summer. Cheers dude! Thanks very much for the 2013 as well. We opened these both up at the same time for comparative purposes. Good fun.

From a bomber into a snifter
Vintage: 2014

APPEARANCE: Looks the same as the 2013, which is no surprise. A clear dark brown pour, almost black, yields a large, three finger, fizzy, looser looking, foamy, light tan head with good retention. Clear black body with no real carbonation evident. Head fades to a thick, foamy cap. A splotchy wisp remains until the end and leaves some dots of lacing down the glass. Not really as black or as I remember older vintages and the head is foamier and fizzier for sure.

SMELL: Basically muted Darkness with whisky barrel notes over top. Oak, vanilla, whisky, with some chocolate and citrusy, piney hops from the base beer. The hops aren’t as forthcoming as the base beer alone obviously, but still there under the barrel. The barrel isn’t that pronounced either really, so it’s all a little mild and tame.

TASTE: Oak, vanilla, whisky and some piney hops up front. More wood at the swallow with a bold and lingering finish of oak, vanilla, dark chocolate, with some citrus and piney hop bitterness lingering on the palate as well. The whisky barrel is rather mild all around and the hoppy Darkness base beer has definitely been tamed.

PALATE: Not as heavy or creamy as the base beer, unfortunately. Still enough weight, but only a medium body on this one, with medium carbonation. Slightly fizzy on the palate, goes down fine and finishes sticky. The base alone was fuller and creamier but this is still pretty solid.

OVERALL: This was pretty much what I expected it to be. The barrel aging is rather mild and unimpressive and while being so, it’s managed to tame the otherwise, bold, hop forward base beer. Regular Darkness is a unique take on the style, what with the hop forward presence while the beer is fresh, and the barrel aging process has basically rendered that moot while not adding enough barrel character to replace it. A mild and unmemorable barrel aged stout and not as special as the original base. In any case, this was a hell of a lot of fun Rutger, so thanks again for the brews! Much appreciated.

Jan 11, 2016
Photo of stortore
stortore from Illinois

4.49/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

750 ml bottle into a snifter.

Pours a dark brown, mostly opaque and cloudy, small head with some foamy cling. Smell brings lots of roasted malts- not heavily, chocolate, a little coffee, some whiskey- more as it warms, a little vanilla. Coffee picks up as it warms, too. Taste also leads with the roasted malts- again, not heavily, chocolate, whiskey, some vanilla, some coffee, some oak. Just delicious. Smooth, creamy, well carbonated, great body, taste lingers in your mouth.

The light and understated addition of the rye whiskey barrel does add to the aroma and flavor with no negatives, at least in my opinion. Wonderfully blended, bursting with aroma and flavors. Another great year for Darkness.

Dec 14, 2015
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bowzer4birdie from Illinois

4.24/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2014 bottle poured into 8 oz snifter and slowly let it come to room temp over 90 minutes to 2 hours. Not sure if whiskey barrel stouts are my favorite but I did enjoy this one, especially as it warmed: Chocolate, raisins, roasted sweet dark malt. For the price point, however, I think I might pass on '15 when it comes out.

Nov 01, 2015
Photo of W_Des
W_Des from North Carolina

4.66/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Poured a solid black during a bottle share. The aromas were a mix of oak, whiskey, chocolate, dark fruit and coffee. A really nice complex nose that changes as it warms. The body is delicious with a luxurious almost dessert like taste of dark fruits, coffee and a moderate whiskey heat in the finish. It has a smooth mouth feel and is drinking perfectly after a year.

Sep 23, 2015
Photo of KarlHungus
KarlHungus from Minnesota

3.69/5  rDev -18%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.75

This beer pours an opaque black color. The head is a small cap of tan foam that recedes quickly leaving no lacing. The aroma is of roasted malt, burnt malt, hints of wood and whiskey. The flavor is similar to the aroma. It has an ample amount of roasted malt, and coffee notes, but is so light on the barrel characteristics that it is a big let down. The mouthfeel is on the thinner side for an imperial stout with a somewhat watery texture. The carbonation is appropriately low. Overall, this is a big disappointment. I had high expectations going into this beer, but in the end I'm glad I only bought one.

Sep 08, 2015
Photo of Chris912
Chris912 from Illinois

4.49/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Won opportunity to purchase through a raffle. Luck! Thick and oily, small amount of tan head. Fudge/chocolate nose. Dark stone fruits maybe? Taste is same as smell, but with some of the whiskey from aging. Not overpowering, just enough. mouthfeel is full, rich. You will notice the barrel on this aged beauty... Seek this out

Sep 02, 2015
Photo of pat61
pat61 from Minnesota

4.75/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

From tasting notes. Had on tap at the Pig & Fiddle. It pours deep dark brown with a thick tan foam collar. The texture is rich and creamy with a soft palate that gives the espresso, chocolate, vanilla, caramel and whiskey notes a real dessert character. I was served this with a frozen Darkness pudding cake. The molasses brownie and raisin caramel flavors of the cake go very well with the beer.

Aug 12, 2015
Photo of jjdc
jjdc from District of Columbia

4.43/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Motor oil in the glass. The nose is a bit subdued for such a big beer. Bourbon predominates. The flavor here is the real winner. Big and sophisticated. Dates, leather, cocoa, toffee, bourbon, oak and a touch of vanilla and coffee. Nice.

Jul 26, 2015
Photo of dar482
dar482 from New York

4.38/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

The beer definitely evolves the base beer. A big pop of candy caramel sweetness in the front, along with tons of spicy rye. It pops slightly differently than a bourbon with an herbal and tea like spicy quality. In general the base comes over to balance the beer with herbal and root like hops, but is less obnoxious due to the barrel treatment.

Jun 24, 2015
Photo of ISUNO
ISUNO from Iowa

5/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

On tap at El Bait Shop. I loved everything about this beer. Wouldn't change a thing. Perfectly balanced. Exactly what I look for in a stout. Hats off to Surly. Without a doubt the best stout I've ever had. Cheers!

Jun 21, 2015
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JamesMN from Minnesota

4.68/5  rDev +4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2014 vintage and my 500th review. Fitting that it should be a variant of the first beer I ever hunted.

Appearance: Pitch black with a softly ebbing dark tan head. Good lacing.

Aroma: Dark malt with creamy waves of vanilla and alcohol. Quite sweet as the barrel aging comes through strong, providing liqueur-esque stone fruit tones. Opens up more as time goes on.

Taste: Starts with a moderate resinous bitterness that supports a huge dosing of dark malt flavor that is incredibly smooth. Sweet cream, vanilla, and toffee intertwine to provide a hell of a depth of flavor. The bitterness hits a high point in the finish along with the first tinge of alcohol. The rye whiskey barrels come through the strongest immediately after the finish with a spicy rye character that is as harsh as it is delicious. The aftertaste is almost exactly the same as what one would find after a sip of bourbon; alcohol burn like a flame licking your whole palate before quickly smoothing into layers of vanilla and sweet toffee. The choice of second use barrels is really well done here. The harsh whiskey aftertaste plays so well to balance the otherwise sticky sweet flavor. Really well done and an upgrade from the original, which I believe was the intent.

Mouthfeel: Full in body but not the heavy undertaking that it appears to be. The carbonation goes nearly unnoticed, which is exactly what it's role should be in a beer this complex. Average drinkability for the style, although it's hard not to drink slowly savoring every sip.

Final Thoughts: My 500th review really snuck up on me and I'm glad I held onto this one all these months. It's residence in the fridge was well deserved. Definitely on par with the likes of BCBS, KBS, and the underrated Dragon's Milk but still in a category all its own. Would I drink it again? Of course, likely on tap at their destination brewery as soon as it's released this year.

Jun 17, 2015
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don1481 from Wisconsin

4.61/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

On tap at Burnhearts.

Appearance: Pitch black with an almost nonexistent tan head. Leaves a small amount of lacing on the side of the glass.

Smell: big. Bold. Heaven in a glass. Smells surprisingly sweet.

Taste: it's a sweeter stout but that plays perfectly off the barrel aging. Oh wow.

Mouthfeel: sticky. but a sweet aftertaste.

Overall : This is so awesome. I would love to get my hands on more of this. Wow.

Jun 09, 2015
Photo of ramay86
ramay86 from Minnesota

4.58/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Dark, dark brown body, near black. There's a frothy tan cap that persists pretty well, leaving behind a shit load of thick lace. Really just a beautiful looking beer.

Just over 6 months out, this is doing extremely well. The booze has mellowed considerably, allowing the caramel and fudge/brownie thing to take the reigns. That same frothy consistency of Darkness OG is still very evident. This bitch hums.

May 31, 2015
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OStrungT from California

4.98/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

This beer pours a black so dark that it makes to room darker. The thick brown head fades slowly, leaving a layer of foam and a thick curtain of lace.

This beer smells of dark fruit, plumbs, figs, black cherries. I get a mild chocolate aroma as well mixed in with some oak. Very mild whiskey as well.

This beer tastes mostly like it smells. It is a bit sweeter than the aroma led me to believe though. I taste some sweet caramel.

This beer is very full bodied. It leaves a pretty sweet aftertaste. The alcohol warns the throat on the way down, reminding me of the high alcohol content.

Overall, this beer is everything I hoped for. I am very thankful for the opportunity to drink this one. Thanks to Sarah for the hookup. I got your back.

May 20, 2015
Darkness - High West Rye Whiskey Barrel Aged (2014) from Surly Brewing Company
Beer rating: 99 out of 100 with 724 ratings