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

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Darkness - High West Rye Whiskey Barrel Aged (2014)Darkness - High West Rye Whiskey Barrel Aged (2014)
723 Ratings
Darkness - High West Rye Whiskey Barrel Aged (2014)Darkness - High West Rye Whiskey Barrel Aged (2014)

Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.30%

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes / Commercial Description:
Bottled 2014 Darkness was aged in barrels that previously held High West Rye Whiskey and then Surly Eight.

Added by mothman on 10-17-2014

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

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User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 723 |  Reviews: 69
Reviews by Drucifer:
Photo of Drucifer
5/5  rDev +11.9%

More User Reviews:
Photo of bigdaddypolite
4.38/5  rDev -2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

750ml Bottle.

Starts with the Darkness base. The rye whiskey adds a subtle spiciness and some smooth barrel but no heavy char. Taste is hop-forward like the non-BA base at cooler temps, but as it warms the barrel steps forward and the flavor slides towards the nose, which is outstanding. The hops fade but do not disappear completely, and whiskey-soaked dark fruits emerge in their place.

Highlights are the smell and creamy (but not heavy) mouthfeel throughout, with the flavor rounding out nicely at warmer temps.

If you like the hop forward characteristics of the base Darkness, it's best to start drinking at a cooler temp and then let it warm to follow the transition. Great example of how the best BA stouts are those that start from strong base beers.

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Photo of MattyG85
4.7/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Poured from a waxed 750 ml bottle into a Surly Darkness chalice.

Appearance: Pours pitch black with a moderate amount of bubbles. About one finger of dark brown head which settles into a thin creamy layer.

Smell: A very rich, roasty, and sweet dark malt driven aroma with big hints of dark chocolate, coffee, dark fruit, and whiskey. Dark roasted barley malt with big upfront hints of dark chocolate, coffee beans, burnt toast, caramel, toffee, biscuit, and yeast. Sweet hints of molasses, syrup, and soy sauce. Good barrel presence with hints of rye whiskey, vanilla, and oak. Dark fruit hints of raisin, cherries, and fig. Subtle hints of earthy hops. Smells considerably sweeter than the regular Darkness.

Taste: Like it smells, a very rich, roasty, and fairly sweet dark malt driven taste with lots of dark chocolate, coffee, fruit, and whiskey. Upfront dark roasted barley malt with roasty notes of dark chocolate, coffee, toasted bread, biscuit, caramel, toffee, and yeast. Sweet taste of molasses and syrup. Barrel notes of rye whiskey, vanilla, oak, and wood. Slight presence of anise spice. Dark fruit undertones with notes of cherry, raisin, and fig. Bitter taste of earthy hops come through to help cut the sweetness. A very good tasting stout.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with a moderate amount of carbonation. Rich, chewy, and fairly syrupy with a drying finish. Alcohol heat is minimal.

Overall: A really nice twist on an already great stout. The barrel aging adds some nice rye notes and sweetness without overwhelming the base notes. Sweeter and more syrupy than the regular Darkness but the hops help keep it in check.

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Photo of JamesMN
4.68/5  rDev +4.7%
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.

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Photo of BarrytheBear
3.91/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Not quite sure how to feel about this.....750ml split with Chris..congrats on your tenure buddy!

The aggressive and boisterous hoppyness that makes Darkness the beer that it is, and a relatively unique tasting RIS at that, is masked here. While the rye flashes some spice and rides smoothly and a pleasantly, it certainly hinders the base. What's left is a fairly enjoyable, though nothing special, barrel aged stout.

Like many others I was excited to see that this year's version was barrel aged and equally excited to try it. The result is a good, not great, barrel aged stout that veers sharply from the more interesting qualities of past vintages.

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Photo of mothman
4.34/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

On tap at d day.

Tan head. Lace and retention. Black.

Rich chocolate, caramel, toffee, dark fruits, molasses, and some coffee. Smooth with a light roast. The barrel flavors are tasty, but light. Rye whiskey, oak, and vanilla all show but not heavy like some BA beers.

Maybe a bit too much carbonation for my liking. But very smooth. Rich. Full bodied.

Well done!

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Photo of maximum12
4.75/5  rDev +6.3%

Hnnnng. I’ve drunk my body weight of this elixir of happiness on tap, so I suppose it’s time to crack a bottle & do a proper review. 750ML cracked open with my wife.

Unlike Eight, the red wax is like bloody rubber, & takes some thumb-endangering effort to saw through. Worth the effort, the beer comes out black as a harpy’s soul & with a lot more carbonation. Nose is gorgeously smooth, redolent with vanilla, booze, whiskey, & a healthy helping of chocolate. I like chocolate. I’d still go trick-or-treating if I could get away with it.

Darkness – High West Whiskey Barrel Aged makes me want to drink until I wake up in a pool of my own urine in a stranger’s yard. The High West Barrels were a stroke of genius & I would like to personally thank Surly for the Rye Whiskey input. Fantastic barrel influence, spicy rye, sweet malts, vanilla, sticky marshmallow that makes me pine for a bonfire. Mid-palate the booze kicks in: much more alcoholistic than regoolar old Darkness from former yields. Chocolate, molasses add to the Party Down South. The finish is pure integrated goodness. I can, and have, drunk this until I’ve forgotten the question. Yes.

The quality of Darkness has varied over the years, from the godly nectars of ’07, ’09, & ’13, to the sweet mess of ’08 & the weirdly porter-like, uh, whatever the hell year that was. This? A bloody masterpiece that’s a hot wedding of great barrel & great stout. An elite-level beer.

 1,465 characters

Photo of OrionsHunt
4.73/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

October 25, 2014 - on tap at Darkness Day. My long quest for BA Darkness has finally concluded. I was the 4th to last person to get a pour at the 1 PM tapping and this was a nice reward for fighting through the cluster. Regular Darkness is fantastic, but the whiskey was just right and nicely balanced the sweetness making the BA version even better.

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Photo of don1481
4.61/5  rDev +3.1%
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.

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Photo of DanGeo
4.04/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Photo of tectactoe
4.4/5  rDev -1.6%

Photo of t2grogan
4.25/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Photo of CavemanRamblin
4.5/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Photo of cjn40277
4.5/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Photo of SkiBum22
4.29/5  rDev -4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Photo of BubalooBrewMaster
4.52/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Photo of Ben7773
4.88/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Photo of oddlandf
4.45/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Photo of SD-Alefan
4.88/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Enjoyed the 2014 Darkness Barrel Aged on tap. Poured into a snifter.
The beer is a perfectly opaque, deep brownish-black with a very sparse dark tan head that leaves some sheets of lacing.
Wonderful aroma, lots of dark fruit, chocolate and a hint of roasted coffee and a hint of the boozy warmth.
This beer tastes fabulous. Lots of layers of flavor. Raisins and fig up front for me, followed by some dark chocolate, maybe a hint of milk chocolate sweetness and some roast coffee bitter at the finish. Just a hint of spicy hops as well. A nice warming, boozy bite and it courses down the back of the throat. Gets even better as it warms a bit with a hint of whiskey coming through.
Mouthfeel is smooth and creamy.
Surprisingly drinkable for such a big beer. One of the best.

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Photo of DaftPatrick
4.7/5  rDev +5.1%

Photo of Afroman
4.75/5  rDev +6.3%

Photo of barhoc11
4.62/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This was sweeter than I thought it would be but very, very good. Not as much barrel presence but overall this is one of the best barrel aged imperial stouts I have had.

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Photo of ISUNO
5/5  rDev +11.9%
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!

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Photo of Prospero
5/5  rDev +11.9%

Photo of gibgink
4.75/5  rDev +6.3%

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Darkness - High West Rye Whiskey Barrel Aged (2014) from Surly Brewing Company
Beer rating: 4.47 out of 5 with 723 ratings