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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Russian Imperial Stout
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
Reviews by Tricerahops:
Photo of Tricerahops
4.75/5  rDev +5.6%

More User Reviews:
Photo of bigdaddypolite
4.38/5  rDev -2.7%
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.

 762 characters

Photo of maximum12
4.75/5  rDev +5.6%

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 MattyG85
4.7/5  rDev +4.4%
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.

 1,640 characters

Photo of OrionsHunt
4.73/5  rDev +5.1%
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.

 350 characters

Photo of JamesMN
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.

 1,906 characters

Photo of mothman
4.34/5  rDev -3.6%
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!

 366 characters

Photo of BarrytheBear
3.91/5  rDev -13.1%
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 Morey
4.5/5  rDev 0%

Photo of Davepoolesque
4.25/5  rDev -5.6%

Not a huge bourbon presence. Feel that it compliments the base beer perfectly. This was very drinkable. Warmed up my chest is alcohol heat, but could not taste it. Medium bodied. No carb issues. Perhaps less sweet than previous versions. Real good.

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Photo of mayxday
4.75/5  rDev +5.6%

Photo of hardy008
4.66/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours dark black with a one finger khaki head. The aroma has dark chocolate, dark roasted malt, dark fruit, oak, vanilla, coconut, rye, and whiskey.

Tastes just like it smells with dark chocolate, dark roasted malt, rye, dark fruit, oak, vanilla, coconut, and whiskey. A nice beer to sip on a cool Spring day.

Full bodied, creamy and smooth, with moderate carbonation. The alcohol is noticeable, but does not detract from the taste of the beer. Highly recommended.

 467 characters

Photo of CaptainFleeker
4.56/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Photo of smanson56
4.25/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Photo of xdtfx
4.35/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Photo of GDawgs34
4.08/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Photo of billyshears
4.35/5  rDev -3.3%

Photo of ripps1
4.74/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Photo of TampaRainman
4.5/5  rDev 0%

Photo of spycow
4.5/5  rDev 0%

Photo of Ciocanelu
4.65/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Photo of Flip4beers
4.57/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Photo of billab914
4.31/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Photo of HaveUSeenMyCellar
5/5  rDev +11.1%

Photo of Afroman
4.75/5  rDev +5.6%

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