Darkness-Barrel Aged 2016
Surly Brewing Company

Darkness-Barrel Aged 2016Darkness-Barrel Aged 2016
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Russian Imperial Stout
4.47 | pDev: 5.82%
Surly Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States
Retired (no longer brewed)
Darkness-Barrel Aged 2016Darkness-Barrel Aged 2016
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Reviews: 48 | Ratings: 212 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of feloniousmonk
4.18/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Inky dark, completely opaque, rich tan head on top, lasting long.

In the nose: Oak. Vanilla. Char. Molasses. Smoke. Chocolate-covered cherries. So much more.

In the mouth: Wow. Rich and luxurious. Thick, slick, and delicious. Coats the palate with bourbon-y flavors. Alcohol comes roaming on in. Vast and glorious. Tremendously stupendous. Coated and covered with all the big, bourbon flavors, and all the gigantic imperial stout goodness. Whoa. Whoa, whoa, whoa.

This is a bottle I managed to hang on to for about 2 years or so. Sort of wished I'd held on to it longer. No idea when or if I'll ever see another one.

Barrel-aged Darkness is indeed a wonderful thing of beauty.

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Photo of MonDak_Joe1953
4.46/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

750ml bottle. Waxed and capped. Protected by the legendary hound of Hades Cerberus. Label has the signature of Todd Haug.
Black colored body, with the thinnest edge of back lit mahogany. Initial pour yields multiple fingers of khaki head, which recedes to a partial island and ring. Leaves behind a pattern of widely scattered spots of lacing,
Aroma of dark roasted malts, with chocolate and coffee being quite intoxicating. There is a thin vein of dark cherry, with higher whiffs of whiskey barrel oak.
Taste is dark roasted malts filled with chocolate and coffee. Contributing is dark fruit/cherries. Encompassing all is the light touch of whiskey barrel oak aging.
Medium plus mouth feel. Very good carbonation. Alcohol is not felt so much on the tongue but inhaled through the nostrils.
Well crafted whiskey barrel aged stout. Well balanced and somewhat complex, but still straightforward. I am sure the time in the bottle has mellowed this beer to a degree. Warm and inviting, with an end expressing a slight sweet side.

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Photo of aleigator
4.24/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours pitch black with almost no head to speak of at all.

Smells of milk chocolate, spicy oak barrel, toasted grains and molasses. Provides a light, pleasant burn in my nostrils, together with some char and boozy pralines.

Exhibits a fuller, smooth body, with a light touch of carbonation during the finish.

Tastes of bakers chocolate, getting an immediate push from the warming, spicy and toasty bourbon barrel, adding an interplay of glazed caramel and roasted malts to the flavors. Turns sweeter then, with caramel, spicy molasses and a prevailing, balancing barrel appearance, adding even more roast and char. Finishes heavier on the spices, backed up by a solid sweetness with a late booze dryness and calming earth.

This drinks great after three years, creamy and complex with a nice portion of roast, implying a feeling of darkness in a great fashion.

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Photo of Jeffo
4.02/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Got this one from Rutger last summer. Cheers, man!

From a 750 into a snifter
Bottled 26 January 2017 (smudge)
Aged in Rye Whisky barrels
Drunk right after the non-BA version

APPEARANCE: Pours out clear black and yields a 1+ finger, medium looking tan head with good retention. Black body with no real carbonation evident. Head slowly fades to a decent wisp and clings to the sides of the glass. A half wisp remains leaving touches of lacing down the glass as it empties.

SMELL: Whisky and oak on the nose, but the base Darkness is definitely still there. Tobacco, leather, chocolate and dark fruits show their way through. Bold.

TASTE: Whisky, oak, roasted malts, tobacco, leather and some booze up front. Alcoholic finish with whisky, chocolate, leather and tobacco, dark fruit sweetness and some decent hop bitterness. Boozy with some decent whisky barrel, but it doesn’t totally dominate the base beer. Well balanced.

PALATE: Medium-fuller body with medium carbonation. Lots of weight, creamy as well, goes down fine and finishes very sticky on the palate. Lots of heat lingers.

OVERALL: Good stuff. Really nicely done. The base beer is really good as it is and the barrel aging adds an interesting layer of whisky and oak qualities to the beer without overpowering the delicious characteristics of the base stout. This has always been one of my favorite beers and this installment in the saga is well worth it. Probably the best of the three BA versions I've tried of this beer. Thanks again, Rutger. Always a pleasure, man.

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Photo of AgentMunky
4.65/5  rDev +4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Served in a snifter at the brewery.
Completely black. Oily, viscous, mocha head.
Deep, complicated. Chicory, molasses, hint of savory note (soy sauce, whatever that compound is).
Creamy, sweet, then super savory. Roasted malt. Kinda smoky. Reminds me of Paradox Islay. The flavor is kind of thin (lean?) but the body isn't. Ultimately like pork fat and chicory.
Barrel aging influence really shows. There's a lot going on, but I like it all.

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Photo of REVZEB
4.6/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Had on tap. Wow this aged beautifully! Dark black pour with specs of grayish-tan, and tan foam. Smell is all things, you guessed it, dark: rye whiskey, charred wood, molasses, leather, raisin, dark coffee, soil, dark wheat, fig and tobacco. Taste is all of these flavors plus vanilla, ash, and some more dark fruit and dark chocolate, but overall impression that it leaves you is the rye whiskey barrel forming all of these flavors. Warm, creamy, and perky.

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Photo of Harrison8
4.49/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours black with a finger and a half of dense, caramel foam. Head retention is moderate, with a long lasting ring of foam. Surprising amount of head out of a barrel aged stout. Netted just a little bit higher than the regular version of the same year poured alongside this one. Aroma is roasty, toasty, nutty malts with hints of caramel, molasses and toffee. Booze comes through a touch by way of bourbon, and is curtailed by a light dab of char. It smells lightly sweet, but the minute heat brings it back to center. Flavor profile is roasty, toasty, nutty, caramely malts with bits and pieces of toffee, molasses, brown sugar, chocolate, and dark fruits and raisins in between. Bourbon and whisky come on slightly at the end, turning the furnace up a few degrees right before the flame gets blown out. Complete dynamic is a malty, heavy opening, sugary center and a lightly hot finish that seals up the experience. Mouth feel is silty, spreading very fine grit over the tongue each sip. It’s washed away by the thick consistency, like a heavy tide on a fine sand beach. Overall, the barrel does well to keep the beer’s sweetness from running away, complimenting the base beer magnificently, with its final form coming out well balanced.

Served in a 15.5oz Speigalau tulip from a 22oz bottle. 2016 vintage reviewed in May of 2019.

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Photo of mynie
4.67/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Exquisite bottle.

Pours a very deep, dark black, almost completely opaque.

Aroma is vanilla, tobacco, stout barley, and chocolate.

Tastes fantabulous. A multi-layered chewing tobacco chocolate bar that is always interesting, always tasty, and never even for a second off. Maple and cigars up front, chewy barley and milk chocolate near the middle, and then a russian imperial stout finish.

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Photo of mschrei
5/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Story first: my first experience with regular Darkness was a few years ago on the What Beer Are You Drinking Now thread themed day known as Day of the Dark. I had had a very bad peanut butter Porter from Four Hands beforehand, and it literally took me 6 to 8 hours to finish a bottle of Darkness afterwards. Since then, I shared a regular bottle of Darkness with my now brother-in-law and a holiday party, and I had a random glass of barrel aged Darkness at a local beer store/tasting room.

I have always found both regular and barrel aged versions of this to be very thick and flavorful and tasty and extremely enjoyable, but also one of the most beers that takes the most effort to drink.

So this year, for the Day of the Dark theme day, I woke up on the couch at 5AM after dozing off last night, and I realized that I don't have to work today. So not only can I start off the day with something good and big, but I can also have something to go along with the theme. I think: what do I have?

Okay. How about the oldest of the two barrel aged Darkness bottles I have?

And I must say I was greatly rewarded. This is an amazing beer. Pours dark with thinning tan edges, a healthy tan head. Smell and taste are extremely well rounded, lots of roastiness and sweet flavors of chocolate and vanilla, even some molasses, and the taste is backed by a medium boozy barrel presence that is not too strong, nor underwhelming. As Baby Bear would say, it's just right. Feel is one of the best I've experienced for a barrel aged stout. Medium body, mouth filling, great alcohol burn without being too much.

There's practically nothing wrong with this one. Giving it some age really makes it an easy sipper, and I was able to finish it in under two hours. Yay, me!

The regular and the barrel aged will always be beers I get to age and have on special occasions. Just an awesome beer.

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Photo of FriedSlug
4.57/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Super dark thick beer with a brown head that leaves some nice lacing. Smells very sweet a little smokey with bourbon, chocolate vanilla. Tastes like the nose with chocolate being the biggest flavor. Nice thick, syrupy, creamy feel. Great beer.

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Photo of smcolw
4.5/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

From the brewer: Our massive Russian Imperial Stout spent some quality time in High West rye whiskey barrels. The result is oaky, spicy, and highly aromatic on top of the choir Darkness flavors. In other words, it's awesome.

Deep dark brown where no light shines through at all. Moderate head with streaky lacing.

Creamy chocolate smell. Very rich and sweet (dark cherries and raisins).

Super rich with lots of cocoa, molasses and raisins. The nearly nonexistent carbonation enhances this. Huge flavors but still approachable. Complex without pretensions. In a word: awesome.

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Photo of larryarms847
4.33/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours black and motor-oil thick with zero light passing through and a half finger of plump light brown foam.

Oak, molasses, chocolate, vanilla, and whiskey.

Chocolate and rich roasted malt flavors are wrapped in a blanket of the heavy barrel character, giving oak, vanilla, and whiskey flavors.

Full-bodied, low-medium carbonation, rich, chewy, viscous.

Overall, quite an outstanding brew, the barrel is pronounced and this beer is delicious!

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Photo of BEERchitect
4.48/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Nestled deep in bourbon country, the Woodford Reserve brand is happy to roll out the collection of well crafted versions. Howevery their rye whisky imparts a special spice that goes against tradition. Surly Brewing sees that spice and lays their Darkness stout down for a long and peppery slumber in those used rye whisky barrels for a special little zing.

Rye Whisky Barrel Aged Darkness strikes the olfactories with a host of char, espresso, peppercorn and whisky at the onset of the pour. Espresso black and releasing a rich mocha stained lather, the initial taste comes with a host of burnt sugars that range from brown sugar and caramel to marshmallow and chocolate. Campfire s'mores come to mind, but only if you can dip them in whisky.

The stout really opens up on the middle palate as the sweetness takes a slight backseat to the char and oak. Roasted barley captures a true expresso roast along with black walnut and cocoa that all seem of the charred, slightly smoky and burnt varieties. Its arid creaminess highlights the char and invites the taste of raw grain whisky to make a serious mark on the late palate. A bitter and slightly acidic zing prickles the tongue with the grain and grit of rye bread, alcohol spice and its overall husken peppery taste.

Full bodied and finishing the the same expanded creamy structures of the middle palate, the textures of pepper, whisky and char is elevated in a bitter finish of baker's chocolate and fresh ground coffee. A sensation of smoldering embers chase into a long and ominous after palate of campfire and spicy cocoa.

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

Cracked a bottle tonight after cellaring for a year. Poured black with a tan head. Dark and spicy and thick - did everything I wanted it to. Adding this one helped a ton - last year's offering fresh was no where near as good as this. I'm not a big Surly fanboy, but I could knock one of these back each year and be happy about it.

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Photo of Apellonious
4.44/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at 8th street grille in Mnlps. 10 oz pour, dark as knight, sliver of dark tan lace that retains on the side of the glass. Aroma is chocolate, bourbon, and vanilla, and the taste is more the same. The feel is smooth, carbonation light, slightly sticky. Everything is blended to perfection. Was looking for the original, but was very happy with coming across and being able to try this version.

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Photo of Ri0
4.44/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Poured 750ml into tulip glass. Pitch black with a thin 1 finger deep tan head that quickly fades away and leaves no lacing behind. The aroma has rich roasted malts, molasses, oak, vanilla, sweet caramel, and dark chocolate. Flavor starts with the barrel along with roasted malts, plenty of dark chocolate, some molasses with caramel. Vanilla and some oak move in to to finish it off. A very smooth and rich full mouthfeel that is slightly sweet. I had this resting in the cellar for a year to help the barrel notes slightly fade.

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Photo of stortore
4.49/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

750 ml bottle into a snifter. Bottled 1/20/17, had 7/1/17.

Pours near black, opaque, with a one inch foamy head and some soapy lacing. Aromas of roasted malt, chocolate, cocoa, rye whiskey, toffee, molasses, rye, oak, light vanilla, some coffee, light smoke. The rye whiskey takes the lead with the taste, then roasted malt, cocoa, chocolate, vanilla, caramel, some chocolate, rye, molasses, oak. Smooth, creamy, well carbonated. A very good full body, although it’s slightly thinner than the non- barrel aged version.

Pretty amazing for only 3 months in barrels. Great flavor and aroma, great feel. Pricier than some, but top notch, so quite worth it. If you have the chance, run for this one.

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Photo of Benish
4.02/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured pitch black in color with a pancake batter head that disappeared quickly. No lacings around the glass. Picked up heavy aromas of bourbon and oak. There is a subtle note of dark fruits, spices, and molasses. Upon first sip, very hoppy, even with one year of age. However it starts sweet and boozy and finishes the same. Picked up dark fruits and a ton of bourbon. Surprisingly its not as chocolate and coffee forward as many other BA stouts. It drink somewhat more like a strong ale. Mouthfeel - medium body with a warming finish in the mouth. Maybe a tad thing. Overall: bourbon is very upfront and heavy. I have to admit, I like their regular non-BA version better, I find it more chocolaty and sweet minus the bourbon masking the flavors. Still a good beer overall.

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Photo of mjpolzin
4.31/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Good bourbon nose. With the taste I initially noticed how much the base beer came through. The last few years of Darkness have been sweeter and more malt forward than recent years and I definitely tasted this. Barrel notes followed after that. A very good beer but just not quite as complex a taste as some of the best BA stouts I've had.

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Photo of SD-Alefan
4.84/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Pours black with a slight tan head.
Cherry and dark fruit lead the aroma with chocolate and roasted coffee, molasses and rye whiskey following.
This is a flavor parade. Dark chocolate, dark fruit, sweet milk chocolate, espresso, booze, vanilla all make appearances.
Mouthfeel is medium-thick and very smooth. Creamy and slightly sticky.
Just great.

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Photo of SoCal_Matt
4.49/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours dark brown with minimal head that dissipates quickly. Nose is dominated by the barrel treatment and very oaky/boozy with some chocolate. Taste follows the nose with a lot of barrel notes and some spicy rye. Mostly chocolate and dark fruit flavors with a touch of coffee and slight vanilla. Feel is on the plus side of medium and subdued on carbonation. Overall, very enjoyable and lives up to its reputation. I'd love to try the non-BA version just for comparison.

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

Soap box: Overall, it's good but personally I think Surly does a better job marketing and building hype than they do selling a beer at an appropriate price. There are many other beers out there that sell for less that surpass this overall.

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

Bottle into snifter dated - ?/20/17

Color is a dark brown that is fairly translucent from the bottle to glass. Tight and slightly fizzy bubbles are a shaved chocolate brown and sizzle until gone. Spicy taste is likely from the rye barrels, but the base has a nice hoppy essence to it as well, so that could be it too. Imperial stout to the fullest. Barrel is not that prominent but is there. Reminds me of the BA old Rasputin that I had at a share recently. Nice but a bit of a letdown, simply for the fact that I had hyped this to myself for some time

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Photo of SpeedwayJim
4.05/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A big thanks to Jeff for this one for providing vintages of this year after year. 750ml waxed and capped bottle into a Surly teku. Shared with schen9303.

Dense, dark and deep with a thick, coffee colored head with great retention. Nose is chocolate, sweet soy sauce, fudge, booze and oak . Beer opens boozy. Notes of sweet soy sauce, chocolate, fudge, anise and cocoa powder. Good balance. End is more of the same with some dried prunes and raisin at the finish. Body is medium with low carbonation. Smooth on the palate and goes down hot.

Could use a touch more body but the flavor is spot on as always.

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Photo of Buck89
4.25/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured into a snifter on eclipse day 2017!
Opaque and viscous on the pour, producing an impressive tan head with good staying power.
Aroma: vanilla, wood, bourbon, coffee, chocolate - all playing together nicely.
Taste: the rye is up front but followed by rich chocolate, vanilla, and roasty notes. The rye remained prominent throughout and on the finish with some heat.
Feel: full-bodied with low-medium carbonation.
Overall: outstanding beer. Would like to revisit this one in 1-2 years to see the heat from the rye turned down just a tad.

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Darkness-Barrel Aged 2016 from Surly Brewing Company
Beer rating: 97 out of 100 with 212 ratings