Darkness - Bourbon Barrel-Aged
Surly Brewing Company

Darkness - Bourbon Barrel-AgedDarkness - Bourbon Barrel-Aged
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Russian Imperial Stout
Ranked #17
Ranked #273
4.5 | pDev: 9.56%
Surly Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States
Darkness - Bourbon Barrel-AgedDarkness - Bourbon Barrel-Aged
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Reviews: 36 | Ratings: 266 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of firesidewithphil
firesidewithphil from Illinois

4.5/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

BA Darkness 2020 was a lucky find. The flavor is a blend of sweet, rich whiskey with a complex dark caramel. Drinks more like a 9% stout even though it is at 12%. Little brother to BBA World Wide Stout from Dogfish. Pick this up if you see it.

IG: @firesidewithphil

Sunday at 07:31 PM
Photo of bbtkd
bbtkd from South Dakota

4.54/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Surly Barrel-aged Darkness Imperial Stout (2020), 12% ABV. Pours black with a four finger tan head that left lots of foamy lacing. Nose is chocolate, bourbon, leather (belt, not shoe), and slight tobacco. Taste is chocolate, malt, slightly sweet, slightly bitter. Excellent mouthfeel, overall outstanding. I've had BA Darkness for five years now, and this ranks right up there with 2016 which I really liked. This is the most chocolate-tasting one.

Mar 15, 2020
Photo of SpeedwayJim
SpeedwayJim from New York

4.21/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A big thanks to Jeff for this one. 750ml waxed and capped bottle into Night Shift stemware. Shared with schen9303.

Nose is brownie, sweet soy sauce, chocolate, leather and molasses. Rich and heavy and very aromatic. Beer opens sweet soy sauce, booze, molasses, tobacco and oak. Chocolate and syrup in the middle with cocoa powder, roasted malt and sweet cream wafting in the back. End is more tobacco, booze and almost a tart roasted malt. Very good. Hot, big and bold. Full bodied with low carbonation. Thick and oily on the palate and goes down hot. Messy, sticky finish that lingers.

Darkness is one of the ideal imperial stouts to be barrel aged and this showcases that perfectly. Definitely worth having.

Feb 29, 2020
Photo of kojevergas
kojevergas from Colorado

3.73/5  rDev -17.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

On-draught @ Timothy O'Tooles:

Bitter and charred up front with a creamy coating mouthfeel that takes the edge off. Silky and chocolatey. Gooey bourbon throughout...the aging has eliminated Darkness' usual hoppy flavour to good effect.

Vanillin. Molasses. Dark malt sweetness. Some burnt malt bitterness. Roast.

It's rather complex yet shockingly well balanced. Faint alcohol warmth adds to its winter sipper vibe.

A top tier Russian Imperial Stout, no doubt. Though I've had better bourbon flavour (e.g. Founders) and I've found more complex expressions of the style (e.g. Narke). A must-try RIS with a sumptuously gooey mouthfeel that accentuates the Bourbon barrel flavour and roasty goodness from the base beer.

Could use a bit more weight on the palate... it's slightly thin.

High B / GOOD

Nov 30, 2019
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michaelsmith11 from Illinois

4.67/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Had this on tap at Gillerson's Grubery. The look was dark black with a tan head. The smell was dark chocolate, vanilla, oak, bourbon with a hint of dark fruit. The taste was fairly complex with waves of flavors. Chocolate, malt, caramel, and the the heat from the bourbon. Very nice smooth full mouthfeel. Excellent beer!

Oct 26, 2019
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gatornation from Minnesota

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

2016 bottle- Pours a rich dark black color with a nice tan head that stays fresh thru out. Smell is bourbon,molasses,dark fruit. Taste has barrel/wood and whiskey sweet chocolate mixed well with dark fruits,roasted malts,vanilla and caramel. Mouth feel is sweet on this vintage and has good barrel presence, 2016 is not as good as 2015 or 2018.

Jul 18, 2019
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Rristow from Ohio

4.72/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Tasted from bottle. Pours black with thin beige head that quickly fades. Aroma of bourbon, cherry, dates, raisin, molasses. Thick and chewy. Flavors of cherry, raisins, cocoa, molasses and brown sugar. Awesome BA stout.

Jun 18, 2019
Photo of yesterdayfaraway
yesterdayfaraway from Missouri

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

L: pours a see through black a a finger of head that fades fast
S: sweet chocolate and barrel.
T: just like the nose but with rich roasted malt in the backend. It balances the sweetness a bit but still keeps the finish sweet and enjoyable
F: to thin for me, but very smooth and a great finish.

Jun 15, 2019
Photo of Sandis
Sandis from Minnesota

4.5/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2015 version. Many have said that this year might be the best vintage overall and based upon this sampling, I agree! Very smooth with just the right amount of sweetness and barrel presence.

May 28, 2019
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Gobearswalter34 from Illinois

4.86/5  rDev +8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Pours black with a creamy Mocha head that sticks to sides and nice swirl in middle.
Smell of Carmel malt, sweet bourbon. Big dark chocolate.
Wonderful creamy Carmel and chocolate up front. Barrel notes are big and wonderful. Slight maple, black licorice.
Mouth feel is amazing. Big stout extremely smooth.

Mar 31, 2019
Photo of eafowler7
eafowler7 from Iowa

1.54/5  rDev -65.8%
look: 5 | smell: 1 | taste: 1 | feel: 4 | overall: 1

Absolutely foul. More flavor does not mean better. It is a clear indication of rater bias that the brews with the most intense flavor profiles are the highest rated on this site. Again, MORE IS NOT BETTER!! The barrel aging just turns it into bourbon. Would never buy again or recommend. Drinking this will make your stomach churn. Two thumbs down and big middle finger to all the beer snobs that think they're sophisticated drinking this swill. CHEERS MATES!

Oct 08, 2018
Photo of Sabtos
Sabtos from Ohio

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

I'm not sure why there is a generic entry for this while there are many specific entries for various vintages, but my experiences with the vintages have actually been quite varied, so this will be an in-between version, as the 2015 was stellar and the 2016 was good but not great.

Since this entry is from 2009 and seems to be used whenever anyone drinks any vintage, I'll express the general theme from my experiences:

An impenetrable black body has a burnt toffee blanket that settles to a thin ring. The shared flavors and aromas are chocolate and roasty nuts with a sharp, near-pine bite, rum-like bourbon adding hints of vanilla, and woody charred accents through a full, thick and smooth body.

It's undeniably a good beer, but seems to be on the decline over the years, with the Baba Yaga version being my least favorite.

Sep 20, 2018
Photo of Biggiekrock627
Biggiekrock627 from Maryland

4.71/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

2017 on tap at pizza Luce in Minneapolis. 10oz pour and absolutely delicious. Silky smooth with no boozy after taste and very well balanced. I would drink this every day if I could

Aug 16, 2018
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vette2006c5r from Minnesota

4.71/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.75

Bourbon Barrel Aged Darkness pours a black color, with a small, but long lasting and lacing tan head. Big rich and sharp malty aroma, hints of bourbon and oak. Flavor is big, full of flavor, lots of oak and bourbon, hints of black licorice. Good body and feel. Now darkness was always good, but the bourbon barrel made it truly great.

Apr 06, 2018
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Kingcom from North Dakota

4.8/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

Awesome looking bottle with cool artwork and gold colored wax that didn't overly stick to the bottle which is good in my opinion. I think I read somewhere that this beer was aged in barrels for only 3 months so I wasn't expecting much but this beer completely transformed over those 3 months so I'm guessing the barrels were fairly new. Anyways, I shared this bottle between 2 other people at about 50F in a snifter.

L: Pitch black with about 1 finger of head
S: Huge notes of barrel, vanilla, and burnt chocolate
T: Completely tasted like it smelled which was awesome
F: Thick and full
O: I prefer regular BA imperial stouts without the coffee, spices, etc. and this is exactly what you get here. To date, this was one of the best BA imperial stouts I've ever had. It will be interesting to see how this one ages. Try it if you get the opportunity.

Jul 19, 2017
Photo of GuyFawkes
GuyFawkes from Illinois

3.75/5  rDev -16.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

2014 vintage; drank 10/30/14 on draft @ Fischman's.

Brown/black hue.

Tan head; minimal lace.

Sweet cherry, marshmallow, apricot & booze heat in the nose.

Thick, flat mouthfeel.

Tepid flavors cold; once warm, mocha, fresh earth & booze heat flavors emerged. Just OK.

Feb 28, 2017
Photo of Zaximus
Zaximus from Colorado

4.81/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

On tap at Hopleaf's Super Stout Sunday. Fan-freakin tastic.

Exceptionally well balanced and drinkable at 10%. Barrel really shines through but doesn't take away from the base beer IMO at a

Feb 06, 2017
Photo of Phyl21ca
Phyl21ca from Canada

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

Bottle: Poured a pitch-black color stout with a nice dark brown foamy head. Aroma of smooth bourbon notes with vanilla and black chocolate notes are very enticing. Taste is also a nice mix of bourbon notes with vanilla and light woody notes with a mix of black chocolate notes and light roasted malt flavours. Body is full with nice smooth texture and good carbonation with limited alcohol being perceptible. Solid take on the style and something I wish was available more often.

May 25, 2016
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Pencible from Virginia

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

Sampled at SAVOR 2015. 2014 vintage, so it had a bit of time to mature. It didn't smell amazing, but it tasted off the charts. Holy wow. Very sweet, but not sticky. A bit hot, so a little more age may help further improve.

Jun 09, 2015
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DexterWinslow from Minnesota

2.5/5  rDev -44.4%

Do you like sickly sweet beers with a hint of oak hanging in the back? This is for you.
On tap, thin white head. Choked it down. Maybe my tastes have just changed because this whole style is just noxious now.

Nov 05, 2014
Photo of Jayman931
Jayman931 from Mississippi

4.8/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

A: Dark....minimal head
S: Superb
S: Sexy
T: Not quite Darklord but damn its good..

Top Tier Beer.

So my comment must be 250 characters so let me wax poetically about the greatness of this beer. Tastes greaaat!

In all seriousness its exceptional...second only to 3F Darklord.

Mar 07, 2013
Photo of brycelarson
brycelarson from Minnesota

4.9/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

This is a simply magical brew. Darkness is, on it's own a powerful brew. It's nutty, fruity, malty and as the bottle says - dark as hell. This adds a new layer to that fantastically complex and powerful beer.

This beer pours almost like a syrup. It coats the glass with a thick, dark film. The head, since it was a cask pour was moderate - but the thickness held it well. It's utterly light-proof in the glass.

The nose starts a bit harsh - the high alcohol content mixed with the bourbon note hits you immediately but mellows to the background aromas quickly. The overall list of what you can smell is nearly unlimited. There are fruits, malt, there's a hop back end and some spice. There's a moderate sweetness in there as well - caramel, coffee, chocolate, cherries, raisins and tons of other scents. The bourbon lays on top of all of those - adding a second layer to everything.

There's a density of flavor that makes this beer extremely difficult to pin down. It rotates in your mouth through almost every descriptor you could apply to a beer.

The mouth feel is heavy and thick and pleasing.

Overall this is a utterly fantastic beer.

Jan 10, 2012
Photo of carlton012
carlton012 from Minnesota

4.88/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This is the best beer of the Surly entourage, by far. It's like cough syrup. I loved looking at my empty glass, seeing the residue look like syrup. The flavor and pour were my favorite. It was a perfect compliment to a spicy breakfast, specifically chorizo. It was a very smooth beer, with a great bourbon feel from the initial taste to that feeling as it's going down. Love this beer.

Nov 20, 2011
Photo of Pintofbrown
Pintofbrown from Texas

4.82/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This was poured from a wooden cask at Darkness Day into a plastic Surly cup. The review is from notes.

Appearance- It pours a syrupy dark brown with no highlights and is completely opaque. There is very little head, just a slight film of mocha-brown. There is no lace that I can see.

Smell- The profile is a bit surprising. I expected a lot more bourbon on the head. It is there, but it is subtle and mixes with the strong chocolate and toffee notes. The sweetness from dark fruit and cherries is way more subdued than in the regular Darkness. It is so complex and great.

Taste- Wow is this good! It is still really sweet, but again, it isn't as much fruity anymore as a malty, toffee sweetness, even a little bready.

As expected, the bourbon note is there, and is really oaky. I am also impressed how it isn't overwhelming and doesn't really pack that much heat.

Finally, there is some dark cherry hanging around in the finish with some chocolate and roasted malt. The barrel aging did wonders to the profiles.

Mouth feel- Being in the cask has really taken care of any carbonation that may have been there before. It is really chewy and full bodied. It is almost like drinking a syrup.

Overall- In all ways this is an improvement over regular Darkness. The barrel aging has improved the flavor profile and made the mouth feel all the more impressive.

Nov 02, 2011
Photo of DCon
DCon from Missouri

4.89/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Enjoyed on-cask w/ xsists & his gf @ the Surly Brewing Company's Darkness Day 2011 in Brooklyn Center, MN for $5. Tapped from the Black Handle under a WOODEN Barrel into my new 12oz Surly Darkness Tulip Glass!

Aroma- Very extreme boozy and has the strongest amount of malt and grain possible! The bourbon was lighter on the nose here but great, more complexity! Has a vinous and rich brandy type of aroma too. Just great!

Appearance- Received with almost no head at all (due to cask). Has a deep and viscous black colored body. Very opaque. Does not leave any lacing either on the glass.

Flavor- A very deep malt and boozy brew once again. Awesome! Has TONS of cherries in the background and definitely has the oaky taste. Not as bittersweet as usual oaked or bourbon stouts have and I like this! Strong, rich, and almost like a barleywine at times. Has a medium bitterness on the finish.

Mouthfeel- Full Bodied, Lightest Carbonation, Chewy, and leaves awesome amount of cherries on the palate. Almost like drinking a cherry stout but then has a bit of booze on the end.

Overall Impression- This is definitely one of my favorite 2X Stouts! This cherry character that I found in here made an extreme impact in how I enjoyed this one as well! Very rich, boozy, and while its not the easiest brew to drink, you get a ton of time to get down more characteristics and descriptions of this guy. I hope the original Darkness is as good as this one! Will be tough to beat.

Oct 24, 2011
Darkness - Bourbon Barrel-Aged from Surly Brewing Company
Beer rating: 97 out of 100 with 266 ratings