Darkness - Bourbon Barrel Aged | Surly Brewing Company

110 Ratings
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Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.30%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by AdmiralDiaz on 12-23-2009

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

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Reviews: 21 | Ratings: 110
Photo of GuyFawkes
3.75/5  rDev -16.3%
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.

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Photo of Zaximus
4.81/5  rDev +7.4%
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

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Photo of Phyl21ca
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.

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Photo of Pencible
4.75/5  rDev +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.

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Photo of DexterWinslow
2.5/5  rDev -44.2%

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.

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Photo of Jayman931
4.8/5  rDev +7.1%
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.

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Photo of brycelarson
4.9/5  rDev +9.4%
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.

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Photo of carlton012
4.88/5  rDev +8.9%
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.

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Photo of Pintofbrown
4.82/5  rDev +7.6%
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.

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Photo of DCon
4.89/5  rDev +9.2%
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.

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Photo of ucis
4.52/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Overall I wanted to love this beer like a red-headed step-child. I can't believe it has taken me this long to sip this monster. It's oily and resinous and smells so amazing, but the mouth isn't as pleasing as regular darkness. I think it's a hard formula to f- with. It kisses your lips like oily garlic bread, but the smell is what your in it for. So amazing-- So clean. It's absolutely worth a taste if your ever given the chance.

The sweetness is numb and the hops are subdued by the bourbon. Even though the pine resin is there. Don't get me wrong this is one sweet mamma jamma. It is wonderful that it doesn't taste like Darkness with a splash of bourbon. It is something entirely different.

Note to self: I love this beer and would drink it if they ever bottled it. Maybe it will be a regular staple at the new brewery--hint, hint.

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Photo of kbutler1
4.13/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Cask. Served at ABR. Pours a very, very heady dark brown color with a reddish brown mahagony color head. The aroma is rich but isn’t as barrel and bourbon forward as I thought it may be, which is nice for me as I don’t like when BA beers get too much of the barrel. Medium/heavy mouthfeel. The bourbon is a little more noticeable in the taste along with chocolate, vanilla, and some roast. Overall, a balanced BA beer. Probably not as extreme as others would want.

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Photo of jera1350
4.16/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Served on cask at Darkness Day 2011.

Very syrupy and thick looking. Just a mere handful of bubbles spot the top of the beer. Lacing? No.

A rich smelling brew. Extremely sweet and bourbony smelling. Strong notes of caramel and toffee.

The taste is very nice. Extremely sweet, almost like liquid toffee. A very nice bourbon presence that is not hot and overpowering. A bit of roasted malt coming through as well.

The feel is very sticky and syrupy. There is absolutely zero carbonation in this beer which it so desperately needs to help it open up.

Really enjoyed the flavor of this beer, but I would still take a BCS over it. Would probably be much more solid if there were some carbonation to help it breathe. Still, an good beer that is worth trying if you find it.

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Photo of mothman
3.85/5  rDev -14.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2011 Cask served straight from the bourbon barrel at ABR.

Pours a big foamy tan head. Color is pitch black.

Aroma: Creamy, light roast, vanilla. The oak shows more than the bourbon. Chocolate and cocoa. Very rich.

Taste: I get a whiskey flavor here that is very dominate. It is also very oaky. Creamy and roasty with a nice amount of coffee. A little heat shows. Caramel and vanilla.

Mouthfeel: Warming and smooth. Light bodied with a decent amount of carbonation. Ends a little dry.

Overall, I like it, but I don't like it. This beer is a lot thinner than regular darkness and obviously not as hoppy. I really enjoyed the whiskey flavors, but it just wasn't like regular darkenss. If the body was fuller and it was still pretty hoppy then I would be all about this.

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Photo of tewaris
3.24/5  rDev -27.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured into ABR 2011 glass by the brewer himself!

Dark, rich black with a nice dark brown head. Good retention too... definitely inherits its looks from the base beer.

Aside from the looks and the raisin character of Darkness, this beer seems different on so many levels! The smoothness of regular Darkness is entirely missing, and so are the hops, obviously. The latter is not a bad thing in my opinion. However, this beer is still very sweet without being well integrated, and somewhat boozy, and yet the bourbon character is mute. Odd :/

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Photo of DeschutesNut
4.97/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Tasted this at the 2011 Autumn Brew Review at the Historic Grain Belt Complex in Minneapolis. Attended the first session. Was about 10th inline for this right as the gates opened.
Aroma smelt of bourbon and dark roasted malt. Head was a dark brown that was thick. filled half of my taster.
Tastes chocolate and a slight vanilla. Bourbon was there but was surprisingly smooth. Easily top 5 of the fest.

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Photo of JackieTH
4.58/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

From notes. From first in line at the entry we made a beeline to the Surly tent first session at the ABR to get this. We were first in line and within minutes the line to this one single cask stretched half-way back to the gate, prompting Omar to stand up on a ladder advising anyone that didn't want the Bourbon aged Darkness to move to the other taps for bender, Four, etc.., none did of course.

Appearance was imposing, dark, with a heavy caramel-dark brown head that lasted. Smell was vanilla-bourbon, roasted malt and roasters chocolate. Taste follows the nose..vanilla, milk chocolate, molasses, toasted toffee. The distinct vanilla bourbon wood presence is lingering throughout. Its not sweet, and slightly warming. Mouthfeel is thick, chewy, rich and creamy. Overall this is an intensely rich sipper, so thick you could use a spoon.

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Photo of Mistofminn
4.8/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Review from notes. Went to Mackenzie's (first time going there actually) to give this a try after finals were over (yea I had a final 2 days before Christmas...gross huh?)

I consider 2009 to be better than 2008, but it's hard to compare a fresh bottle to a year old keg, as the only time I've had 2008 Darkness was a couple weeks before Darkness Day 2009 on cask. I found 2008 to be almost overly sweet and the hops had dropped off quite a bit, while 2009 was intensely hoppy and just plain better all around.

Pours deep, motor-oil black with a brown sugar colored head. Excellent retention and awesome lacing.

No idea of the length this spent in the bourbon barrels, or even what kind of bourbon they were, but the bourbon is strong in this. Other notes include sweet and roasted malt, brown sugar and molasses and a dry hop character. It's pretty much exactly what I thought it would be, Darkness 2008 (sweet) with bourbon barrel aging characters.

Taste is just like the nose, but sweeter. Bourbon and wood characters shine, along with roasted malts and light hops. The wood character comes out strong, and I didn't pick it up in the nose.

Thick and rich, chewy and creamy. Full bodied with a low carbonation. Drinkability is dangerous, especially considering the ABV.

This puts an entirely new spin on Darkness. It adds enough to dimish the sweetness and focus my mind on other things. Excellent, and so glad I got a chance to try it! Wouldn't have missed this for the world (or another final!) so follow Surly on twitter to find out things like this!

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Photo of younger35
4.61/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Had a couple full pours of this at Mackenzies in downtown Minneapolis. I will say to start, I do not like Darkness all that much. 2009 was much better than 2008. Actually, 2008 was hot garbage. Did not care for it. Drank from a generic pint glass, yes, a nice full pour!

Appearance- Pours a pitch ass black with a nice frothy one finger dark tan head with fairly decent staying power. A decent cap and great collar remains the entire beer along with a fair amount of thick web like lacing.
Smell- Rich and bold as the nose is full of bourbon and wood. It still has an essence of that '08 Darkness as there is a somewhat herbally hoppiness still detectable. It's plenty roasted with a dark chocolaty char that has aspects of dark bitter baker's chocolate. I remember the original having more of a sweetened and dark fruit smell. Maybe a bit of molasses as well but it doesn't have an overly sweet smell thanks to the wood. Some vanilla pod and caramelized sugars to finish.
Taste- A nice big rush of intense milk chocolate and molasses right from the get go. Maybe a bit of licorice but once the bourbon and wood moves in look out. Doesn't quite have the intensity of BCS but it's in the same zip code. Deep caramel tones mix into that chocolate and vanilla aspect leading to a definite intense richness. The hops have definitely faded as the bourbon and chocolate do a fairly good job of taking the beer over. The alcohol is basically undetectable as well.
Mouthfeel- Very thick and rich with a big full body and light creamy carbonation.
Drinkability- So I hated '08 Darkness. Had I known if throwing it into a used bourbon barrel and let it sit for a year or two (have no idea how long it's been aging) would make it absolutely delicious, I wouldn't have been so hard on it all this time. It's not overly sweet now and the bourbon is absolutely spot on. Great beer that I went down to Mackenzies to just try one and ended up HAVING to get another. Badass.

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Photo of pmccallum86
4.87/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a super deep dark color with a cocoa colored thick bubbly head.

The smell is mainly of bourbon, with some molasses and roasted malt coming through as well. Very, very nice.

Tastes like a mellowed down darkness aged with bourbon and molasses syrup. Terrific tasting beer, very similar to Goose Island BSC but more smooth and complex. Lots of bourbon and even more complexity.

Mouthfeel is thick and delightful, a thick tasty winter warmer at it's finest.

About as drinkable as a beer this big can be, very delightful to quaff. I want to drink this everyday.

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Photo of AdmiralDiaz
4.77/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

A: Jet black with a one-finger brown head with great retention and good lacing. Someone next to me left their beer sitting for about 30 minutes and the head didn't lost any retention and ended up leaving a full glass of lacing.

S: Strong bourbon with molasses, chocolate, brown sugar with very little hop profile. Very sweet and very appealing. In a way reminds me of Goose Island Bourbon County with a hop profile.

T: Rich! Very strong sweet molasses and boozy bourbon turns into burnt brown sugar with sort of a funky taste accompanied with a little bit of hop profile that's faded during the aging. Very complex with a finish that leaves a sugary bourbon taste in your mouth for quite some time. I've heard some people complain that Darkness gets too sweet over time, but I feel that it's just right and still well-balanced...even more so with the bourbon notes.

M&D: Very syrupy, but well carbonated, which gives an overall very silky texture leaving a thick coating in your mouth and stickiness on you lips (lol)...really though, it's pretty much perfect in my opinion. Drinkability is pretty good considering the thickness and the alcohol content. I ended up having two glasses and wasn't tired of it yet.

Overall: Very, very impressive. I wasn't expecting a whole lot, since Darkness hasn't been my absolute favorite. With the bourbon and age added this beer is even more complex and very delicious. As unique as Darkness is by itself, this beer is one-of-a-kind. If you ever get a chance to sample it, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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Darkness - Bourbon Barrel Aged from Surly Brewing Company
4.48 out of 5 based on 110 ratings.
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