Darkness - Bourbon Barrel-Aged
Surly Brewing Company

Darkness - Bourbon Barrel-AgedDarkness - Bourbon Barrel-Aged
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Stout - Russian Imperial
Ranked #17
Ranked #282
4.49 | pDev: 9.13%
Surly Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States
Darkness - Bourbon Barrel-AgedDarkness - Bourbon Barrel-Aged
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Reviews: 47 | Ratings: 299 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of Franziskaner
Franziskaner from Missouri

4.02/5  rDev -10.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Black in color with with no light penetration. There’s a fingernail of brown around the rim and covering two thirds of the top. I smell dark roasted malt and vanilla. I taste a wallop of sweet bourbon, vanilla and dark roasted barley. The mouth is boozy, sticky, and warms the throat.

Jun 04, 2021
Photo of Holderness
Holderness from Massachusetts

4.24/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

2021 Vintage.

L -- Inky black in the glass with a half finger of deep tan head produced with aerated pour. Minimal retention, some lacing and alcohol legs
S -- Rich fudge, bourbon, oak, vanilla, espresso. Very classic BBA RIS aromas
T -- Largely follows the nose. Not overly bitter or roasty, which can often be the case with the style. The bourbon barrel character adds a really nice complexity and richness
F -- Medium+ mouthfeel, medium- carb. Much less viscous than anticipated -- a bit thin
O -- A solid, classic tasting stout that is both boisterous and drinkable. Definitely not worth the steep price tag ($30/750ml)


Apr 25, 2021
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jlindros from Massachusetts

4.44/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

2021 vintage, I usually let these age for a few years before trying them, but I want to see how many I should get to age

Pours a med-smaller 1/2 finger frothy brown head with med retention, a bit of lacing, nice legs, pitch black inky color

Nose brings a lot of the nice stout characters, dark chocolate, cookie dough, baking spices even with a hint of cinnamon like, freshly baked cookies and sugar cookies as well, rich vanilla icing, a little nutty, sweet caramelized sugars, a touch of coffee with roasted malts, a bit of toasted vanilla oak and light whiskey

Taste is similar, with cookies up front, plenty of baking spices as well with cinnamon and gingerbread cookies, chocolate chip cookies, into dark chocolate cocoa, a touch of fudge even, smooth vanilla with light toasted oak barrel, and a little sweet bourbon but not much, a little fruity character like fresh fruity coffee beans or even a hint of dried cherry, some roasted malt and coffee but no char, no licorice either, some bitterness from the roast and light spicy hops, a little smooth alcohol, raw cocoa late, with a sticky semi sweet finish, bit more warming alcohol, coats the mouth a bit

Mouth is fuller bod, rich creamy and chewy, fudgey, coats the mouth, a bit of warming alcohol but smooth for 12%, med to a bit lighter foamy carb but expected

Overall this was much better than I expected. Fresh Darkness is hard to drink as it's so rough and a bit soy-sauce like, usually needs age to mellow, but this seems like it came pre-aged which it kinda did thanks to the barrel, while there wasn't a ton of barrel character and especially only little bourbon, the barrel did seem to mellow out the base quite nicely, just wish the barrel characters themselves came through more

Apr 24, 2021
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AdmiralOzone from Minnesota

4.78/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Pours a pitch black with a thin mocha head that falls away leaving slight lacing. Aroma is rich in malt, chocolate, dark fruit and bourbon. Flavor follows the nose with the dark fruit leading the way, chocolate and bourbon trailing. Feel is thick and lightly carbonated. Over all a fabulous beer. 2021 vintage, I'm actually surprised I haven't review this before, as I know I've enjoyed this beer for as many years as I've been a member here.

Apr 20, 2021
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Emichaelbray from Pennsylvania

4.91/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2021 vintage. BA Darkness changes every year but 2021 reminds me a lot of 2020. I’m suspicious, actually. The strong dark chocolate I remember from 2020 is still present, along with the stone fruit and heavy duty malt character. Vanilla and spice contributions from the bourbon barrels are present yet subtle.
I love this beer - definitely more than World Wide Stout and probably more than Abyss. I guess it’s as close to perfect as I am willing to grant because what if I encounter something better today after writing this?!

Apr 11, 2021
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zeff80 from Missouri

4.56/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

On draft at BeerSauce in Ballwin, MO. Poured an opaque, jet-black color with a light brown head of foam. It left sticky rings of lace on the glass. It smelled of bourbon, oak, vanilla, toffee and dark chocolate. Big boozy, bourbon taste with chocolate, toffee, caramel and vanilla.

Mar 30, 2021
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kevanb from Illinois

4.65/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

750ml bottle, 2021 stamped on the label, poured into a stemless wine glass.

The beer pours a deep jet black color, thick, opaque and viscous with a finger of khaki head, moderate retention and excellent lacing. The aroma is lovely, bittersweet dark chocolate, stone fruits, roasted grain, hearty dark malts, charred oak, soft bourbon spirit, vanilla and toffee creep out from the barrel as well. The flavors are great, excellent barrel character, nice char, earthy oak, nice heavy grains with a solid overall roast character that draws out some burnt chocolate that yields to richer fudge and bakers chocolate, stone fruits, vanilla, toffee, and bourbon spirit offers alcohol warmth. The mouthfeel is great, thick and heavy with a nice coating and creamy feel that finishes warmly with a mildly dry bite.

Verdict: An exceptional barrel aged stout from Surly. Darkness is an already great RIS that is one of the more balanced interpretations of the style and this takes that same finesse to the barrels. Wonderful base elements of an RIS, strong roast, stone fruits, bitter chocolate and adds the complexities of the charred oak and bourbon spirit.

Mar 15, 2021
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TreyIsWilson from Michigan

4.47/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

A - Pours pitch black with a thin creamy tan head. Nice amount of soapy lacing.

S - Aroma is dark chocolate, roasted malts, vanilla and bourbon.

T - The taste is dark chocolate, vanilla, caramel, ripe dark fruits, roasted malts, oak and finishing with some nice bourbon heat.

M - Medium body with low carbonation. Creamy mouthfeel with a soft dry finish.

Mar 07, 2021
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titty_mcbitty from Tennessee

4.69/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

(2019 Vintage)

Incredible beer. So complex in flavor -- chocolate, licorice candy, leather, rye whiskey barrel, raisins, some dark fruits. Love the consistency. Finishes with rye and leather. Just awesome.

Dec 09, 2020
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arizcards from North Carolina

4.45/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Picked up a 750 ml bottle from the Craft Beer Hop Stop 5-18-20 for $25.99. Bottled on 1-28-20, consumed 7-31-20.

Beer poured black with a nice tan head with the original pour.

Nose is very good, full of medium to heavy roasted malts, a touch of rye, and a touch of dark fruits.

Taste is a huge malt base that lends a nice touch of rye, some licorice and a dark fruits that is really well balanced by what i would imagine a ton of hops. Finishes with a touch of rye heat.

Mouthfeel is very full and smooth but not as satisfying as the base beer.

Overall this is a nice variant in which the rye barrel aging enhanced the flavor which is nice but thinned the base beer out which while not a huge detraction is a bit less satisfying. But all in all i am glad i got to try this!

Jul 31, 2020
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REVZEB from Illinois

4.67/5  rDev +4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Midnight black with a frothy tan head. Wonderful aromas of bourbon, charred wood, molasses, leather, raisin, dark coffee, soil, dark fruit, brown sugar, barley, and tobacco. Taste builds on these flavors from the nose with nuts, various malt, caramel, and smoke. So much complexity yet so drinkable, booze warms but is not detected strongly. Great depth, a sipper not because it is overwhelming, but because you don't want to miss anything, is a little lighter. Give the slight edge to the rye, but both are incredible

Jun 23, 2020
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firesidewithphil from Illinois

4.5/5  rDev +0.2%
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

May 31, 2020
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bbtkd from South Dakota

4.54/5  rDev +1.1%
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
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SpeedwayJim from New York

4.21/5  rDev -6.2%
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
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Jugs_McGhee from Colorado

3.73/5  rDev -16.9%
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 +4%
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 -5.3%
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 +5.1%
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
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yesterdayfaraway from Missouri

4.49/5  rDev 0%
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
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Sandis from Minnesota

4.5/5  rDev +0.2%
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 +8.2%
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
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eafowler7 from Iowa

1.54/5  rDev -65.7%
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
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Sabtos from Ohio

4.25/5  rDev -5.3%
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
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Biggiekrock627 from Maryland

4.71/5  rDev +4.9%
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 +4.9%
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
Darkness - Bourbon Barrel-Aged from Surly Brewing Company
Beer rating: 98 out of 100 with 299 ratings