Darkness - Bourbon Barrel-Aged
Surly Brewing Company

Darkness - Bourbon Barrel-AgedDarkness - Bourbon Barrel-Aged
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Surly Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States
Stout - Russian Imperial
Ranked #20
Ranked #320
4.46 | pDev: 8.97%
Jun 22, 2022
Dec 23, 2009
Darkness - Bourbon Barrel-AgedDarkness - Bourbon Barrel-Aged
Notes: Darkness is a beer of fable and legend. Malty and intense, yet velvety smooth. This special edition of our massive Russian imperial stout matured in Elijah Craig 12-year bourbon barrels and brings waves of chocolate, vanilla, dried fruit, and cherry flavors, enhanced by the oaky spice the barrel and its previous occupant.
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Photo of Bhubbard34
4.5/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5
by Bhubbard34 from Pennsylvania

2022 version - poured from a 16oz can

Pours a dark brown with moderate head. Huge aromas of chocolate and bourbon barrel. Like most stouts, enjoyed it more as it warmed. Tastes of malty chocolate STRONG barrel presence, and hints of vanilla and dried fruit. Body a bit thin. At 12%, hints of alcohol are definitely there but not overpowering in the least.

Overall a very nice Russian imperial, just wish the body was thicker.

Jun 22, 2022
Photo of NCSapiens
4/5  rDev -10.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4
by NCSapiens from Indiana

Oak bourbon barrel variant is a devolution of the base beer.

Jun 16, 2022
Photo of Resistance88
4.51/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5
by Resistance88 from California

2021 Vintage courtesy of @BigIronH

Been wantin this fucker for a while and will want more cuz Barrel Aged 16oz can format is stupid ass hell.

Pours a dark espresso brown and settles pitch black with light brown head about 1/2 inch after aggressive pour that disappears shortly after .
Darkness smells like a bourbon barrel bomb with dark roast coffee, 90% dark chocolate, burnt brown sugar .
Tastes like a great damned Russian Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels. Intense, but enjoyable and wanted, flavors of bourbon barrel followed with tobacco, plum, cocoa and roasted dark grains swim all over in perfect harmony. I'm drinking this whole ass bottle.
This is the vintage you want. Cans are stupid for barrel aged beer.

Jun 06, 2022
Photo of MacMalt
4.56/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5
by MacMalt from New Jersey

2021 release. Poured into a pint glass at 56°. It pours almost ink black with a foamy, light mocha-colored head and thick lacing. The fragrant smell features chocolate, caramel, molasses, raisin, cherry, oak, leather, and bourbon. Wow, the taste is sensational! It opens with rich, dark chocolate, caramel, and molasses, along with dark fruit notes of raisin, fig, and black cherry. Beneath is a base of earthy, oaky char. The bourbon presence is strong but not overpowering. The flavors blend very well. This stout has a silk mouth feel but it's not quite as thick and creamy as I'd hoped. The carbonation level is appropriately low and you can feel the heat of the 12% ABV. Overall, this variant of Darkness has as good a flavor as any BBA Russian Imperial Stout I've had the pleasure to drink. If the mouth feel was more viscous, then it would be off the chart. Nonetheless, it merits its World-Class rating.

May 29, 2022
Photo of Harrison8
4.5/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5
by Harrison8 from Missouri

Pours black with two and a half fingers of khaki foam. Head retains really well. Aroma is dark fruits, chocolate, and molasses over the top of roasty and toasty malts. Bourbon sits behind, with a mild rise of heat. Leather and oak develops as the beer warms. Flavor profile is roasty and toasty malts intermixed with fudge, chocolate, dark fruits, and toffee. As it warms, leather develops on the back half of the flavor profile. Bourbon comes on at the back half, adding a little swell of heat. Bitterness is mild, despite having biting roasty malts and hearty bourbon. Mouth feel is thick with a rindy, silty texture that helps emphasize the weight of the beer. Overall, a big and bold imperial stout that's accentuated by bourbon and barrel. Despite that bourbon extension, this ale is approachable, offering a sort-of middle ground between some of the heaviest (balanced) stouts on the market, and more typical imperial stouts.

Served in a 15.5oz Spiegelau tulip from a 16oz can. 2022 vintage.

Apr 24, 2022
4.57 by WillieThreebiers from Connecticut on Apr 18, 2022
4.5 by Danmullens1 from Wisconsin on Apr 11, 2022
Photo of russpowell
4.18/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 2.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25
by russpowell from Arkansas

2022 Vintage

Pours a very effervescent cola/mahogany color with one finger of caramel colored head. Some head retention, no lacing

S: Dark fruit, molasses, a touch of Bourbon barrel, a lot of this fades as it warms

T: Bourbon barrel, dark chocolate, vanilla & oaky dryness up front & some caramel too. Oaky dryness, molasses, vanilla, cola & dark chocolate as this warms, some woody hops. Finishes with a Bourbon flourish, vanilla, leafy hops & caramel

MF: Chewy, warming, restrained carbonation. Carbonation picks up a bit as this warms, great take on the style

Was hoping for more nose, my big letdown from this beer. If it matched the flavor, we are talking a different scenario. Close to perfect then

Apr 11, 2022
4.75 by JamesLeung from Florida on Apr 09, 2022
4.35 by kodt from Illinois on Apr 05, 2022
5 by Hallertau from Wisconsin on Mar 26, 2022
4.61 by dt_gbpackersfan from Missouri on Feb 28, 2022
Photo of barnzy78
4.5/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5
by barnzy78 from Illinois

750mL bottle, shared with my friend, Ken
2021, 12% ABV
L: near black body, tan head
S: boozy bourbon, oak, vanilla, caramel, roast
T: bold flavors; sweet and rich: caramel, vanilla, cacao nib, bourbon, toffee, brown sugar, cherry
F: full body, ample carbonation, alcohol is warming
O: incredible beer, but not as memorable as the previous years’ whiskey barrel aged Darkness - I feel like this was more sweet, while the whiskey barrel aged Darkness was more robust. This also seemed to be missing those massive dark chocolate notes that I love so much about Darkness

Feb 13, 2022
4.42 by MrDarcy from Massachusetts on Jan 29, 2022
4.77 by TheManiacalOne from Rhode Island on Jan 15, 2022
4 by Hellpop65 from Kansas on Jan 09, 2022
4.36 by glaserryan18 from Minnesota on Dec 31, 2021
4.53 by dafla67 from Pennsylvania on Dec 13, 2021
4.54 by VashonGuy from Washington on Nov 23, 2021
Photo of Ozzylizard
4.32/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5
by Ozzylizard from Pennsylvania

Darkness BBA 2021 from Surly. 750 mL (25.4 oz) bottle purchased from Shangy’s, Emmaus, PA. $21.76 (including tax) ($0.855/oz). Stored at room temperature in store and at 40 degrees after purchase. Reviewed 21/11/21. Note that I use DD/MM/YY protocol.
Etched on shoulder “BOTTLED 15:14 01/28/21 F5005B” and “2021” on rear edge of label. Served at 54.5 degrees in a hand washed and dried glass coffee cup. Final temperature 58.8 degrees.
Appearance – 4.5
First pour – Amber Brown (SRM 18), clear.
Body – Brown (SRM 30), opaque. When rear-lite, reddish around the edges but otherwise opaque.
Head – Average (Maximum 2.7 cm, aggressive center pour), wheat, average retention, diminishing to a seven to ten mm irregular crown and complete cap fed by moderate carbonation. Second pour produces a tight 1.3 cm head.
Lacing – Excellent! Forms a complete sheet of extremely tiny bubbles with a few tiny, lonely islands.
Aroma – 3.75 – Weak malted milk/chocolate and weak roasted malt. A bit of cooked veggies – odd but not disgusting. No hops, no yeast, no bourbon. The vegetal aroma vanishes as the brew warms.
Flavor – 4.5 – Taste follows the nose but slightly sweet with no vegetal overtones, no hops, no yeast. Sweetness builds in the aftertaste. No ethanol (12 % ABV, as marked on container) taste or aroma. Moderate warming throughout the upper GI. Allowing it to warm in my mouth brings out the bourbon, a bit harsh. No dimethylsulfide or diacetyl.
Palate – 4.5 – Full, creamy, soft but lively carbonation.
Final impression and summation: 4.5 Very good BBA RIS – the sweetness balanced by the harshness of the bourbon. Odor is a bit weak, but what there is, is not unpleasing. Palate is quite good, with the soft but lively carbonation complimenting the flavors. The price may seem a bit high but it’s certainly less than a drive to MN and back, with an overnight stay and freezing in a stationary line. Without Shangy’s, the odds are I’d never tried any of the iterations of Darkness! Thanks, Shangy!

Nov 21, 2021
4.59 by tobelerone from New Jersey on Nov 01, 2021
Photo of BigIronH
4/5  rDev -10.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4
by BigIronH from Michigan

Pours pitch black with a finger of mocha head bubbling up momentarily and quickly reducing to a still, motor oil like liquid. Aroma of caramel, oak, vanilla, molasses, burnt sugar, and coffee. Taste follows suit with the addition of dark fruit and some
coconut undertone. Feel is full, velvety, and oily. Carbonation is perfect. I loved this beer. Overall, alot sweeter than I expected as opposed to the bitterness sometimes associated with this style, especially with no adjuncts. Killer. Will drink again.

‘21 vintage.

Oct 31, 2021
Photo of Mdog
4.56/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5
by Mdog from Minnesota

From a waxed 750mL bomber:

Appearance: Black, non-existent head.

Smell: Rich, dark chocolate, some wood.

Taste: Dark chocolate, mild to moderate sweetness. Some vanilla and wood flavor. Barrel is very well integrated, the base beer and barrel compliment each other nicely.

Overall: Received a bottle as a thank you from a co-worker. Really tasty stuff, way more chocolate-ty than I remember regular Darkness. Often the barrel aging makes a beer too boozy but this really blended in well. Superb!

Oct 10, 2021
4.5 by jayhunter357 from Massachusetts on Sep 19, 2021
4.53 by Peter1977 from Massachusetts on Sep 19, 2021
Photo of Damian
4.33/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25
by Damian from Massachusetts

Drank from a 1 pint 9.4 fl. oz. / 750ml gold wax dipped bottle purchased at Craft Beer Cellar, Belmont, MA
2021 vintage
Bottled 01/27/21
Served in a tulip

Review #2125

Dark brown, bordering on black, appearance. Medium bodied for the style. The liquid was topped by an inch-tall crop of tight, creamy, khaki colored froth that slowly fell to a medium collar. Some patchy lacing stuck along the glass.

Impressive aroma. Vanilla notes came through quite strong. The beer smelled like it was perhaps even infused with vanilla. Good dose of dark malt character too. Semisweet chocolate was also apparent. Moderately sweet overall. There was a cooked vegetal-like aspect to this as well that was unusual though not totally off putting. The vegetal notes subsided with time.

The flavor profile was similar to the nose but definitely boozier. Malty and robust on the front end. Loads of roasted malt character. Some caramel malt sweetness was also noticeable. Big vanilla presence in the center. Bit of raisin character as well. Boozy notes kicked in hard as the beer moved along the palate. Not sure I would pick out the bourbon specifically however. I might guess straight up whiskey instead. More roast on the back end and in the finish. A hint of bitter char and booze lingered after the swallow.

Nice smooth, creamy, fluffy mouthfeel. Medium bodied for the style. The liquid contained a fine, fairly zippy effervescence that gave the beer a nice slickness on the palate.

Bourbon Barrel-Aged Darkness is a terrific beer that displays a lot of old school imperial stout characteristics but is still relevant in the modern day craft beer world. This is a huge improvement over the original Darkness, which I find far too hoppy, roasty and bitter for my palate.

Sep 10, 2021
4.75 by a77cj7 from South Dakota on Sep 07, 2021
Photo of cbutova
4.36/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5
by cbutova from Massachusetts

A- Darkness in the glass with a pitch black body and a one finger brown cap. Fluffy and creamy head with good retention. Huge ring at the edges and plenty of lacing.

S- Charred and sweet Bourbon barrel with some nice oak and spicy whiskey notes alongside the base stout. Vanilla, dark roast grains, chocolate, espresso, cocoa powder and caramel.

T- A lot of barrel up front with some boozy heat and bitter roasty malts. Oak wood, vanilla, roast barley, cocoa powder, espresso, alcohol, toasted nuts, caramel, toast and dark fruits.

MF- Medium to slightly heavy bodied with a creamy and silky feel. Carbonation comes down at a moderate level and it finishes hot.

Really nice BA stout. Hot and heavy on the barrel but still some good balance found. Just a great break from the super sweet stouts that you find on the market today with a nice balance of bitterness, alcohol and sweetness.

Aug 24, 2021
5 by doctorgary from New York on Aug 23, 2021
Photo of mwilbur
4.49/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5
by mwilbur from Minnesota

2021 vintage. Bottled 1/27/21. Poured from 750 mL bottle into snifter.
A: Pours an extremely dark brown hue with 1 inch bubbly dark tan head with decent retention.
S: Sweet bourbon, dry bittersweet chocolate, cherry, molasses, tobacco, and a hint of vanilla.
T: Follows aroma very closely sweet bourbon, molasses, cherry, tobacco, vanilla, creme brûlée, and a hint of dry bittersweet chocolate.
M: Medium-heavy body. Smooth and velvety feel. Layers of dark sweetness. Lingers nicely on the palate.
D: Strong bourbon barrel note. Another wonderful edition in this series!

Aug 23, 2021
3.95 by blackflag321 from Michigan on Aug 22, 2021
4.43 by rjp217 from Massachusetts on Aug 22, 2021
4.43 by Chico1985 from Massachusetts on Aug 21, 2021
Photo of DIM
4.57/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5
by DIM from Pennsylvania

I picked this up and put this down a few times before I finally said screw it. The price is steep sure, but my main gripe is the bottle size. Glad I bought it, this is a great stout.

Sweet overall, loads of bourbon and chocolate plus caramel, vanilla, raisin, and brown sugar. Throw in hints of smoke and soy sauce as well. This not a shy beer but it's far from being a mess. Robust and refined I'd say. Stellar, I may buy a bottle next year.

Jul 04, 2021
4.56 by nmann08 from Virginia on Jun 29, 2021
4.46 by Duncian from Pennsylvania on Jun 27, 2021
Photo of Franziskaner
4.02/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4
by Franziskaner from Missouri

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
4.5 by SlightlyGrey from Minnesota on May 15, 2021
4.5 by Jlee0810 from Indiana on May 09, 2021
Darkness - Bourbon Barrel-Aged from Surly Brewing Company
Beer rating: 98 out of 100 with 335 ratings