Dark Side Vanilla Porter | Empyrean Brewing Company

145 Reviews
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Dark Side Vanilla PorterDark Side Vanilla Porter

Brewed by:
Empyrean Brewing Company
Nebraska, United States

Style: American Porter

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.70%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
An infusion of an old-world beer style and contemporary soul. Smooth, dark and roasted with highlights of chocolate, coffee and vanilla. Brewed with American, Canadian and English grown barley, American hops, Madagascar vanilla beans and natural vanilla extract.

23. IBU

Added by BeerAdvocate on 11-27-2002

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Reviews: 145 | Ratings: 365
Photo of cliveklg
5/5  rDev +37%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Love this artisan beer. Starts off a nice bold rich flavor, that goes down smooth. It is definitely a porter with it's flavor with a hint of vanilla going down.

But after it goes down the truly great surprise of this beer takes hold and the taste left in your mouth is the sweet vanilla flavor. No bitter after taste.

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Photo of BeerWithMike
5/5  rDev +37%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Last sampled yesterday on 3/18/15 but had this one several times before including on tap. Bought a 6-pack yesterday at the local Hy-Vee for $6.99. Chilled down to 36 degrees F in my beer cooler and poured in to a "Dark Side Vanilla Porter" pint glass.

Brew pours close to a pitch black in color with a thin beige cap. A decent amount of lacing is seen when sipped that sticks to the sides of the glass. Sediment is seen in the bottom of the bottle after the pour. The aroma is very pleasant and is of chocolate, vanilla beans and dark roasted malts. Bit more going on with the taste as there is a light hint of coffee also but not overpowering at all like some similar style Porters. Very smooth and goes down easy. Nice finish and is medium-bodied with perfect carbonation. One of my favorite porters!

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Photo of Rossmeister23
4.81/5  rDev +31.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Have had this beer on several occasions. On tap at Lazlo's, and in bottles in several places throughout Nebraska. Love, love, love this beer.

Appearance: Pours a lovely dark, dark brown that mingles with pure black ever so slightly. Pours a decent size khaki-tan head for me. Excellent retention as well!

Scent: Strong scents of vanilla, roasted barley, and faint notes of chocolate. The chocolate and vanilla duality is one that I find works well in this brew.

Taste: More of the same. Vanilla taste doesn't cut through as much as the scent implies, but to me, that's okay. It provides a nice balance to everything else going rather than allowing any one flavor to be the dominant force. Additional flavors of coffee, barley, chocolate are found. All excellent, and all typical of a good porter.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, creamy, and moderate-light to moderate carbonation. Goes down easy and definitely makes you want more!

Overall: Strong history with this beer. Empyrean and Lazlo's hold a strong place in my heart, and this is my favorite offering from them. Great color, great flavor, great memories. Love it!

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Photo of shanem
4.77/5  rDev +30.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Had this in Lincoln on a cross country road trip and finally obtained some bottles! Best beer we had on the trip through random discovery. Not quite the same as the draft I had there, but it never is...

A: dark brown(light shines thru towards the bottom} with tiny light head

S: vanilla with some roasted malts and bit of chocolate

T: The vanilla is definitely the star, but not overpowering at all, very well balanced with the other flavors of chocolate, and maybe caramelish taste also with a bit of nuttiness

M: has a darn good feel. almost perfect for a porter

D: Very good, I enjoy this with just about anything. I really like the sweetness to it, with everything else. Much more of a complex beer than I expected, has a lot going on

Highly recommend!

Serving type: bottle

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Photo of neonbrown82
4.69/5  rDev +28.5%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I was quite impressed by this little brewery out of Lincoln, NE. I've been meaning to try their beers for quite a while, but I always end up finding something else whenever I'm back in the Omaha area. I'm glad that I finally ended up picking something up from Empyrean, however, as this is one of the best brews I've ever had, and the best porter I've ever had with the exception of Sinebrychoff (though it is a baltic porter, thus totally different).

The beer pours to a very dark brown color (almost black) with a creamy white head that sticks around for quite a while, but fails to create a decent lacing.

The smell is one of the best beer aromas I've ever had the pleasure of sniffing. The vanilla beans take the forefront along with a hint of coffee and very gently roasted chocolate malt. I wish I could make a candle that smelled like this. The taste stays very similar to the nose. The vanilla flavor is PERFECTLY balanced with the typical porter flavor. It tastes almost as if it was served from an oak cask. Brilliant!

The mouthfeel is very creamy and smooth. This was quite a crowd pleaser amongst my friends who have a bias against "dark beer." I wish I could get Empyrean brews here in Iowa City. This beer could only be more drinkable if I had a clue as the ABV, because I had 4 the other night over the course of two hours and was afraid to drive home for several more hours.

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Photo of ButterflyBethie
4.57/5  rDev +25.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This beer smells great!! You can use it for aromatherapy. Smells of sweet vanilla with a hint of chocolate. The taste is like the smell and goes down very smooth with light carbonation. Not overly sweet in taste but also no bitterness. The beer has a small head with no lacing and is very dark. The appearance is typical of a porter. This is like drinking a great dessert.

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Photo of gpflepsen
4.47/5  rDev +22.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I can concur with the previous reviewers on this great vanilla porter. I will dissent on only one aspect from them.

I will review the Dark Side Vanilla Porter from Empyrean Ales on draught from the brewhouse/restaurant Laslo's, as I notice others have reviewed the bottled version.

Very little head resides on this beer. By the time it makes it to the table it is gone but for a light ring at the edge. The color is very dark and clear, not murky in the least. The nose brings a blend of vanilla and chocolate. Over the tongue, the first impact is again vanilla followed by a smooth chocolate malt and an ever so slight bitter hops finish. Not much coffee to speak of. An air of vanilla still lingers in the nose.

Fresh from the tap on premises, this is a very smooth porter and dare I say a good candidate for the beginner in the realm of porters. Very smooth and refined. I return often just to have another pint.

To wrap this up, I finally bought a six-pack from the supermarket to have at home. The bottled version easily loses .25 to .5 ratings points from the draught type. The only improvement in the bottled Dark Side is the appearance of head. The vanilla essence is very subdued, as is the chocolate malt. A coffee taste is evident and a very pronounced hops finish is made known. Everything making the tap Vanilla Porter is absent in the bottled variety.

To compare the tap and bottled version is difficult. They are different enough that a blind test would hardly show them to be the "same" beer.

I would welcome the other reviewers to compare the tap and bottled versions of this beer.

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Photo of ForWhatAlesYou
4.45/5  rDev +21.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle into a pint glass

A: 2 finger foamy head of a nice khaki-beige color. Nearly black in color.

S: Sweet malt, dark beries, candy sugar, vanilla.

T: Rich coffeeish flavor with the best vanilla infuson I've ever had in a beer. Tight, dark malt. Nice aftertaste.

M: A little dry but overall a nice chewy presence.

D: Nearly perfect. I've enjoyed Breckenridge Vanilla Porter for years but this is better (still really like Breckenridge, though). Right up there with all of my favorite porters/stouts.

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Photo of HopsNPot
4.45/5  rDev +21.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

APP- virtual space black with just a tad of light flooding through the thinnest part of the glass when directly held in front of light.
SMELL- roasted coffee and vanilla beans are apparent. malty aroma. rich.
TASTE- smooth initial hit of rich malt. followed by somewhat creamy coffee/vanilla aftertaste.
MF- full bodied and very clean.
DRINKBLTY- so smooth, for a porter this is extremely accessible and outrageously smooth.

overall, this is a great brew, and its not just the nebraska bias. Im not sure how many states empyrean caters to, but if you get a chance at any of their brews, this is a great first pic.

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Photo of rundocrun
4.32/5  rDev +18.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had this beer on-tap at Old Capitol Brew Works in Iowa City.

A - Pours dark, dark brown. Almost black, with root beer-like highlights. Light tan head that dissipates fairly quickly.

S - Deep, rich toasted malts with a definite whiff of vanilla. Enticing!

T - Some bitter, coffee-like notes up front that fade slightly but last through the finish. Wow! A definite dollop of vanilla flavor right after the swallow. Nice, balanced hop notes to round it out. Very impressed!

M - Thicker than some stouts i've tried, that's for sure! Only beef is that it's slightly over-carbonated. That may just be personal preference talking though.

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Photo of NClifestyle
4.32/5  rDev +18.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I really like this beer. got this in a trade from jhammerly (thanks). i had been trying to talk one of my brewing buddies into letting me brew a vanilla beer, and he thought the idea was worthless.
anyway, this beer pours up a lovely dark color, not quite black, but definitely not brown, purple and blood red hints when held up to the light. thick tan head dwindles to a nice layer over the dark contents.
first smell is vanilla, but not super slick or sweet, just about right, less like some scented candle. also, a hint of hop in there, with some bread aroma as well.
taste is just a brush of vanilla prior to a well made malt/coffee flavor with just enough dry hop in the back of the mouth to keep the beer from becoming sweet. a really GREAT mix and perfect touch of vanilla.
not a ton of bubbles, but enough to keep things lively.
you can't drink too many porters at one sitting, less so if the beer is super sweet, but i could have had a few of these.
if this was a local brew, and the temperature was under 60 degrees, i'd drink this all the time.

This is the last of the dsvp's I received in a trade long ago. Been holding off, but finally had to break it open, for fear of it going bad.

This is a wonderful beer, if you're a fan of vanilla. Not too over the top, but you definitely notice it. A bit more sweet than most porters, and a tad too thin for my like, but otherwise, it's one of my dream sub-styles that just aren't around, at least where I am.


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Photo of JohnnyM2002
4.3/5  rDev +17.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Sampled from a 12 oz bottle, poured into a snifter at 50 degrees. Picked up in a trade from swid - thanks!!

A - Pours a beautiful deep brown with red highlights. Small-to-medium tan head that quickly melted away but left a small lacing for awhile.

S - Roasted coffee and vanilla dominates the scent. Powerful aroma.

T - Delicious blend of vanilla, nuts, and mild-roast coffee beans. Nut flavor really comes out on the aftertaste. The use of vanilla is excellent as it's not overpowering - more of a vanilla/nutty flavor than anything. Wonderful!

M - Medium, creamy body that washes down very smooth. Excellent aftertastes.

D - Thanks to swid for including two of these - I'll be saving the other for just the right time. Definitely recommended!

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Photo of TheManiacalOne
4.28/5  rDev +17.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Acquired via trade from IntriqKen, so a big “Thank you” goes out to him.
Poured from a 12oz. bottle into a US tumbler pint glass.

A: The beer is a deep reddish brown color, with a large, dense, foamy tan head that fades slowly and leaves a thick lace on the glass.

S: The aroma is rich with vanilla, chocolate and coffee, along with some caramelized malt & smokiness mixed in.

T: The taste is creamy and smoky with a heavy vanilla flavor backed up with chocolate, coffee, nuts and roasted malt. There’s a little bit of hops present, but the beer is sweet enough to smother the hops flavor.

M: Crisp and very smooth, medium body, medium-to-high carbonation especially for the style, clean finish.

D: Very tasty, extremely easy-to-drink, not very filling, I could stick with this beer for a long time and put away quite a few.

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Photo of bort11
4.27/5  rDev +17%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Thanks to Fugazme for this one
12 oz bottle with no freshness date. Poured into an Imperial pint glass. Color is a rich dark brown with faint ruby highlights when held to the light. Tight tan colored head that recedes to a minimal lace.
Smell is a sweetened bitter malt with coffee and floral notes. The vanilla is subtle. Taste is very bold, but not overpowering. Espresso coffee bean sweetened with the vanilla bean. The vanilla accentuates rather than dominates the flavor. Surprisingly, it finishes with a hops bitterness.
Mouthfeel is full and creamy. This is a very nice evening sipper.

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Photo of Groenebeor
4.23/5  rDev +15.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap at the Beer Kitchen, poured into a tasting glass.

Pours dark nut brown with minimal head that disappeared quickly, ok lacing.

Smelled of roasted malt, almost coffeish.

The malt was very roasted, with hints of coffee, vanilla, caramel, chocolate, more vanilla... balanced to the point that it almost tasted like candy. Hope profile was light with no specific character.

Mouthfeel was perfect for the style.

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Photo of StoneTSR
4.23/5  rDev +15.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Black until held up to the light when a touch of tan light gets through the beer. The head is stark white, a bit unusual for a porter. Good looking beer.

S: Strong coffee aroma with a hint of smokiness.

T: Very smoky with a mildly and pleasant coffee flavor. Some notes of oak and a slight hoppiness with a subtle presence of vanilla. Mellow, dry, smooth and very delicious.

M: Very bubbly and sparkling for a porter. It also sits fairly easy for such a dark, robust and flavorful brew.

O: Fantastic. Every time I'm back in Lincoln I try to stop in at Lazlo's for a few pints and a sixer to go. This is an extremely flavorful, yet pleasantly easy-drinking porter.

EDIT: Pretty low ABV I know, but I thought I would try aging this one and popped one open yesterday that was about six months old. I've got another coming in six more months as well. Anyhow, here's what I found:

The vanilla notes were completely gone, but a Sheri-like flavor too it's place. Also, some strong citrus was present, especially lemon. Overall it seemed a bit harsh and boozy despite the 5.7%. At the same time, it seemed as though it could be on it's way to being more mellow and drinkable in another six months. I'll update this post then.

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Photo of Vancer
4.22/5  rDev +15.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Holy moly, what a fine drinkin’ frosty. I could sip on these 24X7, winter or summer. BUT, most likely only one for me down here in STL.

Dark mahogany, but a quick dying ivory head. Nice pop of vanilla malt in the aroma, and the taste was knockout good. Bitter dark chocolates, vanilla and a finish with a dry gritty choc. malt.

Medium bodied and robust – MAYBE a sixer would be too sweet by the end, but I’ll not be able to check this out.

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Photo of sheeley
4.2/5  rDev +15.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Appearance: Caramel-like, dark brown in color. Not very impressive head.
Smell: Pleasant smell. Notes of caramel and vanilla shine through.
Taste/mouthfeel: Delicious. Chocolate, vanilla, and subtle coffee flavors are present. Partway into the glass, the caramel comes out more, as well as the coffee. The whole mouthfeel is quite pleasing.
Overall, this beer is very good and easy to drink. Not one of the best beers I have had, but one that I would likely purchase again.

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Photo of scruffwhor
4.19/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Pours a medium brown to a deep garnet when held to the light. Very quick head recedes to nothing after a few sips. A drop of vanilla extract and some morning roast Folgers hit the nostrils in subtle ways. Not too mention the havy roast and light smoke aroma as well. The taste starts out subtle upfront. Light vanilla and coffee, then dark chocolate and coffee gorunds hit the middle. By the finis, theres a light vanilla liquer flavor on the back burner keeping the roasted malts in check....a little. Nice session ale with tons of flavo and not palate busting.

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Photo of tvv375ia
4.18/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from 12oz bottle into pint glass 2 finger head that leaves a lot of lacing as it goes to about a1/4 inch head that sticks around for a while
A-dark almost black, a little ruby color if it is held up to the light
S-Coffee up front maybe something like a vanilla latte
T-lots of roasted flavors followed up by a hint of vanilla
M- not over carbonated just a nice creamy texture
O- I really like this one and I think that it will become a regular in my fridge

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Photo of pat61
4.17/5  rDev +14.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A: Brilliant deep dark brown under a 1” light tan foam collar that grips the side of the glass leaving sheets of lace.
S: Chocolate and vanilla, light grains, bread, faint esters.
T: The palate leads with chocolate and vanilla with malt and roast flavors underneath. Medium bitterness finishes things up. The vanilla is light and does not overpower the chocolate or the roast.
M: Very creamy carbonation with a medium to medium full body. There is some light chalkiness on the finish which could be from the added spice.
O: A refreshing, easy to drink porter.

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Photo of Joeynocturnum
4.16/5  rDev +14%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Received via trade and drank during the snow storm after a Nugget Nectar

A- Deep brown with a light brown half a finger head.

S- Toasted Malts and Vanilla with slight coffee after taste.

T- Very well balanced porter, no one characteristic over powered.

M- Not overly carbonated very smooth and clean mouth feel.

D- Went down easy and was very enjoyable wish i had a couple more.

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Photo of CamuMahubah
4.15/5  rDev +13.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

What a corny label! Reminds me of a Broadway Musical poster. Fortunately a gorgeous porter flows from the bottle to the snifter. Don't judge a book by its cover!

Smells of dark cacao milk...

Nice cocoa splendor wrapped in a vanilla wisp...

Coats my mouth my chocolate milk!

This is not a quaffing porter. This is a dessert beer all the way. A local favorite that I have had many times before. Proud to serve this beer at dinner parties!

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Photo of drewbage
4.15/5  rDev +13.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Straight from a fresh bottle into an imperial pint glass.

Black with ruby highlights visible against the light with a short whitish head.

Aroma is roasted coffee playing behind the giant wallop of vanilla. Smells lik a really good coffee vanilla ice cream. Has the aroma of natural vanilla (which the label confirms)

Flavor is clean and brisk with a zesty hoppiness that provides a good counterbalance to the sweetness that is enhanced by the vanilla.

Overall, a very drinkable, vanilla infused brew. Be nicer if the beer was more subtle with the orchid, but hey.. it works well here.

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Photo of Jagcorps
4.15/5  rDev +13.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Dark pour with slight head and little carbonation play. Minimal lacing. Various colors ranging from nearly black to red-brown.

S: Great roasted smell, without smelling burnt. Though it is a vanilla porter, the vanilla is not the main thrust, acting as only a slight overtone. Coffee and chocolate are more prevalent.

T: Most enjoyable part of this beer, it gives much in terms of flavors. Coffee and chocolate, with a vanilla sweet finish and a hint of spice. Paired with a tandoori chicken kabob, this was really nice.

M: Carbonation is nice; not too harsh or too flat. However, the beer has a thin feel to it, having all the taste of a porter, but half its texture.

D: Good beer to drink with strong foods. It holds its own against spicy, tangy and sweet. I had two in one evening, but probably wouldn't have enjoyed a third as much.

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Dark Side Vanilla Porter from Empyrean Brewing Company
3.65 out of 5 based on 365 ratings.
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