Dark Side Vanilla Porter | Empyrean Brewing Company

145 Reviews
Read the review
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

For Trade:
View: Beers | Events
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Reviews: 145 | Ratings: 364
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.

 448 characters

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.

 841 characters

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.

 595 characters

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!

 759 characters

Photo of dogfooddog
3.58/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

this one of a large number of bottles received from MABZ recently. Thanks again for the chance to try this beer.

pours into a pint glass with a large tan head; nose is a bit sour, notably roasted, with a hint of something I cannot name though obviously I wonder if it is the vanilla beans.

taste is a bit mild for a porter; the vanilla is present here more notably, though subtle and unsweetened. hops round out the roasted malt and certainly balance the beer.

Like many of the novel-ingredient beers, I am not terribly impressed with this one. It is drinkable and pleasant, but nothing special.

 605 characters

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.

 597 characters

Photo of SMark
3.03/5  rDev -17%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Drank this at a friends house where it was brought from Nebraska by his son. Not a lot going on with a typical dark pour, slight head and minimal lacing.

Vanilla came through but did not sense much else like coffee, nuts or chocolate. May have been beyond its best date.

Again not much coming through with the exception of vanilla.

Mouthfeel and Drinkability could have also been affected by the age of the bottle so will give the benefit of the doubt and rate as average. Could be a better brew if revisited but not sure.

 531 characters

Photo of Adamthome1
4.06/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

One of my favorites, largely because of the availability here, the ability to visit the brewery, oh and because it's a darn good beer.

Poors dark, thick, coffee looking brew into snifter glass. Head foams up and dissipates and usually some small lace remains throughout. Aroma is that of coffee and roasted vanilla beans. Taste is rich, nutty, and roasted beans. Very good cofeelike aftertaste. Leaves a feeling on the mouth of vanilla oil, very silky and refreshing. Taste is enhanced as the beer warms, best served at about 50 degrees or about 15 minutes out of refrigerator.

Not as good as some of the other porters like some you could get from Rogue or Sierra Nevada but if you are ever in the Nebraska area it's worth trying or if you live here remember to support your local breweries.

 797 characters

Photo of Romulus141
3.5/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured in a stout glass. Picked up a six-pack of this from Lazlo's South.

Appearance: Pours a deep brown/black. If held up to a light, one can slightly see the light through it in a red hue. The head isn't that heavy, and leaves a thin layer of foam on the surface. Lacing is readily apparent.

Smell: Slight roast aroma with a strong mix of vanilla. It's an interesting smell for a stout, as they typically don't smell this sweet.

Taste: An instant burst of a roast flavor, finished off with a small, faint burst of bitterness as the drink finishes. When the drink is at a warmer temperature, the vanilla taste is quite present and overpowers the porter portion of this brew. This is "sweeter" tasting than other stouts I've had. The slight bitterness on the end is welcome, although nothing to get overly excited over. Good, but not great.

Mouthfeel: Not as thick as I was expecting. The beer is still heavy, but not quite as full as some other porters I've sampled. There is also carbonation present, which gives the porter an interesting zing. I'm not a huge fan of my thicker, darker beers being highly carbonated, and this one has just a little too much.

Drinkability: Quite good, and I could have a couple in a session. However, out of the Empyrean beers I've tried, I've liked this one the least. It's a strange entry for its genre, and the carbonation mixed with overly sweet flavor made it slightly disappointing. I'll reach for another brew from this factory first.

 1,490 characters

Photo of Mdog
3.2/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Appearance: Dark brown with a quick fading head.

Smell: Faint roasted malt.

Taste: Slight roasted malt then vanilla is the main flavor. There are some chocolate/coffee undertones but the vanilla smoothes them over.

Mouthfeel: Pretty light for a porter.

Drinkability: Not too bad but kind of odd.

I picked this up recently in Nebraska. It's kind of a strange beer, the vanilla is there but is not overpowering. Hard to describe, but worth at least a try.

 468 characters

Photo of ChainGangGuy
3.72/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours a stark-colored brown with a bubbly, ivory white head.

Smell: Some slight dark, roasted notes in the aroma. Aromawise, the vanilla isn't overabundant, and mingles well with other scents of coffee and sweetened chocolate.

Taste: Faintly sweet malts upfront give way to a chocolate flavor and a roasted bitterness. The vanilla peaks through all the while, but really manages to emerge on the finish. Ultimately, all the light, sweet flavors and fizzy carbonation suggest a vanilla soda.

Mouthfeel: Medium-thin body. Carbonation is noticeably fizzy.

Drinkability: A fairly pleasant beer that makes for easy drinking.

 643 characters

Photo of russpowell
3.72/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours dark brown with a 1.5" tan head. Some head retention & lacing

Smell: Vanilla then toasted malt

Taste: Vanilla up followed by toasted malt, finishes dry

MF: A little light, especially for its abv & slightly undercarbonated

Drinks okay, makes a nice dessert beer

 278 characters

Photo of MaltyGoodness
3.15/5  rDev -13.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

12oz. bottle courtesy of jhammerly

Pours a dark brown with a small tan head that fades. Mild lacing on the glass.

Aroma is very vanilla oriented with some roasted malt blended in the back. The strength of the vanilla is a little odd, it has a cream soda-ish smell.

It tastes like it smells, just not quite as good. The vanilla is very dominant form start to finish. There is a porter trapped in there somewhere, but it only makes a weak attempt to reveal itself.

Medium-light body, low carbonation.

An interesting brew, but just a bit too heavy on the vanilla for my personal taste.

 598 characters

Photo of BigRedN
3.63/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Served to me in a pint glass. A thin off white head sits atop a dark liquid. The beer is nearly black. What little head there is falls to a thin cloud with some decent lacing.

Smell: I do not know if this is being served too cold, but I am not getting a very pronounced vanilla scent (which to me is good). Predominant aromas are roasted malts, burnt coffee and chocolate scent. As I mentioned the vanilla is faded into the background.

Taste: A bitter sweet taste to me. Burnt coffee and chocolate as expected, but the vanilla comes through a little more in the taste and makes it a little sweet. A nice bitterness on the finish.

Mouthfeel: Borders on medium bodied, a touch light for the style IMO. Slight carbonation, still it is good enough to keep me coming back.

Drinkability: Thankfully this one is not over powered by vanilla scents and taste, IMO. It is easily drinkable, and I try to have one every now and then when I eat at Lazlo's.

 967 characters

Photo of mynie
2.7/5  rDev -26%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 2.5

Medium ruby almost entirely without a head.

Smell some sweetness, but it's more of a plum and old fruit than a vanilla. Not much "porter" going on, here--there's just a little hint of instant coffee crystals.

Very wet start. Not much flavor. Moving into a decent smokey coffee and ending on a musty flavor that's inbetween imitation vanilla extra and dirty socks. Not very good.

Nothing much to see here, folks. Move along.

 433 characters

Photo of WVbeergeek
3.85/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

via trade from bditty thanks man, straight out of Nebraska. Appearance has a dark ruby brown almost black cola colored body with a tan head looks very appetizing. Aroma has a roasty dark malt redden tone gives off hints of dark chocolate and coffee roasts with a vanilla finish to it not overdone here touch of the vanilla, nice. Taste more dark roasts bring some bitterness to the table the vanilla finishes this solid stout it doesn't overpower blended with an herbal hop character, well balanced. Mouthfeel is medium bodied evenly carbonated goes down smooth with a bit of a creamy texture. Drinkability is very nice some flavored porters kill it this one does with ease pulls it off quite nicely props goes out to Nebraskan brewers.

 736 characters

Photo of orfeu
3.8/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Dark brown to violet with garnet highlights. Very little head, dissipates quickly couldn't even catch the color. Vanilla blast in the nose on top of coffeeish roasted malts. Taste follows nose: lots of vanilla for sure, but this is definitely still a porter. Coffee and burnt chocolate notes and an extremely slight appearance of hops at the finish. VERY thin mouthfeel, which increases the drinkability, I suppose, but feels less than impressive for the style. I do appreciate the skillful use of vanilla, but I can easily see how fans of more "traditional" porters would find this distracting. Decent beer. When I lived in Lincoln, Nebraska, I loved the stuff.

 662 characters

Photo of aforbes10
2.32/5  rDev -36.4%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 4 | overall: 2

This was a weird one for me to review. I love a good porter, and i get the sense that there was a good one in here somewhere. i just couldn't get past the vanilla. Beer looked great in a glass. very dark, with no much head. Odor of vanilla, but this was swamped out by vanilla. Taste was much of the same...kind of porter-ish with chocolate and roasted malt flavors but then the vanilla hits you and that's all you're left with. maybe im just not in favor of vanilla in beers but thats how i feel. I do not need to have this one again and i plead with brewers not to add weird shit to porters. Anything else, fine, but not porters.

 631 characters

Photo of Fugazme
3.58/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

For some reason I get scared when I read "natural flavors" on any food/beverage product. What does that mean? Cat urine has a "natural flavor"... as do slugs. Hey! The good news is that Dark Side Vanilla Porter (also brewed with real vanilla beans) doesn't taste like either of these! So onto it...

This porter poured about a 1/4 inch, caramel-colored head that dissipated quite quickly. It had large bubbles while it lasted...
The first nose had chocolate... second had the vanilla... and on the third whiff I detected milk chocolate and a very slight hint of cinnamon.

The beer looks nice... very dark, but not thick. It poured thin and tasted thin. Nice roasty overtone and very chocolatey with small hints of the vanilla... more smell than taste.

I like this beer... not a favorite, but I'm proud to say it is from Nebraska. Thanks, Empyrean!

 857 characters

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.

 1,399 characters

Photo of Gruntlumber
4/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I must get a six pack of this every time I visit the Lincoln/Omaha area. It's uniquely different without being too over-the-top. The vanilla flavor is balanced perfectly, not overly syrupy like some flavored beers turn out to be. A very solid offering from Empyrean who has a nice lineup of brews; if only they had some decent distribution...

 342 characters

Photo of LuckySevens82
3.38/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

12 oz bottle courtesy of babydoc.
Pours a deep brown with a surprisingly white head. Not much lacing, but a loosely interconnected ring of white bubbles encircles the top of the beer.
Smell is kind of strange. I was expecting a very strong vanilla, which is there, but not nearly as strong as I would have thought. In addition, there is a noticeable hop aroma and a little bit of roasted malt. Burnt sugar lies in there somewhere as well.
Taste is also not as strong as I was expecting. Hop bitterness, caramel, a little bit of roasted malt, and of course vanilla (although, I am really only noticing the vanilla in the after taste).
The mouthfeel on this is also odd. It coats the tongue, which I like, but it's almost like drinking melted ice cream (not so much in taste, but in texture). It's not a bad thing, just an odd feeling from a beer.
Overall, a very interesting beer to say the least, I don't think I could drink more than one in a sitting though.

 965 characters

Photo of swid
3.91/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

The Dark Side Vanilla Porter pours very dark brown, and is almost completely opaque. A1/4" head appears, disappears just as quickly. No lacing and light carbonation. A wonderful variety of smells emanate from this porter: vanilla, pine, and a faint whiff of chocolate.

Although the vanilla dominates initially, other flavors pop up soon after: roasted coffee, a hint of chocolate, bitterness from the hops. The taste of this beer improves as it warms up. The Dark Side feels a bit dry on the mouth, and is rather light. Leaves a roasted and mildly bitter aftertaste.

Somehow this beer is, for me, less than the sum of its parts. The Dark Side is well-regarded here in Lincoln, and is still worth checking out. This is a beer I'll enjoy every so often, but not on a regular basis.

 785 characters

Photo of alexgash
3.53/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I think this is the first (and only?) Nebraska beer I've ever had. Picked it up on my drive from Utah to Minnesota. Pours a dark amber-brown with a creamy tan head; good lacing. Gives off an aroma of roasted coffee and vanilla beans. There's also some sweet milk chocolate. The vanilla is so obvious that it reminds me of a bottle of vanilla extract.
Taste starts with sweet, roasted malts. Vanilla syrup's there too, and a roasty, coffee bitterness rounds out the palate. Finish is bitter with the vanilla notes lingering. Full-bodied feel that approaches cloying in the vanilla department. Altogether, not bad, and certainly better than the Aspen Meadows vanilla cream stout...blech.

 686 characters

Photo of Loki
3.72/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Sampled from a 12oz bottle thanks to fellow BA bditty187.

Appearance: Pitch black body with a huge cream head that left blotches of lacing all around the glass. Good head retention.

Smell: One word - Vanillia. Large vanilla scent dominates the profile that holds malt, esters, and some hints of fruits. This is the vanilla scent all those candles and airfresheners strive for, or at least they should.

Taste: Whoa, backoff on the vanilla will you? The taste starts as if sucking on a vanilla bean (in my mind at least, I've never actually tried that.) Over the top vanilla almost completely mask the malt and fruit undertones.To vanilla sweet for my tastes, but a very interesting flavor.

The mouthfeel was just plain weird. I don't know if my mouth went into shock from all the vanilla or what happened, but it was hard to discribe and I didn't really enjoy it. It was a dry sweet with a weird carbonation and some other oddities. Strange. Not to drinkable because of the over the top vanilla and strange mouthfeel, but if you really like vanilla and sweet this might be for you.

 1,092 characters

Dark Side Vanilla Porter from Empyrean Brewing Company
3.65 out of 5 based on 364 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • BeerAdvocate Microbrew Invitational

    Join us June 2-3, 2017 in Boston, Mass. for beer, cider, mead, kombucha and sake from over 70 small producers.

    Learn More
  • Subscribe to BeerAdvocate Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.