You can find the review for Surly 2019 Darkness Old Fashioned here and the review for 2019 Molé Darkness here.

Later today, Surly Brewing Co. will begin hosting its largest party of the year: Darkness Day 2019, a multi-day event dedicated to the Minneapolis-based brewery’s extremely popular Darkness, a Russian imperial stout that was first released in 2007.

This year’s Darkness Day 2019 will be held on Sept. 27-28 at the Somerset Amphitheater in Somerset, Wis. As has historically been the case, in addition to bottles of the base Darkness stout there will also be three variants conditioned on different adjuncts:

In order to enhance the flavors of the variants, each of the three new beers was aged in different barrels, namely rum barrels, bourbon barrels and rye barrels respectively.

Surly has historically released a non-adjunct barrel-aged version of the Russian imperial stout on a later date than the regular version.

There are four different options for fans attending the event with tickets for each still available at this website with prices ranging to $35-200.

The Darkness series started in 2007 and has featured a different monster on the bottle every year since it was first released. This year’s monster is a “six-limbed savage” drawn by artist Tim Chapman, while past years’ label art have included depictions of “a screeching bat nightmare,” a mummy, the Devil, a vampire, a werewolf and the Grim Reaper.

As with previous versions dating back to 2007, the 2019 regular Darkness is a Russian imperial stout brewed with pale ale, golden promise, crystal, dark crystal, oats, black, chocolate, and roast malts “plus a non-traditional dose of aromatic hops” that include Amarillo, Columbus and Simcoe.

Aroma from the glass this variant was poured into is aggressive from the start, with both hops and dark chocolate fighting for dominance, followed by oak and slight vanilla sweetness much further behind. The profile follows the aroma almost completely, thus making for an interesting dichotomy with a clear distinction between the bitter hops on the finish and the dark chocolate sweetness on the palate.

I have enjoyed multiple versions over multiple years of the base Darkness stout and I can say without a doubt that this year’s incarnation is easily the most hop-forward I have ever tasted—at least when it is cold—almost like an IPA was poured into the bottle with the stout right before it was capped. Having said that, while the flavors are quite interesting when cold, the profile’s balance improves dramatically as it warms, with the inherent sweetness of the stout evening out the hoppy bitterness nicely.

Surly Darkness 2019 (Prerelease)
BREWERY: Surly Brewing Co.
LOCATION: Minneapolis, Minn.
STYLE: Russian Imperial Stout
ABV: 12%
IBU: n/a
PRICE: n/a
RELEASE DATE: Sept. 28, 2019
AVAILABLE IN: 750ml Bottles
I have always been a fan of breweries releasing variants at the same time as a base beer, and this year’s versions of Darkness are almost as different from each as they could possibly be. After drinking all of them one after another on the same day, I can safely say that two of the three—Old Fashioned and Molé—are significantly better when enjoyed on the cold side. The regular Darkness is the lone hold-out in that regard: it is much more enjoyable closer to room temperature, which significantly helps the balance between the two contrasting extremes of stout sweetness and hoppy bitterness meld together. Each of the three has its own pluses and minuses and your enjoyment of each will be influenced by your preferences, but for me, Molé Darkness is clearly the winner in this small contest.
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