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.