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

Tomorrow, 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.

Darkness Old Fashioned is a 12 percent ABV rye barrel-aged Russian imperial stout with Moroccan sweet orange peel added. Surly has never been shy about incorporating fruit flavors into Darkness variants—cherry is a particular favorite—but this is the first time that Moroccan sweet orange pee has been one of the ingredients.

Pouring a deep, dark black, the 2019 Darkness Old Fashioned features surprisingly little head, and what is present dissipates very quickly leaving an almost nonexistent ring around the edge of the glass. Aroma from the glass is a combination of distinct orange rind bitterness, cocoa nibs, tobacco, raisin sweetness and slight leather. Profile-wise, the finish is dominated by flavors of strong dark chocolate and a touch of orange sweetness while the palate is full of the same orange rind bitterness and sweet raisin notes pulled directly from the aroma. Rye is very obvious as well and the alcohol in this variant is more noticeable on the finish when the beer is cold, but the sweetness in the beer becomes more prominent as it warms up, which in turn helps to increase the amount of orange rind bitterness on the finish.

If you were concerned there were going to be issues tasting the orange rind when reading the description of this variant, I can assure you that your fears are unfounded: the flavor is very much a major part of the profile, and it plays very well with the huge dark chocolate note that is also present. To me, this variant tastes more like a Terry’s Milk Chocolate Orange Ball—albeit an overtly alcoholic one—than an old fashioned cocktail, but I enjoyed it quite a bit any way you slice it. In fact, to me this version reminds me of an amped-up American Solera Our Queen, which was partially aged in orange bitters barrels.

Surly Darkness Old Fashioned 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
BEERS POURED: 1
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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