Staring 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.
The subject of today’s review is a returning variant of sorts—a version of Molé Darkness was released exclusively on-draft as part of the 2017 Darkness Day festivities—this newest incarnation is a Russian imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels with chocolate, cinnamon, chilies and vanilla beans.
The stout pours a familiar dark black color with a lack of any significant head; in fact, the small amount that is present disappears completely fairly quickly, leaving nothing behind around the rim of the glass. Aroma is a combination of cinnamon, dark chocolate and chili spices with vanilla sweetness and creamy oak bringing up the rear. The profile is complex and aggressive, with chili heat dominating the finish without overwhelming at any point while sweet vanilla, milk chocolate and cinnamon take the top spots on the palate. Although this variant is noticeably sweeter than the Old Fashioned version when cold, it is also noticeably more balanced overall.
This was easily the most enjoyable variant for me, mostly due to the amazing balance between the sweetness of the base stout, the heat from the chilis and the cinnamon. There is plenty of heat in the profile—especially on the finish, where it lingers long after each drink, albeit not in an aggressive way—but it is balanced quite well with the other flavors that are present. However, that balance deteriorates rapidly as the beer warms, so make a point to keep this one cold.