What are the Surly Darkness variants?
The 2019 edition of the original isn't going to surprise anyone familiar with previous installments. It still has that thick, syrupy malt profile with more than a touch of chocolate and vanilla. It's as delicious as ever. Though many people like to cellar their Darkness, when you get it fresh, it's a nice reminder of the hop profile that's very present. It starts to fade with time, but a recently bottled taste has a nice hop bitterness resting on top of the sweet, malty flavors.
Double-Stuffed Darkness - Rum Barrel-Aged Russian Imperial Stout
In 2018, Surly released variants on the classic Darkness in bottles for the first time. Following the release, they sent folks who bought the suite of bottles a survey to see what they'd like in variants going forward, Surly Vice President of Marketing Bill Manley tells Thrillist. Double-Stuffed is the beer that came out of those surveys. Though, Surly had already been testing something similar in-house.
The rum hits you hard. These barrels were wet, and the beer carries a strong dose of liquor. It's slightly drier and a little thinner than the classic, but it might appeal if you like rum or a little sweeter stout. The strong pop of vanilla, with added vanilla to what was already present in Darkness, buries most of the chocolate flavor that's present.
Molé Darkness - Bourbon Barrel-Aged Russian Imperial Stout
This is the outlier of the bunch. It's a surprising direction, almost playing like Mexican chocolate. It uses a chocolate syrup made in-house by chefs at the taproom with ancho chili and cacao nibs. This one diverges from the most from the original, even though the rum in the Double-Stuffed is notable. Here, there's a spice that comes in on the aftertaste. You feel it in the throat. It's not so spicy that there are people who couldn't handle it, but it's not entirely subtle. It's an interesting twist, but, on a personal level, it's not my favorite. Though, it wouldn't be at all surprising to discover that lots of people love it.
Old Fashioned Darkness - Rye Barrel-Aged Russian Imperial Stout
The final of the three variants is inspired by an Old Fashioned cocktail. As the beer warms, the rye starts to come to the surface, which is a boon for the beer. There's so much orange peel in the aroma that it might scare you off, but, in truth, it's well-blended into the beer and doesn't overpower anything. This was my favorite of this year's variants by quite a lot. It's got a nice balance, a little playfulness, and it's just a good beer you won't get sick of drinking.