For those that love a good Russian imperial stout, there is no finer time than that this is upon us. All the imperial stouts seem to come out with the cold weather and hope to warm drinkers nicely. In Minnesota, there is no more sought after imperial stout than Surly Darkness. With it’s annual bottle release at Darkness Day, kegs also begin to appear at local bars around the Twin Cities. From time to time a special cask makes an appearance too. This cask is one of only 4 made and was filled with Surly Darkness aged in Woodford Reserve barrels then aged on fresh vanilla beans in the cask. Amazing combo.
The Darkness was pulled from the tanks back in October and into the Woodford Reserver barrel it went. The brew spent several weeks in the barrels before being transferred into a cask with the fresh vanilla beans to condition a bit longer. The resulting flavors were fantastic. The aging time in the barrel added a nice bourbon note without being overpowering and the vanilla was light but came through nicely.
The cask was tapped at 5pm at a local bar and it was nice to see that word of it’s tapping didn’t hit sites like BeerAdvocate and RateBeer. Because of this, the tapping wasn’t packed wall to wall with tickers and people that only stop into a bar when they have something special on. Instead the regular crowd was able to enjoy this fine brew without having to be pushed and shoved to get a glass. While special events are fun at times, it’s nice to see those that regularly patronize a bar be able to get their hands on something special rather than those that will only stop in when there is a special tapping. There were only about 10 people drinking this special cask (including 4 Surly employees) in the hour and a half I was at the bar so it was easy to enjoy a couple glasses at an unhurried pace. No 30 minute waits in long lines while a frazzled bar staff run around attempting to quell a crazy crowd as is common at some of these special beer tapping events. The fact that it was tapped during 1/2 price Minnesota beer nice didn’t hurt either.
Surly Darkness is a special seasonal that many look forward to each year. Those that didn’t get a chance to checkout this cask aren’t out of luck yet. With 3 more casks going out to bars at some point in the future, there is sure to be another chance to enjoy this beer. But like the standard Darkness, it will go quickly so be sure to be there plenty early to get a seat.