Here we are, back again for another spring foray into Munster, Indiana. I personally took last year off from Dark Lord Day to attend Mikkeller Beer Celebration, so after the one year hiatus, I’m returning, just as the weather appears to again return to traditional terrible spring midwest weather. This years list is the largest quantity of variants topping 2016’s ten variants, with 11 this year.
Last year during my absence I decided to take a look at the variant list as it was released and made predictions about the variants I thought would likely work, which would not and which would be most popular from a secondary market stand point. I’m by no means an authority on great beers. I’m just a ticker that has drank some good Dark Lords, and lot more bad Barrel-Aged Dark Lords. You didn’t come for the opening diatribe. You’re here for the unsubstantiated beer opinions.
2018 Barrel Aged Dark Lord Variant Ranking Predictions
- Marshmallow Handjee — Bourbon barrel aged Dark Lord with vanilla beans
- ChemTrailMix — Dark Lord aged in rye barrels with cinnamon + pink peppercorns
- Hung Drawn N Quartered — Rye barrel-aged Dark Lord
- Cavaliero of Varnov — Oloroso sherry aged Dark Lord
- Spaceforce! — Dark Lord aged in Pineau Des Charentes barrels with vanilla, cocoa nibs + coffee
- French Vanilla Militia — Dark Lord aged in Sauternes barrels with vanilla, cocoa nibs + coffee
- Greatest Teachable Moments — American brandy barrel with verbena, ginger + orange peel
- Brotilla — Carcavelos aged Dark Lord
- Lounge Against the Macromachine — Tequila barrel with Mekong cinnamon, cocoa nibs, guajillo peppers + tangerine peel
- Brozerker — Ruby port aged Dark Lord
- Turtledogg – Scotch barrel-aged Dark Lord
Variant Breakdown Analysis
Reminder, these are predictions, not tasting notes. Tick them yourself and let me know how wrong I was @Ferowcious
Marshmallow Handjee — Bourbon barrel aged Dark Lord with vanilla beans
This is the undisputed king of Dark Lord variants since 2011. It’s consistency is relatively unmatched for having so many iterations come out of the Three Floyds Barrel Warehouse which has it’s share of infected stouts. This is really the king until it is unseated. I know FVM 2016 made a good run but this is still the gold standard.
Hung Drawn N Quartered — Rye barrel-aged Dark Lord
This is the first time a Rye barrel has made an appearance in the Dark Lord variant history. There’s no regular Bourbon Dark Lord this year which is unfortunate, as it is a reliably great variant. Rye treatments have shined with a lot of great stouts and I expect that to continue here. No adjuncts present to blow this party up, which should make this a variant to stand out for its purity, even if it doesn’t have a lot of flash.
Spaceforce! — Dark Lord aged in Pineau Des Charentes barrels with vanilla, cocoa nibs + coffee
Pineau des Charentes barrels made appearances in 2016 on 2 different variants, Legio Gemina, and Temeculan 3000 (often regarded as the worst Dark Lord variant of all time.) I’m staunchly against fortified wine barrel Dark Lord variants, just due to history. Dark Lord is such a brutal sickeningly sweet stout on it’s own, it doesn’t need an overly sweet barrel. This variant has quite a tempting roster of adjuncts that would rightfully raise some eyebrows. I think this variant will struggle to satisfy the way even French Vanilla Militia 2017 did with the great adjuncts and the challenging sweet moscatel barrel.
ChemTrailMix — Dark Lord aged in rye barrels with cinnamon + pink peppercorns
Last year I suggested “ChemTrailMix would seem to me to be the biggest risk/reward bottle.” The rewards were legitimate as ChemTrailMix still remains the 2nd most popular variant from 2017. It looks like this variant was met only with a tweak from Bourbon barrels to Rye. Probably positive moving from the sweeter Bourbon to the more spicy Rye. ChemTrailMix should continue to be a can’t miss as the legend of this variant grows.
French Vanilla Militia — Dark Lord aged in Sauternes barrels with vanilla, cocoa nibs + coffee
French Vanilla Militia 2016 was a revelation that challenged the BVDL throne. FVM 2017 was the beer that reminded us why Moscatel Dark Lord only need to be made once. Three Floyds is going back to the sweet wine well on FVM again. Historically Trump and Pump, which was also a Sauternes barrel is only slightly below average. Look for a small improvement over FVM 2017, but the greatness of FVM 2016 just gets further in the rear-view.
Lounge Against the Macromachine — Tequila barrel with Mekong cinnamon, cocoa nibs, guajillo peppers + tangerine peel
No Dark Lord de Muerte this year? Really unfortunate as that variant has improved greatly in the last 2 years over early iterations. Instead this year they threw guajillos into a Tequila barrel, found some other pastry fan boy adjuncts and unleashed this upon the world. After suffering through Westbrook Tequila Mexican Cake, I don’t have high expectations here. Tequila is just a tough barrel variant to get done well. I think I’ve had probably 2-3x as many good tequila barrel aged wilds/sours as I have any other style. Occasionally there are great ones like Firestone Walker PNC, but those seem to be the exceptions, not the rule.
Greatest Teachable Moments — American brandy barrel with verbena, ginger + orange peel
On one hand, this sounds like a refreshing light attempt at brightening up the sticky sweetness of Dark Lord. On the other hand, this feels like the Earl of Biggleswade’s niece, with ginger and verbena flowers substituted for cocoa nibs and cardamom. Outstanding name, but what will we learn?
Cavaliero of Varnov — Oloroso sherry aged Dark Lord
This is the first sherry barrel Dark Lord variant. I think the dry qualities of the Oloroso could be very conducive to making a great variant. I’d like to think this will be better than Moscatel Dark Lord and probably Portugese Brandy Dark Lord as well.
Brozerker — Ruby port aged Dark Lord
2013 introduced the world to Port Dark Lord. The peeps have not been clamoring for more. To date, 2013 fresh Port Dark Lord is the sweetest variant I’ve had. Dark Lord just doesn’t lend itself to doing sweet wine barrels very well. We didn’t need this variant again. We also didn’t need Speed 2: Cruise Control, and yet, the universe gives.
Brotilla — Carcavelos aged Dark Lord
Another Portugal regional fortified wine barrel. I’d love to pretend I didn’t have to Wikipedia this style, but I have too many vices already to get locked up in the minutiae of learning minor Portuguese wine regions. Carcavelos wines are described as dry, topaz colored wines with nutty aromas and flavors. Rest assured this is still a sweet wine, just allegedly not as much so as Port.
Turtledogg – Scotch barrel-aged Dark Lord
Is Scotch whisky your thing? Maybe this will be for you. This beer went through an interesting resale path last year with the Ardbeg barrels. There didn’t seem to be a lot of bottles that moved, but the ones that moved early had a huge secondary price tag, then seemingly everyone that wanted one, had one and that was the last we heard from Dia Oscuro. We don’t know what source these Scotch barrels are from. Will they be brutally peaty Islay or will it be more subdued and approachable to beta whiskey palates? Great approachable Scotch barrel stouts are not common. I wouldn’t start betting on it to work here.
Enjoy Dark Lord Day. Remember, you can’t drink enough water, but if you have the choice, the BA Water is best.