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Darkness - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.
DarknessDarkness

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
100
world-class

2,811 Ratings
THE BROS
100
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 2,811
Reviews: 774
rAvg: 4.5
pDev: 9.33%
Wants: 2,981
Gots: 1,085 | FT: 80
Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company visit their website
Minnesota, United States

Style | ABV
Russian Imperial Stout |  10.30% ABV

Availability: Fall

Notes/Commercial Description:
Starting in 2014, bottled Darkness will be aged in whiskey barrels. This listing is ONLY for Darkness that is NOT barrel-aged. For 2014 Darkness go here:  http://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/p ... 14/141724/ 

Labels:
2007-Grim Reaper
2008-Devil
2009-Mummy
2010-Vampire
2011-Zombie
2012 - Werewolf
2013 - Brewcifer

(Beer added by: ryantupy on 10-08-2006)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 2,811 | Reviews: 774 | Display Reviews Only:
Reviews by Jredner:
Photo of Jredner
4.43/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

The body is black with a pick-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps, magically self-forming head. It’s a small head, but it gets a nice dark mocha color before slowly fading out. The aroma holds some muted hints of acetone and perfumey alcohol along with dark fruit, chocolate, licorice, raisin and very faint burnt grain notes. Fore is chocolate, dark fruits (blueberry/cherry) and malt sweetness just before the finish. The finish holds dark chocolate, cooked dark fruits, cocoa powder, burnt malt and toasted/burnt grains. The mouthfeel is quite thick and very creamy and pleasing on the tongue. Very nice.

Jredner, Mar 29, 2007
More User Reviews:
Photo of UCLABrewN84
4.35/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to shrek086 for sending me this long time want!

2010 vintage with the vampire artwork.

Pours an opaque black with a 3 inch puffy dark khaki head that settles to a dense small cap. A latticework of lace lines the glass on the drink down. Smell is of dark roasted malt, dark fruits, cocoa powder, and an alcohol aroma. Taste is of dark roasted malt, slightly sour dark fruits, bittersweet chocolate, and some roasted coffee bean flavors. A mild roasty bitterness lingers on the palate with each sip. There is a bit of a soy sauce quality in both the smell and taste but it's not at all unpleasant. This beer has a smooth and creamy mouthfeel with a lower level of carbonation. Overall, this is a very good RIS that deserves its status as a highly acclaimed beer. I am very happy I finally was able to snag one of these.

UCLABrewN84, Oct 31, 2011
Photo of mikesgroove
4.93/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

What can I say really about this whole situation. I was lucky enough to acquire this bottle through a very fair trade from a good friend. When I see how much these things go for and the hype surrounding it, it is hard for me to justify it sometimes. I have found several instances where these beers are just complete letdowns. This here was not the case. It was absolutely wonderful and I really think it is worth its reputation. That being said, I new this would be the only bottle I would get so I saved it for a very special occasion and split it with a good friend at Barley's last night for my 30th Birthday. I figured it would be a fitting place, fitting time, and fitting company to open such a rare and sought after treat. Served in multiple sampling glasses at various temperatures up to room temp, this was definitely a wonderful experience. Bottle # 295.

Appearance - So we finally get to pour this one out. Opened the double dipped, wax topped cap and pour out this black as night liquid. Deep dark notes of black, to which no light could penetrate dropped into the glass with each tip. A mushrooming head of tan foam then came up over the top, reaching a height of at least two fingers before starting to break up into a rocky and cratered field. Even at its lowest mark it still carried about a fingers depth of lace with it and the side glass webbing was extremely nice. Overall this was a monster looking beer, however I cannot say it was a five, only because I have seen Dark Lord and the Abyss offer me a slightly fuller poor.

Smell - The aroma was to die for, literally. Everyone of these big RIS are much different then the one before, and everyone one is so unique, but I think once you take a whiff of this one it becomes very clear that this is in a whole different category. Gone are you rum soaked dark fruit and bourbon barrel, oak infused aromas, this was an entirely different beast. Rich and very sweet cocoa aromas are bringing themselves up to greet you first, with a gentle nudge of alcohol underneath. Wonderfully rich coffee then comes in to deliver the next blow. It was more of a roasted coffee bean aroma to be honest, like when you first open up that drawer at starbucks. A veritable assault of floral hops then comes out of nowhere. Grapefruit and pineapple hints mixing in with molasses and vanilla, what was this. As it warmed that sweet and creamy chocolate and coffee just really stole the show, with drops of vanilla just making this one drip with sweetness.

Taste - Now, we dive in to get a taste of what this wonderful liquid could be hiding. The first thing you notice is uber sweet chocolate and coffee. Just that wonderful taste that you want to have in a big stout, but the second that you get used to it, it gets cut like a knife, infused with grapefruit and orange peel. Puckering the lips as fresh grass and lemon hints seal it up and dry the mouth instantly before falling down the back of your through and opening up the scarred taste buds to welcome rush of vanilla. Beautifully complex, the rich notes of smoke and molasses intermingle and marry a wonderful peat like darkness that just sits there for a second before it too passes, getting whisked away and leaving behind only the faintest hint of grapefruit like bitterness soaked in vanilla and coffee. A wonderful voyage of unexpected tastes and bright surprises, wit ha virtually hidden alcohol content that makes it oh so smooth.

Mouthfeel - An speaking of smooth, wow, this was one smooth stout. A little bit less full then the rest of the big boys, but again this was a different type of monster, something entirely different then you milk shake like consistency you would typically associate with the style. This had a light, more carbonated feel to it. A much drier beer, especially in the finish, the flavors exploded out of it more then soaked in and sat there. As it warmed up it really did get a good deal thicker, but still stuck to its roots, setting it apart from the heard.

Drinkability - As for an almost 11% ABV Russian Imperial Stout, this was something I could have drank all night long. It was just tremendous in its complexity with a unrivaled smoothness. The alcohol was nowhere to be found, and the dry, hoppy finish only encouraged me to go back and try it again, and again, and again. It was a sad moment when this bottle was finished, as I really wanted just a little bit more. It was like beer crack for me, really just that good.

Overall I would have to say this really lived up to the hype for me. It was a phenominal beer, much different then anything I had before it, and was a nice breath of fresh air in the category. I was impressed by the floral hoppiness that was brought into this, especially in the finish as it really hid the alcohol well and let you have a nice, and not super filling experience out of it. Overall would I like another bottle, absolutely! Would I travel to Minnesota to get it, if the wife would let me, in a heartbeat!

mikesgroove, Jun 13, 2008
Photo of BEERchitect
4.6/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

An absolute pleaseure to finally have the opportunity to enjoy this beer. Absolute chocolatey notes with licorice and char blend beautifully in this molassas-rich Imperial Stout.

An very viscous pour of oily black liquid falls from the bottle- this is going to be one full beer. Completely opaque, the beer lathers into a thick, lightly browned, dense foam stance that seemingly never waivers. Both lacing and legging have a convincing say in the coatings left behind on the glass.

Robust aromas of both semi-sweet chocolate morsels and dry cocoa powder lead the way with a heafty sidekick of burnt cherries, licorice, rum, and fruitcake. Mouthwatering and seductive, the aromas are near flawlessness.

The chocolate-heavy tone continues in flavor, similar to fresh baked brownies and Hershey syrups. Background fruity notes of cherries, grapes, currants, and dates are accompanied by deep roasted coffee, char, and roasted marshmallows creaminess. Molassas sweetness brings these flavors together seamlessly while giving a soothing taste to the aggressive roast.

Full, viscous, creamy, and oily in mouthfeel, the beer has a slow transition from early thickness to a late sweet, warming, and bitter finish (bitterness is in form of both char and hops). This beer is obviously intended for after dinner compliments or in place of dinner alltogether.

A special thanks goes out to Shango42 for the unique opportunity to finally enjoy this beer. He gets my right arm if he ever requests it.

BEERchitect, Jul 27, 2010
Photo of MasterSki
4.2/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

For my 1000th review, I had to choose whether to go with something extremely rare or something nostalgic. Since my last few milestone reviews were Belle Vue Sélection Lambic, Kaggen! Stormaktsporter Rauch, and Cantillon Loerik, I figured it was time for a change of pace, so I picked the first beer for which I traveled to a release party.

This review is an aggregate of all four bottled vintages. Thanks to hoppymeal, northernbrews, and hophobo for supplying vintages '07, '08, and '09 respectively.

(And no, I've never had '06, nor would it be appropriate for this review as it was growler/tap only.)

A - All vintages of Darkness are essentially reference quality Imperial Stout when it comes to appearance. Pours yield a few fingers of dark tan/mocha foam over top of a pitch black body that reveals a sheen of brown at the top of the glass when held up to the light. The head slowly dissipates leaving behind a thin cap and splotchy fingers of lacework. Earlier vintages have slightly worse retention, but all look quite excellent and sufficiently evil.

S - On the other hand, the aroma varies markedly by vintage. The most hop-forward at this stage is '09, with some floral, earthy, leafy, and slightly citrus hop character still present after a year. You can tell '07 was similar when it was bottled as it also features some faded herbal hop notes. The '10 is far more understated in this area, with a floral character that is roughly as potent as the three-year old '07 vintage. Whatever hops were present in '08 are long gone (and they were there, as I remember them when I had it fresh on-tap). Malt character always features sweet dark fruits, figs & prunes, and baker's chocolate, but roast character ranges from fairly intense in '07 to almost non-existent in '08.

T - The taste mirrors the aroma fairly accurately, but there are a few unusual disconnects. '07 features present but well-attenuated hop and char bitterness, as well as dark chocolate and dark roast coffee. '08 tastes largely of cherry cordials, milk chocolate, and dates. '09, even with its still-present hop aroma, is surprisingly high in caramel, molasses, and dark fruits. There is some fairly potent roast character but this is sweeter than I remembered. '10 is most similar to (aged) '07 with roast espresso notes, earthy and herbal bitterness in the finish, and understated sweetness.

M - All vintages are quite similar in this regard. A smooth, creamy, medium-full body that is big enough for the circa 10% alcohol, soft medium-low carbonation, and some light warming alcohol after a few ounces.

D - This is a definitely a sipper, particularly with the sweeter vintages. The 750ml bottles are probably best shared 3-4 ways, and the sugar levels can reach critical after having much more. I find this more drinkable than Dark Lord, but significantly less so than something like Ol' Jack Frost.

It's quite interesting to chart the (d)evolution of the beer and the cautionary tale it can teach about transitioning from small-batch brewing to large-scale production. I'm actually fairly confident the malt bill hasn't changed significantly over the years - what DOES seem to change is the timing and size of hop additions. I wish I'd taken notes on fresh pours of each vintage on-tap, but I do remember that while '08 and '09 both smelled brutally hoppy when first tapped, the hop character vanished from '08 in only a few months. On the plus side, the cloying nature that the '08 displayed after a few months is largely gone, and while certainly sweeter it's actually quite pleasant.

The score is representative solely of the bottles as they tasted circa October 2010.

MasterSki, Nov 09, 2010
Photo of tectactoe
4.43/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Thanks to Mike for sharing this one with me! 2011 version. Pours a midnight black color, only the very edges show some dark brown hints; thick, dark, and opaque. The head is a deep tan color, comprised of very fine bubbles and appears to be creamy as hell. It hangs around for a while before it complete vanishes, and it's pretty hard to bring any of it back by just swirling the glass. No real lacing left behind.

Right out of the gate, the aroma is super sweet. Dark currants and fruits, black licorice, toasted brown sugar, and bits of bittersweet chocolate. Some small, extra hints of vanilla reside in the back as well. Not much coffee on the nose (though there is a little bit) - the sweet fruits, sugar, and chocolate kind of steal the show. Booze is apparent, but masked well enough from the barricade of other flavors.

Many other people are calling out a big hop profile in the aroma, but I'm just not getting it. Some very faint char/ashiness that may be from the hop, but I'm grasping at straws, here. I'm just not picking up a big hop character on the nose (barely any at all, actually). This aroma reminds me quite a bit of Dark Lard, but lighter on the brown sugar and not quite as sweet.

A similar thing could be said about the taste. Darkness hits you with a sweetness first and foremost, just like Dark Lord did, but it's a little more tamed in this one. Sugary, burnt caramels, bittersweet cocoa, syrupy molasses, licorice - quite a lot going on here. There were actually a few sips that would remind me of the syrup used in fountain machines to make cola. Less dark fruit on the palate than in the aroma, but some currants and dates are there, sugar coated and sweet as hell.

I'm finally picking up a touch of hops, but still nowhere near enough to combat the sheer malty sweet intensity of this beer. The coffee comes out a little over halfway through and ride well into the aftertaste, leaving a nice roasted coffee bean flavor in my mouth. The sweet brown sugar also hangs in the aftertaste, probably for a little too long. Thick, heavy mouth, though not incredibly creamy or chewy, with lower end carbonation. Lacquers the mouth with a sticky, syrupy coating.

This is a damn fine brew, and I enjoyed it a little bit more than Dark Lord. But unfortunately it suffers from the same flaw of still being a bit too sweet. Darkness does a little bit better of a job taming the sweetness than Dark Lord, however. Lots of different flavors and aromas going on here, and this is a nicely crafted RIS - but the relentless sweetness (in my opinion) is holding it back from being "top of the list" for me.

EDIT: 7/19/2013

2012 Vintage shared thanks to Kevin R... Thanks! I liked this one even a bit more than the 2011 that Mike cracked with me earlier this year. Sweetness was evident, yet more controlled. Hoppier, with a better balance of ashy bitterness. More roasty, more drinkable, and even more enjoyable, even though I already like it in the first place. Great brew.

tectactoe, Feb 20, 2013
Photo of ricke
4.65/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2007 vintage.

A: Pitch black with decent pale beige head that leaves a lot of creamy lacings.

S: Wonderful aromas of roasted malts, dry coffee notes, rich fruity notes (plums, cherries, figs) and hints of spicy hops. Very balanced and very impressive.

T: The taste is nothing but fantastic - really balanced and spot on. Everything is where it's supposed to be. The flavors are very complex - sweetness from the malts, salt licorice and a bitter finish. Powerful roasted malty aromas and notes of luscious dark fruits, a hint of molasses, tannins, coffee, wood and leafy hops. The finish is somewhat dry and bitter with notes of licorice, leafy hops and malts.

M: Full-bodied with a fat and creamy malty mouthfeel. Gentle carbonation.

D: Almost unbelievably good. Very balanced. The composition is like a symphony - carefully orchestrated with everything at its proper place.

ricke, Oct 29, 2009
Photo of t2grogan
5/5  rDev +11.1%

t2grogan, Oct 21, 2014
Photo of jono0101
5/5  rDev +11.1%

jono0101, Dec 06, 2013
Photo of brownbeer
4.5/5  rDev 0%

brownbeer, Feb 14, 2014
Photo of Schlais
4.5/5  rDev 0%

Schlais, Dec 06, 2011
Photo of cjn40277
4.5/5  rDev 0%

cjn40277, Nov 03, 2014
Photo of Spaten454
4.25/5  rDev -5.6%

Spaten454, Jun 14, 2014
Photo of Dabeel
4/5  rDev -11.1%

Dabeel, Jun 05, 2013
Photo of delaced21
4/5  rDev -11.1%

delaced21, Mar 03, 2014
Photo of SkiBum22
4.3/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2011 Vintage

A - The pour is fittingly black with at least a finger of thick brown head. The lacing really coats the glass nicely with a creamy head that seemingly lasts forever.

S - Very sweet aromas of dark fruits, berries, figs all covered in chocolate with a little bit of caramel and coffee to round it out.

T - Deep, dark, delicious chocolate just dominates the taste. Overall it is sweet, but not overly sweet as sometimes experienced with big Russian Imperial Stouts.

M -Mouthfeel is pretty full bodied, smooth with creamy medium carbonation.

O - A great non-barrel aged stout. There were times that I noticed barrel like qualities. Overall another great brew from Surly.

SkiBum22, Jul 15, 2012
Photo of joemetric
4.7/5  rDev +4.4%

joemetric, Nov 02, 2014
Photo of farundrpar
5/5  rDev +11.1%

farundrpar, Dec 13, 2011
Photo of BeerAdvocate
4.5/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Review is from the February 2007 issue of Beeradvocate Magazine.

Only 12 barrels were made, and we've been blessed with a 1/2 gallon, sent directly from the brewery on ice packs. Kickass!

Aptly named, this is one hell of a black brew. Its dark crown is rich, creamy, tightly formed, and coffee colored. Looks like a freshly frothed coffee. Blackberries, strong sherry, velvety dark chocolate, perfume of soft dried fruits. Thick, viscous, chewy, round, smooth and creamy. Semi-spicy alcohol is caught in the center, surrounded by char and smoke, and grasped by a fi st of sweetness. Malty sweet, but not cloying; molasses, dark brown sugar, charred raisins, juicy, ripe black cherries in a sharp, dark berry middle, and an exotically acrid dark-roasted coffee bite. Hop bitterness rises from the depths, along the sides of the tongue, stabbing at the palate here and there with some leafy and oily notes. Smoky-char linger in the fi nish, with a residual, deep, dark sweetness. Alcohol creeps, lurks and eventually strikes a warming blow to the skull.

Dark Lord Imperial Stout, kneel before Darkness! All hail Darkness! The best American-made Russian Imperial Stout we've ever had!

BeerAdvocate, Aug 12, 2008
Photo of newk340
4.5/5  rDev 0%

newk340, Feb 04, 2012
Photo of orbitalr0x
4.22/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Release night at the Bavarian Lodge. 11oz pour arrives a deep jet black with an inch of creamy head and some spotty lacing on the glass. Aromas start with deeply roasted dark malts colliding with chocolate cream. Mellow coffee moves into some dark fruits and hops.

First sip brings a big roasty dark maltiness upfront with notes of sweet milk chocolate, roasted coffee and some dark fruit edges. There's a smooth creaminess here as it flows down. The hops kick in on the finish and become quite noticeable with a good bitterness. The malts win in the end though, leaving a sweet aftertaste and a slight stickiness on the palate.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied with a mellow carbonation. Not nearly as thick as many imperial stout's at this ABV, but that makes it somewhat more drinkable as well. While this isn't my favorite RIS, I still thoroughly enjoyed it and the fact that it's quite hoppy as well. Glad I got a chance to sample this on tap.

orbitalr0x, Nov 06, 2008
Photo of beaversfan12
5/5  rDev +11.1%

beaversfan12, Nov 03, 2013
Photo of NWer
5/5  rDev +11.1%

NWer, Dec 06, 2013
Photo of DaftPatrick
4.9/5  rDev +8.9%

DaftPatrick, Nov 29, 2011
Photo of Sam_Gladieux
4.5/5  rDev 0%

Sam_Gladieux, Apr 27, 2014
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Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
100 out of 100 based on 2,811 ratings.