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Darkness - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.

Educational use only; do not reuse.

811 Reviews

(Read More)
Reviews: 811
Hads: 3,346
Avg: 4.41
pDev: 19.27%
Wants: 3,286
Gots: 1,219 | FT: 92
Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company visit their website
Minnesota, United States

Style | ABV
Russian Imperial Stout |  10.30% ABV

Availability: Fall

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: ryantupy on 10-08-2006

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/ 

2007-Grim Reaper
2012 - Werewolf
2013 - Brewcifer
View: Beers (55) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Darkness Alström Bros
Reviews: 811 | Hads: 3,346
Photo of pdoran10
4.08/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Served on tap at darkness day 2009 at Hell's Kitchen in downtown Minneapolis. Have procrastinated a long time on reviewing this beer.

When I ordered it, I was presented with a 10oz goblet of very dark brown beer, with a luxurious looking half inch of head. The smell is right away of toasted malt with dark chocolate, can't quite put my finger on some of the other flavors, but very complex. I was surprised when I tasted it, very thick and syrupy. I taste toasted malt right away, much like the smell. After that passes, I get an explosion of other flavors, chocolate, expresso, I might even taste some fig in there. It took me a few sips to get a grasp for all that was going on. Good taste, but a lot of toasted malt and a bit of alchohol taste are going on. I was not a big fan of the mouthfeel of this one. I'm all for thick imperial stouts, but somehow this one was much more syrupy than I liked, it felt a little to sticky sweet in my mouth. The drinkability is good enough. Some alchohol presense, and a bit syrupy, but it can't be all bad as I still had two and considered a third. Good beer, didn't live up to my expectations though.

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Photo of Hophead101
4.08/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

drank on 12.4.08 at Clark St Ale House with friends from work.

I finally got a chance to taste the nectar known as the Darkness. There is so much hype around this beer, you can imagine my extreme joy when I walked into this bar and saw this on tap. Since I can't get it in PA - this was a pleasant surprise.

Of course, as the name says, it pours a dark brown, basically black beer. Had a nice tan head and the lacing on the glass was great. The smell was crisp and sweet, woodsy and smoky. There was a twinge of alcohol in the nose as well.

the taste is simply WOW. very malty, very sweet and you can absolutely taste the alcohol (which is 10%+). there is the roasted malt taste and the earthy and woodsy tastes as well. Mouthfeel was surprising nice with a bit of a sharp alcohol taste.

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Photo of zhanson88
4.07/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2010 vintage.

Appearance: Pours out a deep, dark brown that appears black in the glass. About 3/4" of dark tan head forms, which has pretty good retention and very nice lacing. Pretty good start to this beer.

Smell: Smells pretty roasty, but not overly so, with light coffee bitterness and stronger dark and milk chocolate sweetness intermingling.

Taste: Roast bitterness and milk chocolate sweetness all the way. Good balance of the two. Lingering bitterness from the roast. Not the most complex beer, but what is there is very solid.

Mouthfeel/Overall: Mouthfeel is just under full, with an excellent level of carbonation. Overall, a very good non barrel aged stout. It gives up a bit of complexity but is very well put together, and has an excellent sweet/bitter balance. Definitely a recommend.

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Photo of shroompod
4.06/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours dark! This has the best head retention of any RIS I've ever seen.

Aroma of citrus hops , dark chocolate and sweet caramel.

This beer is sweet. A lot of dark candy sugar tastes. Molasses, raisins, caramel, and figs. The sweetness comes at the expense of darker flavors I enjoy (coffee, chocolate & bitterness). Hops are their, but somewhat subdued.

Mouthfeel is thick , carbonation is good.

Overall an exceptional RIS that's too sweet for me.

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Photo of paulozanello
4.05/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2011 version, on tap:

Pours a really opaque dark color with a light brown head with great retention and lacing.

Aroma is of dark malts, mollasses, some coffee, vanilla and chocolate.

Taste somehow follows the aroma with a very "dark malt" profile, with dark fruits, vanilla, coffee and bitter chocolate.

Body is heavy with a silky and smooth mouthfeel at first, with mild tart and astringent dark malt notes later on. Aftertaste is a little hop bitter.

Overall a very good RIS from surly. Not the most complex beer within the style but a great beer nonetheless.

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Photo of mikeyv35
4.05/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

Date: 05/25/2010
Type: 750ml. Bottle
Vintage: 2009
Glassware: Usual Portsmouth Tulip

Poured a nice charcoal black w/ a 1/2 finger light brown creamy head w/ minimal lacing. Nose was fantastic, w/ aromas of chocolate malts, light coffee, black licorice, slight smokiness, and a touch of earthy peat. Taste was excellent as well, w/ notes of dark chocolate, vanilla bean/marshmallow, and a finish of substantial hop bitterness. This brew contained a flavor in the middle that took me awhile to pinpoint, eventually I realized it was burnt toffee mixed w/ star anise. Mouthfeel was pretty viscous and oddly pillowy at the same time. The only negative on this brew for me was the sweetness, that got to me after only a 12oz. glass. To be honest, it kind of sadened me because it overshadowed the amazing complexity of this fine brew.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this brew, but could only handle drinking a 4-8oz. pour. The next time I crack one of these bad boys open, it will be w/ other BA friends.

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Photo of ChugginOil
4.05/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Review #500

2011 Zombie bottle

Pours very black, dark as night with an eager finger of light brown head. Stringy and spotted lacing.

The nose has a ton of anise and bitter chocolate. If I take a huge whiff, the abv comes through slightly. Cocoa and licorice.

The flavors are heavy on bakers chocolate and anise. The is some sweetness involved but the dry roasty flavors take over. Roasty, dark, slightly sweet, and full of anise. Solid for the style but I had hoped for more.

The mouthfeel is sticky and rich, mixed with those dry bakers chocolate flavors. Sweet, roasty and dry. This is the best part of this beer.

Overall, I expected much more going into this because I have had many off the shelve beers that are just as good, if not better. Too much hype behind this one. Solid top tier stout but not near the best or even near it.

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Photo of punkrkr27
4.05/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2008 bottle. Lots of rich sweet yet bitter black strap molasses character with a shot of espresso. There's some milk chcoclate that comes out in the middle and it finishes with a long bitter black coffee finish. There was a hint of soy I didn't care much for though. The body is sticky and full with moderate carbonation.

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Photo of jeonseh
4.03/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle poured into a CBS snifter. 4th beer in my the baller blend tasting

A - Deep brown, almost black in color. Had a nice off white head that sat on top throughout.

S - Smells of cocoa, vanilla, and slight caramel. Has a strong hop, pine presence that comes through in the nose. Get a hint of the alcohol coming through as well

T - Taste at first is sweet caramel with a hint of chocolate. It is almost like a milky way at first. As the beer continues there is a stronger vanilla flavor that comes through. Near the finish we get a hint of bitter hops that reminds us that this is a surly beer

MF - No carbonation at all. There is a slight stickiness to it and it had a medium body that is not too thick or thin.

O - Solid RIS from Surly. Has a good balance between the sweeter flavors, cocoa, and hops on the backend. Nice to get if I ever get a chance to make it out to Darkness Day

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Photo of DavoleBomb
4.03/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a snifter. 2010 vintage.

5.0 A: Pours black. About three fingers of thick, mostly creamy, secondarily frothy medium-brown-colored head. Very good retention and lacing covering most of the glass.

4.5 S: Mighty chocolaty is my first impression. This has a great mixture of roasty and sweet aromas with the sweet being moderately stronger. Hops are readily apparent in the form of herbal and citrus. Sweet caramel, a touch of smoke, and some toastiness to cap it off. Very nice.

4.0 T: Taste is pretty good, though somewhat disappointing based on the nose. This isn't nearly as sweet as the nose suggests. Rather, hop bitterness is apparent and hop flavor is nearly as strong as the malts. Hop flavor comes in the form of citrusy orange, herbalness, and a touch of spiciness. Malts contribute milk chocolate, caramel, molasses, anise, a touch of smoke and fruitiness in the form of plum, prune, and parsimmon. The malts aren't big and powerful like I like, but this is still pretty tasty.

3.5 M: Heavier medium body. Not the thick, rich imperial stout I was looking for. Moderate carbonation is a bit "dead" leaving the beer limp and heavy on the touch. However, this has a good creaminess to it and it otherwise smooth.

3.5 D: Gave this a 3.5 because the taste was a borderline 3.5. This is easily the best hoppy imperial stout out there, but I'm not that big of a fan of that approach to stouts. I like big malty flavors and low hop contribution. Still, this is a pretty tasty and I think this will be damn good once the hops have time to fade.

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Photo of LittleBreeze
4.03/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4


Thanks for sharing this one, drseamus.

I'm not sure this one "poured". It more like gulped from the bottle. Tan head.

The hops surprised me. I don't recall ever smelling a RIS that hoppy. Other tasters commented that it was a Surly smell. But it smells like a Double IPA

A nice malt bitterness sets up the caramel and chocolate. Nice bitter bite.

Dandy mouthfeel. A little dance on the tongue but not too much carbonation.

This is a very nice RIS. It didn't "win the night" when lined up against a few other beers in this category. I'll admit to expecting...more.

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Photo of kkipple
4.03/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Cashew70 earns my undying respect for bringing a bottle of this to the now legendary Spring '08 Brick Store tasting. We did a side by side with a 2007 Dark Lord. Never thought I'd get to do that. Thanks, Cashew!

Pours a very dark black-brown, with a small head comprised of fat bubbles. Sinister to be sure, but nothing we haven't seen before. It absolutely does not stick to the glass like ye ole DL.

Smells surprisingly... hoppy. You have to wait till this warms up a little, but Darkness has a definite hop edge of pine that fights through the strong burnt, charred grain, chocolate and coffee denseness. Oh yes, there's alcohol and some sweet molasses / sugar lurking there too. Darkness certainly smells like a winner, but the only unusual thing here is the level of hops present.

Ahh, now we're talking! Super roasty, and the big (for a RIS) citrus hop bite equates to a bold, brash, wild beer with a lotta punch. The hops are dirty and rough, and it's altogether boozy and heavy. This is the kind of stuff Klingons would drink out of corroded metal canisters while stranded in deep space.

Mouthfeel is slick, heavy and lowly carbonated. Finishes hoppy, roast-bitter and oily sweet. It lacks the cake-batter thickness of it's nemesis from Munster, but it's good even so.

Drinkability? Well, pretty low. This is good, but quite honestly, does not live up to the (unfair) hype. Darkness is quite solid, but there are a lot of great Imperial Stouts coming out of the US and this one is certainly not worth the insane premium it commands. If you have a bottle, count yourself lucky and share with friends. They'll owe you!

Oh yeah, was it better than Dark Lord? No. Dark Lord still holds the tarnished, sickly crown for this sort of thing.

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Photo of Jwale73
4.03/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2008 vintage, courtesy of DbHog (an awesome trader). Beer #5 in the "Motha of all Stout Tastings." Pours two shades shy of black with rubye highlights around the edges. Half inch mocha-colored cap embedded with ringlets - generous head recedes into a swirl. Glass was coated with delicate strands of lacing during the tasting. Nose is hoppy - enough said. Taste is really interesting and was difficult to tease out - a full malt bill mixed with citric acid, artificial sweetener, grapefruit and some booze towards the back. Mouthfeel is medium-bodied and slightly viscous. A complex and interesting beer, but a bit off-style in my opinion.

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Photo of MbpBugeye
4.03/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

I know you'll be glancing at this, AleWatcher. Sorry the Westy 12 didn't make it for my 800th. It'll be split with my girlfriend at a more special time, to be determined.

2010 (vampire)
This long time want graciously provided to me by bauermj. Poured into my new Darkness glass that was sent by Beeruser in perfect timing.

The beer flows forth languidly, boasting its full body and robust color. The collection in the glass is dense and blackened. An undertone of burnt red, much like the color of the wax that crowns this bottle, gives the beer warmth and character. The head is a yellowed khaki with a frothy and soft pretense. Creeping rings of lace adorn the glass in short order, fueled by the ever-present ring of foam.

Darkness carries with it aromas of soy sauce and tobacco that are uniquely its own. Rich molasses and brown sugar lay a sweetened backdrop to licorice, steak sauce and freshly laid mulch. The bouquet is indeed full of darkness but encompasses the realm of caramelized and aged sugars and sweets. A consideration of the final glass of the bottle yields strong aromas of prunes and hints of chocolate covered raisins.

The soy sauce and molasses flavors are the dominant ones. They grip the sides of the tongue with a sharp, rum soaked fruitcake flavor that is bracketed by sweet pipe tobacco. There is a milky creaminess that tries to push through but the denser molasses and anise flavors suppress it for the most part. As the glass warms, caramel and a faint citrusy hopping come out. A fleeting hint of smoke pops out just at the end, and only after this beer warms to room temperature.

The best part of this beer is the way it slides over the palate, offering little resistance. It feels frictionless. Its very low and fluffy soft carbonation furthers the effects of the full body. There is a little bit of stickiness left on the lips, but this is a sweet beer, that should be expected. Some alcohol warmth and an oily, licorice flavored coating is left behind for a long finish and aftertaste.

This is a great stout. It’s large in stature and silky smooth and thick. It is, however, quite sweet and wrought with tobacco and soy sauce notes that get in the way of its roastiness. So, all things considered, this did not live up to what I expected from it.

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Photo of s1ckboy
4.03/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2010 bottle with about 10 months on it.

A - Dark(ness). Pretty sure I'm the only one to make that comment. Small finger of head that stuck around for a bit leaving small bubbles around the edges

S - Bitter chocolate, roasty.

T - A ton of chocolate, malty, molasses, some bitterness to it. Very sweet. Some other typical imp stout flavors (dark fruits etc). No alcohol taste to speak of. Sweetness got to me a bit after 12 oz. Reminds me a lot of Ten Fidy, but sweeter.

M - Thick. Leaves a coating on your mouth.

O - Not my favorite imperial stout but very good.

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Photo of trxxpaxxs
4.03/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Starting off 2012 in style. Thanks to LaCoursiere for this bottle.

2011 vintage poured into a Surly Darkness snifter.

A: Pours a deep black with about one and one half fingers of mocha head. The foam settles nicely on the top of this beer, leaving a thin film of bubbles. Some decent lacing as it drinks.

S: Smells of raisins, plums, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, caramel, and a touch of vanilla. There is also an underlying earthiness to this beer.

T: The taste follows the nose really closely. I get the raisins, plums, chocolate, and caramel notes.

M: Full bodied beer. This beer is a seriously creamy. It has great mothfeel, but the finish is a bit cloying. There is a stickiness that lingers for a bit after drinking.

O: In all honesty, I'm not super impressed. There just seems to be something missing, and I can't put my finger on it. I sincerely remember last years version being better. I'm looking forward to seeing how this beer develops over time.

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Photo of ThePorterSorter
4.03/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

the beer pours jet black with a thin tan head. the nose is caramel, alcohol, bandaid (subtle) & sugar. the taste is definitely all chocolatey malt forward with booze. the mouhfeel is definitely full bodied rich chocolatey stout, but easy drinking and smooth, very slight bitterness. this beer is definitely an approachable, drinkable ris that most people would enjoy

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Photo of azdback
4.03/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Vintage 2011. Poured into a snifter. Well it's name is Darkness and its initial appearance is just that. Deep reaches of space black. Highlight are black with some black shadows. Head is a beautiful two fingers and cocoa colored and smooth and silky in appearance. Lace is sticky and spotted leopard pattern. Beautiful!!

Smell is at first a bit mellow but comes on with great dark roasted flavors of coffee and some silky milk chocolate. Maybe just a bit of char or wood and some tart cherries and maybe just a hint of alcohol.

Taste is much like the smell. The cherries come out more towards the front in the taste than in the nose. The dark roasted flavors of coffee, molasses, chocolate and charred wood are next. It finishes with some alcohol warmness.

Mouth is velvety with creamy carbonation. Body is full to heavy and the finish is long and wet.

Overall I enjoyed this. I have been looking forward to this day for quite some time. I received a bottle of 2010 earlier this year but waited until today to try the 2011 I received from TIMMYJ21 a month or two ago. I expected the world from this but it didn't quite match up. Still really excellent and solid Russian Imperial Stout. Very proud to have this as my 250th review.

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Photo of ShogoKawada
4.03/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Reviewed from notes. First beer of the day! Whoohoo.

A- Dark as all heck. Swirling the glass leaves a brown coating, like brownie batter. This stuff is thick.

S- Lots of dark roast, heavy char. Lots of sweet fruit, as well. Potent aromatics.

T- I hear a lot of people call this one hoppy but I didn't really pick up on much. Lots of coffee and bitter chocolate, though. A wisp of smoke, and a bit of plum. This one is really all about the bitter, earthy chocolate, though. Like chewing on cacao nibs.

M- Not as thick as it looks- which is a good thing- I am impressed at the balance the body of this beer has. It is well thought out and simply works. Great, complex flavors that don't fight for space on the tongue.

O- Very good- a little goes a long way, but the flavors are spot-on. I very much enjoyed this one. Lives up to my expectations.

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Photo of bainard
4.03/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

A - Onyx with a 1/2" tan head. Really nice look to this brew. Looks like a big RIS.

S - Smoke, fruit (grapefruit and peach, maybe?), and roast. Some coffee. The candi sugar starts to become VERY prevalent.

T - Though it opens very well, with flavors of vanilla and coffee, it starts almost too tart and too sweet, as if the candi sugar is dragging an otherwise great beer down. The warming gives you an idea of why the Belgian sugar is used in this brew. It's extremely unique and forward, but it could definitely use some mellowing.

M - The creaminess here is something most other brews would beg for.

D - The alcohol is there, of course, but it doesn't feel like a 10.3% beer. It's a really nice beer and worth every penny, but I believe this vintage just seemed too young to really appreciate right off the bat. I have a bottle that I'll be cellaring, and I'm quite sure this review will improve after I enjoy that.

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Photo of LordAdmNelson
4.02/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

2010 Vintage.

Poured opaque black (like all big stouts) with moderate tan head. Nose is unexpectedly full of citrus hops (I knew this was hoppy, but damn). Citrus hops overlay the chocolate/roasted malts underneath. Flavor is big, with serious citrus and pine hops rushing over a big sweet stout base. Carbonation is a bit high on this guy, with corresponding thinness of body. Easy drinker, though, due to the carbonation.

This was a bit of a let-down for me... I was looking for a life-changing event, but this was not it. Struck me as more of a black IPA, which is good. The carbonation made the really nice and robust flavor difficult to access, it kind of diluted the flavor or washed it away too quickly. As it warmed, the beer really has a unique and wonderful flavor, but some of the details are a bit off, in my opinion.

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Photo of AgentZero
4.01/5  rDev -9.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

On-tap at the Darkness release part at Sheffields in Chicago.

A - In a heavy glass chalice, looked thick like oil in the dark bar. A small tan head which was barely present by the time I got to mine. Nice lacing throughout the course of the drink, very attractive beer.

S - I think this is the strangest smelling stout I've ever smelled. I half thought I had the wrong beer for a while. Get some deep coffee and chocolate, with some undertones of vanilla and a touch of raisins. The strange part of all of it was the distince hops smell on the end of the nose. Very odd.

T - Is this really an RIS? It's either a really interesting take on one or it's just not. Don't get any of the classic stoutish taste on this. Very creamy and chocolatey with a nice splash of vanilla in the middle. Faint IPA-ish taste at the end due to the hops, how very different. I like it, but not at all what I was expecting.

M - Smooth and creamy, leaves the mouth cleanly with a mild hoppy bite at the end. Full bodied, but not heavy like I would expect a heavy stout to be.

D - Can't believe it's 10%+. Way too easy to drink, sessionable stout. Even those who have a hard time drinking stouts could get this one down with no problem.

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Photo of katan
4.01/5  rDev -9.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

On tap at busters

A- pours dark as motor oil black. Head formation is about 1 cm in size and well retained. Mocha in color.

S- dominated by a bittersweet chocolate and just a hair of noble hops. Very light on the roasted smoked or coffee scents

T- starts off reletively light with only a light malt hit. Builds with some bitter background and only a hint of hops. wow that finishes sweet, with a load of caramel, toffee and vanilla flavors. I really taste the hops in the aftertaste.

M- extremely thick and creamy. Very sticky and clingng. A feel of molasses.

D- I could only have one of these at a time. Very potent and a flavor profile so intense that having another would be wasted.

Truly a RIS. Up there with dl or speedway stout.

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Photo of MrVonzipper
4/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2011 Vintage
Black. Pretty viscous. A little oily. Nice fluffy khaki head with pretty good retention and spotty lacing.

Pretty nice nose with sweet toasted brown sugar and mild dark fruit.

Flavor follows the nose. Pretty sweet. Notes of brown sugar, molasses, dark malt and brownie-like chocolate.

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

Overall it's a good beer but a little bit of a disappointment. I for some reason was hoping for a bit more, and more depth. Good flavor and characteristic but leaves a little more to be desired.

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Photo of Phyl21ca
4/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle: Poured a pitch-black color stout with a large deep dirty brown color head with good retention and some lacing. Aroma of roasted malt and black chocolate with some light liquorice and dry coffee notes is quite enjoyable. Taste is also a heavy mix between some roasted malt with light bitter notes with rich black chocolate notes and very subtle notes of liquorice and dry fruits. Sweetness is very well balanced and not nearly as cloying as Dark Lord. Body is full with good carbonation and warming notes are perceptible though nothing too heavy. Well done and still retaining some balance even though it is an extreme beer.

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Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
98 out of 100 based on 811 ratings.