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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: 3,285
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 mdwalsh
4.87/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Had this bottle Darkness Nigh (Darkness day was full of Smoke and Oak Bender). Paired Amazing with a triple chocolate pie.

A: Black. More opaque than me. Nice brown two finger head with beautiful lace. Needs more texture and longevity though.

S: Very strong of Molasses, some cooked sugar, but no roast. Also no hops, just carmelized malt. Phenominal.

T: Tastes. Black. No roast though. Smooth, dark, sweet. Cooked sugar again, more molasses. Dark Chocolate, no Alcohol.

M: Creamy. Perfect carbonation. Super smooth.

D: Excellent, but not something to have too many of.

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Photo of zoso493
4.87/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 2009 vintage 750 ml bottle into a Dogfish Head signature glass.

Appearance: Right off the bat, I can tell that this is one of the thicker stouts I've ever poured. Immediately, the beer pours a viscous, compact motor-oil black that just sludges its way out of the bottle. Atop the beer is a bubbly two-finger head that loses its height quickly, but still retains a slight presence on top of the beer for awhile.

Smell: This is a stout? At first sniff, it seems not. The first thing you get out of the nose, at least in this 2009 vintage, is an immense and glorious whiff of hops. These are not just piny hops, however, as you would normally expect in a stout, but a whole array of piny, sugary, and even citric hops. It's tempting to just enjoy the beautiful scent of caramel-coated hops and forget about the rest of the scent, but there is even more to be found.

While the hops are blatantly the most prominent and intriguing facets of the smell, there is a delightful backdrop of syrupy, gooey dark malts lurking somewhere in the background. This dark malt is so good that if it were the only scent in the nose, I would consider awarding the perfect score. All in all, an absolutely breathtaking nose.

Taste: If the nose had somehow left you skeptical as to the quality of Darkness, the taste puts all doubts to rest. Again, the hops are the first thing I'll discuss, not because they are necessarily the mot obvious taste, but because they form the feature that make this beer like no other RIS. As in the nose, there is a wonderful citric and resinous pine sap taste that is quite unexpected but extremely welcomed by a hophead.

Enough about the hops, though. The impressive malt backbone deserves some attention of its own. Just in case you thought this was a black IPA (or whatever the hell they're called now), the malt reminds you that, yes, you're drinking an imperial stout, and a world-class one at that. The fudge-like malts are prototypical of an imperial stout, but still delicious all the same. Without typing too much, I think the taste of the malts can be summarized as a rum-soaked chocolate cake.

Mouthfeel: Upon first sip, I had reservation about awarding this the perfect score, but now I know that Darkness is well-deserving. Despite the appearance, this is not an exceptionally thick stout, though I will admit it is thicker than average. Where this beer stands out, however, is the silkiness of the mouthfeel. The flavors all tied together so beautifully that I'm certain this is one of the smoother RIS's that I've had.

Drinkability: For starters, there is absolutely no trace of alcohol in this beer, and for that, I applaud the brewers at Surly Brewing Company. Nevertheless, I've taken a good hour and a half to get through this bottle, which is the only thing keeping me from giving it the perfect score.

Surly Darkness is a magnificent beer without a shadow of a doubt. It is an immensely bold and extremely complex stout, but what sets it apart for me is the uniqueness of the flavors. I can comfortably say that this is without a doubt completely unlike any RIS I've ever had. The way the hops are incorporated into the massive malt-profile is truly a work of art, and for that I take my hat off to the brewers at Surly.

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Photo of DmanGTR
4.87/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Review from notes on Jan 30, 2010. 2009 Vintage

A - Ok, I can definitely see why it's called Darkness. That's all you see, if it's something to be seen at all. Maybe your eyes aren't worthy of seeing it. But damn, it's pitch black and nothing shows up around the edges, even in light. Tan head that refuses to go away. No lace. 4.5

S - Well now this is most surprising. It's not your typical sweet and fruity RIS, yet it's not an overly hopped and bitter one either. I pick up a touch of earthiness from the hops, followed by a blend of dark chocolate, spiced rum, prunes, coffee beans, and cream. Maybe a hint of vanilla too? Well, whatever this is, it's causing a nasal addiction and I very nearly snorted this up my nose. 5.0

T - This is a BIG beer. But you can hardly taste the alcohol. The chocolate is the most prominent aspect of the flavor. Bitterness is definitely there but is well blended with the malts, which obviously include chocolate malt and roasted barley. Lots of toastiness and roastiness. Caramel sweetness is in the background, letting everything else shine. I'm kind of at a loss to describe this baby. 5.0

M - Not as thick and viscous as it looks. It's rich and robust, yet drinks like a beer should. Nice and delicate carbonation. 5.0

D - Yes. Indeed. 4.5

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Photo of oakbluff
4.87/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at Blue Nile, and followed up at Stub & Herb’s following day. Presented in both cases in a goblet (Blue Nile being a really nice Surly goblet). Great looking beer- black as night as expected with a chocolate milk head. Nose is heaven- spicy roasty chocolate. Taste- waves of flavours- all the usual suspects in a great imperial stout- dark roasted coffee, dark and milk chocolate, hazlenuts; plus a wallop of hop bitterness. The hops were really well done, and I think I’m lucky to have tried this fresh while the hops are still battling out with the malts. Adds a really nice dimension to the beer. The pineyness of the hops plays well with the decadent desert of the malts. Very smooth mouthfeel and absolutely no booze heat. Damn fine. If I didn’t have these at the start of my drinking day, I could have had many but stopped at two. I can’t think of any other imperial stouts that I’ve enjoyed more. I’m very happy I could time my trip to Minni and get my lips on this sucker. well done Surly- you never let me down.

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Photo of MNmurray
4.87/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 5

This beer is the reason I joined BA. I was always interested in the hype surrounding Surly and wanted to learn more about reviewing. Here now is my first review of perhaps by favorite stout.

2012 Werewolf bottle

Appearance: Dark, thick and heavy. Pours slower than normal and has a great chocolate head.

Smell: Malt, cherries, chocolate, and toffee.

Taste: Pungent and robust. Immediate taste off coffee and bittersweet fruit. Very rich and tasted better slightly warmer near the end. Absolutely awesome.

Mouthfeel: Thick and heavy, goes down smooth and leaves a chocolate aftertaste.

Overall: Incredible, one of my favorites for a reason. You can obviously taste the alcohol content but it is covered up by flavors both intense and subtle. Definitely a sipper, and one to be sought after.

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Photo of alysmith4
4.86/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Whoa, what a beer! Had this as part of a 30+ mini-whale share that I went to. It was the second beer I tried, and ended up being the best of the night for me. Appearance and mouthfeel are good, but smell and taste were both awesome! Definitely on the sweet side for a RIS, but still well-balanced. And it's surprisingly non-BA, as all those wonderful barrel flavors seem to come through as it warms. Would have this beer again, and again, and again.

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Photo of kenito799
4.85/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

22 oz bomber poured into a pint glass.

Rich oily deep black brew slithers into the glasswitha small cap of tan foam, taunting you.

Aroma is rich and chocolately, sniffing inky coffee and malty depths.

Superb drinking experience...mouthcoating, masaaging the palate with a strikingbalance of full rich dark cocoa, chocolate, smooth malt and yet a lightness on the palate that makes you take sip after sip and want more, perhaps due to the euphoria of a near perfect beer. Many tahnks to tizzod for the beer trade.

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Photo of flip69
4.85/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I tried Darkness for the first time last night. I managed to score one bottle from the 2011 batch at my local liquor store. I had never understood what drove people to literally camp out in the Surly parking lot the night before the annual "Day of Darkness" release event to make sure they got a bottle, especially given the $17.99 price tag. Now I know. I found Darkness exceptional. The beer was deep brown to black in color, with a small, brown, frothy head. The initial taste clearly identified the beer as a stout. However, a deep, complex, malty sweetness quickly took over. There is a lot going on in this beer! I discovered new characteristics and levels of taste with each sip (chocolate, caramel, cream, coffee, smoke, vanilla). I am not a big stout drinker, but this beer really got my attention. I think it is one of those beers that transcends style. I am not sure I liked it enough to sleep in the Surly parking lot. Short of that, however, I will go out of my way to find more bottles in the future.

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Photo of VeganUndead
4.85/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Enjoyed a 2012 vintage with a friend after letting it age for 2 months, this is the second best imperial stout I've ever had imo, only falling short to Abyss. Really excited about the 2011 I've got in the cellar, going to have to think of an excuse to open that some day. Cheers

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Photo of EGledhill
4.85/5  rDev +10%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thought I'd crack this bitch open for a Thanksgiving desert. Split the bottle with the girlfriend. Big thanks for the BA who made this possible. Poured into Darkness snifter.

A. what the fuck would you expect? Dark. 2 finger tan head that faded to a thin ring and laced the glass. Looks say "try and chug me bitch. I'll destroy you."

S. Smell was definitely on point. Vanilla, Chocolate dominate this with a faint hops and booze smell.

T. Taste like some tasty boozed up pudding. Just like the smell, Vanilla and chocolate lead the way. Dark fruit, caramel sweetness, hops and booze hit on the finish. Sweet and tasty.

M. pretty thick. not overly coating like a ten fidy but a damn solid mouthfeel.

D. If I had access to this regularly, you'd have to peel my ass of the bar floor in a darkness induced coma. drinks smooth hit with a bang.

Overall. Believe the hype. It's that fucking good. I try to share my beers with the girlfriend but I wound up taking down half her glass when she walked away from it. I should've never shared with her.

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Photo of Phatz
4.85/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Thanks to DarkerTheBetter for sharing this beer. A chance to sample this next to the coveted Dark Lord from Three Floyds proves that Surly Darkness is an Imperial Stout worthy in the company of the best available. Roasty chocolate cocoa and hops leave this beer a bit more drinkable than the boozy monster previously mentioned. It is a different animal but quite tasty as well. A berry tart attribute orange hops parallel the espresso and dark malts. Full bodied rich and beautiful, this beer is everything I hope for from a RIS.

Hope this is helpful.

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Photo of RustyDiamond
4.85/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2007 bottle #445. Shared with two other BA's recently. Poured into a Samilchlaus glass...off the charts black black pour with a snickers nougat colored head. And a little one that reduced to a shiny film atop the dark liquid. A somewhat winey aroma with a dash of chocolate pudding.
I was surprised to taste that the hops 'still' had so much flavor. Thick and viscous in body, sticky hop and plumy chocolate. The bitter hops and bitter chocolate played so nicely together. The image of chocolate raisins dipped in hop lava kept racing through my brain as I slowly enjoyed this. My mouth filled with fumes of phenol and lovely hops. Definitely full bodied and full figured yet not cloying at all. Sticky, resinous hoppy finish that seemed to never end. Crazy drinkable...I could have enjoyed all of the 750mLs myself in 1 setting.

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4.85/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A: pitch black. Really sticky looking, tiny head.

S: hops! what? really? thats awesome. You would Surly. You would. Sweet nose with a combo of big hops... Choc, pine,floral,little vanilla. Almost like a black IPA but bigger and thicker looking. I love Surly.

T: huge bold flavors. Just like the nose with this nice pairing of Choc big stout like taste and then a nice hop punch. Not crazy complex but sooo good. Caramel, choc, pine, butterscotch. WOW. incredible.

M: Amazing mouthfeel. Perfect. Nice and chewy and all the hop oils give it a nice silky oily feel. This is perfect. It just is.

D: great! nice and smooth. Not too hot. Just great.

Thoughts: Surly is one of the most talented brewies in the craft beer world. I have not had a ton of beers from them but everything I have had is amazing. They are quickly becoming one of my favorites. AND the awesome kick ass bottle art is just adding to it. THIS IS TRUE CRAFT BEER. CHEERS!

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Photo of Carb-Overlord
4.85/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

This is simply an incredible Imperial Stout. In my opinion, when stored correctly, these continue to improve with age and grow in depth.

Appearance: This is motor oil black, when swirled in my tulip glass leaves a very appetizing orange residue that slowly runs flows down the glass; very little head from the bottle, more from a tap.

Smell: This is a mixed bouquet of chocolate, coffee, licorice; just a very rich aroma.

Taste: I must say this is one of the smoothest Imperial's I've tried. There is zero bite, initial favors are chocolates, but the flavor keeps going, after taste turns to coffee/licorice. Very interesting.

Mouthfeel: This is a thick chewy imperial, again feels smooth and viscous.

Overall: This is definitely an extremely well crafted beer. I would highly recommend this to any beer connoisseur.

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Photo of bonsreeb85
4.85/5  rDev +10%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to jera1350 for hooking this one up in a trade!

1st beer of 2010, here we go...

Opaque, tar, jet fuel, take your pick. this beer earns it's name, both thick and black sporting a large mocha head that maintains despite the high abv.

THis is what I call COMPLEX!
THe nose presents a wonderful chocolate and roasted malt base. Ground coffee vanilla beans, some smoke, dark fruits and citrus hops also come to play. honestly if I were blindfolded I would guess that this was a DIPA of Barley wine. sweeter scent than expected.

The taste mirrors the nose making for the most interesting RIS I've ever had. the hoppiness really adds an interesting element to the chocolate/cofee/roasted malt vertabrae. the alcohol content is well masked and although this brew finishes dry, it is suprisingly sweeter than i could have guessed(all for the better IMHO)

The body is slightly thinner than expected but still enough body to satisfy. the CO2 runs on the lower side of things and makes for a slick and smooth overall feel.

One of the most interesting and unique (and pleasurable) beer experiences i've encountered. If you can get your hands on it, savor every drop! i want more! more I say!

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Photo of brdc
4.85/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Thanks to stoutsnipas, his brother, and myself for this one.
Notes come from both a blind tasting and a later personal tasting.

Poured into a snifter, the pitch black brew, thick but not truly "motor oil" produces by some reverse cascade a frothy, nice looking cocoa colored head that lasts reasonably well for the ABV, and creates sticky lacing on its way down.
The rich aroma has predominant cocoa notes, but also roasted malt and smoky notes, coffee, some acidity, butterscotch, molasses, licorice, mint.
Creamy as it gets, and amazingly drinkable, with little alcohol to be noticed other than the chocolate liquor notes. Some butterscotch, caramel, mint, licorice, herbal hops, but still predominantly sweet despite some hop and roasted grain bites.
Goes down incredibly easy, and I have to say it was well worthwhile standing in that freezing line. Believe the hype.

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Photo of brentk56
4.85/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2008 bottling

Appearance: Pours a viscous black with chocolate edges and a creamy mocha head; sheets of lace remain in the chalice once the foam has subsided

Smell: Coffee, dark chocolate, berry fruit and a hint of cigar smoke; the citrus hops are mysterious, sometimes making their presence felt and other times indiscernable

Taste: Milk chocolate and Cuban coffee up front, with a developing berry element arriving shortly thereafter; by mid-palate, however, there is a building citrus hop flavor that becomes relentless after a while; after the swallow, the Cuban coffee returns and mixes with dark chocolate; plenty of citrus on the finish as well; the cigar flavors re-appearing in the aftertaste

Mouthfeel: By far, the thickest beer I have ever tasted, with moderate carbonation; a bit of warmth in the gullet after the swallow

Drinkability: New Year's eve, and it is time to break out this special occasion beer; for me, it lived up to the hype; unlike other hoppy stouts where the bitter flavors battle with the malt, in this beer, the blending of the contrasting flavors is unique

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Photo of illidurit
4.85/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Pitch black color with a cascading cocoa colored head. Tons of sticky lace and retention like mousse. Aroma is extremely hoppy with monstrous fresh cut pineapple notes. Not really any stout character, but it works. Flavor is decadent chocolate covered candied pineapple with a light roasted finish. Palate is very dry and smooth. Perfect carbonation. The body is not overly thick and there's not alcohol at all. Insane drinkability.

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Photo of davedahl
4.85/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I've only had Darkness once - and it was the last 2oz from a keg at Binny's in Chicago's south loop. Talk about a tease.

The apperance was dark black everywhere - not even a hint of color at the edges. Thin layer of dark black rich head of tight bubbles.

Nose is a very complex combination of malt, spice and pepper.

Taste is lots of fruit and sweet malts, even some milky creaminess to it. Aftertaste of more dark cherries and chocolate.

Mouthfeel is amazing. Milky slick coating with a slight alcohol hint.

This badboy just went on my "wants" list. Yum.

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Photo of SurlyMe
4.85/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2010 vintage poured into snifter

Appearance - Pours like used motor oil; rich, dark and creamy. A semi-hard pour yields a nice cinnamon colored head which thins as you drink.

Smell - Notes of hops just as the bottle was cracked, once poured chocolate creamy stouty goodness fills the nose, little bit of coffee scent

Taste - chocolate and roasted flavors up front that lead to a very nice lingering finish, tiny bit of smoke flavor and some hops. The sweetness is always there but not too much.

Mouth - very full in body, perfectly carbonated, extremely velvety smooth, slides right down...

Drinkability - simply amazing, want to keep on putting it down which is dangerous with the ~10% abv...

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Photo of JoEBoBpr
4.85/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Poured into a tulip glass from a 22oz bottle.
2010 Vintage.

A - Pours a dark dark brown almost black color that lets no light through. A vigorous pour generates a tan 2 inch head that is very dense and thick and has some medium sized bubbles mixed around.

S - Aroma statts off sweet with some burnt caramel notes. Slight raisin and prunes are also present. There is some boozy heat and sweetness as well mixed in with the caramel. Slight vanilla hints mixed in with some spicy cinnamon on the nose.

T & M - Wow. I can see how this beer is so beloved. Starts off with some sharp alcoholic sweetness that isn't too overwhelming or intense but just right. There are hints of burnt caramel and some slight raisin notes. All these flavors are well represented and crafted but not too intense or overwhelming. Seems pretty balanced for such a big beer. In the middle of this sweetness there are some slight bitter chocolate hints and espresso notes. The coffee hints give this a nice roasted middle and slightly dry finish. There is a nice sweet after taste though that is mildly sticky but not sickeningly. The beer is smooth and oily and goes down easily but surprisingly and in my opinion the body isn't too heavy. It is near perfection in terms of mouthfeel with good carbonation as well.

D - Although this beer gets a lot of press here on BA I feel that it is deserving. It is quite big in ABV and complexity of flavors but at the same time not overly sweet. Quite approachable and repeatable.

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Photo of alexgash
4.85/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Picked up this dark, inviting growler at the brewery on the 23rd. Glad I got there early enough to get one of these, because this is a terrific RIS!

Decants a dark inky black with dark brown highlights. Topped by a very dense, glass-crawling, light cocoa brown head. Complex aroma of resinous hops, rich stewed fruits, sweet smoked meats, roasted barley, licorice, tobacco, and sugary espresso. Roasted bitterness up front. Followed by sweetish raisins, figs, coffee/chocolate liqueur, sweet smoked meatiness, molasses, and dark coffee. I really like the way the smoky/meaty flavors work with the sweeter, richer fruits and chocolate. Bittersweet finish of numbing hop resin bitterness and mocha chocolate syrup.

Amazingly thick and viscous mouthfeel and as full-bodied of a beer as I have ever had! Velvety smooth on the palate and dangerously drinkable. Complex and outstanding. Not just the best RIS made in MN (ha!) but one of the best I've had period.

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Photo of jsprain1
4.84/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

A- Perfectly black, with a quarter finger cocoa head. Retention is decent.
S- The aroma is so deep and complex. A touch of sweetness with some chocolate to it, but it quickly goes into coffee grounds, smoke, and licorice.
T- Really,really good. Sweet up front. Milk chocolate is quickly overtaken by coffee, smoke, and licorice. Really complex. Sweet undertones, provide a base for complex flavors.
M- Full body, actually fairly silky clean consistency to it. Low carbonation, just enough to keep it going.
I know I am buying into the hype, but this is a really, really good beer. Definitely a must try.

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Photo of bjohn84
4.83/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Reviewed a 2011 bottle.. cellered for 4 months.. poured into a darkness snifter

A - Jet black with a red hue towards the top. Thin tan head with excellent lacing

S - Cocoa nibs come first, berries and fruits

T - Chocolate covered fruits up front. Strawberries, cherries, Molasses, raisins. Bold burn from the alcohol numbs the tongue after the swallow, but doesn't overpower the robust flavor. Dry bitterness tends to come through on the back end

M - Fairly low carbonation and very full bodied. Quite a bit of stickiness in the mouth

O - Very complex RIS with new flavors coming through the longer I sip on it. Very filling, but drinks and goes down very smooth.

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Photo of tobin999
4.83/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

a: darkness sums it up black with a milk chocolate head

s: dark fruits, chocolate, roast/ burmt malt.

T: same as smell with some vannila and mild bitterness

M: nice creamy body not overly sticky

O: big fan of this local brew and I'm glad i have some more

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