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Darkness - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.

Educational use only; do not reuse.

811 Reviews

(Read More)
Reviews: 811
Hads: 3,342
Avg: 4.41
pDev: 9.52%
Wants: 3,280
Gots: 1,213 | 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: 3,342
Photo of davod23
3.97/5  rDev -10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Finally decided to open this bottle. 2008 vintage, poured into my Bruery tulip.

Surprise, surprise! Black, with a nice 2-finger tan head that retreats to a thin cap. Pour appears to be medium-bodied for an imperial stout.

Aroma... is odd. I'm not totally on board with it. Lots of malt there, looots of malt. There's a bit of a toasted character, some berry fruitiness, but malt dominates this beer, making it almost one-dimensional. I don't really care for this smell, other imperial stouts are vastly superior (IMO) in this department.

Taste, on the other hand, is really great. It's not often that you'll get such disparity between taste and smell. I'm glad for this. Malty, with slight bitterness on the back end. I am getting blackberry and cherry notes, roasted marshmallow, and a bit of toast here. Chocolate is barely a whisper, and coffee is almost non-existent. Very interesting take on the style, I've never had an imperial stout like this before.

Mouthfeel is outstanding, simply great. It's full-bodied, but doesn't quite reach thick. Perfect, medium level of carbonation. Silky, smooth, and creamy. Easily one of the best mouthfeels I've ever experienced.

Overall, this is quite good. I do wish that I had the opportunity to try this fresh, as I am guessing the hops add a lot to this beer, particularly with respect to the nose. As it is, it's still quite a nice and unusual stout. Recommended.

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Photo of Sammy
3.98/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Caught up with this at the Blue Nile in Minny. Black with huge off-beige head. Hoppy RIS.Sourness in first sip. The bitterness builds up, flows over the sugary finish. Integrated coffee, sugar to make it coffee liquor acceptable?ABove average mouthfeel. Better as warms up, was served a bit on cold side.

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Photo of mdvatab
3.98/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Received 2010 bottle in a trade, split with BA friend barfwin in celebration of my son's birth.
Poured from 750 ml bottle into snifter.

Aroma: Rich molasses, fudge brownie, and dry, roasty dark chocolate. A very mild herbal hop note chimes in. Also picking up some anise.

Appearance: Dark tan, 1 finger sudsy head. One of the most substantial collars of foam that I've seen on an imperial stout. Not a requirement, but definitely a nice touch! Leaves sudsy lacing behind. Oh--and the body of the beer matches the name--pitch black!

Flavor: Rich chocolate, molasses, and fruity grape notes up front. Fig and dark, candied fruits. A touch of smoke. More grape. A balanced bitterness at the end.

Mouthfeel: Full-bodied and chewy. Nice, fine, silky medium-high carbonation.

Overall: A delicious RIS--don't get me wrong--but fell just a tad bit shy in the complexity department. A solid 4, maybe even 4.5. Not sure how well this one was treated over the past year (shipping/storage conditions), which may have had an impact. Looking forward to trying another 2010 in the future, and also 2011!

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Photo of CooperEllis
3.98/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

22oz into 6oz tasting glass. 2010 release. Thanks to afksports.

Dark - unable to tell if it is deep brown or black but the head is a fair tan; no lacing.

Cocoa nib in the front, full roasted malt takes over.

Flavor is a robust roasted malt which becomes very sweet; the finish is perfect bit I wish there was more complexity in the initial flavor. This isn't a slight so much as enhanced expectation based on reputation. This is certainly an above average RIS.

The mouthfeel is perfect. The carbonation, weight of the brew, taste and viscosity are all well matched.

I would certainly drink, and would drink it over damn near all the off the shelf options to which i have frequent access.


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Photo of urwithdave
3.98/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Tnx to gtreid for sharing this one at our stout throw down! 09 bottle poured into my cigar city snifter.

A- Midnight black in color. A solid 1' 1/2" dark brown head that has pretty decent retention. Nice lacing.

S- Big molasses and booze. Malts and a slight hint of hops.

T- Very sweet molasses and dark chocolate. Some dried fruits, mainly prunes. The alcohol takes the spotlight and kind of drowns out the other flavors. There is a bit of earthly hops.

M- Kind of thin, almost oily. I would have def preferred a little more thickness.

D- A little more time would've helped this one out. The alcohol was still very hot.

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Photo of mjyoung
3.98/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Split with scottfire and bbb099. Thanks to scottfrie.

2009 release

A: Pours very dark and rich, with a nice head that seems solid enough to eat at first but recedes quickly. Gorgeous lacing as it slowly recedes. Doesn't appear to be as thick as I was expecting, but that's not a bad thing.

S: Very strong smell of roasted molasses, overwhelming any other flavors.

T: Dark chocolate, roasted malt, and molasses. Very warm, with the alcohol following all the way down. Once you get past the initial powerful hit, you pick up some brown sugar and a sweet, full-bodied fruitiness. The molasses and malt definitely overpowers everything else. It would have been interesting to try this both fresh, and with another year in the bottle.

M: A bit thinner than I was expecting, but still a slky, viscous feel that sits quite well.

D: It's unfortunately a bit hard to rate this beer as objectively as I would like (my earlier find this evening is clouding my judgment). It is quite good, although a little bit more harsh than I would like. Another year in the bottle would have been interesting. It doesn't quite measure up to the hype, but don't get me wrong. I'd drink it again at the drop of a proverbial (or literal) hat.

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Photo of maedhros09
3.99/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4

Look: opaque black with creamy tan head that retains well
Smell: At first I thought is smelled kind of soapy, then I realized it smelled almost exactly like drying paint. This sounds unpleasant but the aroma was ok. The resemblance to drying paint was somewhat distracting .
Taste: What was most noticeable was the alcohol, which is on the same level as a wine. Powerful and spicy. There was some roastiness but it tended to be overpowered by the drying paint again. At some point I realized this was kind of a resinous hop aroma, but again the resemblance to drying paint was distracting
Feel: Very full bodied, thick, syrupy mouthfeel with perfect fine carbonation. This might have been my favorite part of the beer.

Overall: Well, I had high expectations for my first Darkness. Honestly it was OK until I realized it smelled exactly like drying paint, at which point it became a somewhat less pleasurable experience. Still, it is worth a try, and who knows, maybe my palate was messed up from something I ate.

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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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Photo of waltonc
4/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

Picked this up in a trade thanks to bigmar94.

A: Thick, black stout with a big tan head.

S: Dark roasted malts, coffee, and lots of fruit.

T: Again, dark roasted malts, lots of hops, and very sweet fruit flavor going on here. As abfraser said while we were drinking this, it's like a fruitcake stout. Very interesting and unusual taste.

M: Pretty thick and smooth, sticky from all the sugar.

D: Gotta ding Darkness on the drinkability front. I strained to drink a third of this bottle, but pushed myself and got it done. Not sure why it's not offered in smaller bottles. Pretty ridiculous.

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

Thanks to scoobydank for this awesome bottle as part of the BA Vets BIF.

Jet black with a decent sized head. very tight and confined bubbles. Heavy dried fruit aroma. Very "india ink" like smell to it. Fruity and very malty flavors dominate. Again dried fruit, very plum like. Raisen quality to the flavor. Sticky sweetness and a trace of toffee. Lacks some of the heavy roasted notes and the strong hop bite I am used to in a RIS. Sticky and creamy mouthfeel. A damn good RIS. I like mine a bit more astringent overall flavor wise. Still damn enjoyable and well worth trying.

Oh my wife just commented the label would make a great tattoo.

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

On tap at 2007 GABF. Poured by Omar himself.

The beer poured a deep coal black with a nice dark brown head.

The aroma of the beer was full of dark roasted malts, dark chocolate, and ash. Some tobacco in the aroma as well.

The flavor of the beer was focussed on roasty malts to the point of being slightly ashen. Mid-palate could've used a little more molasses/dark fruit sweetness. The hops seemed slightly citrusy and pretty up front. The finish had a faint tobacco note as well.

The mouthfeel was full, but was not too heavy. It finished pretty dry for a RIS. The carbonation seemed dialed in well.

This beer is good, but overhyped IMO. There are much better imperial stouts out there that eclipse Darkness in both complexity and drinkability. KtG, DL, and BCS are few that come out ahead IMO.

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Photo of antoines15
4/5  rDev -9.3%

I would like to start bu saying that I liked this more than I liked this year's version of Dark Lord. Had it on tap at Tribes and have never hsad it before. I won't stick to the formt of beer reviews but still get my point acrdoss. It was very sweet at first but the finish semmed a bit more roasty, wich reallu balanced it out for me, Iam srill not sure of i like dthis beer or not after a fw 'buzzed" minutes to think abut it, I would give it B as a score. NOt bad but not anything to kill yorself tryin gto get. O'Malley!

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