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Darkness - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.

Educational use only; do not reuse.

797 Reviews

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Reviews: 797
Hads: 3,278
Avg: 4.42
pDev: 19.23%
Wants: 3,257
Gots: 1,185 | FT: 84
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
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Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 797 | Hads: 3,278
Photo of oglmcdgl
4.75/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle split with onix1agr. Thanks to kbutler for the hook up.

A- pitch black and oily that's for sure with a finger of coffee colored creamy head. The cap vanishes into the deep after a bit. Deep ruby glow when brightly lite from behind.

S- dark brown sugar and bakers chocolate. Pumpernickel bread. Dark berries and some spice. Deep roasted malts and maybe some molasses.

T- there is a lot going on in the dark. Tons of dark roasted coffee and bittersweet chocolate. Brown sugar and blackberries. There some grapefruit in there too and it really picks up the fruit aspect, balances out the peppery roast, and brightens up the dark malty sweetness. Maple pepper bacon? No, but there is a very mild savory quality and it really works for me. Touch of heat.
M- thick and chewy, oil and syrup. Coats the mouth so completely but has just the right amount of carb to cut the soup. The slightest linger, I almost want a bit more.

D- with such a complex flavor profile and abv I wouldn't say its a session beer but damn if this is not easy going.

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Photo of hero27
4.75/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Blood red & black wax drapes the neck of the 750ml.
Bottle # 185.

Consumed out of the "official" 12oz Darkness glass...

Pours a dark, burnt chestnut...nearly black. Tannish brown head sits atop the dark liquid.
Aroma of dark chocolate, fig, and heavily roasted malts..molasses, caramel, and brown sugar flavors take control with the first sip...it's worth noting that there's a suprisingly strong resiny hop profile, since it's not something most people pay attention to in an imperial stout.
Expectantly huge body...coating, velvety smooth mouthfeel. Each sip I take seems to be more satisfying than the last..it's really hard to find any faults in this beer.
Somehow..(for a Russian Imperial Stout from a brewery only a couple years old) Darkness seems refined..almost like it has been perfected over decades. An absolute delicacy in the world of craft beer.

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Photo of Pitmonkey
4.76/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I've been luke warm on Imperials in the past, I was floored tonight.

Served from tap into belgian stem-ware, don't recall which. Inky black, while the lighting at the Blue Nile wasn't exactly bright, I am confident there was no light coming through that beer. A light tan head which eventually diminished.

I didn't get a lot from the aroma, there was some malt there, and if my vocabulary was better or I was a more experienced reviewer, I might have something, but I kept trying for it and it never did become pronounced, but it may well have been overwhelmed by the intense flavors because I dove in pretty quickly.

Sweet, malty thickness, like a good 90% dark chocolate and a finish like a really well prepared espresso, bitterness lingering forever, essentially until I couldn't resist another sip.

Mouthfeel that sticky syrupy sweetness that never cloys, it dissipates into a lovely alcohol warmth and the aforementioned espresso.

I usually have an Imperial and I am done with the style but I just couldn't resist a second and was not disappointed.

I seriously have never enjoyed an Imperial more than this.

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Photo of ejquin
4.76/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2008 Vintage, just picked up today. Drove up from Chicago

A: Black wih a beautiful fluffy white head that fades and clings to the glass all the way down.

S: Chocolate, and coffee, you get the roasted malts of a stout with some cherries, but a really nice hop fruity spiciness

T/M: Mouthfeel is wonderful, smooth and creamy. The thing about Darkness is that for a RIS, everything is so clean, so crisp, so drinkable, yet loaded with flavor. Starts off with the dark chocolate fading to cherry liquor, and a nice dose of hop spiciness comes through right at the end, just enough so you know it's there and balances the beer perfectly

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Photo of alleykatking
4.77/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Poured from 22oz bottle. Many thanks go out to Luke (Lukafer) who cracked this one open at the last tasting. Good luck in Indy Luke!

A- Pours a heavy motor oil black color. One finger light brown head that shows a little bit retention before dying down. Light lacing on the sides of the glass as I drink this gem down.

S- Interesting enough this beer has a nice hop profile in the front end. Piney and citrus both which shine. Darker toasted malts with this as well brings forth a light burnt aroma. Nice bittersweet chocolate aroma with a hint of coffee in the ending. The hops still though throw me off but not in a bad way. Interesting and make my mouth water when I sniff the glass.

T- First thing I notice off the bat is hops and more hops...both piney and citrusy. Nice roasted malts in the front after the hops. Almost a perfect roasted burnt taste. Bittersweet chocolate notes with a fudge like charater to it. Bready flavors with a coffee taste that lingers around. The alcohol in this is settle and sometimes hard to miss. Overall, great flavors!

M- Heavy mouthfeel. Carbonation is great for the beer and style. Hops and light burnt malts are left on the palate with some coffee notes and light chocolate in the aftertaste. Flavors are bright and clean. Beer blended very well but flavors pop out individually. Not very drying on the palate at all.

D- This beer is worth all the praise. I would love to make it out to Darkness Day this year. I am glad I have a extra bottle in the cellar and got to try this one out. This beer is going to become one of my favorite.

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Photo of Luk13
4.77/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle at Iceland super tasting ’10 vampire bottle. Nice dark pour with a slight ruby tint, creamy tan head. Tons of licorice, molasses, port and dark fruits (plums) dominate the aroma. Very sweet taste, super fruity prune flavors, honey-molasses sweetness. Soft carbonation suits this one nicely, very silky and heavily bodied. One of my favourite IS.

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Photo of cosmicevan
4.77/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Shared a 2010 bottle with speedwayjim, capra12, billyshears. Thanks to speedwayjim for sharing!!!

Poured a stunning thick black with a thin tan head into a Darkness glass. This brew smells of vanilla, hops, and even licorice or good and plenty. The hops really add a nice element to this RIS. The beer is thick and wonderful, pretty sweet but the hops add such a nice element. Has a nice tingle to it, this one was my fav of the tasting.

--- edit --- 2012-01-01
vintage 2011: 4.5 - 4.5 - 5.0 - 4.5 - 5.0
decided to pop open my first 2011 bottle for the giant game. pried open the waxed cap and filled my 2010 surly snifter. poured a silky shiny black with a generous frothy mocha frappacino like head that hung out for a while after it built like a guiness. the head was milky and chunky and bubbled away slowly, but was there for the duration. looks awesome. much like last year, i get a bit of a hoppy vanilla. some roastiness, but milked over. the hops give it an almost charred smell. BAM - there's that flavor. what a fricken beer. i forgot how much i love this beer. a bit on the sweeter side than i had remembered, but the hopping gives the roastiness some balls. really enjoyable.

--- edit --- 2012-11-18 (fresh!!!)
vintage 2012: 4.5 - 4.5 - 5.0 - 4.5 - 5.0
removed the wax, decapped and filled my new darkness snifter. brew poured a deep dark ominous, yet slightly watery black. as the beer settled in my glass it embodied the name of the beer. a finger and a half of off white-acino looking head appeared on the surface. as the head dissipated it left thick foamy lacing on the glass. inviting and menacing! wonderful black malt with a solid amount of roast and a great hop to balance things out. some bitter coffee and chocolate notes on the nose as well. nice hoppy stout (actually kind of reminds me of hoppy stout from greenport harbor). a bit of char. really just a phenomenal beer. big bold and roasty with a slight amount of char on the feel. overall, one of my favorite stouts. great year after year.

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Photo of br3wmeister
4.77/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2008 Darkness

A- The beer pours a jet black color with a perfect silky brown head good retention and nice lacing.

S- Extremely complex aroma. Chocolate, figs, black licorice, caramel, molasses, dark roasted malt, toffee, vanilla, almonds, coffee and citrus hops all work together to make this one of the best smelling beers ever.

T- Huge malty beer, dark chocolate, figs, plums, black licorice, some peppery alcohol, vanilla, almonds, some red wine like flavors, and spicy bitter hops. This is one of the most complex tasting beers I have ever had. Fantastic tasting beer.

M- Silky smooth full bodied mouth feel. Oily and mouth coating sweetness with a slightly dry finish.

This beer was great fresh but with over a year on it the potential for this beer is really coming out.

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Photo of optiontwo
4.77/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

750 ml bottle acquired at this years darkness day, poured into tulip glass

Appearance: Darkness. Opaque. Beautiful two finger tan head. This is exactly how a RIS should look.

Smell: Wooo. Almost makes me fall back in my seat. Such an array of aromas I don't know where to start. Roasted malt, chocolate, slight coffee, then strong sweetness of fruits ranging everywhere from orange/lemon to strawberry jam and cherries. Amazing.

Taste: This may be the drink of the devil but it tastes like it's straight out of heaven. Dark chocolate, orange, and dark cherries are the first three things that hit me but there is soo much more going on here. Earthy tones and what I have to imagine are hop flavors hit after the initial sweet and roasted flavor. This has got to be the hoppiest imperial stout I've ever had and that's a good thing, a very good thing. The combination of malt sweetness and hop bitterness in this beer make the flavors so complex that each sip is an experience. Outstanding.

Mouthfeel: Perfect. Coats my mouth with the beer but not to the point where it's hard to swallow. The mouthfeel increases the enjoyment of this beer tenfold because it helps the flavors stay in your mouth that much longer. This is also exactly how a RIS should feel.

Drinkability: Surprising. I've had a good amount of imperial stouts and it's one of my favorite styles, but even my favorites test me when it comes to drinkability. I usually want to have more than one or two but can't bring myself to do it. With Darkness though, I could literally drink this all night until I stumble to bed. Very impressive.

Overall: The very best RIS I have ever had. Do whatever you can to get your hands on this miraculous beer. I love Surly.

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Photo of alarmclock314
4.78/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

25.4oz bottle, 2013 "Brewcifer" release. Cool red wax and artwork, might even keep the bottle around. Pours black with a dense foamy brown head. Nice rings of lacing on the glass. Smells of cocoa, coffee, and roasted malt. Great complex flavors that follow the smell exactly. There's a unique hop presence on the end of the palette which is both earthy and fruity. Very balanced. Low carbonation and smooth mouthfeel. The bold flavors mask the alcohol entirely. Overall, this is a great RIS.

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Photo of wcudwight
4.78/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Thank You Jeff!!!! The epitome of what a BA should be, you keep raising the bar.
Served in a Darkness snifter, also included in the trade.
The beers name describes the color perfectly. It just doesn't get any more dark. Huge thick mocha milkshake head, both in texture and color. Head will outlast the beer. I'm sure I'll be washing the sticky lacing off of the glass when the Heels' game is over.
Wonderful aroma. Rich roasted charred smell is what stands out first. On further review I get rich over-ripe dark fruits, and a unique rum aroma.
I've never tasted any other RIS like it. Rich dark roasted malts give a coffee flavor. Fresh ripe dark fruits. Blackberries. Huge hoppiness for the style. A bit of alcohol warmth. Flavor coats the mouth and last forever.
The mouthfeel is thinner than other big RISs, but imo that's a good thing. It's still thick, syrupy and smooth.
Great beer. I'm priviledged and grateful that I had the chance to try it.

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Photo of NittanyBeerFan
4.78/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to treyrab for including me on this tasting. 2008 Vintage.

Holy crap is really all I can say about this beer.

A: Pours like a thick used 5W-30 blend. The beer, when poured slightly aggressively pours extremely smoothly and then develops a nice 1cm head. The head slowly dissipates to a thin film and laces beautifully all the way down the class.

S: If you were blindfolded, you would think that you were about to dip into an imperial IPA from the smell of this. Rich in hops with an evidence of balance with malts, you can really feel the bitterness in this. I would have liked to have smelled a little bit more chocolate and fruits in it, though. That's the only thing that keeps this from being a 5 on smell.

T: WOW complexity. Dark fruits come right up to the front of the flavor. Immediately following the fruits are the chocolate roasted and caramel malts. Finishes with a nice creamy taste. The cream really rounds out this beer. I think there may be some oats in there to add to the creamy texture. Surprisingly, there is not even a hint of booze, despite the nearly 11% ABV.

M: There's still a little carbonation in this beer which puts it in front of Dark Lord for me. Way lighter in texture than it looks, and it slides beautifully down the palate.

D: The 11% is the only thing that keeps this from being a 5. I can't see myself finishing a whole one of these, not that I wouldn't want to!

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Photo of brendankeenan
4.78/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

I had this on tap at the Muddy Pig and the Happy Gnome on successive weekends. The name was indeed fitting. It was a dark black coffee color. The aroma was all chocolate and plums. The taste was well balanced between the fruity hops and toasted malts.

This beer is a great example of the type. It has a great flavor and nice mouthfeel. I highly recommend this beer. Be careful though, it kicks like a mule with its high abv.

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Photo of samie85
4.78/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Had this on-tap earlier tonight at Sheffield's(Chicago). Reviewed from notes.

A- Poured into a tulip. Pours a really deep brown color with a dark khaki head.

S- Smells really caramel-ly at first. Also, dark fruit(raisin, cherries?), toffee, a piney, earthy hop smell and a bit of ethanol.

T- The dark fruit is the first thing I taste followed by the chocolate, roasted malt and finishes with a sweet and bitter hop taste as well as a bit of sweet alcohol.

M- Really smooth and creamy, yet pretty well carbonated. Thick body.

D- It's pretty easy drinking considering the ABV, although very much a sipper. The alcohol got to me after awhile. The taste really lingers on your palate for awhile after drinking it. Overall a great, unique beer and I'm glad I got the chance to try it.

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Photo of Greggy
4.78/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

A- Pours a hefty ultra fluffy and creamy dark tan/brown head. As it recedes, it leaves some great lacing. The body is pitch black.

S- On the nose I get immense notes of chocolate, coffee, cream, some nice dark fruit, a bit of sweet graham cracker, as well as a nice hoppiness.

T- Starts out with a luxurious thick smooth creamy chocolate with a great hop presence but it is extremely well balanced. I also get notes of coffee, cream, butterscotch, and graham cracker. The finish seems to go on and on with some residual sweetness.

M- By far the thickest feeling beer I have ever had. NO carbonation and ultra thick.

D- This is of course high alcohol but for a Russian Impy, this goes down WAY to smooth. Very drinkable for what it is.

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Photo of PaulStoneAnchor
4.78/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

It poured a delicious black and had a pretty steady head on it. The taste was amazing, it had a nice fig, roast, and chocolate. The mouthfeel was quite thin but it did not take away anything from the beer. After being poured it smells of a really sweet dark chocolate w/ a slight fig and raisin. Overall for being 10.3% ABV, it is easily drinkable, almost way too easy. Darkness was probably one of the most amazing stouts I have tasted so far. I am amazed at how good the fig taste goes with the dark chocolate and roast. I wish I had a Fig Newton to try with it.

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Photo of Duffman
4.78/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Thick, black, oily, viscous, this beer truly deserves its name. A dense, mocha-colored vibrant head adds considerable life and beauty to the appearance of this beer, which is absolutely exceptional.

Seductively aromatic. I imagine that if the finest velvet had an aroma it could well be this beer. Nutty, chocolaty, with dried fruits (notably cherry) and rich creamy notes. Amazingly complex and well-balanced, even for a russian imperial stout.

Exquisite and luxurious. Rich malted notes contrast wonderfully with the mild hop bitterness coming through. While fruitier than most imperial stouts it is not pointedly so, like Bell's Expedition Stout for example. Raisins, sherry, cream, cinnamon, the flavors come in waves and continue to reveal themselves.

The body is extraordinarily well-rounded and deep. Thick, smooth, and sumptuous the mouthfeel is truly exemplary. A long, lasting, and richly clinging finish is a fine finish to this highly drinkable stout. While I don't doubt that there are betters beers and that I have many comparably favored beers left to discover I have yet to come across a beer this refined and enjoyable.

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Photo of CheezyBlaster
4.78/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2011 batch.

This looks and smells . . . amazing! I don't even want to drink it. Perfectly toasted-to-lightly-burnt malts; let me be clear, this is the finest iteration of this characteristic I have ever encountered. Obvious bit of coffee/cocoa to go along and a small encounter of mingling dark berries/cherries.

But holy crap, this is unbelievable! Best mouthfeel ever. Perfect blend of velvet and viscous. Unbelievably creamy. I don't think the style could get better than this. Tastes like . . . wow. Just perfected; sweet, dark, whipped butter, licorice, malt . . . ohhh the malt. The malt.

I've got nothing left to say. I was lucky to get this from a friend in Minnesota. Haven't had better, can't really imagine better either. The only drawback might be the drinkability. I don't think I could have more than a bomber, maybe less . . . but that's not what I want from this style anyhow. I'll say it again: amazing!

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Photo of Bighuge
4.78/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Inky black. Big thick crop of dark brown foam on top. Great staying power too. Spotty patches of brown lace coat the glass as I drink. The aroma is thick with raw, resinous hops. (Very similar to the way Alpha Klaus smelled the very first time I had it years ago.) Also chocolate notes and roasted malts and heavily roasted coffee bean. The flavor exhibits great complexity and depth. Baker's chocolate. Black licorice and hop oils mingle nicely. Intense coffee flavors and mocha/java notes. Fruit nuances are dark in nature....black berry and boysenberry come to mind. And there's a huge bitterness. A big double punch of roasted bitterness and hop bitterness....love this raw ass bitterness. And throughout, there's a nice charred edge to round everything off. The body is medium-full to full. Somewhere in that range. This doesn't have that "motor oil" viscosity, but it really doesn't need it. This is damn impressive the way it is. It's lightly carbonated and the alcohol really isn't that noticeable. It seems to blend in with the bitterness and is hidden to an extent in that capacity. There's a nice oily/greasy feel after drinking which I find appealing. The taste lingers long after I'm done. This is very drinkable. Growler would be no problem.

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Photo of treyrab
4.78/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2008 Vintage.

Thanks to Hophead22 and scoobydank for this one! Shared this with jac5084 and nittanybeerfan last night.

A: Pours like sludge into the glass as it fills and creates a hearty head with a rather aggressive pour. Not the darkest beer I have seen, but there is only minor brown around the edges. Complete opaque though.

S: Smells like a damn DIPA! Actually, smells very similar to Stone XI Anniversary. I think it had my nose scratching its head. Tons of floral, cascade? hops in the nose then to the roast and coffee.

T: As Emeril would say...BAM! This is complete complexity with so many vast flavors. Tons of sweet, dark fruits come bursting through with nice raspberry, cherry, and raisin notes. After that, coffee, chocolate and cocoa hit you in the face. The hops are not bittering, but they are fresh and extremely flavorful.

M/D: Exceptionally creamy mouthfeel with the perfect amount of carbonation. Doesn't go down like used oil like Darklord.

Overall, this is a fantastic RIS. One of the best without a doubt!


Updated review based on 2010 vintage. In short, the 2010 vintage is great, but does not have the complexities that the 2008 had. It is incredibly milky, thick, and smooth, but does not have the toffee or hop elements the 2008 had. Great, but not as good as the 2008.

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Photo of mnphish
4.78/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

2012 edition. 750ml bottle poured into a snifter.

Appearance: black as night with a big head that lasts a while

Smell: dark chocolate, roasted malts, coffee, dark fruits, cherries, and raisins.

Taste: rich full flavor of chocolate, coffee, molasses, cherries, licorice. Very complex.

Mouthfeel: smooth, creamy, heavy body. Amazing.

Overall: This beer is amazing fresh and I certainly have some in my cellar for aging, can't wait to see how these develop. If this got the barrel aged treatment it might just be the best in beer in the world.

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Photo of goindownsouth
4.78/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Many, many thanks to BA mikesgroove for sharing the bottle with me on 06/11/08.

Poured into a short glass and allowed to warm slightly. Deep and rich in appearance, black as can be. Beige head with sturdiness and a lacing that lingered throughout the glass.

Aromas of strong coffee flavors intertwined with bittersweet cocoa goodness - fantastic balance of the two. Hints of some heat )good Rum), dark molasses, and warm spices play in concert.

Thick and robust on the palate. Absolutely splended in the mouth. Chocolate, coffee and spice in full form, working and playing off one another. Plemty of hops action to add an unsuspecting balance to those who are not ready. Savoring this brew in the mouth brings out additional noted of dark fruits covered in high quality chocolate. Fantastic staying power with these flavors.

Full bodied in every conceivable way. Big, but not in an annoying way.

IMHO, this is the quintessential Russian Imperial Stout. The balance and variances make this one for the ages. One not only to seek out and savor, but one to celebrate.

I am honored to have been fortunate to had the opportunity.

Thanks, bro.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.78/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle #211. 2007 release. Necrosis black that crowds the sides and bowl of the glass so completely that light doesn't stand a chance in hell. Nothing is visible except... Darkness. The coffee colored cap looks as though it won't fade completely until sometime tomorrow, and there's a surprising amount of lace that can only be described as eye candy. I'm well aware that glassware shouldn't be taken into account when assigning an appearance score, but Darkness in a Darkness snifter is perfection.

Believe it or not, the hops can still be appreciated in the nose after almost a year. I guess that means they were added with a heavy hand back in '07. They're far from numero uno, though. As expected, ridiculously roasted malt is a rompin' and a stompin' all over the joint. Dark chocolate is at least twice as strong as black coffee. I've smelled better, but the nose is good. Damn good.

Believe the hype. My first impression is that Darkness tastes like no other RIS. I'm not sure I'll be able to explain why that is... but it is. My second impression is that a tremendous amount of green hop flavor and bitterness has survived. This stuff just might give Old Crustacean a run for its money when fresh.

Even though the malt backbone is massive, this beast isn't anywhere near as thick and syrupy as Dark Lord (which might make it more drinkable). Some of the bitterness could also be coming from barley that has been fire-roasted to within an inch of its life. The result is a flavor profile that includes chocolate liquor, blackstrap molasses and large splashes of Sambuca and espresso.

If Darkness was limited to those flavors, it would still be exceptional beer. The fact that candied citrus peel and resiny pine sap are added to the mix puts it over the top for this hophead. I can see how some might not like the emphasis on the little green cones, but then this is Surly... what the hell did you expect?

With each eager gulp, I am making Darkness prove every one of the final three scores. Believe me, it more than lives up to the challenge of a critical palate, especially since the flavors become even better integrated as the beer picks up a few degrees. The alcohol provides warmth (not heat) and plenty of power. This is massive beer for massive beer lovers.

My first inclination was to give the mouthfeel a less than perfect score. However, as the middle portion of the bottle approaches, it will not be denied. The melted ice cream-like viscosity that was almost there initially is now there in spades. Carbonation is on the generous side, but it's so soft and so well-buried that it adds just the right amount of energy and lift.

Darkness is a masterful creation from a masterful brewer. I allowed a few doubts to creep in prior to cracking the crown, but I doubt no more. In an amazingly short period of time, Surly has entered the upper echelon of craft breweries with such all-out masterpieces as Furious, Bender and CynicAle. Darkness is simply the shiny, juicy cherry on top. A huge thanks to feloniousmonk, the consummate BA, for the best extra in the history of extras.

*originally reviewed on 10-08-2008

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Photo of pmccallum86
4.78/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2009 vintage

Pours a deep dark midnight black with a cocoa coffee colored head. The head dissipates slowly into the night leaving lacing along the snifter.

The smell is of dried fruits, hops, roasted malts, cocoa, butterscotch and many other things I cannot identify. Very complex and pleasant.

Taste is like no other RIS I have ever tried. Chocolate, coffee, butterscotch, raisins, roasted malts, etc. As it warms a tobacco flavor becomes present. Very interesting taste that changes with the temperature.

Mouthfeel is thick and viscous, maybe a little chewy. Definitely a thick full body. Very nice on a cool winter's night.

Drinkability is good, very smooth and pleasant to slowly sip on.

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Photo of feloniousmonk
4.78/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

My Darkness sits in a Duvel tulip glass, the roasty brown espresso-tinged head filling the top, and the actual beer as black as the darkest night, saturated with sin. Tannish lace stays long on the glass. This bleak cast may scare away the timid, those less ready to tango with the Stygian side, but the nose entices me in, and am undaunted as I step into the dark.

A blast of coffee hits first, married with copious cocoa, bitter and sweet stand side by side, neither in dominance. Hints of dark rum, molasses, black pepper and anise are mixed in this aroma of this heady brew, and it only gets richer the more you drink it in the nose. Sweeter elements eventually take charge, but it's still a deep, almost spicy blend.

To taste: Massive mouthfeel, thick, gooey, and absolutely delicious. Chocolate is in full force, but matched once more with earthier aspects, the coffee, the spice, the slick black strap. Incredibly pervasive on the palate, this stout commands every inch of the senses, sending tasty tendrils up in each crack in the cavern of the mouth. Plenty of hops at play (80 IBUs), bobbing just below the malt.

Sip, gulp, swallow, and the parade of flavors begins again, dancing along the tongue, like some malefic ballet. Dark fruit sensations rise up and leave the mind searching for the connection. Dark cherries, berries, raspberry? ....but completely covered in a shell of chocolate. The lip smacks, the tongue scrapes up remnants of this rich elixir, not to miss a drop of deliciousness.

To state "full-bodied" would be an act of redundancy. This is huge, long, and out of the ordinary. Ends smooth and dryly, a pleasing finish, still loaded with flavor, never dying away completely.

Puts many a RIS to shame, though I'd love to sit down and do a comparison among others. To the great credit of Darkness, the alcohol content does not really stick out until nearing glasses end, and the less attractive aspect is that the beautiful dark, rich flavor leaves you craving more, ...although you probably shouldn't. (It's 9.5%, give or take.)

I entered the heart of Darkness, and peered into the abyss...found it satisfactory to my soul, and I believe I will take this midnight ride again and again...in moderation...

and to think, there is a bourbon barrel version on it's way...oh, sweet mercy!

Hey, Todd, which metal album should have been thundering in the background while I drink this?
And thank you for brewing this beer, to my knowledge the only Russian Imperial Stout from a Minnesota brewery, outside of the brewpubs.

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Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
98 out of 100 based on 797 ratings.