Dismiss Notice
Save $5 when you subscribe to 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine by selecting auto-renew.

Subscribe now →
Dismiss Notice
Join Our Email List →

And we'll send you the latest updates and offers from BeerAdvocate, because knowing is half the battle.
Dismiss Notice

Pre-order your Respect Beer "Hipster" Hoodie today!

Plus: Free shipping (US only) on orders of $25 or more until 12/18/15. Just select "Free Shipping" at checkout.

Shop now →

Darkness - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.

Educational use only; do not reuse.

811 Reviews

(Read More)
Reviews: 811
Hads: 3,345
Avg: 4.41
pDev: 19.27%
Wants: 3,286
Gots: 1,218 | 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: 3,345
Photo of Greggy
4.78/5  rDev +8.4%
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.

 739 characters

Photo of PaulStoneAnchor
4.78/5  rDev +8.4%
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.

 564 characters

Photo of Duffman
4.78/5  rDev +8.4%
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.

 1,140 characters

Photo of CheezyBlaster
4.78/5  rDev +8.4%
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!

 926 characters

Photo of Bighuge
4.78/5  rDev +8.4%
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.

 1,255 characters

Photo of treyrab
4.78/5  rDev +8.4%
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.

 1,309 characters

Photo of mnphish
4.78/5  rDev +8.4%
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.

 545 characters

Photo of goindownsouth
4.78/5  rDev +8.4%
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.

 1,146 characters

Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.78/5  rDev +8.4%
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

 3,136 characters

Photo of pmccallum86
4.78/5  rDev +8.4%
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.

 696 characters

Photo of feloniousmonk
4.78/5  rDev +8.4%
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.

 2,549 characters

Photo of Bitterbill
4.79/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I got this bottle in a trade with incutrav. Thanks Travis!

This pours from the 750ML waxed bottle, close to room temp, as dark as dark can be. Pitch black and no highlights of any kind when I held the glass up to a light. I poured it rather vigorously and am rewarded with about a one finger head of tan foam. Head retention was good and there was some lacing.

The smell has all sorts of things going on. Lots of sweetness on the nose with big caramel, big notes of sherry and roasted malt, and lots of chocolate with some vanilla, maybe a touch of some dark fruits like raisin and plum. This is a great "smeller"; one of the best I've encountered to date.

The taste...can it live up to what I just experienced with the smell? We shall see.
First sip and I'll be...danged. No dryness here at all. Lots of caramel malt sweetness starts the session off followed by lots of milk chocolate, a touch of dark chocolate that adds just the right amount of bitterness, and big sherry notes along with that roasted malt goodness. The vanilla shows up mostly near the finish as does the dark fruitiness which gives me a light bit of tartness that's a plus for this RIS...man, this is one hell of a complex brew bordering on the over the top in complexity but there is nothing in the flavour that I can say detracts or is overused. It's just outstanding, plain and simple, and the abv is *very* well hidden.

It definitely has a fullish mouthfeel and the carbonation is lightly but rightly done. Silky smooth.

Drinkability? 1 at a sitting would be all that I can handle but that *1* is turning out to be a disappearing act that most magicians would drool over. I kid you not!

Big thanks again to Travis for giving me the chance to try my first Surly in a bottle. What a treat!

 1,769 characters

Photo of curtiswvu
4.8/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured in a sniffter via Fountainhead at their Exceptional Beers Night.

Appearance- Midnight black with a milk chocolate head, perfect looking RIS.

Smell: coffee, chocolate and maybe a hint of bacon.

Taste- Fantastic up front and on the finish. Very smooth ...scarry smooth...iii wannnntttt mooorrrreee.

Mouthfeel- Suprisingly not as viscous as I anticipated but a full monster stout. Could be heavier actually.

Drinkability- In a land of one and done RIS I might be able to session this one until I fell off my stool.

 528 characters

Photo of MichaelNeelsen
4.8/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Drank a 2011 "Zombie" 750ml bottle after aging 3 years, 2 months.

L: Poured like liquid silk. Pitch black, no light penetration. Mocha brown head dissipates and then reappears with each sip. The beer is very reflective - you can see yourself in it.

S: Raisins. Dark chocolate. Brown sugar. Dates. Fig. Smells like bourbon even though it's not barrel aged. Dark cherries.

T: As my friend who drank it with me put it, "Rich and sweet and right down the middle. There's no smoke and mirrors here."

F: Like liquid Robert Patrick. If you could drink the liquid T-1000 from Terminator 2, it would feel like this beer. Feels like wine without the dryness or tack. Glides over the tongue. Thin in the best way.

O: A real treat. It's not my favorite Russian Imperial, but it's really damn good - and a very unique experience to drink. I'll look to get a younger bottle and drink it without aging to compare. Highly recommended.

 923 characters

Photo of lurpy1
4.8/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A long time coming on this one, fortunate to get 2 bottles from Four Firkins. One is being saved for a rainy day in 2013, the other to drink post-haste.

The pour is darker than a Spinal Tap album cover, with a substantial, sticky ocean-scum head that just goes and goes.

Smell...ooh la la, a lot going on here, but raisins, cherries, malt, and oats come to the fore. Goddamn.

If anything, the taste runs to the excessive, so much malt, fruit, boozy backdrop. Absolutely delicious. Why not a 5.0 for taste? Because it's almost too much, completely hit over the head with flavor.

Mouthfeel is perfect a thick, glossy sludge of a beer that doesn't coat the tongue too badly.

Awesome beer. Totally awesome. Glad I was able to get my hands on it.

 747 characters

Photo of JackieTH
4.8/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Darkness 2010; on tap at MN Brew Review. .

Appearance: Rich dark brown, opaque, with a nice cap of carmelly-mocha head.

Smell: Rich dark chocolate, vanilla and molasses punctuated heartily by bitter citrus hops.

Taste: Dark roasted malt, rich dark chocolate, dark fruit, molasses, subtle bitter espresso, smoke, and a helping of bittering hops. Goodness. Darkness.

Mouthfeel: Rich, creamy, syrupy.

Drinkability: It's big on flavor, very dark & rich...and high ABV...give me more. Right now.

Note: Although 60-some breweries were on hand...my friends found it was very hard to dislodge me from the Surly booth once I got a taste of Darkness 2010.

 652 characters

Photo of Mistofminn
4.8/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Had this on cask at the 501 club with the guys from Surly to celebrate the Bronze medal at the GABF for Coffee Bender, which I also had.

Pours an opaque pitch black color with a one finger dark brown head. Retention of the head is much better around the outsides, as it shrinks in the middle but stays clinging to the glass. Nice lacing also.

The nose is dark coffee, roasted malts, bitter hops, toffee caramel and vanilla, bitter chocolate, dark dried fruits...and so much more. Extremely complex and it's a treat to drink this in.

The taste is just as good as the nose leads on. Dark roasted malts, sweet and bitter chocolate, bitter earthy hops, dried dark fruits, sweet caramel and vanilla, roasted coffee...the combinations of flavors seem endless and they just keep coming. I'm not kidding when I say I get a different taste with every sip.

Mouthfeel is thick, rich and creamy. Has an appropriate carbonation level. Had a significant bitter aftertaste.

Drinkability is amazing. This is a great brew and one I can't wait to have again. I can't wait for Darkness Day to purchase my limit in bottles. I would love to see how this is a couple years down the road, maybe even one day do a vertical. Surly does it again, but was there ever any doubt?

 1,255 characters

Photo of Lordsloth
4.8/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Served in a small (5 or 6 oz.) Guinness glass at McKenzie's in Minneapolis.

A- "Blacker than the Blackest Black- times infinity", as one of my favorite sayings goes. A thick foam head with tenacious lacing as the beer goes down.

S- A roasted chocolatey, hop filled nose.

T- It has an amazing, deep flavor. Chocolate, Toast, and a big hop taste that comes quickly and fades back. There was something of a bite like a warm coke(I like warm coke), I thought. Amazingly smooth, as well.

M- Thick! A medium to heavy viscosity in the mouth, and no bad aftertaste to speak of.

D- Highly drinkable. It's a sipper, but you keep on sipping. I can see myself having a few glasses.

My first review- be kind. ;)

 705 characters

Photo of rye726
4.8/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Sampled multiple times at the 2007 GABF. I don't like to review at beer fests, but this is one of the few that really stood out.

Pitch black color with a thick espresso brown head. Nice lacing and retention.

Wow, this stuff has more nose than most bourbon aged stouts. Sweet profile of caramel, black and chocolate malts. Lots of dark fruit with molasses, coffee, and fudge.

Rich burnt and roasted malts with lots of chocolate and coffee. Keeping the sweetness in balance are big earthy floral hops and bitter molasses.

Thick and chewy yet silky smooth over the palate. Perfect body and carbonation for the flavor profile.

Doesn't get much better than this. Near perfect. Could drink this one all night.

 711 characters

Photo of ClockworkOrange
4.8/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Thanks to DarkerTheBetter for sharing this amazing beer. Sampled side by side with 2006 Dark Lord. Pours an opaque black with a thick, dark tan head about a finger thick. Smells of rich roasted coffee, bitter cocoa, and fruity hops. Initial taste is a huge hop blast followed by bittersweet chocolate, cappuccino, vanilla, molasses and yet more hops. Full bodied with medium carbonation. Coats the tongue. If this was the only RIS left on Earth, I would be completely content. Looking forward to drinking this again and soon. Cheers!

 533 characters

Photo of francisweizen
4.8/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I just recieved this one in a trade today, and was pretty excited to try/and review this very hyped brew from Surly Brewing Company.

This is a 2007 vintage that has been cellared/aged for one year since its original release on halloween of last year. Served at about 60 degree fahrenheit ambiant temperature. Slightly chilled in my trusty fridge and given time to settle so that the yeast has redistributed itself to the brown glass bottle floor.

P=5: The Blood red and black ink double wax dipped 750ml (Nice, those extra ounces come in handy, and I often wish more breweries would bottle in 750ml bombers as opposed to 22oz [660ml] bombers) bomber bottle is very cool looking indeed. Sturdy brown glass with a bitchin' label with the surly logo and a grim reaper on it. The bottle states that this is bottle # 264 although there is no further information about the beer stated except for the bottle size (750ml)

A=5: With a hard pour into a 20oz Imperial Pint Glass this beer is a real beauty to behold. Ink black with no light penetration and a massive espresso coloured head of foam that lasts and lasts with excellent retention, sheeting, and lacing

S=5: When I cracked the top off of this the smell instantly penetrated my nasal cavity. Deep rosated malts, dark russian rye bread, chocolate, dark black unsweetened coffee, condensed milk, earthy green hops, and a melange of other 'dark' flavors

T=4.5: The taste is awesome and smooth as hell. A great blend of green earthy hops, fresh russian rye bread, chocolate syrup/chocolate milk, toffee, with a bit of coffee, vanilla, sweet condensed milk and caramel thrown in for good measure. The yeast is a nice one here with some very English buttery undertones and the front palate and back palate combine nicely to make this a real cigar sipper of a brew. The burnt coffee, and dark fruit/currant flavors really build up when this one warms up to room temperature. I am now beginning to see that the hype is justified. However, the taste profile is not quite Courage 83' or 2004 Dark Lord. Perhaps it's a bit better, fresh, on tap, or on cask, or maybe even from a can [one can wish]. However, this is near perfect for a russian imperial stout. Alcohol is muted and melded, but it makes itself known in the intense, acrid dry finish. Kind of like day old cold pressed espresso discards

M=5: The mouthfeel is extremely satisfying. Thick, chewy, and coating with an exponential warmth about it as well. However it is not quite the beast in the mouth that dark lord is. It could be a bit thicker with more mid body depth, if I am to be completely honest. Still, thick and rich, this is the epitome of a great imperial stout

D=5: This is where this one really shines. This is a big RIS for sure, but the flavors are melded together very well and in the end the drinkability is really excellent for a 10%+ abv brew. Th e fantastic aroma, interesting flavor profile, and satisfying mouthfeel really all pull together to make this a greatly drinkable RIS.

O=4.9: Overall this is pretty much a 4.9 brew. It is one inch away from a 5 in either taste or mouthfeel and it really fires on all cylinders. I can't wait to try this fresh, as even though I did not sample the 2007 batch fresh in the bottle, on tap, or on cask, I can tell that the hop flavors have been somewhat muted and mellowed, and the mouthfeel may have thinned a bit as well. I can see this being a 5 under the right circumstances, and I may have to take the flight over to MN this halloween to find out for myself.

PC: Surly is probably my favorite new brewery (I only discovered them earlier this year). They make interesting limited seasonals like this (as well as One, Two, etc), Great regular seasonals (such as Cynic, Fest, Bitter Brewer, etc), and killer year round brews (such as furious and bender). I look forward to trying more of their beer be it in cans, bottles, on tap, or on cask. I also look forward to trying the Smoke and some of their more obscure tap/cask only products. Whilst hardly life changing, or the best beer that I have ever had, this is an incredibly solid product, and considering that this brewery has only been open for a few years they really have quite the winner here. I look forward to toasting them on many occasions in the future. In the meantime a BIG thanks to Akorsak for hooking me up with this beauty. The check (or the cable car) will be in the mail this week.

This brew really reminded me why I love Russian Imperial Stouts so much...Probably my all time #3 Imperial Stout after 2004 Dark Lord and 1983 Courage Russian Imperial

 4,596 characters

Photo of eduardolinhalis
4.8/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

750ml bottle poured in a snifter glass. Vampire bottle from 2010. Gray wax. Consumed in 2012. I've bought this one at the last time that I was in California.

A: First of all, beautiful bottle art, label printed on the glass. Pours a deep black color forming a medium beige head. Good retention and many lacings left

S: Sweet and roasty. Winy and fruity. Dark chocolate, coffee, roasted malts and wood

T: Follows the nose. Sweet chocolate upfront, roasted malts, dark chocolate, coffee, wood and earthy hops in the end

M: Creamy molasses body. Low carbonation and nice bitter end

O: Very drinkable. Excellent beer

 618 characters

Photo of hrking
4.8/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Wow popped a bottle last night for GBS#169 and wow all I can say is try this beer. The flavors just keep coming. Creamy smooth desert stout with fudge chocolate goodness.Dark Lord bow down to the Darkness. This is hands down one of the best stouts I have ever tasted! Alcohol well hidden and dangerously drinkable. This is a must try for any beer connoisseur! 98 vintage..

 372 characters

Photo of SeanBond
4.8/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Surly is finally back in Chicago, and this is my first time trying Darkness, so I'm pretty excited. I usually prefer BBA stouts to regular ones, so I'll be interested in seeing how this stacks up to both.

The beer doesn't pour as dark as I expected; for something called "Darkness," I figured this would be pitch black, but it's more like a very deep brown. There's a decent amount of carbonation, so you get more head than some other comparable stouts.

The smell is pretty great; complex with berry hints, definitely different than what I'm used to.

Now to the taste: Awesome! Also not at all what I was expecting. There's a lot going on here, with the berry nose also being present in the taste. There's no coffee that I can taste here, but there's a hint of hops; not as much as something like Goose Island's Nightstalker, but enough to make it interesting. Very sweet, reminds me a little of the BCBS Backyard Rye from this year.

Consider me impressed. There's enough flavor here that I'd have bet you this one was barrel-aged. Smooth, and extremely tasty. Probably the best non-BA stout I've ever had. I'm surprised to say this, but this one really lives up to the hype.

Awesome job from Surly; I hope this one isn't too hard to get next year.

 1,255 characters

Photo of SDRedDevil
4.8/5  rDev +8.8%

Got to try 2013 and 2012 side by side at Toronado for a Surly Lunch. Both were amazing with the 2013 having a bit less sweetness and more balance imo. Both were jet black deliciousness though!

 192 characters

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