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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: 1,214 | 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
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Reviews: 811 | Hads: 3,342
Photo of Paradigm
5/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Straight 5s for a reason. It was good enough that I decided to sign up solely to make this review.

I had the pleasure of trying a 2009 (mummy) version that my roommate's friend wanted to share and it was amazing. After 6 years there was a very strong prune flavor that definitely added to the flavor in a positive.

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Photo of Back_in_the_Saddle
4.71/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Thanks Aimee.
This was poured into a snifter.
The appearance was a black color with a dark tan head. The head took its time as it dissipated. Light lacing ran around the glass.
The smell had a smooth dark chocolate, vanilla, dark dried fruit, sweet bourbon, milk chocolate and molasses.
The taste was mainly sweet with an ample amount of the dark chocolate showing some roasty and bitter edges. The aftertaste was mainly sweet through the previously mentioned flavors of the aroma. Nice quick finish.
The mouthfeel was about heavy on the body as the ABV made a big effort in affording my tongue the price of admittance. No joke with this one. Malts lay down the gamut and produce a decent stickiness.
Overall, one of the heaviest feeling beers I've ever had. I wonder if this thins out with age, hopefully my trader will get me another. Extremely good.

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Photo of jbjorhus
5/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Very complex flavor highlighted by a rich caramel/coffee/fruit flavor. Finishes very smooth and warm. Well worth the hype! I cannot wait for the next release!

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Photo of Umdrunner
5/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This is for the 2015 release:

Definitely worth the hype! Rich dark flavors of chocolate, coffee and raisins. Hits with a little crispness, goes down smooth and velvety, finishes with a lingering flavor of a 12% ABV beer! I can't wait to try the BA version!

The 2015 offering is 12% ABV

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Photo of floridadrift
4.53/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

A big stout that seems to change year to year.
2014 was chewy with some initial roast with sweet malt and big chocolate notes through out, really enjoyed this one. Smelt like chocolate malt and prunes.

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Photo of mwilbur
4.77/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Poured on-tap into tulip.
A: Pours a thick black with 1/2 inch dark mocha head with good retention and lacing.
S: Smooth dark chocolate, vanilla, dark dried fruit, sweet bourbon, and a hint of cream.
T: Dark chocolate milk, bourbon, dark cherry, vanilla, heavy cream, raisin and other dark dried fruit, molasses, and bitter coffee and chocolate finish. The more I get into this, the more I appreciate the hop elements (citrus, bitter note, etc).
M: Velvety smooth, creamy, and sweet. Bitter note becomes apparent in the mid-palate and stronger in the finish. Moderately heavy body. Drinks lighter than the hefty ABV would suggest. Amazing balance of super heavy malt notes and yet the hops shine through (although still playing second fiddle).
D: Definitely an exceptional brew...well done Surly! Outstanding for style and lives up to the hype (which isn't always easy to do...especially since I've been waiting a few years to try this one). One of the best beers I've had with excellent complexity and drinkability.

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Photo of Boto
4.49/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Draught @ Brewery: 2015 edition. This one pours a deep, dark inky brown color. There was just a bit of a beige head that didn’t leave much lacing. The aroma was good. Complex and a lot going on. Molasses, dark fruit, chocolate, bready, a touch of alcohol. Some faint hops in there too. The taste was very good. Similar characteristics to the nose, with some raisins, licorice. Limited sweetness with some bitterness in the finish. Full mouthfeel. Very Nice!

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Photo of rudzud
3.78/5  rDev -14.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Well, a belated Halloween beer. 2013 Brewcifer bottle.

A - Poured into my Duvel tulip a dark oily black with a fat two finger mocha head that fades to leave a creamy blanket and light lacing.

S - Aromas of hickory, licorice, roast malts, chocolate, vanilla, very light dark fruit.

T - Taste is similar to the to the nose, hickory, licorice, anise, roasty almost charred malts. Fair amount of sweetness, both in malt and in dark fruit juice. Raisins and prunes. The finish has just a little bit of hop bitterness on the finish, but still, once the licorice and char is gone all you're left with on the tongue is sweet dark fruits.

M - Mouthfeel is slick and a bit oily. Bit smooth and syrupy too. Alcohol is hidden very nicely though.

O - Overall, this beer was a rather standard RIS. I can see why when it first came out the beer was great, however, 8 years later there are loads of russian imperial stouts on the market. For the money, I'd go with nearly any readily available RIS.

Serving Type: Bottle

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Photo of Lochnessmonster
4.49/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2013 bottle. A very big stout with a heavy alcohol presence and a surprising amount of hop flavor. Comparing it to others in it's league, I'd put it a step above Dark Lord, but not quite as good as Black Note. Made for a great Halloween beer though.

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Photo of kemoarps
4.22/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Based on a google search of the label artist, this must be a 2013 bottle. Thanks to Dominique for including this in his predraft box. The only good thing to be associated with that league this whole year as far as I'm concerned...
Pours that beautiful obilisk-black that gets us all a titter in a good big stout. Finger or so of brown head settles relatively early into a thin film with disparate colonies of soapy bubbles. Surprisingly little lacing.

The nose fluctuates depending on how far from the glass I am. Sitting a ways back I get an undeniable hit of fresh hand made bread dough as it's rising. Yeasty dark grains. In passing past the glass there can be hints of dark fruit with sweet plums and prunes and boozy black cherries. But stick your nose intentionally into the abyss and you get blackstrap molasses and sin.

Initially sweeter than I would have expected. And not a bittersweet, no, this is more fructose and juice. The finish carries this through to its logical conclusion of candy sweet peaks. Far from one note, though layers of chocolate and cold pressed coffee give way to the aforementioned sweet peaks balanced by the coffee's bitter close.

Initially, the alcohol overwhelms a bit, but as the glass warms it mellows in to a nice complementary role. Fine carbonation steps aside and lets the smoothe if a bit... thin. Not thin thin, but medium where I was looking for thick and chewy as toffee... anyway, sweet and smoothe and incredible. This is my assessment. Too bad so sad this is the only bottle I've got.
Thank you @domvan for sending it along!!

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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 Evilyak
4.32/5  rDev -2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

pours black as midnight, with a tan head that doesn't last. smells of coffee and that stupid dark fruit nonsense that covers every stout ever. it's cloyingly sweet, with a roasted aftertaste that doesn't make me want to finish the bottle.

in terms of a RIS with a great reputation, it fits the mold. in terms of a great beer, i could ask for more.

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Photo of SpanishUnicorn
4.58/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Enjoyed on tap at Surly Darkness Day 2015. Pours pitch black, with a nice head (my girlfriend thought it was a nitro pour at first). Amazing aroma of espresso, chocolate, raisons, figs, and dates. It's thick but goes down smooth. Taste follows the nose with a nice hoppy kick on the back end. I'd put this right up there with Ten Fiddy and Old Rasputin for best RIS.

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Photo of trackjj
2.33/5  rDev -47.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

One of the most overrated Russian Imperial Stouts I've ever had. Overpowering smell and taste of raisins spoils it for me. Cult following in Minnesota, but I don't get it. I've had many other that are far better.

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Photo of MartyIU13
4.53/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Very smooth. Not as thick and sweet as Dark Lord (don't know if that's good or bad). Great artwork on the bottle and a very pleasant delight! Got to have some at Dark Lord Day 2015 and also just today.

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Photo of Immortale25
4.75/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2013 vintage was big, bold and roasty in the front, but somehow smooth and restrained in the finish. Still some substantial hop bitterness after two years of aging. Mouthfeel was slightly creamy but not particularly silky. Very robust body though. Excellent overall and saw little room for improvement.

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Photo of alarmclock314
4.78/5  rDev +8.4%
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 macher0
4.63/5  rDev +5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2013 bottle to tulip.

A. Poured black and thicker than most. A nice amber, fine bubble head had excellent retention. This is a great looking beer. Spotty laces remain on the glass.

S. Typical RIS smell, dominated by char. Other notes of dark malts, roasted coffee, oats, hops, and a little heat.

T. The taste is much more balance than the nose. The char from the nose does not dominate at all. The malts and coffee blend very well with the hop bite. A little milky notes at the end.

M. Very smooth, silky, high carbonation, FULL body.

O. One of the best non-barrel aged stouts being brewed - very well crafted. I enjoyed this during a share and this stood out. The taste was amazing and it was a very attractive beer. I certainly recommend this, and I would likely reach out to find another one.

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Photo of YodersBeerEmporium
4.42/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Enjoyed the 2013 vintage recently at a bottle share. Been wanting to try this for quite a while… Very nice stout, poured very thick and black with nice brown lacing. Nice deep chocolate nose and a very nice chocolate and burnt toffee flavor. Very excited I was able to try and would track it down again for sure!!

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Photo of mikevanatta
4.65/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Pours blacker than motor oil, and tastes of raisins, dates, figs, chocolate, and a slight tinge of booze. Incredible amount of depth for a non-barrel aged beer.

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Photo of pat61
4.75/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

This is the Zombie version bottled 10-22-11 and retrieved from the cellar 6-27-14. Review from notes. L: Pours pitch black under a 1” tan foam cap that slowly dissipates to a thick film. S: Chocolate, sherry, prune. T: Rich caramel, hints of sherry and prune, chocolate, espresso. F: Very creamy with medium carbonation and a full body. O: An excellent desert beer that improves and develops with age.

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Photo of SquareBrew
4.91/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 5

Holy crap!! 2013 bottle. Been cellared well. Phenomenal. Not so sweet like dark lord (which I still love). So complex. Possibly the best beer I've ever had

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Photo of mnredsoxfan69
4.75/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

10 oz. tap pour at the brewery. Magnificent! One of the truly great beers in the world. This is what others want their RIS to be. Black as night with a thin, tan head. Aromas of coffee, cocoa, roasted malts and molasses with more of the same in each sip. Viscous mouth feel, low carbonation and warming alcohol on the palate. Very malty, sweet but not cloying. Legendary.

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Photo of Joey2timer
4.4/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2013 bottle. Great beer, lots of chocolate and a little bit of coffee notes. Some wet cardboard and cinnamon notes as well, so I would not suggest sitting on these for too long

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Photo of MissSmisje
4.61/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

L: motor oil with a thin tan head
S: chocolate malt, bitter chocolate, dried dark fruits, particularly cherries and raisins
T: roasted coffee, bitter coffee, fidgety, dried dark fruits - cherries, raisins, dates, gently fruity tartness in the finish.
F: good chewy thick feel
O: excellent. Intense flavor.

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