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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: 3,279
Avg: 4.42
pDev: 9.5%
Wants: 3,260
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
View: Beers (53) | 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: 797 | Hads: 3,279
Photo of ironchefmiyagi13
4.62/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Had the 2012 and 2013 next to each other.

2013 stole the show, hands down. The grade is reflective of that one.

Great color and head on both beers.

Aroma on the 2013 was much more powerful in terms of coffee, chocolate and hops. 2012 was sweeter smelling with a lot of dark fruit.

Flavor was much of the same differentiating factors. 2013 was balanced, hoppy, smooth and delicious. 2012 had a weird metallic 'twang' to it with every sip, and was just way too fruity and sweet with no hops or coffee/chocolate to add a little bitterness.

Overall, I was very disappointed with the results. While I am now glad I traded away my older bottles, I was expecting something a little more 'badass' in terms of a vintage showdown. Oh well, maybe my bottle just didn't age properly. Either way, the fresh bottle was outstanding and on par with my favorite RIS...Stone RIS.

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Photo of StonedTrippin
4.25/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

my first darkness, as is common with many of my lucky rare beer scores, thanks to drlovemd87 for hooking this up for us last night. an impressive example of the style for sure, but a top 50 quality beer? I don't know. its rather straightforward as they go, excellent no doubt, but it reminds me of a great many other stouts like this out there on the market. rich creamy dark brown pour, sudsy mocha head, dense but not thick, attractive. the nose is muted dark roasted barley and unsweetened bakers chocolate. no alcohol at all, extremely impressive. the flavor, and I love this feature in this style, is all about the grain. I taste a few layers of varying roasted barley and chocolate malt, but no coffee, no vanilla, no bourbon barrel, no oak, none of that stuff. I do taste some dried cherry type notes in the finish, and as it warms even more fruit comes out, but this is a no frills example of the style, and I appreciate it for that. perhaps most impressive is that its massive alcoholic content is entirely absent from the smell and taste, its just not there. a real creeper, something to look out for when drinking darkness. I loved it with chocolate cookies, and could imagine a million other food pairings for it. expert quality stuff, but not different enough from some of the others for me to rate it off the charts. great beer though, they all are from surly.

edit: some age makes this epic, just cracked a 2011, and was amazed how much more mature and integrated and evolved the beer was from the fresh version, it really is one of the best in the game, with a chocolate and raisin complex coming to the fore. improving a few scores to reflect that.

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

Vintage 2012 Bottle

A- This stout is black as night with half a finger of head. Tan mocha-ish colored head with small, tight bubbles dissipating slowly. Alcohol legs present.

S- Dark chocolate, mocha espresso, hints of vanilla, dark fruits. A very nice smelling beer.

T- Chocolatey up front, getting a lot of coffee in there as well. A slight roastiness and coconut flavor on the palate. Do not taste the alcohol on this one.

M- Very smooth and silky. Creamy on the palate. Chocolate soaked raisins coat the mouth pretty well.

O- Surly comes through once again with a fantastic stout that lives up to the hype.

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

75cl bottle with the Wolfman (2012) and red wax on top. Generously shared by Regen. Poured into an unlabeled snifter to begin the tasting. Also just recently had a 10oz pour in a Darkness glass at the Surly Tap Room yesterday, 11/29/2013.

Pours a very dark black body, thick and viscous with an impressive 3-4cm mocha head that retains quite well for any imperial stout. Eventually it recedes into a thick-ish brown film on top of the beer. Not much lacing to speak of.

Now this was a pretty hoppy beer with good dark fruits, lots of milk chocolate, roasty malts and some molasses-like sweetness in the nose. Smells excellent.

The taste is awesome. One of the best Imperial Stout flavour profiles I've had. Tons and tons of roast malt sweetness and flavours- chocolate, black coffee, chocolate-covered raspberries. There's a nice earthy presence too.

Mouthfeel is great. Thick bodied, creamy and smooth, well carbonated and resinous. So easy to drink, so flavourful on the back-end. Not a lot of booziness here either.

Going to call this one one of the better RIS's out there. Definitely beats Dark Lord in terms of one-day brewery-only release event beers.

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Photo of MCain04
4.68/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

750ml bottle of 2013 vintage poured into Surly tulip glass at cellar temp, 54F.

Pours a dark brown, black body, beige head of creamy texture, good retention and lacing.

Smells chocolatey with roast and coffee beans, some dark fruit, and cherries.

Taste is akin to the smell but much more full. Dark fruits and cherries are quite prominent and complement the strong chocolate taste. Coffee and roasted malts present as well. Bitter with a good hop bite, but the hops don't take over at all. Sweet but not cloying. Perfectly balanced. Alcohol is almost undetectable.

Mouthfeel is smooth, creamy, and silky. Medium-to-full body. Dry sticky finish. Extremely drinkable.

This is incredibly tasty and overall is very drinkable. Dark fruits and cherried are very present and it is overall sweet, but is balanced well. This isn't the roastiest stout, but it is one of my all time favorites.

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Photo of cwehr13
4.25/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2013 Bottle into a snifter glass.

The appearance was black but not as thick as I thought it would of been. It also had a off white head about 1/4 inch.

It smelled smokey with a hint of Chocolate and it had an alcohol smell as well.

It has kind of a bitter smokey taste, not as sweet as the 2012 that I had in the past. It coated my mouth and it was very good to drink.

Over all It was a great beer, I can not wait to try this 2013 with a couple years on it, hopefully it will get a little sweeter.

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Photo of ZombiesAteMyDog
4.21/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

REVIEW # 666 - Darkness 2011 (Zombie)

A - The body appears thinner than I expected; the glass is not "stained" as I move the zombie molasses around the glass. Opaque black with a small, warm tan head that lasts.

S - Hmmm... rum raisin, some slight char/smoke, bakers' chocolate, and coffee... All of the somewhat usual suspects, but it seems a bit fruitier for an RIS, which I like.

T - First off, this reminds me of Black Albert a lot due to the dark fruitiness I am picking up. The taste follows the noise quite well, but the char flavor lingers on the tounge for a bit longer. Not overly sweet, and the alcohol is well hidden, but then again, this is not even hitting 11%... I'm used to having 14-15% stouts lately, so this is a nice change of pace.

M - Not overly heavy or syrupy, which is quite pleasant. Too many sought after stouts get overly thick and syrupy. Don't get me wrong, I generally like that in my stouts, but in moderation.

O - A great stout, and I'm glad I was able to trade for it. Thank you to whoever traded this to me back in the last part of 2011.

***I had CBS on Canada Day '13, and now I've had Darkness as my 666th beer... I am a beer nerd.

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Photo of BrianStu22
4.75/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

2013 Brewcifer bottle, lucky to get 2 of these. Unfortunately drank it out of Days Inn disposable coffee cup. Shared with friends before Black Crowes concert. I don't rate many beers but this one deserves praise. Appearance is dark and chewy, difficult to say from Styrofoam cup. Smells awesome, chocolate, raisins, hot spicy rum. This tastes great and the best RIS I have ever had. Can't wait to try the second bottle after it ages.

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Photo of VelvetExtract
4.4/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2013 vintage

A-Pours thick and black. The body even looks dark falling out of the bottle in a well-lit room. A stocky, tan head rises from the DARKNESS! Slithering lacing stains the glassware.

S-I can now see why this beer is such a legend, I'm not necessarily saying that I am absolutely smitten by it but it's definitely very unique and admittedly quite intoxicating. It's unlike many big Stouts I have sniffed. The label states there are cherry notes and I am detecting them for sure. There is also a relevant hoppiness. The standard chocolate, espresso, roast and the like pop up too but it's the unique qualities that make this one so neat.

T-The flavor is even better. I recently had Kate The Great (may she rest in peace) by Portsmouth and while the beers have their blatant differences, there are some general similarities; this is probably why both are so highly regarded. Darkness has a whimsical, dark fruit fruity/cherry note that dances and weaves between the other flavors. The hops don't really give you much descriptive flavor but they add a bitterness that is more complex than general roast bitterness. Standing pat twitch the unique flavors is a great Russian Imperial Stout. Some char, chocolate, coffee and the like.

M-Not elite in the feel. Could stand a bit more thickness of body. It does have a nice creamy aspect to it. A little hot but I'm not surprised, nor do I frown up heat from a big beer. Tingly bubbles.

O/D-I was really happy to try Darkness, any geek should be. I found myself having a distant respect for the beer rather than a full fledged lust for it. It's well crafted, unique and yummy but it didn't click with me like others have. I still really enjoyed this brew and would love to try an older vintage.

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Photo of jsprain1
4.84/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

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

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Photo of dsellers22
4.54/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

We picked up a 2013 750ml: Brewcifer Lord of Darkness. Pours near black with just a half-finger of head. Smells delicious: smooth coffee smell with fruit undertones. The taste is a wonderful stout: really easy to drink with a fruity finish.

We were able to find ours in a hole-in-the-wall liquor store in St. Paul. Only sold one per customer. Feeling lucky that we could enjoy this delicious beer--if you're lucky enough to find it, you should definitely pick it up! Not quite a perfect score, but darn good.

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Photo of mhksuccess
4.6/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2012 version aged for one year
poured from a bottle into a surly snifter
dark with a nice 1/2 inch head and little lacing on the way down
smell is dark roasty chocolate
and taste is similar very roasty chocolate toffee think most of the coffee flavor has faded
this was smooth and easy drinker very tasty and definite one of the top RIS i have had
would definitely get again

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Photo of JamesMN
4.24/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

2013 vintage.

Appearance: Pitch black body sits below tan foam.

Aroma: Alcohol warmth, toffee, dark malt.

Taste: Starts with light grassy bitterness mixed with sweet dark malt and currants. The bitterness never gets intense and the malt really shines here. There's actually nothing harsh about the flavor which is odd coming from Surly but genius in that it makes for an unbelievably smooth flavor. Effortless finish and hint of caramel liqueur on the back end. Aftertaste of dark malt and hops. I was expecting a lot of chocolate and coffee flavor but the real standout seems to be a deep caramel character alongside the roasted malt. Robust and yet subtly restrained flavor all around.

Mouthfeel: Full in body, nearing the point of syrup. Super smooth with good drinkability for the style.

Final Thoughts: Had all but given up trying to get a bottle of Darkness. Pricy at $25 a bomber but worth it for a once a year release. Great example of the style. Would I drink it again? Yes.

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Photo of JonnyBeers
4.92/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

2012 Bottle I received in trade about 10 months ago?

Really can't imagine a better RIS. I don't even think barrel aging would do this any benefit. It's just perfect the way it is. Only thing I could maybe point out is the sweetness, but compared to Dark Lord this is easy drinking in that regard. Smooth. Chocolate, toffee, roasty, smooth smooth smooth. I aged mine until it was over a year old. The abv at 10% is hardly noticeable. Well done Surly!

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Photo of butlerj
3.85/5  rDev -12.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

If Pepsi and espresso could somehow produce offspring, (with Mr Vodka, the pizza delivery guy, showing up for a little tag team action during the conception,) this year's Darkness would be the spawn.

It's kind of rich to be drinking 24oz of it all at once, but the flavor is good.

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Photo of jbaker67
4.44/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours jet black with a substantial mocha-colored head that dissipates pretty quickly. Nose is dried fruit, toffee and malt. Mouth is full and silky, with lots of candy-like sweetness up front, then some dates, raisins, chocolate, caramel, with a bittersweetness fading out on the back end. Alcohol is well hidden, with only a slightly detectable warmth near the finish.

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Photo of AndyAvalanche
5/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2012 version of the Werewolf looking monster poured into a Duvel tulip style glass. Liquid comes out midnight black, can't see through it anywhere on the glass and it doesn't even seem to get lighter. During the pour there's some lighter brown edges on the stream. Coffee with cream colored head that erupts up to the top of the glass. Mostly small bubbles but a few larger ones at the top that blub up. Head stays around a long time and there's TREMENDOUS lacing here, stuff clings to the glass for life. Great looking beer, sets the standard, looks like what many wish they did.

Oh wow, does this smell great. Take the absolute best individual parts of an imperial chocolate stout, coffee stout, hoppy stout, a fruity stout and mesh them all into one absolutely perfectly and this would be your result. Could be the slightest bit stronger, but still would rate it a 4.9999 out of 5 based on how well balanced everything is. Everything works here, huge malt backbone with both dark and sweet fudgy chocolate, black roasted coffee, some earthy dark fruits, and some floral hops. Great balance, perfect smell.

Taste is even better than the aromas if that's at all possible. Starts off sweet with more milky than bitter chocolate, but both present, coffee also isn't as strong. Then there are some nice dark dehydrated fruit flavors like fig and plum, but not overbearing. Plenty of bitter hoppy flavors there of pine and sweet clementine citrus (kind of like a chocolate orange, but actually tastes good). Hops provide a nice fresh flavor too, I'm impressed with how well the hops lasted in this one. There's also an almost minty vanilla flavor at the end. Not the burning vanilla you get from barrel aged stouts though.

Mouthfeel is, you guessed it, perfect. Full bodied because the flavor lingers for awhile, but it tastes so good you wished it would last even longer. This beer is perfectly smooth, with a nice carbonation level and no bite from the alcohol or carbonation, slightly tickles the tongue though. Starts sweet with a nice clean, fresh bitter finish. Crazy drinkable, any stout lover or beer lover could finish off a bottle no problem. A sipper, but dangerous enough to drink faster than you might intend. Thanks N-Dawg for bringing this one to me! This beer really has all the perfect qualities one would want in a beer and blends them together.

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Photo of Teleweizen2
4.1/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4


A - the name says it all. It is dark. Black as night with two fingers worth of dark tan foam. Leaves lots of thick lacing.

S - one word sums it up. Chocolate. But it is not that simple. All kinds of chocolate. Chocolate sauce, cocoa powder. Milk and dark. Underneath the sea of chocolate are soft notes of city roast coffee and dried dark fruit.

T - silky sweet and bitter chocolate mix. Roasty coffee around the edges. Ripe juicy dried fruit in the center. Earthy hop on the backend. Chocolatey finish.

M - creamy and slick but with a slightly watery note. medium-full bodied. High carb.

O - a great russian imperial. Definitly something i would like to get my hands on again.

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Photo of zachary80
4.63/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Darkness, I believe this is a 2013, been in a fridge most of the time since I received it. Served at that fridge's temp, 55F.

Pours black and viscous. Very good sized brown head. Leaves great lacing.

Aroma is sweet, light alcohol, lots of roast.

Flavor follows the aroma and is amazing.

Mouthfeel is full, with a lower carbonation level, perfect for the style of beer. Alcohol is barely present.

Overall this is one of my favorite imperial stouts, despite being a little too much on the sweet size.

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Photo of mjpolzin
4.15/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Lined up against a few other world class stouts at Great Taste of the Midwest 2013, this was good but it wasn't as good as I hoped it would be nor was it on par with a few other heavy hitting stouts that I tried that day.

The taste was a typical imperial stout type of taste (fruit, malts, chocolate, roastiness) but the hops and roasted malts overpowered things for me a little bit. I could see this being very good with some age on it but the 2012 vintage with almost a year on it was a little too harsh for me.

EDIT-Just split a bottle of the 2013 with a friend. There was a nice sweetness to this beer and it was more flavorful than I remembered. I have noticed that my palette can chance from time to time and I am sure when I first had this beer at GTMW, I had sampled way too many beers that day to give it a fair score.

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Photo of Smurf2055
4.12/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Got from trade, got the 2011 with the cool zombie shit on it.

Pours black with a two finger billowy head.

Smell is dominated by chocolate malts. Ashy and chocolate.

Taste is sweet milk chocolate up front, roasty coffee and vanilla on the tail.

A much lighter body than I was expecting, very smooth and not just a sipper. Very good.

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Photo of wordemupg
4.49/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

750ml red waxed 2012 poured into tulip 12/6/13 big thanks Rutager for the bottle, split with alpineclimber

A lives up to the name, black with a deep edge, massive three fingers of dark mocha foam stick around long enough to leave a a few well spaced thick rings, looks decent

S shocking how well the hops stand out against all this dark malt, grapefruit, tangerine and a little pine, sweet chocolate fudge smells so rich, Hershey's syrup, molasses, and a little coffee but not much, just a hint of plum and the booze is well hidden

T much like the nose but a little sweeter and the chocolates a little darker, coffees a little burnt and the hops are still strong, crazy strong, they must have used a shitload of the green stuff making this bad boy

M rich thick and creamy from the bubbles, a little sticky on the lips and I really have no idea where the booze is hiding

O hopped to hell and rich fudge make a great combo, pretty much zero booze and my glass is already empty at this point

Its always a great thing when a beer lives up to the hype and this one did exactly that. I wasn't expecting the high levels of hops but I loved it, for a fresh big stout the booze is nearly invisible. This one could age for years but great fresh if you like a hop bomb

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Photo of jaasen64
4.18/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2011 Darkness, 750ml bottle poured into Lawson's tulip. Thanks Jameson for sharing this during our Murda'd Out tasting.

A- Pours a dark brown that appears a jet black in the glass with a thin mocha brown head that has about average head and recedes to a flat top. Spotty lacing that slides back into glass.

S- Cocoa powder, light bakers chocolate, some faint hop, decent aroma strength.

T- Cocoa powder, light baker's dark chocolate, light hops hiding in background that I would assume is more pronounced in fresher bottles. Finishes with rich dark chocolate cocoa powder that lingers as a nice aftertaste.

M- Smooth, very drinkable, nice carbonation that doesn't dominate too much, medium bodied.

O- This was a great stout that I really enjoyed drinking however I'm not sure if I'd say its one of my favorites. The overall flavor could have been richer instead of the cocoa powder taste. I would love to compare a fresh version of this.

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Photo of BMMillsy
4.64/5  rDev +5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Got in trade. 2012 version with a wereworlf and red wax cap. Pours deep black with a big frothy light brown head. Big hop aroma with plenty of roasty notes to go along with a bit of sweet molasses. Flavor is very much molasses with unexpextedly strong hop flavor. Wow the balance here is excellent. Cherry and fig mixed with bittersweet chocolate coming in. Medium mouthfeel with thickness that goes with the impy. Relatively easy drinking for the style. This is unique and really good!

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Photo of Beerandboards
4.62/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

2011 bottle

A - motor oil black. Black the whole way through, even at the edges.. The thickness of the beer is obvious from its appearance. Small to medium amount of dense tan head.

S - aggressive chocolate, milk and dark. Coffee. Maybe molasses, some anise/black licorice. Dense and roasty.

T - wow. powerful. It tastes like someone made a great stout and then distilled it down to an extract. Really really rich. Up front there is a bunch of sweet dark chocolate, black coffee, sweet molasses. Roasted malts. The ABV is completely imperceptible.

M - this really is the perfect mouthfeel for a stout. Pretty thick, but not overly so. Light carbonation, smooth. One of the best I've encountered in this category.

O - quite simply an outstanding stout. Just an unbelievable amount of flavor. If there is a demerit, its that its so intense it is almost fatiguing. I split the beer with a friend, and we agreed it would almost be difficult to finish a bomber on your own, just due to the fact that it almost overwhelms you with the flavor profile. This is a must try for any stout lover. Easily the best non-barrel aged stout I've ever had, and one of the best stouts I've ever had period.

Excellent beer.

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