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Darkness - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.
DarknessDarkness

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
97
world-class

795 Reviews
THE BROS
100
world-class

(Read More)
Reviews: 795
Hads: 3,245
rAvg: 4.4
pDev: 4.77%
Wants: 3,232
Gots: 1,179 | 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/ 

Labels:
2007-Grim Reaper
2008-Devil
2009-Mummy
2010-Vampire
2011-Zombie
2012 - Werewolf
2013 - Brewcifer
View: Beers (51) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 795 | Hads: 3,245
Photo of Sammy
3.98/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Caught up with this at the Blue Nile in Minny. Black with huge off-beige head. Hoppy RIS.Sourness in first sip. The bitterness builds up, flows over the sugary finish. Integrated coffee, sugar to make it coffee liquor acceptable?ABove average mouthfeel. Better as warms up, was served a bit on cold side. (304 characters)

Photo of UCLABrewN84
4.33/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to shrek086 for sending me this long time want!

2010 vintage with the vampire artwork.

Pours an opaque black with a 3 inch puffy dark khaki head that settles to a dense small cap. A latticework of lace lines the glass on the drink down. Smell is of dark roasted malt, dark fruits, cocoa powder, and an alcohol aroma. Taste is of dark roasted malt, slightly sour dark fruits, bittersweet chocolate, and some roasted coffee bean flavors. A mild roasty bitterness lingers on the palate with each sip. There is a bit of a soy sauce quality in both the smell and taste but it's not at all unpleasant. This beer has a smooth and creamy mouthfeel with a lower level of carbonation. Overall, this is a very good RIS that deserves its status as a highly acclaimed beer. I am very happy I finally was able to snag one of these. (826 characters)

Photo of Thorpe429
4.55/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks for Jerk44 for hooking me up with some of this at Dark Lord Day 2009.

A: Very dark with a dark head to go along with it.

S: Roasted malt and the sweetness of dried fruits. Some molasses and brown sugar to go with dried cherries mixed with some espresso.

T: Similar to the nose, with more of the espresso/dark cherry tarnish.

M: Some alcohol, but a good, warming amount. Very full bodied.

D: Excellent beer, though not quite as drinkable as Dark Lord. Very, very deserving of its high place of honor. I cannot wait for this summer to get out to Minnesota and sample all the Surly I can find. (602 characters)

Photo of StonedTrippin
4.25/5  rDev -3.4%
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. (1,666 characters)

Photo of brentk56
4.85/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2008 bottling

Appearance: Pours a viscous black with chocolate edges and a creamy mocha head; sheets of lace remain in the chalice once the foam has subsided

Smell: Coffee, dark chocolate, berry fruit and a hint of cigar smoke; the citrus hops are mysterious, sometimes making their presence felt and other times indiscernable

Taste: Milk chocolate and Cuban coffee up front, with a developing berry element arriving shortly thereafter; by mid-palate, however, there is a building citrus hop flavor that becomes relentless after a while; after the swallow, the Cuban coffee returns and mixes with dark chocolate; plenty of citrus on the finish as well; the cigar flavors re-appearing in the aftertaste

Mouthfeel: By far, the thickest beer I have ever tasted, with moderate carbonation; a bit of warmth in the gullet after the swallow

Drinkability: New Year's eve, and it is time to break out this special occasion beer; for me, it lived up to the hype; unlike other hoppy stouts where the bitter flavors battle with the malt, in this beer, the blending of the contrasting flavors is unique (1,095 characters)

Photo of Knapp85
4.6/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Vintage 2011: This poured out as a deep black color with a brown head on top. There is a nice retention with a good lacing as well. The smell of the beer is of dark berries with deep roasted malts chocolate and subtle vanilla and soy. The taste is the beer is really nice, bold roasted malts, some smoke and bit of dark chocolate, there is a touch of saltiness in there too. The mouthfeel is silky smooth with a creamy body and subtle carbonation. Overall it's excellent. I had been curious how it would compare to Dark Lord and this is much better in my opinion. (563 characters)

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

An absolute pleaseure to finally have the opportunity to enjoy this beer. Absolute chocolatey notes with licorice and char blend beautifully in this molassas-rich Imperial Stout.

An very viscous pour of oily black liquid falls from the bottle- this is going to be one full beer. Completely opaque, the beer lathers into a thick, lightly browned, dense foam stance that seemingly never waivers. Both lacing and legging have a convincing say in the coatings left behind on the glass.

Robust aromas of both semi-sweet chocolate morsels and dry cocoa powder lead the way with a heafty sidekick of burnt cherries, licorice, rum, and fruitcake. Mouthwatering and seductive, the aromas are near flawlessness.

The chocolate-heavy tone continues in flavor, similar to fresh baked brownies and Hershey syrups. Background fruity notes of cherries, grapes, currants, and dates are accompanied by deep roasted coffee, char, and roasted marshmallows creaminess. Molassas sweetness brings these flavors together seamlessly while giving a soothing taste to the aggressive roast.

Full, viscous, creamy, and oily in mouthfeel, the beer has a slow transition from early thickness to a late sweet, warming, and bitter finish (bitterness is in form of both char and hops). This beer is obviously intended for after dinner compliments or in place of dinner alltogether.

A special thanks goes out to Shango42 for the unique opportunity to finally enjoy this beer. He gets my right arm if he ever requests it. (1,490 characters)

Photo of Phyl21ca
4/5  rDev -9.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle: Poured a pitch-black color stout with a large deep dirty brown color head with good retention and some lacing. Aroma of roasted malt and black chocolate with some light liquorice and dry coffee notes is quite enjoyable. Taste is also a heavy mix between some roasted malt with light bitter notes with rich black chocolate notes and very subtle notes of liquorice and dry fruits. Sweetness is very well balanced and not nearly as cloying as Dark Lord. Body is full with good carbonation and warming notes are perceptible though nothing too heavy. Well done and still retaining some balance even though it is an extreme beer. (631 characters)

Photo of largadeer
2.29/5  rDev -48%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 1

Appearance: 2007 vintage, bottle #263, and what an awesome bottle it is; great packaging here. The beer itself has a pitch black body with two fingers of thick brown froth. Rings of lace cling to the rim of the glass as the head slowly falls. Off to a good start.

Smell: Smoky, meaty, a bit burnt actually. Make that burnt sugar. Citrusy hops are still noticeable despite the age of the bottle, almost a year at this point. This must have been a beast when it was fresh. There's an undercurrent of molasses that's fairly pleasant, but this is somewhat rough on the whole.

Taste & mouthfeel: Molasses, charcoal, pervasive roasty bitterness. There's a spiciness that appears mid-sip, bringing to mind anise or fennel. Thick as hell; this is like drinking a pint of whole milk. Whole milk that someone tossed a piece of charcoal into, that is. The finish is charred and extremely hoppy for the style, with a lingering, somewhat acrid aftertaste that sticks to the tongue even after you've brushed your teeth and gargled with mouthwash. This is certainly complex, but I can't say that I'd ever want to drink it again.

Drinkability: Interesting stuff, but finishing an entire glass is a chore.

Notes: My least favorite beer from Surly so far, I'm sorry to say. It's unique, and possibly even worth trying given the chance, but it's not worth all the hoopla. (1,356 characters)

Photo of emerge077
4.55/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

On-tap at Local Option, Maproom, and Hopleaf...first pour at Maproom was brimming with foam, at Hopleaf it was gushing from the glass like a muddy volcano. Jet black with a huge cap of lacy tan foam. Over time it forms sheets of webby lacing.

Fruity hop in the nose, Amarillo maybe, tangerine or mango, even juicyfruit gum a little. Hops are aggressive, at 80 IBU's, but the aroma is definitely clean and measured.

Initial burst of fruity/spicy hops are steamrolled by a dense charred chocolate, that lingers for a long time, underscored by earthy, bitter hops. Cocoa blends with a lightly astringent roast in the finish that suggests a quality blend of exotic coffee. Not overbearing, it hides the abv well.

A viscous and velvety mouthfeel, with somewhat low-level carbonation, that still manages to be effervescent. After three, i've reached my limit, but that's a testament to an easily drinkable RIS. Really fantastic, i'm glad Surly has landed in Chicago... (968 characters)

Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.78/5  rDev +8.6%
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 zeff80
4.63/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

2010 Edition

A - Poured out an opaque, jet black color with a two-finger, brown head of foam with large effervescent bubbles. It had good retention and left thin rings of soapy lace.

S - It smelled of rich, dark chocolate aroma. Good roasty nose with some floral notes.

T - Delicious - dark chocolate, coffee, roasted malt, molasses. A great mix of sweet and bitter.

M - It was crisp, sharp and very smooth. A medium bodied ale with a mild warming alcohol presence.

D - This one lives up to the hype. A truly delicious RIS! (528 characters)

Photo of mikesgroove
4.92/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

What can I say really about this whole situation. I was lucky enough to acquire this bottle through a very fair trade from a good friend. When I see how much these things go for and the hype surrounding it, it is hard for me to justify it sometimes. I have found several instances where these beers are just complete letdowns. This here was not the case. It was absolutely wonderful and I really think it is worth its reputation. That being said, I new this would be the only bottle I would get so I saved it for a very special occasion and split it with a good friend at Barley's last night for my 30th Birthday. I figured it would be a fitting place, fitting time, and fitting company to open such a rare and sought after treat. Served in multiple sampling glasses at various temperatures up to room temp, this was definitely a wonderful experience. Bottle # 295.

Appearance - So we finally get to pour this one out. Opened the double dipped, wax topped cap and pour out this black as night liquid. Deep dark notes of black, to which no light could penetrate dropped into the glass with each tip. A mushrooming head of tan foam then came up over the top, reaching a height of at least two fingers before starting to break up into a rocky and cratered field. Even at its lowest mark it still carried about a fingers depth of lace with it and the side glass webbing was extremely nice. Overall this was a monster looking beer, however I cannot say it was a five, only because I have seen Dark Lord and the Abyss offer me a slightly fuller poor.

Smell - The aroma was to die for, literally. Everyone of these big RIS are much different then the one before, and everyone one is so unique, but I think once you take a whiff of this one it becomes very clear that this is in a whole different category. Gone are you rum soaked dark fruit and bourbon barrel, oak infused aromas, this was an entirely different beast. Rich and very sweet cocoa aromas are bringing themselves up to greet you first, with a gentle nudge of alcohol underneath. Wonderfully rich coffee then comes in to deliver the next blow. It was more of a roasted coffee bean aroma to be honest, like when you first open up that drawer at starbucks. A veritable assault of floral hops then comes out of nowhere. Grapefruit and pineapple hints mixing in with molasses and vanilla, what was this. As it warmed that sweet and creamy chocolate and coffee just really stole the show, with drops of vanilla just making this one drip with sweetness.

Taste - Now, we dive in to get a taste of what this wonderful liquid could be hiding. The first thing you notice is uber sweet chocolate and coffee. Just that wonderful taste that you want to have in a big stout, but the second that you get used to it, it gets cut like a knife, infused with grapefruit and orange peel. Puckering the lips as fresh grass and lemon hints seal it up and dry the mouth instantly before falling down the back of your through and opening up the scarred taste buds to welcome rush of vanilla. Beautifully complex, the rich notes of smoke and molasses intermingle and marry a wonderful peat like darkness that just sits there for a second before it too passes, getting whisked away and leaving behind only the faintest hint of grapefruit like bitterness soaked in vanilla and coffee. A wonderful voyage of unexpected tastes and bright surprises, wit ha virtually hidden alcohol content that makes it oh so smooth.

Mouthfeel - An speaking of smooth, wow, this was one smooth stout. A little bit less full then the rest of the big boys, but again this was a different type of monster, something entirely different then you milk shake like consistency you would typically associate with the style. This had a light, more carbonated feel to it. A much drier beer, especially in the finish, the flavors exploded out of it more then soaked in and sat there. As it warmed up it really did get a good deal thicker, but still stuck to its roots, setting it apart from the heard.

Drinkability - As for an almost 11% ABV Russian Imperial Stout, this was something I could have drank all night long. It was just tremendous in its complexity with a unrivaled smoothness. The alcohol was nowhere to be found, and the dry, hoppy finish only encouraged me to go back and try it again, and again, and again. It was a sad moment when this bottle was finished, as I really wanted just a little bit more. It was like beer crack for me, really just that good.

Overall I would have to say this really lived up to the hype for me. It was a phenominal beer, much different then anything I had before it, and was a nice breath of fresh air in the category. I was impressed by the floral hoppiness that was brought into this, especially in the finish as it really hid the alcohol well and let you have a nice, and not super filling experience out of it. Overall would I like another bottle, absolutely! Would I travel to Minnesota to get it, if the wife would let me, in a heartbeat! (4,992 characters)

Photo of womencantsail
4.08/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Review #300 comes courtesy of mikesgroove. Thanks again Mike for hooking it up with this one.

2009 Vintage

A: The pour is viscous, black, and wonderful. It fills the glass with a fluffy mocha colored head on top of the thick liquid below.

S: Generally with an RIS (or any stout, really) you don't expect citrus and pine hops to be the primary aroma, but that's just what we have here. The malt and other traditional RIS aromas don't come through quite as much as I would have liked. Still, the malt and chocolate and coffee do come through at times.

T: The hoppiness is still present on the tongue, but not quite as intensely. A good roasted malt background with some hints of coffee and chocolate. Perhaps a bit of dark fruits as well, which go interestingly with the hoppiness.

M: The body is nice and full and the beer feels quite creamy on the tongue. The carbonation is at a moderate level.

D: D: The booze is hidden very well by the myriad of flavors that are present. I wish, however, that this was more RIS like and not basically a black DIPA. (1,057 characters)

Photo of ChainGangGuy
4.35/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2008 Vintage.

Appearance: Pours an inky black body with a large, frothy, light tan head.

Smell: Roasty, burnt malt nose with strong notes of dark chocolate liqueur, coffee, smoky creosote, and pine needles.

Taste: Roasty, dark, chocolaty maltiness displays both depth and richness. A few spoonfuls of frothed cream pairs with a flavor of strong coffee. Bracing amount of sweetness present. Vinous fruity character. Touch of creosote. Strong pine and citrus hoppiness though not unreasonably so. The bitterness makes a decent attempt, but, for me, it doesn't ever even begin to overtake the malt sweetness. Darkness finishes with a strapping roastiness and more unyielding sweetness.

Mouthfeel: Decidedly full-bodied with a creamy mouthfeel. Medium carbonation.

Drinkability: Excellent melding of full flavors wrapped up in a dense, creamy body. I wasn't disappointed. Nice work, Surly. (890 characters)

Photo of TMoney2591
4.23/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served in a snifter at The Barley House.

Who'd've thought that one of my personal whales would beach itself 'round here? Hey, I'm not gonna argue. Its pour verifies its name, as nothing but straight darkness sits in the glass, a finger-thick tan chapeau sitting jauntily on top. The nose comprises raisins, rum, blackened oats, figs, chocolate-covered strawberries, roasted malts, light molasses, and a very slight fusel scent streaming from the base. The taste holds notes of roasted malts, chocolate syrup, molasses, maple syrup, figs, oak, brown sugar, light orange flesh, and a touch of Belgian yeastiness. Honestly, the last two were a bit surprising, but definitely can't be considered detracting, as they add a refreshing complexity to a usually brutish style. The body is pretty hefty, with a light moderate carbonation and a chewy feel. Overall, I was not at all disappointed by this, though the one thing I would note is that it's a tad lighter and fizzier than I expected. But this was a minor issue at best, smothered by the overall tastiness. (1,056 characters)

Photo of oline73
4.52/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

A 2011 bottle poured into a Hunahpu's snifter.

Appearance: Pours black as night with a finger of creamy tan head that fades to a ring around the edge of the pour.

Smell: Very sweet and quite roasty. You get a nice addition to the smell from the grain, maybe even a little caramel. Roast and dark fruit with some warming alcohol. Very nice.

Taste: Sweet and roasty. This beer is extremely smooth considering how new it is. Some dark chocolate and dark fruit notes. The finish is sweet and roasty with a slight bitterness. Just a hint of alcohol warmth.

Mouthfeel: Thick body with extremely smooth carbonation and just a touch of dryness in the finish.

Overall: This beer lives up to it's hype. Better than I remember when I had the 2010 version. I'll definitely have another some time. (789 characters)

Photo of Kegatron
4.58/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

750 ml wax topped bottle into an oversized Duvel tulip glass. Thanks go to bulldogp04 for the trade. I had previously had samples of the '07 batch both from the bottle and keg (@ EBF '08) and was anxiously waiting to see what this latest batch brings to the table.

An aggressive pour into the glass yields an inky black that more than lives up to its namesake. This thing is just is an absolute impenetrable pitch dark with 2 fingers of fantastic looking thick and creamy burnt mocha colored head. This simmers down into a thin yet sturdy layer of retention that fires up magnificently when swirled, just absolutely COATING the sides of the glass with frothy swathes of lacing. This is just beautiful looking in my glass. The first thought that crosses my mind as I initially sniff this, is how exceedingly fresh, floral, and hoppy this aroma is. Fortunately, this is just the beginning of a most excellent bouquet, as the aroma's hop profile gives way to some powerful Stout qualities. Baker's chocolate, roast, smoke, coffee, molasses, dark fruits, and finally some light heat. Damn, there is a ton packed into this nose!

The taste is large and in charge on the palette, with a beefy mix of smoky and sticky tasting blackstrap molasses, chocolate covered cherries, brown sugar, roasted malts and coffee that blend into a firmer feeling hop bitterness in the backend. I will say that as this warms and sits and the carbonation lowers, the hop profile lessens as well, leaving behind a sweet, tangy, warm, and slightly bitter viscous mess that I'm just loving every minute of! The mouthfeel is huge and chewy feeling (definitely up there with Dark Lord and Expedition Stout on the thickness scale) with a massive creamy body up front that works itself into a more prickly feel in the middle, before it slides into a oily and viscous feel in the back. The ABV that is present in the body is hefty and warming but it never gets boozy or stinging at all. As a matter of fact, it feels just right considering the huge amount of flavors that are at work here.

This beer kind of gives new meaning to the phrase "demon in a bottle", as this beastly beer possessed my soul from the get go and didn't let go until the last drop was drained from the glass. Powerful feeling and complex, this is up there in rarified top RIS status for me. I will say that this definitely came off as much sweeter than other top picks in the style but I didn't mind at all. There was enough bitterness to keep it in check, plus I really liked how this aspect differentiated it from some of the other top Imperial Stouts out there. This was awesome stuff that I'm really happy to have finally been able to sit down and enjoy a full bottle of it. (2,722 characters)

Photo of jlindros
4.18/5  rDev -5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

'10 Vampire vintage, thanks to Levifunk, grub, and bsuedekum for various bottles of this awesome beer.

Awesome huge head, thick frothy and creamy, dark head, forms layers as I pour between glasses, pitch black thick beer with nice legs, tons of lacing. essentially the perfect head.

Nose brings lots of chocolate, bakers, dark, cocoa nibs, bit of roast and coffee, lots of vanilla, bit of caramel, lots of dark malts bit of bitter roast and earthy hops.

Taste starts a bit of soy sauce, lots of bitter roasted malts, coffee, syrupy, big and heavy, roasty, some light oats, slightly briny, lots of vanilla, caramel, molasses, slight booze, bitter astringent roasted malts and bit of earthy hop. Slight charred roasted malt. Finishes quite bitter, astringent, sticky and syrupy, syrupy malts, soy sauce and a bit of earthy hop bitterness.

Mouth is big bodied but not quite as big as I expected, a bit syrupy, decent carb for the style.

Overall good, but not quite what I expected. Too much bitter briny roasty astringent soy sauce flavors, big and heavy as it should, but not quite as drinkable. Reminds me of fresh Dark Lord, but this has a year of aging on it. I'll let the rest age more and hopefully the soy sauce and briny qualities settle down. (1,253 characters)

Photo of TheManiacalOne
4.36/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2009 release acquired from pochman courtesy of BA Secret Santa 2009, so a big “Thank You” goes out to him. Poured from a 750ml bottle into an imperial pint glass.

A: The beer is a deep black color, with a large light brown head that fades very slowly and leaves a thick lace on the glass.

S: The aroma contains roasted malts, dark fruit, licorice, chocolate, coffee and a touch of hops.

T: The taste starts out with a very hearty roasted malt character that is quickly followed by strong and sweet flavors of chocolate, coffee, licorice and dark fruit. There is no hint of the 10.30% ABV. The hops presence is very mild as you would expect but there’s enough to provide a good balance. The after-taste is slightly sweet.

M: Crisp, very smooth and quite viscous, heavy body, medium carbonation, finish is slightly sticky.

O: Tasty, goes down dangerously easily, slightly filling, strong kick, very good representation of style, not only is it an excellent stout to drink for as long as you can handle it, it seems to have held up quite well for over 3 years. (1,068 characters)

Photo of Slatetank
4.48/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to bmoyer0301 for breaking this out recently -enjoyed cellar temp in standard pint.

This is a beautiful stout, looks thick and black as it is poured with some espresso-like crema for head with ultra tight bead. The aromas of brownie batter and baker's cocoa's semi-bitter/semi-sweet scents with mild dark fruit from the yeast which is plummy. The stout has a light sweet hop odor with more berry tinge with the dark toasted malt nose as it is swirled. The feel is rich, viscous, sweet fruit and little drying as it is moved around the mouth. The mellow spiciness of this gives some complexity and the texture is generally creamy with a pretty mild alcohol influence.

Darkness has a taste of bitter cocoa which is familiar for Russian imperial because it has a lightly bitter nutty taste up front with some astringent coffee-like dark mallt elements and raisiny dried fruit aspect. There is a earthy woody and almost light anise taste which comes forward as it warms with mild burnt malt quality as it finishes. This is an extremely drinkable beer for the abv, I found myself having to regulate my gulps and respect the big stout for what it is. I enjoyed how easy it goes down with an almost burnt marshmallow-like caramel essence that bring out a bit of concentrated dark sugar flavor. I was extremely appreciative to Brad for sharing this with us a stout worth savoring (1,383 characters)

Photo of russpowell
4.36/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Cheer to Buebie, thanks Brian!

Pours a brown tinged mahogany with 2+ fingers of fluffy mocha colored head. Superior head retention & lacing

S: Hints of cherry & oak, plus cocoa powder

T: Dark fruit & chocolate & a touch of licorice up front, plus charred grains on the edge of the throat. Rich dark chocolate & dryness dominate as this warms, along with grainy bitterness on the roof of the mouth. Finishes dry with cocoa powder, a touch of vanilla, cherry, raisins & just a hint of Bourbon

MF: Slick, oily, sticky with low, near nil carbonation

Drinks a might bit, slow, the dryness & complexity slow me down some. Still, a very good RIS indeed. Well done Surly! (669 characters)

Photo of Rifugium
3.83/5  rDev -13%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

2012 vintage.
*sigh* Another overhyped beer.

Looked like a stout should: dark brown-black pour, with a small tan head that sank to a ringlet and left some splashes of lace on the glass. Aroma was typical as far as stouts go, dark roasty malts, some cocoa bitterness, with notes of herbal hops and anise. Same story on the palate, dark malts, dark chocolate, herbal hops, light woody notes, and a touch of dark fruits and licorice; slightly lingering resiny bitterness in the aftertaste. Good, but not very full in flavor like a good stout should be. I'm not really understanding the hype over this beer...you get about the same effect as you would from a Storm King, and I can get that off the shelf any day of the week. Not full-bodied, but on the heavier side of medium. A decent stout, but pretty standard overall. (818 characters)

Photo of kojevergas
3.77/5  rDev -14.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Served on-draught into a stemgoblet in a cafe in a suburb of Minneapolis. I was extremely excited to try this per its reputation. Reviewed from notes.

**This review largely reflects the 2011 Darkness, but I did try the 2012 Darkness as well and found it more hop-forward

A: Pours a two finger beautiful tan colour head of excellent cream, thickness, and retention (considering the ABV). Colour is a solid black.

Sm: Brilliant mix of cream, coffee, chocolate, and nuts. A light strength aroma.

T: Heavy (yet subtle) chocolate, coffee, and wonderful cream lacing. Rich and complex. The alcohol does come through unfortunately, which jabs into the otherwise well-executed balance. It's surprisingly hop-forward for the style. Dark malt and caramel heavy. It's quite well built, though I don't think its ABV is warranted. It'd be better at a lower ABV so the flavours could come out. I do quite enjoy it otherwise.

Mf: Smooth, creamy, and wet, but too thick. More dryness and coarseness would be ideal; it feels more like a porter than a stout as is.

Dr: Hard to drink due to the ABV (and more importantly, how obvious it makes itself), but the mouthfeel makes it slide down easily. I like its subtlety. It's pricey and hard to find, but I do like it. I don't know that it's worth seeking out like some other Russian imperial stouts.

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Photo of MasterSki
4.23/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

For my 1000th review, I had to choose whether to go with something extremely rare or something nostalgic. Since my last few milestone reviews were Belle Vue Sélection Lambic, Kaggen! Stormaktsporter Rauch, and Cantillon Loerik, I figured it was time for a change of pace, so I picked the first beer for which I traveled to a release party.

This review is an aggregate of all four bottled vintages. Thanks to hoppymeal, northernbrews, and hophobo for supplying vintages '07, '08, and '09 respectively.

(And no, I've never had '06, nor would it be appropriate for this review as it was growler/tap only.)

A - All vintages of Darkness are essentially reference quality Imperial Stout when it comes to appearance. Pours yield a few fingers of dark tan/mocha foam over top of a pitch black body that reveals a sheen of brown at the top of the glass when held up to the light. The head slowly dissipates leaving behind a thin cap and splotchy fingers of lacework. Earlier vintages have slightly worse retention, but all look quite excellent and sufficiently evil.

S - On the other hand, the aroma varies markedly by vintage. The most hop-forward at this stage is '09, with some floral, earthy, leafy, and slightly citrus hop character still present after a year. You can tell '07 was similar when it was bottled as it also features some faded herbal hop notes. The '10 is far more understated in this area, with a floral character that is roughly as potent as the three-year old '07 vintage. Whatever hops were present in '08 are long gone (and they were there, as I remember them when I had it fresh on-tap). Malt character always features sweet dark fruits, figs & prunes, and baker's chocolate, but roast character ranges from fairly intense in '07 to almost non-existent in '08.

T - The taste mirrors the aroma fairly accurately, but there are a few unusual disconnects. '07 features present but well-attenuated hop and char bitterness, as well as dark chocolate and dark roast coffee. '08 tastes largely of cherry cordials, milk chocolate, and dates. '09, even with its still-present hop aroma, is surprisingly high in caramel, molasses, and dark fruits. There is some fairly potent roast character but this is sweeter than I remembered. '10 is most similar to (aged) '07 with roast espresso notes, earthy and herbal bitterness in the finish, and understated sweetness.

M - All vintages are quite similar in this regard. A smooth, creamy, medium-full body that is big enough for the circa 10% alcohol, soft medium-low carbonation, and some light warming alcohol after a few ounces.

D - This is a definitely a sipper, particularly with the sweeter vintages. The 750ml bottles are probably best shared 3-4 ways, and the sugar levels can reach critical after having much more. I find this more drinkable than Dark Lord, but significantly less so than something like Ol' Jack Frost.

It's quite interesting to chart the (d)evolution of the beer and the cautionary tale it can teach about transitioning from small-batch brewing to large-scale production. I'm actually fairly confident the malt bill hasn't changed significantly over the years - what DOES seem to change is the timing and size of hop additions. I wish I'd taken notes on fresh pours of each vintage on-tap, but I do remember that while '08 and '09 both smelled brutally hoppy when first tapped, the hop character vanished from '08 in only a few months. On the plus side, the cloying nature that the '08 displayed after a few months is largely gone, and while certainly sweeter it's actually quite pleasant.

The score is representative solely of the bottles as they tasted circa October 2010. (3,660 characters)

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Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
97 out of 100 based on 795 ratings.