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Darkness - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.
DarknessDarkness

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
100
world-class

2,542 Ratings
THE BROS
100
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 2,542
Reviews: 761
rAvg: 4.5
pDev: 9.33%
Wants: 2,880
Gots: 1,002 | FT: 66
Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company visit their website
Minnesota, United States

Style | ABV
Russian Imperial Stout |  10.30% ABV

Availability: Fall

Notes/Commercial Description:
Labels:

2007-Grim Reaper
2008-Devil
2009-Mummy
2010-Vampire
2011-Zombie
2012 - Werewolf
2013 - Brewcifer

(Beer added by: ryantupy on 10-08-2006)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Latest | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Darkness Alström Bros
Ratings: 2,542 | Reviews: 761 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of BEERchitect
BEERchitect

Kentucky

4.6/5  rDev +2.2%
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.

Serving type: bottle

07-27-2010 03:52:37 | More by BEERchitect
Photo of acurtis
acurtis

New Jersey

4/5  rDev -11.1%

12-14-2011 23:54:52 | More by acurtis
Photo of womencantsail
womencantsail

California

4.08/5  rDev -9.3%
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.

Serving type: bottle

01-05-2010 02:49:16 | More by womencantsail
Photo of ygtbsm94
ygtbsm94

Virginia

4/5  rDev -11.1%

01-13-2012 03:25:31 | More by ygtbsm94
Photo of kjkinsey
kjkinsey

Texas

4.5/5  rDev 0%

12-19-2011 14:16:32 | More by kjkinsey
Photo of ChainGangGuy
ChainGangGuy

Georgia

4.38/5  rDev -2.7%
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.

Serving type: bottle

11-29-2008 00:42:58 | More by ChainGangGuy
Photo of Texasfan549
Texasfan549

Texas

4.5/5  rDev 0%

12-19-2011 18:09:59 | More by Texasfan549
Photo of jaydoc
jaydoc

Kansas

4.75/5  rDev +5.6%

01-25-2014 23:14:02 | More by jaydoc
Photo of spycow
spycow

Illinois

5/5  rDev +11.1%

11-15-2011 05:26:24 | More by spycow
Photo of GRG1313
GRG1313

California

5/5  rDev +11.1%

11-23-2011 21:11:47 | More by GRG1313
Photo of Knapp85
Knapp85

Pennsylvania

4.63/5  rDev +2.9%
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.

Serving type: bottle

04-10-2013 23:53:44 | More by Knapp85
Photo of TMoney2591
TMoney2591

Illinois

4.25/5  rDev -5.6%
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.

Serving type: on-tap

11-17-2010 20:47:53 | More by TMoney2591
Photo of zeff80
zeff80

Missouri

4.68/5  rDev +4%
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!

Serving type: bottle

11-14-2010 00:26:42 | More by zeff80
Photo of emerge077
emerge077

Illinois

4.53/5  rDev +0.7%
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...

Serving type: on-tap

11-13-2007 05:22:14 | More by emerge077
Photo of westcoastbeerlvr
westcoastbeerlvr

California

3.25/5  rDev -27.8%

11-14-2011 22:21:58 | More by westcoastbeerlvr
Photo of largadeer
largadeer

California

2.23/5  rDev -50.4%
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.

Serving type: bottle

10-01-2008 00:45:56 | More by largadeer
Photo of JAHMUR
JAHMUR

Connecticut

4/5  rDev -11.1%

11-14-2011 15:42:49 | More by JAHMUR
Photo of RblWthACoz
RblWthACoz

Pennsylvania

4.5/5  rDev 0%

01-17-2013 06:06:27 | More by RblWthACoz
Photo of TheManiacalOne
TheManiacalOne

Rhode Island

4.38/5  rDev -2.7%
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.

Serving type: bottle

12-06-2012 05:02:05 | More by TheManiacalOne
Photo of Jason
Jason

Massachusetts

4.75/5  rDev +5.6%

01-08-2013 17:52:25 | More by Jason
Photo of feloniousmonk
feloniousmonk

Minnesota

4.8/5  rDev +6.7%
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.

Serving type: on-tap

10-30-2006 05:50:23 | More by feloniousmonk
Photo of MasterSki
MasterSki

Illinois

4.2/5  rDev -6.7%
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.

Serving type: bottle

11-09-2010 16:20:37 | More by MasterSki
Photo of russpowell
russpowell

Oklahoma

4.38/5  rDev -2.7%
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!

Serving type: bottle

01-14-2009 05:10:37 | More by russpowell
Photo of Kegatron
Kegatron

Pennsylvania

4.58/5  rDev +1.8%
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.

Serving type: bottle

01-15-2009 13:13:06 | More by Kegatron
Photo of drabmuh
drabmuh

Maryland

4.18/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2008 bottle. Beer is black with a thick brown head of small bubbles that leaves a lot of lacing on the glass.

The aroma is sweet and some roastiness. Smells good.

The beer is sweet and has a definite chocolate bitter / semisweet flavor to it. There is a nice maltiness to the beer that is really nice. Beer overall has a medium body and as it warms there is more caramel in the palate. Drinkability high and mouthfeel is high. I'd be interested in the other vintages.

Serving type: bottle

03-21-2010 18:27:50 | More by drabmuh
Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
100 out of 100 based on 2,542 ratings.