1. The BeerAdvocate Store is back! Pre-order your stuff now. Items begin shipping Dec 15. Christmas deadline = Dec 18 @ 5pm EST.
  2. The wait is over! Download the BeerAdvocate app on iTunes or Google Play now.
  3. Get 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine for only $9.99!

Darkness - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.
DarknessDarkness

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

2,886 Ratings
THE BROS
100
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 2,886
Reviews: 777
rAvg: 4.5
pDev: 9.33%
Wants: 3,014
Gots: 1,103 | FT: 80
Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company visit their website
Minnesota, United States

Style | ABV
Russian Imperial Stout |  10.30% ABV

Availability: Fall

Notes/Commercial Description:
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

(Beer added by: ryantupy on 10-08-2006)
View: Beers (40) | Events
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | Likes | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Darkness Alström Bros
Ratings: 2,886 | Reviews: 777 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of largadeer
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.

Photo of emerge077
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...

Photo of TMoney2591
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.

Photo of StonedTrippin
4.14/5  rDev -8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

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.

Photo of JAHMUR
4/5  rDev -11.1%

Photo of zeff80
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!

Photo of Jason
4.75/5  rDev +5.6%

Photo of TheManiacalOne
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.

Photo of Kegatron
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.

Photo of RblWthACoz
4.5/5  rDev 0%

Photo of Slatetank
4.47/5  rDev -0.7%
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

Photo of jlindros
4.15/5  rDev -7.8%
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.

Photo of russpowell
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!

Photo of XmnwildX12
4.5/5  rDev 0%

Photo of oline73
4.53/5  rDev +0.7%
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.

Photo of MasterSki
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.

Photo of mendvicdog
3.75/5  rDev -16.7%

Photo of drabmuh
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.

Photo of feloniousmonk
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.

Photo of beernads
4.5/5  rDev 0%

Photo of Rifugium
3.81/5  rDev -15.3%
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. 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. Not full-bodied, but on the heavier side of medium. A decent stout, but pretty standard overall.

Photo of MarkyMOD
4.5/5  rDev 0%

Photo of mdfb79
4.63/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

From 09/25/10 notes. Got to try an 08 and an 09 side by side; big thanks to Lunch and Huhzubendah!

a - Both pour a dark brown with one inch of brown head and light carbonation. 09 seemed a little bit more carbonated.

s - 2008 vintage smells of hops, chocolate, vanilla, roasted malts, coffee, and dark fruit. I thought the 09 vintage had more vanilla to it, and a tiny bit of alcohol. Both smelled great.

t - Tastes of roasted malts, dark fruits, chocolate, vanilla, and coffee. Very enjoyable. I thought the 2008 vintage was slightly better and did not have as much coffee.

m - Medium to full body, more towards full, and low carbonation. Very creamy and smooth; mouthfeel is great.

d - I've been looking forward to this beer for quite a while and it did not disappoint. It had a complex, balanced smell I enjoyed a lot and a great mouthfeel. It was also hoppier than I expected. I think I enjoyed the 08 a little bit more than the 09, but both were great. Can't wait to have this one again.

Photo of drewone
4.25/5  rDev -5.6%

Photo of Rochefort10nh
5/5  rDev +11.1%

Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
100 out of 100 based on 2,886 ratings.