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Darkness - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.

Educational use only; do not reuse.

811 Reviews

(Read More)
Reviews: 811
Hads: 3,344
Avg: 4.41
pDev: 19.27%
Wants: 3,286
Gots: 1,217 | FT: 92
Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company visit their website
Minnesota, United States

Style | ABV
Russian Imperial Stout |  10.30% ABV

Availability: Fall

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: ryantupy on 10-08-2006

Starting in 2014, bottled Darkness will be aged in whiskey barrels. This listing is ONLY for Darkness that is NOT barrel-aged. For 2014 Darkness go here:  http://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/p ... 14/141724/ 

2007-Grim Reaper
2012 - Werewolf
2013 - Brewcifer
View: Beers (55) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Darkness Alström Bros
Reviews: 811 | Hads: 3,344
Photo of CheezyBlaster
4.78/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2011 batch.

This looks and smells . . . amazing! I don't even want to drink it. Perfectly toasted-to-lightly-burnt malts; let me be clear, this is the finest iteration of this characteristic I have ever encountered. Obvious bit of coffee/cocoa to go along and a small encounter of mingling dark berries/cherries.

But holy crap, this is unbelievable! Best mouthfeel ever. Perfect blend of velvet and viscous. Unbelievably creamy. I don't think the style could get better than this. Tastes like . . . wow. Just perfected; sweet, dark, whipped butter, licorice, malt . . . ohhh the malt. The malt.

I've got nothing left to say. I was lucky to get this from a friend in Minnesota. Haven't had better, can't really imagine better either. The only drawback might be the drinkability. I don't think I could have more than a bomber, maybe less . . . but that's not what I want from this style anyhow. I'll say it again: amazing!

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

2010 vintage poured into Dogfish Head signature glass.

Shared this one with Titosupertramp. A little back story...This one was given to me by a BA who I have never met. I started a thread on here about looking for beer spots to go on vacation. I got a BM from a BA that I had never (and still haven't) met, and never talked to. He left this at a local bottle shop for me out of sheer generosity and beer advocacy. Hoard not and share the wealth, basically. Anyways, a huge thanks to him for the chance to try this, and what a way to spend an afternoon. Not quite 'Darkness at the break of noon' as Robert Zimmerman sung, but only a couple of hours later.

A- Black. Black as Satan's soul. Darkness isn't just a clever name. Not even a tinge of red or brown on the edges. Just plain black.

S- Lots of dark chocolate. A bit of bourbon and oak. Not enough to confuse it with a barrel aged beer, but a nice touch. Some dark fruit.

T- Lots of dark chocolate. Roasted malts. Again a bit of an oak presence, but only slightly. Some dark fruit. Very clean. The alcohol only starts to really come into play as the beer warms near room temperature. Fantastic flavors, without too much of any one piece, or anything that doesn't belong.

M- Huge, coating the mouth. Sticky, lingering. It took a glass of water to clear the palate of this to move onto the next beer. For a stout of this size, that is a compliment.

O- I have been disappointed in the past by beers with this amount of hype (Dark Lord, I'm looking at you), but this was exceptional in every way. What a treat to be able to try, and one of the best stouts that I've ever come across. Just outstanding at every level.

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Photo of ThePeskyDingo
4.57/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Smells of malts, raisins, coffee and chocolate.

Looks black with a deep tan head. Some lacing present. Beer is opaque, looks an amber brown color barely around the edges.

Tastes of chocolate, coffee and toffee, with earthy hops and dark fruits in the background.

Creamy smooth mouthfeel. Low carbonation, and full bodied.

Drinks pretty easy, didnt have a problem finishing this at 11AM. Could have had more of it too!!

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Photo of sordyl
3.56/5  rDev -19.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This was the 2013 Chicago distribution when Surly came into the market. Opened for a bottle share, smelled and looked great but the tastes really was not exceptional at all.

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Photo of drgonzo3705
4.3/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

A: Beautiful black with a small tan colored head that hangs out around the edge of the glass.

S: Very pleasant chocolate and oat filled nose. Not overwhelming or underwhelming at all.

T: Cocoa, chocolate, and a touch of oat make this a very enjoyable tasting brew.

M: Full bodied with ample carbonation with a nice stout slickness left behind.

D: Pretty damn good. Big tasty RIS here. Looking forward to the new batch.

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Photo of Hesscabob
4.73/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Vaguely remember drinking this at Dark Lord Day 2014. While waiting in line to purchase my allottment of DL, a kind DLD go'er shared some Darkness. From what I remember, strong roasted, chocolate malts power through the nose and the taste had more body than most RIS' I've had prior. Delicious and I will try to seek out again for better review.

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

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

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

2010 bottle. Big thanks to Cardinal79 for bringing this to the bottle share.

A - pours a pitch black, much like the namesake with a 1 finger pillowy head.

S - roasty and dry nose with espresso and bitter chocolate. Some hops as well.

T - very roasty, surprisingly much drier than I expected. Nice floral hops as well - fairly unexpected.

M - For such a sought after beer, its a little thin. It lacks a bit of complexity, but I did enjoy the dryness.

D - It's a big beer, but fairly drinkable. This isn't necessarily a dessert beer as it isn't cloyingly sweet, could actually pair with a sweet bbq.

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Photo of Fatduck
4.83/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Drinking my first of the darkness at Common Roots Cafe. I cant
bring myself to open any of my bottles yet. They even have darkness goblets to present the beer.

Pours pitch black with a small head, it would be more but the sever poured very gently. Leaves a good tan lacing all the way down the glass. It smells sweet, and of roasted and burnt malts, maybe even a little maple syrup. Taste is out the window, this thing taste too good to describe. It taste like it looks and smells, great. Chewy and smooth, it warms you as soon as it crosses your lips. This beer is a must for anyone who lives or is in the twin cities area, amazing, purely amazing.

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Photo of 7ways
4.56/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2010 vintage.

This is a seriously black beer. Like buried underground black. Probably the best head retention I've ever seen on a stout, and pretty good lace as well.

Aroma of sweet heady hops in the background and chocolate cookies dominating. The smell of this beer makes me hungry. A little char, vanilla and caramel sweetness.

Perfect interplay of hop bitterness, black/roasted malt bitterness, and cookie dough sweetness. Notes of tobacco, tart purple fruit, molasses, and milk chocolate come and go in no particular progression. This does not exactly have the typical profile of an RIS. It goes beyond, and I wish it had more contemporaries/imitators. Siberian Night and Marshal Zhukov's come to mind.

Very creamy, chewy and smooth, this is what all RISs should feel like.

I was always told this was a hoppy RIS. Maybe when it's fresh, but not the case here. Good thing, because more bitterness would have ruined it for me.

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

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

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

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Photo of biglobo8971
4.53/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I was lucky enough to be able to do a verical with the 07 - 11 being represented on Darkness Day 2011. There were several BA's that were present, and each of them had some what of a difference in opinion.
07 - this tasted like a different beer entirely from the others. Very dark and viscous, small hint of roast and bitterness in the nose, with a unanticipated smoothness betweeen all the flavors. A very accomplished balance of flavors.
08 - this was my second favorite of the night. Still a hop presence, with more of a chocolate sweetness which lent its hand to a taste of bitterness. The roast was present, just not over the top.
09 - my favorite bottle. Hop presence grew, this one had more of a spice to it, still present was the chocolate and malt sweetness, with a slight hint of roast.
10 - my favorite. I am a hop head at heart. This one had an aazing hop presence considering its age. A little sweeter than the older vintages, but not over sweet. Has obtained a great balance. Roast not as present.
11 - sampled this beer after having it multiple times over the weekend. Very tasty, I am waiting to have a bottle with just a bit of age on it. Tasted a little too sweet at such a young age, but the complexity of the beer was present. Made me extremely happpy I have several put away to enjoy later.

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Photo of LittleBreeze
4.03/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4


Thanks for sharing this one, drseamus.

I'm not sure this one "poured". It more like gulped from the bottle. Tan head.

The hops surprised me. I don't recall ever smelling a RIS that hoppy. Other tasters commented that it was a Surly smell. But it smells like a Double IPA

A nice malt bitterness sets up the caramel and chocolate. Nice bitter bite.

Dandy mouthfeel. A little dance on the tongue but not too much carbonation.

This is a very nice RIS. It didn't "win the night" when lined up against a few other beers in this category. I'll admit to expecting...more.

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Photo of crewfan16
4.3/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2011 vintage poured into a snifter. high hopes for this one considering how somewhat difficult it was to get one, even in the twin cities area.

a- deep dark ruby brown with no light shining through. little khaki head quickly rises and falls

s- lots of roasted coffee and cocoa. hints of hops are there at the end as well

t- incredibly complex and delicious. coffee and chocolate with roasted malt and a light hop finish. really, really tasty

m- thick and coating on the mouth. very little carbonation is right on for the style.

overall, a great complex imperial stout. im not certain it was worth the effort it took to get my hands on it, but it is certainly very good. glad I have a couple to age and see how good this can get.

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Photo of Flyer
4.25/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Huge thanks to Lisalucy for the Chirstmas gift, for which she waited in line for five hours. Ah, I've raised her well. A delicious and decadent imperial stout, and yet surprisingly un-complex for the style. Malty, with molasses and chocolate notes. It was utterly lacking in that soy sauce-like quality that can detract from even the best imperial stouts, which made it smooth and drinkable and yet would have to be regarded as a by-product of that lack of complexity. Not the cascade of intensity I associate with the style, but a great beer nonetheless.

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

One of my desert island bottles. Poured from a 2008 vintage into a snifter.

A: Dark black with a black one inch head. Sticky lacing and boiling bubbles. This is one amazing looking brew.

S: Toffee, raisins, chocolate, mild coffee aroma. Has really mellowed out since 2008. Has almost a musty after smell.

T: Smooth-- the sweetness has really settled. Still nice fruity, chocolate -- very smooth malt backbone. The hops are way in the back but still nice. Sad to see this bottle get empty.

M: Still a nice thick drink. This was a perfect for the style and abv. It drinks almost way too easy.

O: Every vintage is slightly varied, but the 08's are drinking like sweet god candy. Good thing I have few more of these.


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Photo of jhimstedt
4.35/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

poured at cellar temp into a glencairn, received in trade from AdamU726.

A - almost opaque, very black with brown hints. very nice fluffy head formed thin and hung around a bit leaving tiny amount of lacing and a ring.

S - plenty of roast, dark chocolate, some hints of molasses, vanilla, slight sour cherry, coffee. odd tartness that isn't funk, but a bit acidic?

T - quite complex IS. stuff keeps developing as it warms, but mostly dark chocolate up from, little overbrewed coffee and vanilla following, with that slightest hint of sour dark fruit that cuts through the dark roasty notes nicely. became more sweet as it warmed but was still in balance with the chocolate and roast.

M - very nice. medium-full bodied for style, but great residual coating in mouth and appropriate carbonation.

D - quite drinkable. not too sweet or cloying, not too roasty, alcohol well blended. definitely recommended. with the body being so full but overall a little sweet this should age very nicely.

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Photo of DwnTwnBwn
4.35/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Enjoyed a '09 from a tulip glass.

A - Pours a dark black with a hunt of khaki. Head is decent 1 finger that falls to a nice ring around the glass.

S - Nice big sweet beer smell. Lots of roasted malt and dry dark chocolate.

T - The taste is a bit offsetting due to the large amount of hoppiness of this beer. The smells come through quite nicely. Plenty of dark fruits too. Wonderful.

M - Velvet smooth. Carbonation keeps the body light enough

O - Wonderful RIS, the hoppyness starts to detract from the flavor. Need to cellar a few.

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Photo of bbb099
3.96/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2009 vintage (Mummy). Thanks a bunch to scottfrie for sharing this with me. Reviewed on 12-18-2010.

A - Jet black color with a brown colored head. Appears to be quite viscous.

S - Strong burnt, roasted malt aroma.

T - Pure roasty flavor accompanied by some molasses and woody taste. Some chocolate and alcohol on the way down.

M - Full bodied. Very thick. Moderate carbonation.

D - Leaves some alcohol burn, but does have a great taste that keeps you wanting more.

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Photo of Dawgboned37
4.99/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I love this beer! Poured 2013 (Brewcifer) vintage into a surly tulip glass. Moderate caramel head dissipated to thin layer of bubbles. The beer is very thick and viscous. The nose has complex scents of molasses, chocolate, roasted malts, licorice, and lingering vanilla. The taste follows the nose very well with pronounced dark chocolate, malt, and vanilla flavors accented by oak. Slight coffee bitterness, and even some hop flavors come through toward the end. Fantastic.

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Photo of Scoobydank
4.94/5  rDev +12%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

L:Thick milk chocolate colored head. The color itself is a dark black oil with not an ounce of light shining through.
S:I pick up a burnt bacon type smell, which i love. A nice hop nose, but not over powering. Very light coffee bean. Just a tiny hint of a fruity raspberry comes peeking in.
T:A big time smokey coffee pops out right away. Which apparently is where I got the burnt bacon from. A sweet chocolate covered raspberry with just a touch of toffee. The hops pops out and stick around throuhg out the whole sip.
M:Thick round and fat for a nice warming feeling. Very little carbonation makes it very easy.
D:Great rIS. Very smooth and complex. It seems like the taste comes in layers adding to the complexity. I could easily drink multiple(unfrotunately and fortunately franksandbeans has my other bottle)

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Photo of davod23
3.97/5  rDev -10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Finally decided to open this bottle. 2008 vintage, poured into my Bruery tulip.

Surprise, surprise! Black, with a nice 2-finger tan head that retreats to a thin cap. Pour appears to be medium-bodied for an imperial stout.

Aroma... is odd. I'm not totally on board with it. Lots of malt there, looots of malt. There's a bit of a toasted character, some berry fruitiness, but malt dominates this beer, making it almost one-dimensional. I don't really care for this smell, other imperial stouts are vastly superior (IMO) in this department.

Taste, on the other hand, is really great. It's not often that you'll get such disparity between taste and smell. I'm glad for this. Malty, with slight bitterness on the back end. I am getting blackberry and cherry notes, roasted marshmallow, and a bit of toast here. Chocolate is barely a whisper, and coffee is almost non-existent. Very interesting take on the style, I've never had an imperial stout like this before.

Mouthfeel is outstanding, simply great. It's full-bodied, but doesn't quite reach thick. Perfect, medium level of carbonation. Silky, smooth, and creamy. Easily one of the best mouthfeels I've ever experienced.

Overall, this is quite good. I do wish that I had the opportunity to try this fresh, as I am guessing the hops add a lot to this beer, particularly with respect to the nose. As it is, it's still quite a nice and unusual stout. Recommended.

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Photo of optiontwo
4.77/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

750 ml bottle acquired at this years darkness day, poured into tulip glass

Appearance: Darkness. Opaque. Beautiful two finger tan head. This is exactly how a RIS should look.

Smell: Wooo. Almost makes me fall back in my seat. Such an array of aromas I don't know where to start. Roasted malt, chocolate, slight coffee, then strong sweetness of fruits ranging everywhere from orange/lemon to strawberry jam and cherries. Amazing.

Taste: This may be the drink of the devil but it tastes like it's straight out of heaven. Dark chocolate, orange, and dark cherries are the first three things that hit me but there is soo much more going on here. Earthy tones and what I have to imagine are hop flavors hit after the initial sweet and roasted flavor. This has got to be the hoppiest imperial stout I've ever had and that's a good thing, a very good thing. The combination of malt sweetness and hop bitterness in this beer make the flavors so complex that each sip is an experience. Outstanding.

Mouthfeel: Perfect. Coats my mouth with the beer but not to the point where it's hard to swallow. The mouthfeel increases the enjoyment of this beer tenfold because it helps the flavors stay in your mouth that much longer. This is also exactly how a RIS should feel.

Drinkability: Surprising. I've had a good amount of imperial stouts and it's one of my favorite styles, but even my favorites test me when it comes to drinkability. I usually want to have more than one or two but can't bring myself to do it. With Darkness though, I could literally drink this all night until I stumble to bed. Very impressive.

Overall: The very best RIS I have ever had. Do whatever you can to get your hands on this miraculous beer. I love Surly.

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Photo of abecall98
4.4/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Opened an 09 vintage with DwnTwnBwn and my friend Kevin.

A - wow, pours a pretty black, with a small tan head. The head coats the tulip glass nicely.

S - smells sweet, with some chocolate bitterness. You also can smell a nice burst of hops. Malt smell is very present too.

T - starts off like thick molases. Some brown sugar sweetness hits you, and then some roastiness comes in for the fun. A sudden burst of hops finishes the taste.

M - very creamy, and sticky. The carbonation level could be a little higher though.

D - a very drinkable beer. It's flavorful without being overpowering, so I can keep drinking it. The abv is well hidden too.

O - this is a great beer. A hoppier imperial stout that has a lot more flavors to balance this beer out, well done. Should be seeked out for stout fans.

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Photo of boothbeer
4.38/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2008 Vintage and 2009 Vintage
Got 08 in a trade from Maltzilla. Thanks to pecorasc for opening the 09 for our 08-09 vertical. Poured into wine glass. Very cool looking 750ml bottle. Bright red wax for 08 and burgundy wax for 09.

A:Pours thick and super dark. Lots of bubbles around the edges. Light tan head. Really good head retention. The 08 reduces to a film, but that stays there till the last sip. The 09 does not have any film on top.

S: 08-Lots of dark fruit. Raisins and hint of prunes.
09-Much less dark fruit. I get some earthy tones in the 09 that have obviously faded in the 08.

T: 08-Wow. Not what I expected at all. Lots of dark fruit and sweetness. Then you get hit with a roasty finish. No coffee flavors, and just a hint of chocolate. Tons of raisins, prunes, and dates. Picking up molases and licorice as well. Might have a hint of soy though. Not what I expected, but still a great beer with very unique flavor.
09- I like this just a little better than the 08. Very different flavors. Get more alcohol and more complexity. Still get dark fruit, but I pick up more roasty, chocolaty flavors.

M: Mouthfeel is nice and smooth with just a little carbonation. Super creamy. Almost a 5.

D: very good drinkability. Alcohol lets you know its there, but doesnt hit you in the face. It is well masked.

Overall great beer, but I like the 09 a little better. The only score I would change would be to give the 08 a 4.0 for taste (A- overall). Very different flavors, but both good in their own way. Really enjoyed trying these side by side.

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