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Darkness - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.

Educational use only; do not reuse.

797 Reviews

(Read More)
Reviews: 797
Hads: 3,275
Avg: 4.42
pDev: 19.23%
Wants: 3,253
Gots: 1,186 | FT: 84
Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company visit their website
Minnesota, United States

Style | ABV
Russian Imperial Stout |  10.30% ABV

Availability: Fall

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

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

2007-Grim Reaper
2012 - Werewolf
2013 - Brewcifer
View: Beers (53) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 797 | Hads: 3,275
Photo of AylwinForbes
4.72/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Unlike the similarly cultish Dark Lord, the Darkness is at least obtainable. Surprisingly, we have been supping it locally for a few weeks now; I was worried it would have disappeared the first tapping night.

Anyway, to the beverage. Exceptionally dark, black as night, tho tempered by a tinge of burnt umber. The head is relatively thin with slight foaminess and is dark brown.

The aroma is arresting; a warm, complex but balanced combination of hop, espresso roast, dark chocolate, malt.

The smoothness is shocking: no hard edges or strong statements, but a gorgeous, luxurious, rich but subtle concoction. Not overly sweet like perhaps the Goose Island Bourbon Stout inclines to. The espresso bite reigns it in there. You don't want to pour this over ice cream; you want to savour and sip it.

This has a complex flavour profile that would put many much more expensive wines to shame, yet we are drinking for a fraction of the cost.

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Photo of JFresh21
4.68/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Had this on tap side by side with Abraxas.

Deep black, the head was less chocolate in color than Abraxas.

The thickness of this beer is incredible. It is so drinkable and smooth. It doesn't have the overly sweet flavor of a Dark Lord.

World class beer. One draft is not enough! Cheers!

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

Glass Used: Snifter
Release: 2013-Brewcifer

Appearance: Black as a starless night with a finger thick chocolate milk foam. The head seemed to melt down leaving a film of foam surrounded by a solid ring around the glass.

Smell: Heavy on the raisin and (for me) fresh dates followed by milk chocolate and strong coffee. The alcohol makes it's presence known as well.

Taste: Roasted malts are up front with the dark fruits following close while the chocolate and coffee bring up the rear. A very flavorful RIS which I would definitely put in my top 3. While I could smell the alcohol in the aroma, its hidden well on the palate.

Mouthfeel: Creamy and smooth with a sticky finish. Roasted bitterness is there in the right quantity.

Overall: A delicious surprise in my last trade with Pintofbrown. Pretty damn amazing RIS which I feel the hype is deserved. Cheers!

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Photo of icefisherman
4.68/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

First off this is some dark stuff so the name fits. Black thick liquid with a small tanish head. Smells most delicios kinda chocolaty almost like the black death coffee we get at work. Taste has so much going on it is hard to nail it down every sip is something new from caramel to dark fruits to slight piney hops. Mouthfeel was nice smooth with a little bite I liked it, it was rough around the edges. As for drinkability man oh man all night if I could and didn't have to work in the morning. Well hidden 10 percent deffinatly a beer worth tracking down on tap.

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Photo of soccerman7
4.7/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into snifter glasses. Shared with Gregc and Calise1122.

A - Gorgeous black with a healthy tan head. Bottle is fantastic with the double dip wax and devil holding the skull upside down (don't know which year)

S - Chocolate, coffee, and leather. Faint touch of smoke.

T - Truly fantastic. This was the BEST Russian Imp Stout I have head. Coffee, Chocolate, Tobacco, and Roasted notes. This just got more complex as it lingers warmer and warmer. Hops present yet compliments the flavors.

M - Not as thick as the Dark Lord, but much more of a flavor blast. Really a gem. Lingers worth the different notes.

O - Simply amazing. The most balanced and complete beer I have had. Thanks to Gregc for opening this. It was fantastic.

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Photo of Pecorasc
4.21/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Vintage 2008, split two ways with Boothbeer into wine glasses. 750mL red waxed bottle with a great looking demonic character holding a skull. Not the typical Surly artwork, but impressive.

A- Pitch black at center with ruby to brown highlights when held to light. Latte colored head with large bubbles that reverse gravitate into a thick and creamy collar. Intricate lacing is formed as the heavy foam dissipates. No signs of carbonation are visible through this murky sludge.

S- Restrained licorice, dark fruits, a medley of boxed chocolates, and heat from the alcohol. Underneath these different aromas is a persistent sugary sweetness. While complex, this is lacking in intensity; I expected more.

T- Up front- intense sweetness accompanied by various dark fruits: prunes, dates, plums, and figs. There is a gradual progression that leads to a combination of roasted barley and dark fruits. At the end there is a only the roasted aftertaste balanced by a sugary sweetness- a combination reminiscent of molasses. Leaves a good amount of sugary residue on the mouth and lips. Moderate alcohol burn. Intense... more than made up for my disappointment with the aroma.

M- Very viscous and milky with little carbonation. The consistency reminds me of a warm glass of Ovaltine. If there was one aspect of this beer that I would equate with the name "Darkness", it would be the mouthfeel.

D- This is a sipper, but not because of the alcohol. The sweetness and viscosity make this one to be consumed in limited quantities.

Notes: Drank this side-by-side with the '09, but did not review that vintage. The intensity of the dark fruits and sugary sweetness in the '08 separated that year from the '09. Additionally, the '09 had a hop bitterness than was not present in the '08.

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Photo of NYCWheatFanSC
4.12/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Reviewed from notes taken at Greg's epic Wall St. tasting - thats how we do baby!

A - Pitch black, with a medium tan that recedes rather quickly - especially for the style.

S - SUPER hoppy, to the point of being one dimensional. If I'm going to drink a RIS I want to know thats what I'm drinking. If my RIS is going to be hoppy, I desire a balance.

T - Very hoppy despite the age. Indeed, overly hop forward. A bit smoky underneath with lots of roasted malts and some cherries. An interesting approach no doubt, but not what I personally desire. If I'm going to have 600 calories in my glass, I want to taste every one of them! Nonetheless, very glad I tried it and one I will seek out again.

M - Somewhere between medium and full bodied.

D - Again, an interesting and innovative approach to the style. As of now the jury is still out, so I must seek this out again.

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

A: Rich dark viscous motor oil. one finger size head thats a tannish brown.

S: huge chocolate raisins has some bright bitterness coming though. lots of roastiness with deep dark fruit tones. has some citrus faint lemon oragne

T: Really like the citrus of the hops contrasting with the large roasted malt. chocolate orange light raspberry truffle type flavor. after each sip i take i want another and another. once it starts to warm a little coffee comes out with some darker more bitter chocolate. i keep thinking of a chocolate covered strawberry with a dab of bitterness. really really tasty.

M: Get a nice slick mouth feel that completely covers. really nice carbonation that blows up if you leave it in your mouth to long. It makes you drink it. after swallowing a couple times the bitterness comes through and dries my mouth out making me want to have another sip even more.

D: 10.3% isnt exactly the biggest beer but this beer just disappears after every sip. super super smooth and lucious. bitterness compliments the big malts really well. i could down this whole bottle in 30 minutes

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

pours extremely dark brown black with a finger of brown head.

smell is slightly sweet with other deep flavors, smoke, fruit with slight hops.

taste taste is also slightly sweet with coffee, chocolate, toasted goodness and very slight hops.

mouth is quite thick and not very alcoholic with medium carbonation.

overall an awesome russian imperial stout. I am always up for darkness.

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Photo of Joey2timer
4.4/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2013 bottle. Great beer, lots of chocolate and a little bit of coffee notes. Some wet cardboard and cinnamon notes as well, so I would not suggest sitting on these for too long

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

Served on tap at Hopleaf in a snifter.

A - This baby is thick,dark and black, who would have thunk it? Slight brown head that quickly disapates. Pretty much what you would think this beer to look like.

S - Holy Shit!!! This is the best smelling RIS I have ever run across. A slight fruit hop scent with a very distinct dark fruit scent. Plum with raisins and a big dark cherry scent. There is also a bit of dark chocolate in there. Wow!

T - Sweet malty goodness, but not too sweet. Flavors of dark chocolate and vanilla. Nice dark cherry and plum flavors here too. Some coffee in there too. Not too bitter or drying. Slight alchohol warmth but amazingly well hidden. Perfectly balanced.

M - Thick and creamy. Heavy but not sticky. Just perfect.

D - Even with the big flavors and high alcohol it is amazingly drinkable.

Overall, this is the best beer I have every had. Better than Westy, Dark Lord, KBS, you name it. I can think of no way to improve it. Man I wish this was easier to obtain. Hopefully the taps at Hopleaf last a while.

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Photo of challenja
4.94/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Served On Tap at a Surly Tap Takeover at Church Key DC.

A: Dark charcoal with mocha head lacing.
S: This is one aromatic beer that has bourbon booze character with madagascar chocolate malts, red berries, strawberry jam, semi sweet cocoa nibs and light Colombian perk coffee.
T: Starts of smooth, bourbon burnt sugar followed up by a luscious strawberry puree (that means stop reading and go and buy it!) soft 60 percent dark cocoa, nice sappy malts. This beer had multilayered range that begs for more. (In fact I bought 2 more)
M: Very Creamy and silky smooth. Medium carbonation gets cut by the milky nature of this behemoth. The bourbon carries nicely and the oaked nature is outstanding. Not overbearing like other brews.
O: A delicious, delicious stout! I drank 3 for the review, ok 2 then before I left I got another one to ponder on talking beer shop with Thomas. I can't wait to get my hands on this in bottle. Sadly I have to order online, no one stocks it in DC!! DAMN IT!!!.

This stout comes in number 3 all time. SOrry Old Ras..you got knocked down again!

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Photo of camp0474
4.62/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2009 Darkness poured into a tulip whiskey snifter

A: Dark tan head, frothy at first. Deep reddish purple color, very close to black.

S: Dried dark fruit and molasses. Maybe prune or black cherry. Smells sweet. Many complex smells that are hard to pin down.

T: Dark fruit with a bit of malt. Very sweet. Dark cherry or plum. No trace if hops until they punch through in the finish. The hop oils linger on the tongue after you swallow. Wouldn't be Surly without the hops, makes this beer even better. Hints of alcohol, not a surprise at this ABV. Multiple layers of complex flavors from start to finish.

M: Thick and chewy. Very fine carbonation bubbles.

D: Good drinkability for a beer this strong. Not an everyday beer but a very enjoyable experience, especially in cold weather.

Definitely worth the time and trouble to seek out this limited beer. Glad I picked up mutiple bottles when I did.
Another great unique beer from Surly.

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Photo of pheggeseth
4.9/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle #069. Obtained by my own two hands at the release event in December. Poured into my goblet of the same name.

A: pours viscous, heavy, with a coffee colored head that appears out of nowhere, frothy and attractive, lacing everywhere

S: buttery/nutty creaminess, next alcohol (as it warms) but starts out as banana and strawberry, malt in the middle and back with hops

T: creaminess upfront, hop bitterness in the back, intense roasted malt in the middle, intense dark chocolate, the creaminess rides subtly above everything

M: THICK, lively but subtle carbonation, smooth, terrific

D: intense, but oh so drinkable, definitely worth it

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Photo of JWD
4.9/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Huge thanks go to phidelt for this one, very excited to try this one as it was #1 on my list of have to trys, so here we go,

A- as you would expect pitch black with a medium tan head, not the dark brown dark lord or abyss head though.

S- very similiar to dark lord with less sweetness, lot of smells here, sweet raisins, chocolate, roasted coffee, and some hop aroma as well. seems like its right where it needs to be a good balance.

T- I loved this, just like the smell it has the balance is exceptional. Starts out a little sweet then hits you with chocolate and coffee and finishes with a little hop bitterness. My favorite RIS so far!!!

M- Thinner than expected, but i have had dark lord very recently so this is expected.

D- I could drink this everyday as the huge variety of smells and flavors are all a little subdued but work flawlessly together.

Great beer and i am thrilled to have had the opportunity to try, now we just need a barrel aged version!!

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Photo of jwolfie70
4.69/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A fantastic beer, which may be worth the hype (I only say may, because the hype is so crazy right now).

Pours a dark black (yes there is such a thing as dark black), with a miniscule brown head. Smell is of vanilla, chocolate, hints of coffee (but not overpowering), malt sweetness and milk.

Taste is a concentrated version of the smell. The mouthfeel is thick and the beer definitely coates the glass well.


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Photo of warbird07
5/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

thanks to chase2334 for hooking me up with this bottle...2010 vintage poured into my snifter and shared with drpdaddy....Wow...A beautiful black beer capped with an thin tan head..very inviting..my nose did not want to leave the glass, much like a warm shower on a cold morning..chocolate,chocolate,chocolate..smells like desert, with a nice hint of roasted malt, a wee bit of smoke..taste was fantastic..very smooth, no alchohol burn whatsoever,chocolate, with a substantle but creamy mouthfeel...surprisingly drinkable..I had to restrain myself...absolutely the smoothest,well-balanced and delicious impy stouts I have had so far...

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Photo of schmoopsbeer
4.38/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Big thanks to Millah for my Surly needs
2011 vintage
shared and pured into snifter

Color: Deep, dark, and black. a beautiful tan head of 1 1/2 finger head forms at the end of your pour. Light lacing and some good head retention are left behind in the glass.

Nose: Big time roasted malts... like so big in your face roasted malts. A delightful hop aroma arises from this beer along with hints of espresso and mild chocolate.

Palate: Boom! Out of the gate you get bitter coffee along with the perfect compliment to it sweet mild chocolate. As the beer makes it down your tongue you get many different aspects of this beer: roasted malts, hops and a tad of warmth from the abv. The drinkablity of this beer is just sublime, the carbonation is just right and this full bodied beer just goes down easy.

Finish: Near perfect Russian Imperial Stout. Quite layered with a long finish. you can taste this beer well after you have taken down your sip. A nice bitterness come through here along with a gentle sweetness to chase it away. Just good.

Rating: 96/100

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Photo of hrking
4.8/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Wow popped a bottle last night for GBS#169 and wow all I can say is try this beer. The flavors just keep coming. Creamy smooth desert stout with fudge chocolate goodness.Dark Lord bow down to the Darkness. This is hands down one of the best stouts I have ever tasted! Alcohol well hidden and dangerously drinkable. This is a must try for any beer connoisseur! 98 vintage..

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

Was worried about cracking this so soon but I am glad I did. Pours a black color with a caramel colored head. Has an aroma of roast, candy sugar, and cherry. Has a roasty caramel taste with some cherry notes throughout and a nice velvety chocolate finish. Gentle bitter hit. Creamy mouthfeel. For this hoplover, this beer is pefect to drink now as the gentle bitters add a bit to the complexity. As it ages the hops will fade and with the beer already being mellow, not sure how much aging will add.

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Photo of goethean
4.55/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

I've had this twice on tap now, and I still find it a bit curious, especially when compared to FFF Dark Lord. Dark Lord has a huge, huge viscous mouthfeel, somewhat like Bell's Expedition Stout. Darkness is not as thick or heavy, but it has a very looong, rich mouthfeel. You just can't gulp it. Each sip just keeps on going and going. As a homebrewer, I think that Dark Lord's weight is due to the heavy use of oats, crystal malt, and a high mash temperature. But as to what makes Darkness have such a long mouthfeel, I'm genuinely flummoxed.

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Photo of Larrytown
4.53/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Had to seek this one out on tap, but it was worth it. Between the style and the name of the beer, you obviously knew it would be dark, but man, this thing is black as black gets with a pleasant brown cap. The aroma is unique. Sweet and dark with more than a tad of fruitiness.

The taste follows suit. It's sweeter than I expected, but it works. Mouthfeel is great: smooth and goes down easy.

Delicious beer and it's not hard for one to become two. The sweetness holds me back a bit, but still a damn good beer.

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

Served in a Surly Darkness goblet!

A-Poured the blackest beer I have ever seen,no light could shine thru this.1" of caramel colored head reduces to thick ring around edge of goblet.

S-First smell is soft hops,then a earthy plum and raisin smell with a chocolate and fruit background.

T-Similar to the smell,plum\raisin and a soft fruit\chocolate taste with no bitterness or hint of hops.

M-Velvety smooth over the palate with a nice touch of carbonation.

D-I've heard so much about this beer that I started to believe that it was to good to be true.I was wrong.This is a great beer that given the opportunity to try this you can not pass this up.This is a very drinkable beer but becareful at 9.5% it can sneak up on you.

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Photo of brewdub17
4.55/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

From Notes: 12-26-10

Appearance: Jet black body lies beneath a tan lacing that covers the class. Very thin tan head.

Smell: Caramel, roasty malts with sweetness and not a great amount of alcohol present.

Taste: Alcohol coating comes first and is followed by roasty flavors with a caramel creamy finish.

Mouthfeel: Alcohol has a pleasant amount of coating that cuts well into the robust flavors from the caramel to roasted flavors.

Drinkability: Small amounts of alcohol and the mixture of sweetness to a roast like malt create a solid, genuine sense of acceptable drinkability.

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Photo of MeLikeBeer
4.73/5  rDev +7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Darkness on tap at the Blue Nile...

Darkness is a fitting name for this incredible RIS. Deep black in color, as if it were a black hole, light goes in but does escape.
The cocoa brown foam settles quietly and thickly at the top of the glass. The head does not recede through the duration of my tasting...instead it sticks along the top of the beer and sides of the glass....amazing.

Smells sticky-sweet...stinging aromas of cocoa and coffee. Cherry and molasses round out the mix. Throw in some hops and you're in scent heaven...I could also smell this stuff all day.

The first sip is still the best...tremendous malt flavor. Giant hop blast. Roasted chocolate. Very thick mouthfeel, but not overpowering. The fruity cherry flavor and sweet rum/molasses is complimented by the warming alcohol.

I could probably drink a few of these- but I'd need to be careful- that 9.5% could sneak up quickly.

Delicious! An Imperial Stout at it's finest and yet another fantastic offering from Surly.

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