1. The wait is over! Download the BeerAdvocate app on iTunes or Google Play now.
  2. 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

2,534 Ratings
THE BROS
100
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 2,534
Reviews: 761
rAvg: 4.5
pDev: 9.33%
Wants: 2,876
Gots: 1,001 | 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: 2,534 | Reviews: 761 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of CharlesDarwin
CharlesDarwin

Rhode Island

4.9/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

On tap at Cafe 28. First off, I have to say my intents were to go in and slam this beer. I’d had enough with Imperial Stouts in the Top 50 (this may seem hypocritical considering my past endeavors to further a certain example of the style). My injurious intents would soon be quickly assuaged by a single glass of beer...A friend and I headed to Cafe 28, where I had called ahead to ensure the presence of Darkness and to get reservations. They anticipated my arrival with a table and a couple pours.

The beer came to the table in a narrow chalice and it carried a luxurious finger of the most elegantly soapy, soft creamy dark-oak head. It was almost mahogany itself, gently sliding around on the top with large laces following the beer down the glass. The black gold itself absorb all light and possibly other objects with gravity, with just the slighest blood red corners. Beautiful. I put the chalice to my nose and was blown away by a bold, unique aroma. It’s a tough one to finger, because it was so original and something I’d not experienced. There were lots of reduced plums, raisins, dark cherry syrup, Ecuadorian estate chocolates and toasted wheat kernels. It was rather piquant and electrifying, with a real warming phenolic nose, but it wasn’t boozy or chemical-like, instead a real refined almost sherry or perfume signature. Whatever it was, it was like no aroma I’d wafted. Unfortunately, the pour was a little on the cold side, so the aromatics were slightly restrained and my the time the beer reached warmer climes, my olfactories had been saturated.

On the tongue, the texture was immediately astounding. It was so thick and creamy, yet not sticky. Sweet, but not cloying. Smooth and drinkable, yet not watery. Warm and glowing, but not too hot. Hoppy, but was not dry and parching. Some amazing alchemical processes had occurred hear. Brewing magic under the hand of a wizard had formulated a brew so prefect and desirable I couldn’t believe I was drinking it. I kept muttering, "best beer ever" and "damn near perfect." The flavor cascaded with everything and Imperial Stout drinker looks for. Mounds of freshly brewed Blue Mountains dark roast, Dagoba fair-trade dark chocolate, charred oak barrel edges, Italian cherry skins, Tahitian vanilla beans, drops of fresh organic farm cream and Italian espresso and then the dark fruits really came in. Moist rainier cherries, dried succulent wild bog cranberries, fresh raspberries from the stem, a hint of musky Thimbleberries, a cacophony of Bilberry syrup and Blueberry reduction, with a hint of sour cherries and final bit of pomegranate arils. On top of this, an electric wave of bright hops.

Again, the character of the hops so unique as to be something I have a tough time likening it to. It had a real shining lime zest and gin quality. High, thin and mercurial. These bold citrus oils danced over the brewing cauldron of darker flavors, complementing and intertwining magically. Then, the longest draw of a smack I could imagine. It kept going and morphing, with roads of Marcona almonds, toasted earth, light goat cheese rind and ground oak dust. From the sauna floor rose juniper branches and hints of sea oats. The real phenomenal effect of this beer was the ethereal combination of every desirable effect. Each aspect played off of every other one in near perfect harmonic balance. The aroma was different from the flavor and the hops had great interplay and the texture was just plain perfect. It reminded me much of the great singular and touchable quality of Westy 12, with all the individualisms and character of the world’s most perfect Imperial Stout. This is the solar center paradigm shift of Imperial Stouts for me.

Serving type: on-tap

02-07-2007 17:02:16 | More by CharlesDarwin
Photo of Vdubb86
Vdubb86

Illinois

4.45/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Served in a snifter on-tap at the Barley House in Algonquin, IL

I was so happy that this beer actually found its way to Illinois. This beer is as advertised...Darkness is spreading in my glass. It is adorned by a finger of sandy brown foam with some nice lacing on the glass as it goes down. The smell is of a weaker bourbon, there is a citrus hop aroma, a bit of caramel and what seems to me to be the essence of Belgian yeast. The flavor is bourbon, brown sugar, caramel, hints of vanilla and clove as well to help with the nice complexity of this beer. I found the mouthfeel to be a little too carbonated for me, but that didn't mean it wasn't good. The drinkability is really good. Though it may be high in ABV you really can't tell too much on the palate. It's a really well made beer and I hope to get it again someday.

Serving type: on-tap

11-17-2010 07:52:54 | More by Vdubb86
Photo of DNICE555
DNICE555

Connecticut

4.72/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Halloween Bash 2010. The VIP at the party was the Surly Darkness. Shared with the LArse, Zapps, and Cpie. I cannot think of a better way to starting out an enchanted evening. This review should probably be #666 but I will probably be 666 but the time I get to that number. Shout to SpeedwayJim for this bottle.

2009 DARKNESS

I made my way through the chophouse, the spider web, the grim reaper, and the bloody black roses to my beer fridge. I took the bottle in hand, scurried to the bar and quickly placed it down. There was a strange energy surrounding the bottle. As I got closer to it I felt more and more empty inside. The mummy on the front had me begging Zapps to stay close and protect me. I grabbed Jlynn's heavy duty bottle opener of the orange dish. Stabbing at the bottle cutting through the wax left me out of breath. Finally I reached the cap and quickly pried it open before I was thrown backwards by an unkown force. Looking up at the bottle I could see spirits escaping which reminded me of the micronized Ghostbusters ghost trap. I broke out my proton pack and quickly secured them in the containment unit. Cautiously making my way back to the bottle I secured some tulips. I poured the thick sludge into my tulip and noticed a low carbonation level and the consistency of a Transylvanian Moat. A tan almost brown head jumped out of the moat like vampires of the night hunting for their prey. Finding myself in a trance like state I quickly looked away. I finally gathered the courage to take a sniff with my eyes closed. Roasted bat malts, plum witches dances around my noise hairs. After two years of lifting weights in my beer fridge the hops are still going strong. I picked up this evil liquid and took a sip. Feeling slightly possesed I could sense tons of different malts. The most impressive fruit profile of any stout I've ever had. So many flavors coming through. Despite the robust chocolaty coffee notes, the fruit dominated. What an interesting demon. Very low carbonation despite the exorcism. The demons sucked the bubbles out. As with any massive 10.3 ABV stout this one is a sipper. It's not meant to be chugged like a coors light. The drinkability is amazing. Alcohol is very well hidden. Mouthfeel is smooth as a witches broom handle. Unless I go to MN on darkness Day or trade another precious KTG this will probably be my only Darkness. What an impressive brewery. Very glad I got to try this one. Happy Halloween.

Serving type: bottle

10-18-2010 17:06:08 | More by DNICE555
Photo of weonfire
weonfire

Illinois

4.25/5  rDev -5.6%

09-22-2013 03:23:27 | More by weonfire
Photo of HollyHops
HollyHops

Pennsylvania

5/5  rDev +11.1%

06-15-2014 14:14:22 | More by HollyHops
Photo of DSlim71
DSlim71

New Jersey

4.5/5  rDev 0%

01-09-2013 13:51:13 | More by DSlim71
Photo of MrVonzipper
MrVonzipper

California

4/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2011 Vintage
Black. Pretty viscous. A little oily. Nice fluffy khaki head with pretty good retention and spotty lacing.

Pretty nice nose with sweet toasted brown sugar and mild dark fruit.

Flavor follows the nose. Pretty sweet. Notes of brown sugar, molasses, dark malt and brownie-like chocolate.

Mouthfeel is pretty full bodied, smooth with creamy medium carbonation.

Overall it's a good beer but a little bit of a disappointment. I for some reason was hoping for a bit more, and more depth. Good flavor and characteristic but leaves a little more to be desired.

Serving type: bottle

05-04-2012 22:17:55 | More by MrVonzipper
Photo of dexterk1
dexterk1

Illinois

4.49/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance is jet black. This was werewolf (2012). Strong brown head that remains for a while.
Odor is sweet and rich. Dark sweet like toffee and perhaps molasses. A little bit of chocolate odor and maybe some wood or smoke.
Taste is just as complex. Sweet with the whole list of types. Toffee, molasses, a little vanilla. A bit of coffee and chocolate as well.
Mouth feel is rich and coating. Smooth and sweet.
Overall an excellent stout. Just a hint of alcohol taste which is good. Smooth and complex.

Serving type: on-tap

05-10-2014 13:30:37 | More by dexterk1
Photo of comfortablynirm
comfortablynirm

Pennsylvania

4.75/5  rDev +5.6%

06-05-2014 13:09:10 | More by comfortablynirm
Photo of afksports
afksports

New York

4.28/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I've been fortunate enough so far to have acquired two bottles of the 2010 Vampire vintage through trades. I'm an Eagles fan, so when DeSean Jackson decided to stick a dagger in the Giants' hearts, I knew it was time for this Surly beast.

The appearance is absolutely hands-down amazing. Dark, huge tan head, brilliant lacing that clings to the glass. The only huge stout that's looked better has been Deschutes' Abyss. Which I suppose is fitting, because those are dark too.

After looking at it for what seemed like hours (and was really seconds) I gave it a sniff. Not that impressive. Chocolate and coffee malts came through, but despite the big head this didn't have a big nose. Its taste was also subdued. Not to say I didn't love it, because it was exactly how it should taste, but it didn't blow me away like the appearance.

Surly's Russian Imperial Stout still fills the mouth well with its full-body, and honestly I've always been scared of Russians and vampires, but I'd still return to this one - especiallyi f it were off the shelf and didn't require trading.

I'd also love to see how it ages. Probably upside down or in a coffin or something.

Serving type: bottle

12-29-2010 00:02:42 | More by afksports
Photo of CarolinaKev
CarolinaKev

South Carolina

4.5/5  rDev 0%

12-22-2013 08:40:23 | More by CarolinaKev
Photo of Diomede
Diomede

California

5/5  rDev +11.1%

11-20-2011 07:35:19 | More by Diomede
Photo of csmartin6
csmartin6

New York

4.5/5  rDev 0%

01-22-2014 03:52:58 | More by csmartin6
Photo of Traquairlover
Traquairlover

Virginia

3.6/5  rDev -20%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

22oz bottle poured into a snifter. 2009 vintage. Thanks to bmanning for sharing this bottle with me. I had a hard time with this review. This beer was much, much different than I expected (or indeed expect from any RIS). Although I can see why some BA's love it so much, I would be very put off if other breweries try to replicate the style of this beer. It really seemed like a DIPA that used roasted malts and a longer than usual boil to simply be darker than usual, but still remain essentially an IPA like drinking experience. It wasn't different enough from expectations to give it bad scores exactly, but I did not find it a great example of an RIS.

A = Dark mahogany, coppery tan medium sized head with a mix of foam, small bubbles and a few large bubbles. Decent retention.

S = Strong, strong citrus smells of grapefruit rind and lemons, hiding under that is some burnt coffee, very light smels of roasted coffee beans and cocoa powder, after a good swish I pick up uncooked bread dough. Even with those other scents though, the entire experience is one of floral "C" hops with everything else playing second fiddle. It seems like it must have been heavily dry hopped or something. Rather than simply using hops for their bittering properties and letting bitterness from hops meld with forceful malt flavors such as coffee, chocolate, tobacco, etc., this beer seems to simply be all about hops smells and flavors.

T = The tastes of this just continue the jarring mental disconnect I get between what this beer looks like, what I look for in an RIS and what I am in fact getting. There is just a crazy mix of flavors, though, it's like drinking a mocha coffee drink that has been randallized using Pacific NW piney/citrusy hops varietals, bringing flowers, grapefruit, lemons zest, light resiny pine. Hidden behind all this are more of the flavors I would expect to stand out more. There is definitely the coffee and chocolate notes one often finds and also some dark fruits. All in all it is kind of like a black IPA on steroids rather than a strong bitter stout.

M = Medium-heavy full body, decent carbonation to keep the beer interesting and flowing in the mouth, good mouthcoating.

D = This just wasn't all that drinkable for me. I enjoy both sweet imperial stouts and bitter imperial stouts. I really do not particularly care for extremely strong C hops flavors clouding up the issue though. I drank my glass, but really did not particularly want another one. I may see about trying this again if it has been aged some, but I do not think I will seek out a fresh bottle.

Serving type: bottle

11-08-2009 15:34:45 | More by Traquairlover
Photo of mkennedy119
mkennedy119

Illinois

4.5/5  rDev 0%

04-26-2014 00:33:54 | More by mkennedy119
Photo of closisinthehouse
closisinthehouse

Florida

4.5/5  rDev 0%

03-29-2012 16:23:12 | More by closisinthehouse
Photo of jarrgal
jarrgal

North Dakota

4.25/5  rDev -5.6%

06-10-2013 02:00:25 | More by jarrgal
Photo of kodt
kodt

Illinois

4.25/5  rDev -5.6%

11-08-2013 13:26:41 | More by kodt
Photo of Mike
Mike

New Hampshire

4/5  rDev -11.1%

04-10-2014 02:07:20 | More by Mike
Photo of andrewinski1
andrewinski1

New Hampshire

3.93/5  rDev -12.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle from 2009, but drank today. Poured into a tulip. A large, tiny bubbled light brown head fills the glass. It's about 3 inches and doesn't settle down for a while.

There is an overwhelming aroma of chocolate. A bit of hop aroma is noticed, but it is quite secondary.

The taste starts out sweet and chocolatey. The roasted flavor is relatively mild here. Most bitterness that is detected is in the finish and I would attribute it to a hoppy bitterness.

The mouthfeel is full and smooth. This is a thick brew. The carbonation is appropriately smooth, and not prickly.

This is a really big, kind of sweet stout. A very good offering.

Serving type: bottle

11-29-2010 04:22:07 | More by andrewinski1
Photo of hopfacebrew
hopfacebrew

Colorado

4.55/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Another hookup from Kiddwhiz! Poured from 2011 to Duvel tulip the beer arrives a deep dark black color with a finger's worth of tannish head, good retention and lacing. Looks thick. The nose is a very enjoyable roast mixed with dark fruits and sweet caramel tones. Smells great! The flavor follows suit with an impressive smooth creaminess. The roast and sweetness found in the nose are more pronounced and coupled with hints of bakers chocolate and dark fruits. Sweet but not overly so. Mildly bitter and hides the alcohol very well. Finishes smooth and creamy with a lingering roast and hint of the dark fruit, perhaps a touch dry. Overall, this is a fantastic brew! What a treat!

Serving type: bottle

04-23-2012 17:58:51 | More by hopfacebrew
Photo of DangerDawg
DangerDawg

Ohio

4.75/5  rDev +5.6%

06-03-2012 02:38:48 | More by DangerDawg
Photo of ColdPoncho
ColdPoncho

Ohio

5/5  rDev +11.1%

12-31-2011 17:31:39 | More by ColdPoncho
Photo of Docrock
Docrock

Illinois

4.75/5  rDev +5.6%

03-09-2014 15:54:31 | More by Docrock
Photo of craftbeerasian
craftbeerasian

Florida

4.5/5  rDev 0%

05-17-2014 22:21:06 | More by craftbeerasian
Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
100 out of 100 based on 2,534 ratings.