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Darkness - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.

Educational use only; do not reuse.

811 Reviews

(Read More)
Reviews: 811
Hads: 3,343
Avg: 4.41
pDev: 19.27%
Wants: 3,281
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: 3,343
Photo of JFresh21
4.68/5  rDev +6.1%
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 marksto
4.29/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

One of the triumpherant of Imperial Stouts highly rated enough to appear in the BA top 10. Sampled at the recent Tampa BA gathering, thansk to whoever brought it.

Pours jet black with a light hocolate-colored head. A small ring of foam clings to the sides of the glass. Has a very perfumy aroma. Roast malt, chocolate, alcohol, coffee, and dark fruit (cherry) all evident. Has a thick and viscous mouthfeel. Flavor has a blend of cocoa, raisins, and black coffee and roast. I find the roast to be a bit overpowering, as it leaves a tang and slight harshness on the palate.

Overall, certainly a very good RIS, but I found Dark Lord superior to this one.

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Photo of schroederm
4.58/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

In a snifter:

it looks like there's a frappacino on my beer. There are seriously four fingers of thick, soapy light chocolate brown head. It had a jet black body, no light getting through on the first pour. Sheets that stick for days on the glass. This looks nothing short of fantastic. Deep dark chocolate aromas hit like a freight train and little notes of grapefruit and cherry join in. Tons of hoppy character: citrus and pine are obvious. A hint of alcohol is there, but not much. Essentially, this smells like a double imperial ipa stout.A strong malt backbone of chocolate goodness supports a ton of fruity citrus bitter. Alcohol is not obvious in the least. Notes of cherry and plum. There are no words for this mouthfeel. Well, that's a lie, there are: its like a mouth full of cream. Light, fluffy; but yet thick and velvety. Carbonated to a d. Its wonderful just to keep in your mouth. it would be guttonous to drink a gallon of this. But if I could get a gallon of this, I would drink a gallon of this. Still, it has
tons of flavor and the ABV will get to you.

This beer is just full of soul. No demonic connotation implied, but this thing has character. If you can get your hands on it, do so.

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Photo of mjyoung
3.98/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Split with scottfire and bbb099. Thanks to scottfrie.

2009 release

A: Pours very dark and rich, with a nice head that seems solid enough to eat at first but recedes quickly. Gorgeous lacing as it slowly recedes. Doesn't appear to be as thick as I was expecting, but that's not a bad thing.

S: Very strong smell of roasted molasses, overwhelming any other flavors.

T: Dark chocolate, roasted malt, and molasses. Very warm, with the alcohol following all the way down. Once you get past the initial powerful hit, you pick up some brown sugar and a sweet, full-bodied fruitiness. The molasses and malt definitely overpowers everything else. It would have been interesting to try this both fresh, and with another year in the bottle.

M: A bit thinner than I was expecting, but still a slky, viscous feel that sits quite well.

D: It's unfortunately a bit hard to rate this beer as objectively as I would like (my earlier find this evening is clouding my judgment). It is quite good, although a little bit more harsh than I would like. Another year in the bottle would have been interesting. It doesn't quite measure up to the hype, but don't get me wrong. I'd drink it again at the drop of a proverbial (or literal) hat.

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

Poured into a Darkness snifter at Cafe 28 in Mpls. Beautiful 1 inch head of bubbly tan that left only a bit of lacing down the glass.

The aroma is milk chocolate, espresso, vanilla, and only a bit of tart cheeries.

The taste is a perfect reflection of the aroma. Despite the 10% ABV, this is not hot in the least.

This is oily and smooth with medium carbonation. Despite the smoothness, it's a little dry on the finish, which I think is a good thing. It doesn't linger too long, which entices you for another sip.

This is the perfect dessert drink. Was the perfect accompaniment to the molten chocolate cake I had at Cafe 28.

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Photo of TK5150
4.55/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2008 bottle.

A-Pours nice and thick. Black in color, with a small brown head.

S-Upon first smell I get a little bit of American citrus and piney hops. I then get a lot of chocolate, and dark fruits. Kind of like chocolate covered cherries/blackberries/figs/plums. A very nice nose.

T-Big chocolate. Milk chocolate as well as dark chocolate lead the way. Then the fruits rush in and i get the chocolate covered fruits taste which was great. I got little to no hoppiness on the palate which was a little disappointing, and not what i was expecting. In the finish i tasted robitussin...that medicinal cherry taste. It became more prevalent the more i drank, but doesnt hurt the beer too much. This was one VERY SWEET beer, which I am not usually a fan of, but the flavors mostly made up for that downfall.

M-Full bodied, nice and thick. coated the mouth very well. Silky smooth with low carbonation.

D-Good. The medicinal taste at the end without the hop balance took away from the drinkability some. No trace of alcohol helped.

Overall, this is one of my favorite beers. A little too sweet to drink a full bottle by yourself, but great to split with a friend. A great dessert beer.

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Photo of Martin2D
3.13/5  rDev -29%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 2

Thanks to fbm115 for sharing this one.

A - Pitch black with a smallish tan head with lacing

S - Roasty, fruity, possibly some coffee

T - I couldn't be caught more off guard by the flavor. It is super sweet, almost like unfermented wort. There are wort like malt flavors, roasty, coffee. These are followed by a huge hop bouquet. Almost IPA like in its hop quality

M - Medium-high carbonation and medium-high in body.

D - I wouldn't be able to drink much of this. Decent beer, not my cup of tea.

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

2008 vintage. poured into my duvel tulip. its quite dark, shows some deep ruby notes as the glass is emptied. head dissipates over time. nose of light chocolates, maple, and aged malty notes. if there is booze in this its entirely covered by all the candy notes. taste is mostly of sugary malts and chocolate covered raisins, and even some berry fruits. however, its balanced by just enough bitter chocolate notes and perhaps even the remnants of what was once a well hopped beer. i can pick out a couple notes that are similar to the only other surly beer ive had (ill save you the details, but it wasn't a pleasant experience). must be a house yeast. this beer is incredibly complex on the palate but extraordinarily well balanced. everything is in check, unlike darklord. mouthfeel is very pleasant. carbonation is very fine but ample. spot on mouthfeel. so unbelievably drinkable for 10.3%.

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Photo of SiepJones
4.5/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2010 Vintage

Pours black with a creamy brown head, it looks rich. Lots of lacings on the sides of the glass as I swirl it. Smells of roasted dark chocolate, sweet, but not overly. Tons of roasted malt, then creamy chocolate, dark cherry favor, and some traces of hops on the finish. The mouth is creamy as this beer is very well balanced. The flavor hides the alcohol perfectly. I would drink this beer again (it is a sipper) due to it's well balanced flavor. Not too dry, bitter or too sweet, this was an excellent RIS.

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Photo of mbudner
4.75/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2009 release, big thanks to rpohagan for this one. Poured into a delerium tulip/snifter.

A- Pours a deep black, dare I say Darkness. Deep tan to mocha 1-finger head leaving spotty lacing.

S-Very sweet smelling. Molasses and chocolate. Very different from the 2008 I sampled fresh last year, which was quite hoppy.

T-Mmmm mmm mmm. This is a fine one. Very sweet with subtle soy sauce notes (it's pretty young at this point, but I'm still getting some.) Some bitter roasted malts and definitely a fair amount of sweet molasses-like flavor. The sweetness gives way to a decent hop profile for a stout of this magnitude.

MF- Nice and creamy with subtle carbonation and very full-bodied. Really well done on the mouthfeel. The sweetness doesn't leave a cloying flavor/feeling.

D- Like I said with the mouthfeel, nice and sweet, but doesn't become cloying at all. Alcohol is completely masked and I could have probably finished the bomber no problem (but I split it with a friend because you can't just crush Darkness alone.)

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Photo of RocPorterFanatic
4.2/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Pours dark brown/almost black. Blood red around the edges. 2 fingers of smooth creamy head.

S - Very bready, pumpernickel like. Slight hunt of burnt toast. Good amount of chocolate coming in.

T - Alot of chocolate, followed by roast and lactose sweetness. Sweetness could be confused with dark Karo syrup.

M - Very creamy and cloying. No agressiveness to break up the sweetness.

O - Great brew. Stands up to its competition of Darklord and Sexual Chocolate, but does not destroy them.

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Photo of grandq
4.27/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Giving this a try from the bottle thanks to the generosity of Mully.

Glugs a viscous black from the bottle. Giving this the usual vigorous pour I give to RIS's, a dark tan head mushroom clouds into a massive, pillowy and slowly dissipating dark tan head. Great scent - west coast fruity hops and berry, mixed with molasses, raisin, and leather. Flavor is a bit of a surprise, very mild and fruity. A dash of coffee opens up to the aforementioned berry and citrus, surrounded by milk chocolate, prickly spice, and a splash of grapefruit before bittering away from the tastebuds. Concludes like I took a swig of hot cocoa and chased it with an IPA. No bad thing, might have to try that.

Thick as anticipated but not as monstrous as others. I'm actually a little disappointed in this aspect, a little thin for my liking, i think it could cling to the tongue a bit more. Sorta skim chocolate milk-esque, which I don't have fond memories of. Still, the lighter mouthfeel results in a pretty quaffable concoction, though it gets a bit cloying at warmer temps.

I had this at the EBF last Feb and recall thinking it similar to Stone RIS (a solid compliment). Not at all the case from the bottle a couple months earlier. I'd like to try this straight from the source at release as I think the hops truly make this beer. Not quite as complex as I'd hoped but still top notch.

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Photo of AylwinForbes
4.72/5  rDev +7%
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 darthvohn
4.54/5  rDev +2.9%
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 +6.1%
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 +6.6%
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 -4.5%
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 challenja
4.94/5  rDev +12%
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 NYCWheatFanSC
4.12/5  rDev -6.6%
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 +4.3%
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 Joey2timer
4.4/5  rDev -0.2%
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 mryuk
4.5/5  rDev +2%
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 Monsone
5/5  rDev +13.4%
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 camp0474
4.62/5  rDev +4.8%
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 JWD
4.9/5  rDev +11.1%
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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Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
98 out of 100 based on 811 ratings.