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Darkness - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

2,819 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 2,819
Reviews: 774
rAvg: 4.5
pDev: 9.33%
Wants: 2,985
Gots: 1,087 | 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/ 

2007-Grim Reaper
2012 - Werewolf
2013 - Brewcifer

(Beer added by: ryantupy on 10-08-2006)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 2,819 | Reviews: 774 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of CWhite
5/5  rDev +11.1%

CWhite, Nov 18, 2012
Photo of Hophead717
4.25/5  rDev -5.6%

Hophead717, Mar 12, 2012
Photo of TKEbeerman
4.15/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

First off a huge thanks to squirpy7 for hooking me up with a brew that was proving to be more illusive than it should be.

2010 vintage:

A: Poured into my pint glass, this brew pours as dark as the vampire's soul with a dark tan, unrelenting, pillow like cloud of a head that leaves the best lacing I've seen in a stout. Without that lacing, this would be a 4.0.

S: The aroma is lacking complexity and strength right now. Chocolate and roasted malt is present. This stout has a nice hop twist to it. Not pinny, but dark fruit like. Alcohol is present in the nose as the beer warms.

T: The flavor is dominate chocolate and liquorish. The roastedness is masked by a malty sweetness, and just like I expected dark fruit tones from a mix of hops and malt. Alcohol pokes its way through as the beer warms, but is not offensive at all.

Mf: Mouthfeel is just above good. It can improve with more creaminess and carbonation. It still is smooth and uninhibits this brew's power. Viscous and syrupy.

D: At 10.3%, and in a 750ml, this brew is quite drinkable.

Overall, Darkness is a good stout. It's like a mini-Dark Lord. Almost like Surly brewed Dark Lord's younger cousin. This is definitely one to age. It stands out from the other big stouts on the top 100. It lacks notes of espresso with a heavy chocolate base that I've come to love. It can improve with a year in a bourbon barrel; this stout tastes like it was made for it. This thing has a hop bill that makes it unique. Next bottle I trade for will definitely spend 2 years in the cellar.

TKEbeerman, Nov 08, 2010
Photo of BrownAleMale
4/5  rDev -11.1%

BrownAleMale, Apr 28, 2014
Photo of TubaDan
4.5/5  rDev 0%

TubaDan, Dec 22, 2013
Photo of Stum-pub
4.5/5  rDev 0%

Stum-pub, Aug 03, 2014
Photo of cnbrown313
5/5  rDev +11.1%

cnbrown313, May 07, 2013
Photo of Agentveba
4.5/5  rDev 0%

Agentveba, Nov 06, 2014
Photo of yeahnatenelson
4.55/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Imbibed at the Bavarian Lodge in Lisle, IL 11/18/2010.

Appearance -- Pours jet black without one iota of highlight and one finger of mocha head that soon falls to a dirty halo. Wide bands of tan lace.

Smell -- Well-roasted malts in the forefront, nearly to the point of smelling burnt, along with dark chocolate, cherry bonbon, and faint woodsmoke. Lovely.

Taste -- Deep roasted malt, molasses, prune, cherry bonbon, coffee with cream, char, and a hint of woodsmoke. Hops are quite assertive, lending a cool herbal flavor to the finish. Lingering flavors of chocolate cherry, herbal hops and char.

Mouthfeel -- Full-bodied, though not terribly viscous, with gentler carbonation. Quite smooth. The mouthfeel on this is exceptional.

Drinkablity -- Wow, this RIS is pretty damn good. Quite possibly the best of the Midwest (sorry, Dark Lord). Rich and with great depth of flavor, but not sticky, cloying or out of balance. Hops are great, the mouthfeel is even better. Seek this out on tap.

yeahnatenelson, Nov 19, 2010
Photo of korguy123
4.78/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2010 into tulip. Special thanks to biglobo8971 for this bad boy.

A- Thick, syrupy totally opaque pour. Three finger dense foamy milk chocolate colored head. Very slowly recedes to finger width cap. Lacing is remarkable.

S- Roasted coffee, figs, bakers chocolate, molasses, brown sugar and subtle vanilla.

T- Milk chocolate, bitter roasted coffee, vanilla and molasses. Slight woody notes. Very smooth, very balanced.

M- This is a meal... And the light carbonation make it feel even heavier. It's silky, smooth and creamy. Probably the best feeling stout I've had yet.

O- This is supposed to be up there in stouts and does not disappoint. The tastes meld together in perfect harmony, it feels remarkable and the alcohol is invisible. The people that can attend darkness day are lucky sob's!

Thanks for this experience!

korguy123, Oct 03, 2011
Photo of kkipple
4.05/5  rDev -10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Cashew70 earns my undying respect for bringing a bottle of this to the now legendary Spring '08 Brick Store tasting. We did a side by side with a 2007 Dark Lord. Never thought I'd get to do that. Thanks, Cashew!

Pours a very dark black-brown, with a small head comprised of fat bubbles. Sinister to be sure, but nothing we haven't seen before. It absolutely does not stick to the glass like ye ole DL.

Smells surprisingly... hoppy. You have to wait till this warms up a little, but Darkness has a definite hop edge of pine that fights through the strong burnt, charred grain, chocolate and coffee denseness. Oh yes, there's alcohol and some sweet molasses / sugar lurking there too. Darkness certainly smells like a winner, but the only unusual thing here is the level of hops present.

Ahh, now we're talking! Super roasty, and the big (for a RIS) citrus hop bite equates to a bold, brash, wild beer with a lotta punch. The hops are dirty and rough, and it's altogether boozy and heavy. This is the kind of stuff Klingons would drink out of corroded metal canisters while stranded in deep space.

Mouthfeel is slick, heavy and lowly carbonated. Finishes hoppy, roast-bitter and oily sweet. It lacks the cake-batter thickness of it's nemesis from Munster, but it's good even so.

Drinkability? Well, pretty low. This is good, but quite honestly, does not live up to the (unfair) hype. Darkness is quite solid, but there are a lot of great Imperial Stouts coming out of the US and this one is certainly not worth the insane premium it commands. If you have a bottle, count yourself lucky and share with friends. They'll owe you!

Oh yeah, was it better than Dark Lord? No. Dark Lord still holds the tarnished, sickly crown for this sort of thing.

kkipple, Apr 10, 2008
Photo of Buebie
4.5/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Had this wonderful lovely on tap at the Gnome. I even left the glass at the bar after I drank it! :)

Poured into the appropriate Surly Darkness snifter creating a dark brown 2'' frothy head. Slow to recede, leaving a solid cap and lights thin lace streaks. The brew is black, no light penetration.

Aroma is big with dark fruits, chocolate, molasses, malted milk balls, slight booziness. Some mild spicie aroma coming forward and a touch of grassy hops and floral orange peel cascade aroma in the background.

Mouthfeel as usual is slick and creamy with just a touch of carbonation to balance.

Taste is decadent as always. Seems as though there is a bit less hop flavor this year, which is totally fine, but hops still do exist in flavor, just not as strongly as 2008.
Molasses, a touch of vanilla beans, dark roasted grains and bittersweet b akers chocolate. Some syrupy flavors in there too, with just a touch of burnt oak.

As always an exception brew, not only local but nationally a great beer that must be tried...if you can get your hands on it.

Buebie, Nov 07, 2009
Photo of alcstradamus
4.28/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.5

My original review was deleted due to the system crashing. I don't remember exactly what I said, but here are my general thoughts. I had the '08 a few months ago and wasn't necessarily liking it a whole lot. Thought it had a lot going for it but in the end was just too sweet. The '09 is a completely different beast though. Big and very hoppy, with the sweetness merely adding complexity rather than dominating. My original rating was a 3.9 B+, but I have updated it to reflect the '09

alcstradamus, Oct 26, 2009
Photo of theminutemen
4.75/5  rDev +5.6%

theminutemen, Mar 18, 2012
Photo of objectivemonkey
5/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

After a few servings of this fantastic brew, I finally sit down to reviewing.

Into a tulip glass, pours the darkest of midnight black, a thick, creamy tan head settling atop a Guiness-esqe cascade in reverse, bubbles look like they're going upward (though its dark in here, could have been seeing things). The head settles down after some time and drinking, and the darkness creeps through, but a good swirl brings the head back to life, and lots of lace is left on the glass.

Aroma is amazing, perfectly balanced between sweet and bitter, rich and thick of chocolates and espresso, sweet molasses and licorice. I can't imagine it being any better. The taste is similarly flawless, an understated study in the perfection of balanced parts creating a seamless whole. Even though this seems like the hoppiest Impy Stout I've ever tried, in both nose and taste, it isn't skewed toward the the leaf, as an equally potent yet counterbalanced sweet malting with dark fruits and chocolates and such combine into a beautiful whole. And its thick, very thick, one of the thickest, viscous brews I've had, and its just a fantastic beer to drink. And now I ask myself, dear God, why don't they brew this year round, bottle it in pure gold, for only the truest of beer lovers to drink and cherish.

Overall, I don't think I'm ready to give a 5. I almost did, but held back partially because and in spite of the fact that Surly is just over two years old, ie, it gets props for such fine-crafted beer so early, and if this one returns, I'd imagine it'd get even better (ie, the supposed bourbon barreled version). Only time will tell. So, drinkablility gets the blow because its potent, and, well, I couldn't very well knock it anywhere else.

EDIT: So, I was at Cafe 28 today, very delicious brunch. Anyway, they still have Darkness on tap, and I had given this beer a 4.95, but after having it one last time (maybe), I've noticed that on tap, its even thicker, creamier, smellier, tastier, and wantier than ever. So, with out further adieu, 5.

objectivemonkey, Jan 02, 2007
Photo of Cloaked_Phantom
4.25/5  rDev -5.6%

Cloaked_Phantom, Mar 11, 2014
Photo of craftbeerasian
4.5/5  rDev 0%

craftbeerasian, May 17, 2014
Photo of drseamus
4.35/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

A: Jet black body with a dark mocha head. Standard RIS appearance.

S: Very citrusy hop aroma is the most prominent aroma. Some roasted malt in the background but not really any chocolate or coffee.

T: Strong roasted bitterness is right up front followed by a quick burst of sweetness, possibly caramel. It fades into a decent chocolate and then bitter aftertaste. Hop presence isn't as strong as it was in the aroma.

M: Thick and heavy. Perfect for a RIS.

D: The hop aroma is out of style for this beer, but is interesting none the less. A bit more chocolate would have been nice but I'll see what happens with age.

drseamus, Jan 27, 2008
Photo of DangerDawg
4.75/5  rDev +5.6%

DangerDawg, Jun 03, 2012
Photo of Reaper16
4.1/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

*review #500 for me!*

750mL bottle served into a snifter

*2010 vintage*

This thing isn't as black as one might think given the name "Darkness." It's Dr. Pepper-brown in color. A half finger of camel foam forms, settling quickly to a wisp of a ring. Lacing happens in Morse code-like dots and dashes.

This beer, at this stage in its life, is a sweetness bomb on par with Dark Lord. Tons of sweet chocolate and truckloads of raisin provide the base for the beer. It's really, really raisiny. There's also this wild raspberry aroma here... not like the actual fruit but like the raspberry filling in a piece of Russel Stover's assorted chocolates. A little bit of smoke -- not roasty so much as ashy -- fills out some of the edges of the beer.

Holy dessert. Good God. Caramel sauce (not caramel malt but caramel sauce), browned pie crust, brown sugar, Starbucks Frappachino, more caramel, fudge, hazelnut, hot chocolate. This is such a sweet beer. Ghosts of the hop presence that this beer used to have results in some delicious Grand Marinier/orange reduction flavors. The finish has a slight & lingering hop bitterness.

Oh, this mouthfeel is so appropriate given the sweetness of the flavor profile. This is thick stuff that feels weighty when swishing it around your moth, but not overwhelmingly, syrupy thick. You can actually feel some carbonation (which would make this a good option for pairing with rich desserts) too. It's nice and silky on the swallow.

Overall, I am not blown away by Darkness. Perhaps I would enjoy this beer more when fresh (considering how much I love fresh Goose Island Night Stalker)? What's here though, one year after this 2010 vintage was released, is a pretty delicious beer. It's not that complex; it's pretty much just sweetness. But it's a full-flavored, rich beer that is working pretty well for me right now as a celebratory beer.

Reaper16, Dec 01, 2011
Photo of scottwurst
4.5/5  rDev 0%

scottwurst, Oct 08, 2013
Photo of Ristaccia
4.75/5  rDev +5.6%

Ristaccia, Jun 25, 2013
Photo of Domvan
4.75/5  rDev +5.6%

Domvan, Jun 27, 2014
Photo of stealth
3.8/5  rDev -15.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had Darkness on-tap at Darkness Day 2011. Lots of chocolate and dark fruits in the aroma. Some coffee. Extraordinary aroma. First taste was heavenly - tons of chocolate, fruit. I thought chocolate covered figs. Sticky sweetness overtook everything as I worked through each glass, however, and detracted quite a bit from the overall experience. Have some bottles aging in hopes that the sweetness gets a bit subdued. "Did you expect it to be that sweet" was the most common thing I overheard at DD this year.

stealth, Jan 12, 2012
Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
100 out of 100 based on 2,819 ratings.