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Darkness - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.

Educational use only; do not reuse.

811 Reviews

(Read More)
Reviews: 811
Hads: 3,346
Avg: 4.41
pDev: 19.27%
Wants: 3,286
Gots: 1,219 | 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: 3,346
Photo of pheggeseth
4.9/5  rDev +11.1%
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 jwolfie70
4.69/5  rDev +6.3%
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 +13.4%
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 -0.7%
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 +8.8%
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 +4.3%
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 +3.2%
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 +2.7%
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 +7.7%
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 +3.2%
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 +7.3%
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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Photo of phattysbox
4.7/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

kplynch was kind enough to buy me two bottles at darkness day. We opened one of those bottles and shared among friends. Thanks Kevin!!

Poured into Corsendonk tulip glass. Jet black and very viscous, almost oily in appearance. Thick frothy coffee colored head that slowly retreats into a nice thin lace. Stickage all up and dpown the glass - awesome looking brew and dark indeed.

This is the strangest, but great, brew I have ever had. Part DIPA, porter and mostly RIMP...

Since it is a RIMP, you would expect roasted malts and chocolate in the nose. While its there, initially the brew smells like a west coast DIPA. Sweet floral hops pervade the nose - ripe tropical citrus friut and berries. This is followed by chocolate and vanilla notes. The nose is quite complex.

Tastes a smoothing sweet malt base. Vanilla and oak are very present with coffee and chocolate undertow. Of course the hops - in the back and really balance out the brew quite nicely. It changes however as it warms - reminding me of a porter in some sense. Very complex brew with lots going on. Mouthfeel is wet and velvety with meduim to low carbonation. The only thing I could say about this brew that might be considered negative - is its very sweet. This might be off-putting to some but not to me.

I still can't wrap my head around this brew - quite unique but simply fantastic!!

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Photo of davedahl
4.85/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I've only had Darkness once - and it was the last 2oz from a keg at Binny's in Chicago's south loop. Talk about a tease.

The apperance was dark black everywhere - not even a hint of color at the edges. Thin layer of dark black rich head of tight bubbles.

Nose is a very complex combination of malt, spice and pepper.

Taste is lots of fruit and sweet malts, even some milky creaminess to it. Aftertaste of more dark cherries and chocolate.

Mouthfeel is amazing. Milky slick coating with a slight alcohol hint.

This badboy just went on my "wants" list. Yum.

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

Surly Darkness 2012

Appearance: Surly’s most exclusive beer pours a midnight black. No light gets through this beer at all. The head is a massive three fingers, and is a great-looking khaki color. As it descends, the head leaves swaths of lacing intricate lacing. Alcohol legs are present, but that is to be expected at 10.3% ABV. Really, it just looks like an especially dark Russian imperial stout, but the crazy lacing and head really push it over the top.

Aroma: Huge, roasty coffee aromas flow out of the glass from across the room. They are followed quickly by dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and a fantastic creaminess. Amidst all the organized chaos, a molasses sweetness runs under the entire aroma. The alcohol just barely comes in at the tail end. This beer smells crazy good and enormous.

Taste: Follows the nose, except with huge chocolate notes taking the forefront completely. The roasty coffee comes in as an aftertaste, but cannot quite fight off the dominating milk, dark, and baker’s chocolates, and the burnt sugar sweetness that comes with it. Thankfully, hops come in at the very end and do their best to balance the taste. They cannot quite do it, but the effort is very much appreciated. The alcohol makes its presence known along with some dark fruits at the tail end of the taste. A little more balance would be great, but as it is, this beer is off-the-charts amazing.

Mouthfeel: This beer is silky smooth on the palate, and has a great, minimalist syrupy character that makes it a joy to drink. Unfortunately, the carbonation is extremely minimal. It would really benefit the beer to be a tad fizzier, which would help separate out all the complexity going on here. The alcohol also provides a very calculated warmth that remains exactly in the realm of pleasantness. The carbonation, though…

Overall: This beer was everything I could have hoped it would be. After the first two categories, I thought this might be my first perfect 20/20. Unfortunately, it was not to be due to the slightly imbalanced taste and the almost complete absence of carbonation. Still, this is worth the hype. I cannot wait to try the bottle I currently have aging in the cellar. Things can only go up from here, as I assume it will level out the sweetness. 19/20

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

We opened bottles 287 and 568.

I admit I was a little worried about this beer. Is it over hyped, does it live up to expectations, will this be underwhelming, etc????

Thankfully, this beer meets and exceeds all the hype I've heard. Wow - Poured this into my goblet and it's black with faint dark brown highlights at the edges of your glass if you hold it up to the light. There's a light tan head that's a finger high but dissipates quickly. There's plenty of lacing.

The aroma is very sweet, malty, and hoppy - all sorts of complexity. I smell and taste chocolate, licorice, malty goodness (roasted) some caramel, coffee, creamy, and dark fruit-ey, - and definitely hops but not in a hop-bomb sort of way.

The mouthfeel - it's a little less syrupy than I'd expect from the aroma, but the body is still medium and full. It's very balanced on the finish - leaving a minor warmth letting you focus on the complexities of flavors.

I truly am impressed. This is one of the great ones, worthy of it's ranking here. Now, I have to go find more!!!! It will be very interesting to see how it cellars.

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Photo of adrock7309
4.48/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Shared 2009, and a 2007 at Surly Darkness Day 2010.

2009 was great. Sweetness was not over the top, dark chocolate and a slight hint of alchohol but totally enjoyable.

2007 was magnificent. Poured into a plastic cup but even that couldn't take away from this complete beer. Cant put it any other way - awesome.

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

2009 Vintage - Bottle and Tap (Little to no Difference)

Pours out nearly black with a beautifully creamy, short dirty brown head that leaves a huge amount of lacing, almost a sheet.

Sweet and very heavily roasted caramel is almost completely masked by something very odd in a Russian Imperial Stout, HOPS. It almost made me put the glass back down as was a bit afraid, but I persevered and continued on. The brew is also heavily scented with alcohol. (The rating is as high as it is as the hops intervention actually grew on me as I continued through the glass).

Huge beer. Syrupy sweet of roasted caramel, chocolate and alcohol with a very big presence of hops typical of nearly all Surly beers. Finishes slightly bitter. Unique, but good balance.

Buttercream smoothness with a very light carbonation. One of the heaviest beers I've gotten to try. Awesome.

Really strong beer, 10.30% will floor nearly anyone. I loved the experience of this beer and recommend it to anyone that can get their hands on this rarity. Split the bottle though because you really get burnt out by the end of a glass. (We split our bottle 3 ways and that was about perfect)

Have only heard rumors of this one up until this year where my lovely wife con-ed a friend out of one of his bottles (Sorry AJ). If I had more than one of these, I would have aged it. Maybe with next year's release...

Surly is a local brewery that is known for its hop packing. I was less than thrilled with in my first experience (Furious for a non-IPA fan) but even that grew on me with it's complexity. Very solid brewery.

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Photo of SQNfan
3.9/5  rDev -11.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

On tap: Dark in color with a roasted coffee and chocolate nose. This continues into a palate that I hoped carried a little more density. While a very nice beer I came out with the feeling that some barrel aging would smooth and fill out the midpalate.

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Photo of therobot
4.33/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

2010 vintage served on tap at Groveland Tap.

A: Black as Satan's soul, nice amount of dark brown head and lacing

S: Strong roasted smell, some sweet chocolate, slight coffee, and a little booze

T: Roasted malty liquid goodness, chocolate is quite present, with a slight coffee follow-up, and a subtle sweet finish.

M: Quite thick moderate carbonation, love it.

D: Highly drinkable, @ 10.3%, it was masked extremely well. It is a big beer, very filling, with a lot of substance.

Overall I think this lived up to the hype, it is truly an excellent beer.

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Photo of surlyseth
5/5  rDev +13.4%

Saved this one for my 35th B-day.
Took it out of the fridge a half-hour prior to opening.
Poured in a Duvel tulip.

A: Thick jet black body with a khaki-carmel-frap-looking head. The pour yields a "slow-burn" head which takes time to accumulate. Minimal lacing.

S: Hoppy, but not necessarily like an IPA. Not floral or citrusy. It's more oily and piney...Like I opened up an old chest in the attic.

T: Amazing. Drying coffee up front, sticky-sweet caramel, and finishing with a hoppy, bold tobacco. The taste of this cannot be overstated. So many RI Stouts come up dry and short. Soft and simple. Or they overdo the sweetness. Darkness has a sourness that powers through the chocolate cloying effect. This is a chocolate stout that is fleeting. It plays hide-and-seek all over the tongue.

M: Phenomenally robust. Fully festive. Hoppy as hell to balance the sticky sweetness. My lips are adhered to themselves and my mouth coated, yet the hops scream for another sip.

D: Sip it and you will be rewarded by it's hidden, sweet, dark fruits that become more brilliant as the darkness comes to pass into the dawn of inebriation!

This beer lives up to the hype.

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Photo of Maction
4.26/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: In a snifter, this has impenetrable blackness. It looks like a candle in the glass, with a gelatinous chocolate mousse head.

S: Smells sweet, some perfume-y hops, unsweetened chocolate, espresso, butterscotch

T: A huge, rich, complex flavor, sweet then dry, very long and complex. Bitter herbs, then bitter cocoa, then creamy coffee, then sweet tea.

M: Chewy but not thick, hefty but not cloying

D: Very satisfying, a tiny bit boozy as it warms. I would have to be in a special mood to get through 22oz of this... perhaps in my library, in front of a roaring fire, my pipe and slippers at hand, my faithful hound dozing by the hearth.

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Photo of kbanks13
4.4/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Opened this bottle that I got from a trade with plumcrazyfx (Thanks!) to celebrate qualifying for National Collegiate Powerlifting Championships.

2010 vintage poured into a snifter

Looked black as night with a short layer of light brown head. About what I'd expect, though I have to admit that, for some reason, it looked more sinister than most stouts as it sat in my glass. The smell was fruity and fudgey, think brandy soaked cherries and rich dark chocolate. Almost thought of a Black Forest cake. Slightly astringent though and not as sugary sweet as that analogy would lead on. No hops to speak of. The taste was incredible. Lots of the aforementioned chocolate and dark cherries, but also a noticeable brown sugar/caramel component and a smooth coffee flavor. Not a very sweet beer, but not bitter or tart either, just right. Barely noticeable hops, but that was perfect. Just enough to add some balance. Feel was velvety smooth and thick like motor oil, just like a stout this big should be.

I was, overall, very impressed and can definitely say that the hype around this beer is well founded. I don't think I'll be getting my hands on another bottle any time soon, but if I ever do, I hope it will be as enjoyable as this one was.

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Photo of bjohn84
4.83/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Reviewed a 2011 bottle.. cellered for 4 months.. poured into a darkness snifter

A - Jet black with a red hue towards the top. Thin tan head with excellent lacing

S - Cocoa nibs come first, berries and fruits

T - Chocolate covered fruits up front. Strawberries, cherries, Molasses, raisins. Bold burn from the alcohol numbs the tongue after the swallow, but doesn't overpower the robust flavor. Dry bitterness tends to come through on the back end

M - Fairly low carbonation and very full bodied. Quite a bit of stickiness in the mouth

O - Very complex RIS with new flavors coming through the longer I sip on it. Very filling, but drinks and goes down very smooth.

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Photo of drowland
4.36/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

12/23/10. Huge thanks to DalzAle for this one! Shared at the QC get-together, I believe. Sweet raisins and dark fruits with licorice, dark candy sugar, a touch of booze, and plenty of chocolate. Sweet chocolate up front with plenty of coffee and dark fruits in there as well. Very nice!

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Photo of tconboy
4.94/5  rDev +12%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

BREWCIFER - Lord of Darkness

Thanks to Bru for the Christmas present.

Appearance: lives up to it's name. Nice pillowy caramel head fades quickly to a surrounded light film.

Smell: Oh boy! Chocolate, coffee, sweetness.

Taste: The complexity! Rather fantastic, hence the perfect rating. The dried tart cherries and raisins are there and blend with that coffee, chocolatey (don't you red-underline me!) treat that we anticipated (see smell).

Mouthfeel: As you would expect from an RIS. Moderate carbonation. Dangerously smooth finish.

Overall: A wonderful treat. Wish this wasn't such a rare gem. Not my favorite style, but enjoyed this beer with the best of them.

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