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Darkness - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

2,629 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 2,629
Reviews: 763
rAvg: 4.5
pDev: 9.33%
Wants: 2,915
Gots: 1,017 | FT: 72
Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company visit their website
Minnesota, United States

Style | ABV
Russian Imperial Stout |  10.30% ABV

Availability: Fall

Notes/Commercial Description:

2007-Grim Reaper
2012 - Werewolf
2013 - Brewcifer

(Beer added by: ryantupy on 10-08-2006)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 2,629 | Reviews: 763 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of jarrgal

North Dakota

4.25/5  rDev -5.6%

06-10-2013 02:00:25 | More by jarrgal


4.5/5  rDev 0%

07-18-2013 23:45:37 | More by BUNZILLA
Photo of alysmith4

District of Columbia

4.86/5  rDev +8%

Whoa, what a beer! Had this as part of a 30+ mini-whale share that I went to. It was the second beer I tried, and ended up being the best of the night for me. Appearance and mouthfeel are good, but smell and taste were both awesome! Definitely on the sweet side for a RIS, but still well-balanced. And it's surprisingly non-BA, as all those wonderful barrel flavors seem to come through as it warms. Would have this beer again, and again, and again.

03-13-2013 16:45:00 | More by alysmith4
Photo of brew3crew


4.68/5  rDev +4%

A- very dark with tan head around the edge.
S- very suprisingly hoppy. Roasted malts and deliciousness
T- suprisingly hoppy. Nice dark malts follow. Almost sweet. Love it.
M-medium body and so smooth
D-very drinkable and awesome. My top want and would love to see this with age.

02-26-2011 23:56:28 | More by brew3crew
Photo of CharlesDarwin

Rhode Island

4.9/5  rDev +8.9%

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.

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


4.45/5  rDev -1.1%

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.

11-17-2010 07:52:54 | More by Vdubb86
Photo of stevec32

New York

4/5  rDev -11.1%

08-06-2014 03:38:58 | More by stevec32
Photo of Hendrick24


3.75/5  rDev -16.7%

08-06-2014 01:56:12 | More by Hendrick24
Photo of 1424IpA


4.5/5  rDev 0%

01-25-2013 01:42:45 | More by 1424IpA
Photo of closisinthehouse


4.5/5  rDev 0%

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


5/5  rDev +11.1%

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

New Hampshire

4/5  rDev -11.1%

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


4.5/5  rDev 0%

07-14-2014 19:38:48 | More by _morandi_
Photo of DSlim71

New Jersey

4.5/5  rDev 0%

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


4/5  rDev -11.1%

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.

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

New York

4.28/5  rDev -4.9%

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.

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

South Carolina

4.5/5  rDev 0%

12-22-2013 08:40:23 | More by CarolinaKev
Photo of csmartin6

New York

4.5/5  rDev 0%

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


5/5  rDev +11.1%

11-28-2011 08:06:47 | More by fuzzcherry
Photo of Traquairlover


3.6/5  rDev -20%

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.

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


4.5/5  rDev 0%

11-08-2013 21:41:08 | More by jakea
Photo of mkennedy119


4.5/5  rDev 0%

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

New York

4/5  rDev -11.1%

01-08-2013 19:11:54 | More by Quackus
Photo of HoppySeb


4.25/5  rDev -5.6%

05-31-2014 01:15:39 | More by HoppySeb
Photo of sukwonee


4.08/5  rDev -9.3%

2011 vintage red wax

A: Black body with one finger head

S: chocolate, hops, some sweetness

T: Its a bit disapppointing for me. Its a great stout but it does not stand out from other good stouts. Chocolate, malt, brown sugar and hops. very straightforward and nice.

M: Thick and syrupy. no alcohol burn.

O: Its up there with Stone IRS but nothing too special. Its a great stout regardless.

09-09-2012 00:22:48 | More by sukwonee
Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
100 out of 100 based on 2,629 ratings.