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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: 9.52%
Wants: 3,281
Gots: 1,216 | 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 dirtylou
4.35/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

on-tap, brouwers

I believe this was the first time I've had this outside of a festival setting - 12oz pour in a snifter, ebony body, light tan lace. Definitely sticky-sweet and less hopped than I recall from past years, but still not without some nice pine resin traces. Rich, decadent and very smooth. A good RIS, but one whose legacy seems to have faded...

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Photo of yamar68
4.49/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a black coffee color body with minimal clarity and an edge of copper - dense khaki brown head that laces nicely. Quite a healthy looking beer.

Dark fruits - dates, raisins, figs, brown sugar, slight leather presence, black licorice, tons of roasted malts and a hop profile that is unmatched when it comes to unbarreled imperial stouts.

Bitter toffee, faint alcohol presence, harsh chocolate, burnt almonds, caramel cake, molasses, overripe cherry, such a classic flavor profile.

The mouthfeel is slick and viscous, oily, still highly drinkable given the style. Sugary.

Drink up, pussies. This one is best fresh.

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Photo of bamadog
3.73/5  rDev -15.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

I have resisted the Darkness for too long. I've had a long, unproductive and otherwise kind of crappy day, so I figure I need to do a little sumpin' sumpin' for myself on a day like this. Review is from notes taken on 9/21/2012 and poured from the bottle (2009 mummy) to a snifter.

Appearance: Pour looks a little thick and viscous on the pour, definitely warrants some "glugs," but I feel that I've seen thicker, most notably Hunahpu, but that's THE exceptional beer; body is of course black and opaque; starts with a 1/2 finger dark, creamy tan head that fades to a loose, incomplete head with a full swath of lacing dripping slowly down the sides of the glass.

Smell: Upon cracking this, there is a strong, smoky, soy sauce blast in the nose; it eventually settles a little bit and there is some pretty big and roasty maltiness there with a touch of burnt coffee, possibly espresso; I would swear there is a touch of vanilla lying about in there, as well as a touch of sweet, yet slightly tart, cherries; just a touch of alcohol lingers, but it seems really well blended in the nose.

Taste: You know, it's good, but I'm really not blown away like I was hoping to be. I'm actually reminded a little bit of 2010 DL -- big, smoky and almost salty/soy sauce (not in a bad way); bit of a buttery sweetness hanging out in the back and there is some slick, syrupy semi-sweet chocolate; touch of roastiness. I have to wonder if it's past its prime?

Mouthfeel: Body is indeed thick and heavy, but it's fairly slick and leaves just a little bit of grit on the teeth; thick, but loose and slightly sticky coating is left all over the roof of the mouth; belly does register some warmth.

Overall: I would be willing to try it again if it comes in to my possession, but it will be drank immediately instead of giving it the opportunity to age and develop. Sometimes cellaring works well and you get a whole new product, and sometimes, you get disappointed. Sipper, with big alcohol, may be tough to get through the whole bottle on my own, but I'll figure out how to make do.

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

The taste look, smell, and taste of this beer opens up your imagination. You can recollect the taste in your smelling and tastebud memories. There is a rush of Dopamine hormones when you drink it.

Absolutely the sing most perfect beer. It is highly coveted and very tradeable. The artwork and collectability increases its value.

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

A: dark, thick, with minimal head but some nice lacing and a bit of tan foam sitting on the top.

S: caramel sweetness, roasted notes that don't quite hit the coffee roasted smell, chocolate, some earthy hops that balance it nicely

T: for my tastes, this is balance. Maybe a bit sweet, but the hops and roasted notes pair so well with the caramel and chocolate and toffee without overtaking it and turning it into the earthy Storm King or the like.

M: thick as can be, but isn't lacking in carbonation too much at all.

O: my favorite non-barrel aged stout so far. Just amazing combination of flavors and smells made this stand out on a night when we had some amazing stouts.

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Photo of sukwonee
4.08/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

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.

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

2011 vintage. About 11 months old.

This pours dark. And by dark I mean black. No light penetrates with a dark mocha head. Really a great looking stout. Leaves a nice lacing on the glass. Swirling the glass viscous motor oil appearance.

Smell is of dark fruits some roasted grain. Light Licorice. A little caramel sweetness as it warms.

Waves of flavors on this one. Tastes of Sweet malts. Burnt sweet cherries. Light licorice and I am thankful it's not too strong, just enough. Dark chocolate fruit notes on the finish. Slight chocolate cake batter. A nice residual sweetness on the finish. Alcohol is well hidden.

Nice creamy mouth feel. Is full without being too heavy.

Overall an impressive imperial stout. I can't think of a non-barrel aged imperial stout with more going on that this.

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Photo of papat444
3.6/5  rDev -18.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

***2009 Vintage (Mummy)***

Big thanks to Masterski for getting me this rarity.

Poured from a bomber and split with my wife.

Appearance: Pours a thick body, kind of almost plops in with a thin ting that grows thicker as the pour intensifies.

Smell: Alcohol soaked nuts, raisins and figs. Whiffs of cocoa and chunks of chocolate but much more on the sugary, dark fruits side.

Taste: Raisins, figs, nougat, discreet chocolate and a tinge of black licorice. A bit of coffee as it warms but this resembles a barleywine almost. Not exactly what i'm looking for flavor-wise.

Mouthfeel: Boozy a bit, slight;y bitter and you eventually get in a groove but this doesn't feel like the strong RIS i'm looking for.

Overall: Have to say i'm a bit disappointed by this one. Compared to DL, this one is not as good. Flavors were good but for me, not worth the hype IMO. I'll take a DL instead.

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Photo of dtmets84
3.34/5  rDev -24.3%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

2011 vintage. Shared the bottle with DTMets84.

I have been waiting to dabble in darkness for sometime now and what is a better excuse then no work monday? Yahoo for labor day.

Appearance: Pours a dark dark black with an inch head.
Head is the color of khaki jeans?

Smell: Sweet? Black tuesday again?! Roasty as well.

Taste: Lots of something I can not put my finger on yet but it is not something that appeals to me. Its Dark Lord again.

Mouthfeel: My first surly brew ever and I am too letdown to discuss the mouthfeel.

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Photo of Goblinmunkey7
4.1/5  rDev -7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

2011 vintage. Shared the bottle with angrybabboon.

Appearance: Pours a dark dark brown with some dark red notes. Sits close to black in the glass. Head is the color of fresh espresso crema. Chunky and rocky and creamy. Decent retention. Chunky cap.

Smell: Huge dark fruit. Plums and bing cherries. Big roasted compliment. Leather and touches of char. Chocolate malts and cocoa powder. Lingering booze. Dry-dusted chocolate coffee beans. So much leather. Burnt and roasty. Booze soaked plums. Layers of chocolate.

Taste: Leather and cocoa. Huge hits of roasted malt. Burnt malts. Char. Raisins and ripe cherries. Loads of burnt malts. Milk chocolate sweetness layered in the back. Almost brownie like chocolate in the back. Nicely sweet. Alcohol runs through the back. As it warms the leather and burnt malts take the forefront. Hints of vanilla and caramel. Dutch cocoa. Bitter dryness

Mouthfeel: Full body, but a little thinner than I expected. Mild carbonation. Slight astringency.

Overall: Solid, very solid. Great flavor, but the body ultimately falls a little short given the intense malts of the beer. I've tried it at beer fests and in a blind stout tasting. It comes out just over the middle of the pack. Incredible flavor.

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Photo of angrybabboon
4.24/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Massive cheers to Goblinmunkey7 for acquiring and sharing this

Note: 2011 vintage (zombie)

Consumed 8/19/12

Appearance: Dark, dark brown with some around the edges - big, tan head, keeps a nice cap, some streaks of lacing - looks like an RIS should

Smell: Dark, roasty, and burnt - cooked, toasted, roasted, and charred malts - milk chocolate and some dark chocolate - molasses, with a lot of sweetness - sweet, dark fruits - interesting, but not remarkably complex

Taste: More sweetness than darkness - molasses, brown sugar, and a ton of port-like boozy sweetness - dark fruits, milk chocolate, and some sweet coffee - roasty and burnt, but the dark fruit/port/sugary sweetness really overpowers - (2012 bottle) smoke and tobacco in abundance

Mouthfeel: Full, smooth, creamy, some boozy stickiness, but it works because it is nicely carbonated

Overall: Good, but too sweet to be legendary

I am very happy that I finally had a chance to sit down with a glass of this. I've had it at BA fests and at an epic stout tasting, and I always thought it was too sweet. And apparently I was not imagining it. It's just too sweet. But if you're into that, I guess this would be epic.

Update: 2012 bottle

Slightly better than I remember. It's still overly sweet, but it's quite tasty overall. There is more smoke and tobacco than I remember. Maybe it's just more interesting than the first bottle. Scores upgraded slightly (taste and overall bumped up .25).

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

Zombie vintage 750ml split into 2 bruery snifters. Was gomna save this for the premier of walking dead butt dammit I can resist it no longer! Huge thanks to birtchstick for this long time want. Let's see what the fuss is all about

A- looks thick and creamy with a nice thick mocha head, looks promising

S- as soon as I cracked the cap the huge dark fruits fill the room, I know this is going to be good. Right up front huge dark fruits. Some roastyness lots of richness and malty sweetness

T- this guy is huge on taste. Dark fruits upfront, slight roastyness followed by some sweetness. Fantastic chocolate. This one really delivers, packs a wallop

M- mouthfeel on this one is perfect, huge rich and creamy, couldn't be more spot on. Coats the mouth with huge flavor.

O- I really wasn't expecting to this guy be this good. There's a lot of hype surrounding this guy and I can now see why. The dark fruit is huge, actually reminds me of mission street 2011 anny if you can believe it.0 I really hope to make darkness day one day. Hopefully next year they chose a succubus

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Photo of Luk13
4.77/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle at Iceland super tasting ’10 vampire bottle. Nice dark pour with a slight ruby tint, creamy tan head. Tons of licorice, molasses, port and dark fruits (plums) dominate the aroma. Very sweet taste, super fruity prune flavors, honey-molasses sweetness. Soft carbonation suits this one nicely, very silky and heavily bodied. One of my favourite IS.

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Photo of vandemonian
4.23/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I had the 2011 Darkness (I guess it was about a year old) at ChurchKey in DC at their Surly event. Darkness is a delicious bourbon-barrel ages Imperial stout with notes for coffee. As good as most of the great beers of this style.

A: Black with a 2 cm head that lasts. 4.5

S: The smell was malty with some coffee. This is a very strong smelling beer. 4

T: A strong malty flavour with come coffee. There are also some sweet, dark fruit flavours from the crystal malt. Maybe some bourbon barrel flavour too. Some burnt sugar at the end. 4.5

M: Foamy. 4

O: 4

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Photo of SkiBum22
4.28/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2011 Vintage

A - The pour is fittingly black with at least a finger of thick brown head. The lacing really coats the glass nicely with a creamy head that seemingly lasts forever.

S - Very sweet aromas of dark fruits, berries, figs all covered in chocolate with a little bit of caramel and coffee to round it out.

T - Deep, dark, delicious chocolate just dominates the taste. Overall it is sweet, but not overly sweet as sometimes experienced with big Russian Imperial Stouts.

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

O - A great non-barrel aged stout. There were times that I noticed barrel like qualities. Overall another great brew from Surly.

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Photo of TheSevenDuffs
4.88/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2011 Vintage. Thanks to Spencer for this bottle! Poured in to CBS snifter.

A - Poured ink black. Half a finger of medium brown head with good retention.

S - Roasted malts, smoke and a noticeable hop presence up front. A big semi-sweet chocolate aroma and a touch of licorice round out the nose.

T - Extremely robust flavour up front. Starts out with huge roast and semi-sweet chocolate flavours with a touch of smoke. Some sweet molasses and a fairly prominent hop profile enter in the middle. The finish is full of sweet chocolate and has a lingering bitterness. The ABV is very well hidden. The perfect balance of sweetness and bitterness.

M - Full body. Thick and viscous. Light carbonation.

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Photo of ehammond1
4.16/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Bottle (2011)

Acquired via trade
Thanks, stig!

(Aged for 1 year)

This is a truly beautiful beer. The beer is black throughout with a 2-finger, dark brown head that actually has some significant staying power. The beer is somewhat thick in body, shiny, and leaves the glass messy with a sheen and spattering of lace.

A somewhat atypical aroma for a big stout, as there's some defined pine-like hop notes, along with dark chocolate, dark fruits, and strong roast. This is hoppier than most any other big stout, though it all works together nicely.

Dark roast and dark chocolate dominate the flavor, along with bit of pine-like hop character. Moderate level of bitterness and this most certainly hides its alcohol well.

Full bodied with moderate carbonation and somewhat creamy mouthfeel. Incredibly nice. A terrifically constructed beer.

A somewhat hoppy, though balanced big stout. It's probably not worth the sticker price, all things considered, but always a fun bottle to share no matter the time or place.

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Photo of BostonHops
4.45/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2011 vintage.

pours a jet-black tone while yielding a strong, creamy mocha-colored head. outstanding retention and lacing. nose offers lots of roasted malt and chocolate, with secondary notes of anise and coffee. very nice.

wow, flavor is right behind the aroma, backing it up with huge, bold characteristics of roasted malt, chocolate, anise, coffee, and a hint of dark fruits. maybe even a twang of smoke in the background. deliciously complex. medium-full mouthfeel with adequate carbonation.

overall this a superb RIS, no doubt about it. very, very well done. just wish it were easier to get a hold of.

(originally reviewed: 06-07-2011)

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Photo of VncentLIFE
4.45/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Thanks Heatwave33! Heres to completing my first year of teaching. Cheers guys.

Pour is black. Small but thick, frosty white head.

Smells is very full bodied, yet still has hints of bitterness. Thick leathery roasty malt comes to mind, as well as a good bit of dark chocolate.

The taste is complex as hell. Thick roasted tries to come out, but the bitterness (reminiscent of coffee and extremely bitter dark chocolate) just takes over. Theres also subtle sweet dark fruits that really separate this from other RISs. Theres a creaminess as well that really balances out what could be a deep roasty, leathery, super sweet bomb. Its got a nice balance, and it feels nice. Almost like nitro.

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Photo of DarthKostrizer
3.4/5  rDev -22.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

2011 Vintage thanks for sharing MrVonzipper

Look: Very dark pretty much black body with a 1/4 tan head and ok retention and some spotty lacing

Smell: The nose for me really doesn't work. It is a combination of chocolate dark fruits a touch of vanilla sweetness and piney hops

Taste: Again just not a fan of the taste. It starts of slightly sweet with some chocolate caramel and vanilla and finishes with a piney bitterness that just does not work for me

Mouthfeel: Medium body with medium to mild carbonation and bitter

Overall: This beer reminds me more of a cda than a RIS. The flavors are all over the place and just do not mix well for me. Definitely not worth seeking out

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Photo of davey101
4.5/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2011 vintage, Zombie label. Reviewed: 06-04-2012, almost 8 months old.

750 ml red waxed bottle into a brandy snifter. Served at cellar temperature.

A - Pitch black body that shows show red tints when the glass gets low enough. Perfect dark khaki two finger high head. Moderate lacing and retention. Damn near perfect. 4.5/5

S - Amazingly decadent burnt dark fruits, almost quad like but backed up with some amazing stout aromas. Cocoa powder, vanilla, and coffee beans. 4.0/5

T - Rich and smooth milk chocolate, fruity red wine notes, molasses, brown sugar, vanilla, coffee and some light licorice. Very smooth with all of these flavors blending together perfectly. Aftertaste is a bit bitter. 4.5/5

M - No alcohol present, even at room temperature. Medium to heavy bodied with some lively carbonation. Somewhat syrupy and coating. 4.0/5

O - This is the best RIS and certainly the best non barrel aged stout I have tried. Thats probably due to my love of quads and dark fruits which this stout has on full display. For me there has always been three icons of the big waxed stout world. Abyss, Darklord, and Darkness. The Abyss is roasty and tobaco rich, Darklord is an overtly sweet vanilla bomb, and Darkness is strong on the dark fruits. This is just about perfect for me. 4.5/5 (4.45 score)


2012 vintage, Werewolf label. Reviewed: 12-23-2012, almost 2 months old.

750 ml red waxed bottle into a Founders 15th anny glass. Served at cellar temperature.

A - Pours a pitch black body. Two fingers of light mocha foam from the pour settles into a one finger lasting cap that looks like the head of a latte. Swirling creates a thick wall of lacing that cascades down leaving behind strings of foam. Absurd retention level. 5.0/5

S - Dark fruits, brightly roasted malt, espresso beans, and vanilla. Powdery chocolate and molasses. Sweet and savory. 4.0/5

T - Rich dark chocolate and sweet milk chocolate, roast and char, espresso, molasses, and some piney hops. Long and harsh finish that's bitter and boozy. The aftertaste is just phenomenal though. Vanilla rich fudge and dark fruit. 4.0/5

M - For being only 10% abv this beer feels MUCH larger. Thick and syrupy, very coating and rich. Perfect dessert beer. 4.5/5

O - Still a phenomenal beer (that I'd chose over Abyss and Darklord) but I'm afraid I'm just not a huge fan of this beer when its on the fresher side. The hops are present and I just wish the pine and citric notes would take a back seat to the rich chocolate and dark fruits. 4.0/5

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Photo of mdaschaf
4.47/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Big thanks to Shane for bringing this down to share with me. 2010 Vintage, review from notes.

A: Pours black in color with a nice two finger tan head on top. The head lasts for a little while leaving a foam cap on top. Thin lacing forms all around the glass.

S: Tons of dark fruit on the aroma, cherry and plum dominate. There is some chocolate and cocoa mixed in as well. Exactly what I am looking for.

T: This beer tastes great, more dark fruit (cherry, plum, raisin) mixed with chocolate and minimal roast coming forward. There is a touch of honey and caramel.

M: Medium to full bodied, extremely smooth with moderate carbonation.

O: Very impressed, probably my favorite non BA stout. It drinks so easy that it would get me in trouble if I had a lot of it. Definitely a beer I will try to get more of.

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Photo of eduardolinhalis
4.8/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

750ml bottle poured in a snifter glass. Vampire bottle from 2010. Gray wax. Consumed in 2012. I've bought this one at the last time that I was in California.

A: First of all, beautiful bottle art, label printed on the glass. Pours a deep black color forming a medium beige head. Good retention and many lacings left

S: Sweet and roasty. Winy and fruity. Dark chocolate, coffee, roasted malts and wood

T: Follows the nose. Sweet chocolate upfront, roasted malts, dark chocolate, coffee, wood and earthy hops in the end

M: Creamy molasses body. Low carbonation and nice bitter end

O: Very drinkable. Excellent beer

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

750ml bottle into a snifter - 2010 Vintage

A: Pours a dark brown, almost black, with a nice dark brown head that fades to a ring and leaves some lacing on the glass.

S: The nose shows signs of hops along with some vanilla and dark chocolate. It's got an earthy aroma as well.

T: The taste is really great. There are big flavors of honey, chocolate, dark fruits, earthy hops, and a touch of citrus on the finish.

M: The feel is on the fuller side of medium with a great creamy finish.

O: The age has toned down the hops a bit and let the other flavors really come forward. We drank this side by side with a 2011 and the newer bottle was a bit on the harsher side as far as the hops but the flavor was still really good.

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

A: Midnight black with a large thick medium brown head. Fades very slowly, leaving an almost solid layer of lacing.

S: Loaded with molasses, toffee and dark fruits. Lots of fig and raisin. Plenty of anise too. Roasted malt peeks through with a bit of chocolate and coffee but it's not the dominant aroma here.

T: Super fruity. Raisin, fig, lots of cherries. Maybe even currants. Toffee and caramel up front with it. Molasses in the middle with the roasted malt that starts to kick in with char and heavy chocolate mainly. Bitter roast in the finish with a bit of anise.

M: Thick and heavy. Low carbonation.

O: Interesting RIS. Very fruity, almost over-the-top compared to most. You don't even get any roasted malt until the second half of the taste. It is very tasty and I enjoyed it, but I tend to feel that the root of a great RIS is a major roasted malt aspect, and this one is more of a minority. Otherwise it is a complex, balanced and flavorful beer so I have to give it credit where credit is due. If you're a fan of sweet, fruity RISes, this one is for you.

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