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Darkness - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.

Educational use only; do not reuse.

797 Reviews

(Read More)
Reviews: 797
Hads: 3,277
Avg: 4.42
pDev: 9.5%
Wants: 3,256
Gots: 1,184 | FT: 84
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 (53) | 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: 797 | Hads: 3,277
Photo of sordyl
3.56/5  rDev -19.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This was the 2013 Chicago distribution when Surly came into the market. Opened for a bottle share, smelled and looked great but the tastes really was not exceptional at all.

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Photo of stortore
4.48/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2013 750 ML bottle into a a snifter.

Pours a small but tight head, dissipates pretty quickly. Smells of roasted malts, chocolate, a little coffee. Big, rich taste, malty but not as roasty as many other RIP's. Chocolate very prevalent, pretty sweet for the style. Good body but maybe a little thinner feel than I expected.

This is a great beer and grab it if you have the chance. Looking forward to the BA 2014 version.

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Photo of MichaelNeelsen
4.8/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Drank a 2011 "Zombie" 750ml bottle after aging 3 years, 2 months.

L: Poured like liquid silk. Pitch black, no light penetration. Mocha brown head dissipates and then reappears with each sip. The beer is very reflective - you can see yourself in it.

S: Raisins. Dark chocolate. Brown sugar. Dates. Fig. Smells like bourbon even though it's not barrel aged. Dark cherries.

T: As my friend who drank it with me put it, "Rich and sweet and right down the middle. There's no smoke and mirrors here."

F: Like liquid Robert Patrick. If you could drink the liquid T-1000 from Terminator 2, it would feel like this beer. Feels like wine without the dryness or tack. Glides over the tongue. Thin in the best way.

O: A real treat. It's not my favorite Russian Imperial, but it's really damn good - and a very unique experience to drink. I'll look to get a younger bottle and drink it without aging to compare. Highly recommended.

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Photo of RushLimbmalt
5/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2012 vintage I have had every vintage of this brew. Every single one has been stellar. Do yourself a favor and find some. This is an awesome Russian Imperial Stout

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Photo of richj1970
4.53/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Poured from 750 ml bottle into snifter. 2013 vintage.

A: Pours pitch black with no light penetration at all. Geneerous 3 finger dense mocha head that lasted forever and left 360 degree lacing.

S: Roasted malts, bitter dark chocolate, molasses, and vanilla. Maybe a bit of tobacco and oak.

T: Toasted bread, dark chocolate, caramel, and raisins. Maple sryup sweetness. Alcohol is apparent just at the end.

M: Full bodied with a nice creamy texture. Fairly highly carbonated for an imperial stout.

O: Truly wonderful stout. Nice complexity of flavors and aromas. Something I need to trade for again.

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Photo of SteveB24
5/5  rDev +13.1%

Look-color of the beer is jet black, beer pours a shocking two fingers of frothy, tan head. wonderful lacing left on side of the glass.
Smell- Roasted malts, caramel molasses, coffee, milk chocolate, Raisens.
Taste- Unbelievably complex yet super smooth, roasted malts, toast, raisins, plums, milk chocolate, coffee, pink peppercorns. so much sweetness but banked by the toasted grain taste of the malts and some fruity spiciness.
Feel- Full bodied but not quite oil. perfectly creamy.
Overall- one of the best stouts, if not the best, that i've tried. its really beyond words.

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Photo of ghostwalker
3.91/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2011 Edition
Appearance: Dead black body, light mocha head.

Nose: Light, not much. I expected more aroma.

Flavor: Semi-light for an RIS, hoppy. Cocoa and cofee on the finish.

Mouthfeel: Thin but coating.

Overall: Rich, flavorful, surprisingly drinkable. A really good RIS, only marred by the thin body.

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Photo of SDRedDevil
4.8/5  rDev +8.6%

Got to try 2013 and 2012 side by side at Toronado for a Surly Lunch. Both were amazing with the 2013 having a bit less sweetness and more balance imo. Both were jet black deliciousness though!

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


A- Another pitch black bodied beer, also pours viscous and also has a dark khaki colored head. Lacing is lining all sides of the snifter. 4.5

S- Heavy oak flavors, dark chocolate, caramel. Tobacco is strong. 4.5

T- The barrel qualities remain but are very mellow and don't take over the beer. Still get oak and tobacco, but they aren't overshadowing the smooth dark malts. 4.5

M- This is exceptionally smooth, viscous and drinkable. No heat and a thick, lightly carbonated mouthfeel. Slightly bitter on the finish. 4.5

Fantastic effing beer. Love that the bourbon and barrels don't run away with the beer.

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Photo of Qbdoo
4.56/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Look: the pure dark of the abyss. Smell: I've got a cold. Taste: smoooooth. Many Russian Imperial Stouts, which I love, can be somewhat rough in taste: super roasty and with strong alcohol burn. But this is elegant with hints of coffee, dark fruit, and maple syrup. None of these jump up. The tastes are superbly integrated and I can't taste the alcohol at all. The mouthfeel is thick and creamy.

The hype surrounding this made me prepared to be disappointed, but I was pleasantly surprised that this was even better than I'd heard. Pretty rare.

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Photo of barnzy78
4.88/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

2013 release, "Brewcifer", 750mL. I've had Darkness multiple times, but have never given it a review until now
A 4.75 - opaque and jet black with a tall, frothy light brown head that hangs around awhile leaving sticky lacing as it slowly dissipates
S 4.75 - huge roasty nose with plenty of dark chocolate, raisin, and fruity esters
T 5 - dark chocolate slathers the palate with cherry, raisin, coffee, roasted barley, oat, faint pine all melded together perfectly
M 5 - full bodied, sticky and sweet, velvety smooth and creamy, exceptionally balanced finish makes it incredibly easy to drink; it is boozy but not overly
O 4.75 - always has been a favorite beer of mine. Apparently they're now barrel aging it starting in 2014, but in my opinion it doesn't need to be. It's phenomenal the way it is. Maybe they should keep both options open.

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Photo of beerdrifter
3.77/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Picked this up in a great trade with Evan! 2013 vintage. Pitch black pour with a gorgeous two finger caramel-colored head with great retention and decent lacing. The nose is dark and roasty with hints of cocoa, dark fruits, espresso, licorice, and a subtle vinous character. The taste is earthy and vinous and pretty much mirrors the nose. Hints of cocoa, espresso, licorice, dark chocolate, black pepper, dark fruits, leather, tobacco, port wine, and smoke. The mouthfeel is medium bodied, with medium carbonation and a dry, bitter finish. Overall, definitely didn't live up to the hype. Pretty average and overrated...

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Photo of themind
5/5  rDev +13.1%

A dark motor oil beast of a beer! wow! I really liked this beer. Poured a deep, dark, molasses black. Has a roasted, traditional stout aroma. The taste is just awesome. Dark fruit, molasses and coffee make this masterpiece a must seek, must find, must have beer. 2013 version acquired at Darkness Day, this beer lived up to the hype. I have had many good stouts and this one as of now is the best.

Bottom Line: 2013 Darkness is one heck of a beer!

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Photo of vette2006c5r
4.5/5  rDev +1.8%

Darkness pours a bold black color with a big tan head. There is a weaker aroma, with sweet date aromas. Their are big creamy flavors, big sweet and dry fruit flavors, nice noticeable warmth from the alcohol. Big bold flavors. Overall its a big bold beer, lots of fruit flavors, on the sweeter side.

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Photo of dar482
4.68/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

'15 non-BA on tap at EBF: Great classic notes of the beer up front, but then an offensive amount of hops overwhelm the beer. Definitely a harsh beer when fresh.

On a '13 bottle, the beer has a really wonderful complexity for a non-barrel aged stout. Chocolate, dark fruit, umami, woody and earthy hops. A good transitioning of flavor that makes it quite different from other imperial stouts because of its substantial, but restrained hopping.

Mouthfeel is medium plus.

(2012 vintage)

The beer in the front has roasted malt, chocolate, and slight coffee flavors. The mouthfeel throughout is actually only medium plus, without being as full as other imperial stouts. The beer also begins with a heavy amount of sweetness. On the finish, there is a heavy hoppiness. It's a bittering that is still tannic, earthy, and drying.

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Photo of drmcleod10
4.5/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2012 Surly Darkness split between 4 people served into snifters at 55+ degrees

A - Appearance is dark as night with minimal light being able to penetrate. 1/4 inch khaki to tan foam head appeared. Solid lacing with this beer.

S - Dark fruits are extremely prevalent in this with, oak, cocoa, bourbon barrels, and floral aromas coming through as it warmed.

T - Taste wasn't honestly as good as I was expecting there was slightly too much floral hoppiness and dark fruit for an RIS for my tastes. Although I drank this on a night of BCBCS, Prairie Bomb!, Abraxas, and 1 other massive stout. There is chocolate and coffee not he tongue mixing in with the hops but for some reason this beer just wasn't drinking up to the hype for me.

M - Mouthfeel was smooth, thick, with a decent amount of carbonation. May have to re-visit

O - I thought it was an amazing stout don't get me wrong, but for me the flavor was not what I was expecting and will have to give this one another go in the future.

2013 bottle - Re-review

Taste and flavors were all much the same. I have dipped further into craft since the first time I had this.

The dark fruits, raisins, figs, and plums really cut through and blend well with the chocolate notes that come through on this beer

Quite the treat once you appreciate this beer for what it is.

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Photo of Bosoxfan20
4.22/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Tasted in a mini-vert with 2010 and 2013 side by side. Review will be based on 2010 Vampire

A- Poured from a 750 ml bottle. Near black with a soft dark caramel head. Some light coming through. Decent legs

S- Aroma is quite intense. 2010 significantly stronger than 2013. Malty as hell, caramelized sugars, and generous amounts of dark cherries. A mix of other dark fruits and a hint of vinous notes.

T- Bold. Dark fruits again, maybe even some raspberries. Lots of sweetness of an RIS. Lots of malty goodness. Not getting the hop character the label speaks of, but very solid none the less.

M- Thick, chewy, and coating. Sweet without cloying. Alcohol present, but welcoming.

O- Terrific. The side by side proves age does this beer well. No signs of oxidation. Flavors only get taken up a notch.

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Photo of Domvan
4.73/5  rDev +7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

Poured a dark thick syrup and had a medium head
Smelled of sweet chocolate and molasses
The sweetness was overpowering of the bitterness by most RIS'
A medium bodied mouthfeel
Darkness 13

Darkness 14 - Had a very similar experience, but the barrel enhanced everything that much more, the minor whiskey addition was perfect.

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Photo of Hesscabob
4.73/5  rDev +7%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Vaguely remember drinking this at Dark Lord Day 2014. While waiting in line to purchase my allottment of DL, a kind DLD go'er shared some Darkness. From what I remember, strong roasted, chocolate malts power through the nose and the taste had more body than most RIS' I've had prior. Delicious and I will try to seek out again for better review.

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Photo of guityler83
4.54/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

2012 Vintage (Werewolf)

A: Black as night, this beer shows no light through when held to the full moon. A thick finger of tan, mocha head made of tight nit bubbles that sustains for a full moon cycle. When the bubbles do fall a residual lacing is left on the full finger of the snifter glass looking like a spider web with only a dusting on top of the darkness.

S: Sweet caramel and toffee overpower the senses on first sniff. As it opens up the chocolate notes come through with cocoa, milk chocolate and hints of tobacco and vanilla. No hop aroma detected, but there is a subtle fruity easter quality that may be coming from the yeast or some kind of candy sugar.

T: Big malty sweetness hits first followed by a charred, roasty and cocoa punch. Big caramel sweetness with raisins and prunes and toffee. The chocolate balances well with the caramel flavor, milk chocolate, bakers chocolate and dark chocolate flavored. A hint of smoke and tar like flavor that comes through adding to the complexity. The balance is on the malt side with a medium hop bitterness that sneaks through in the finish, earthy with pine. Vanilla is there but low and must be the result of the malt complexity.

M: Big thick creamy body that slides slowly down the esophagus trying to hold on. Carbonation is low and there is a slight astringency but nothing that keeps the drinkability from being affected. Alcohol warming is apparent and hits in the chest.

O: Bold and full of complexity, this huge RIS lives up to the reputation. The sweetness isn't nearly as intense as Dark Lord and the hop character comes through slightly (even after a year in cold storage).

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Photo of GJ40
4.27/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Sampled a 22oz bottle from 2012.

A - Deep black with a sturdy head. Clings nicely to the glass. The inside of the cap was oddly bubbled and spotted. Not sure why.

S - Dark chocolate, molasses and brown sugar. Inviting.

T - Moderately sweet with a dark chocolate lead followed closely by brown sugar and raisins. No significant bitterness or roastiness. Smooth and balanced.

M - Creamy and smooth with a low, well behaved carbonation.

O - A little sweet for me but tasty and worth a try.

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Photo of Dawgboned37
4.99/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I love this beer! Poured 2013 (Brewcifer) vintage into a surly tulip glass. Moderate caramel head dissipated to thin layer of bubbles. The beer is very thick and viscous. The nose has complex scents of molasses, chocolate, roasted malts, licorice, and lingering vanilla. The taste follows the nose very well with pronounced dark chocolate, malt, and vanilla flavors accented by oak. Slight coffee bitterness, and even some hop flavors come through toward the end. Fantastic.

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Photo of dexterk1
4.49/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance is jet black. This was werewolf (2012). Strong brown head that remains for a while.
Odor is sweet and rich. Dark sweet like toffee and perhaps molasses. A little bit of chocolate odor and maybe some wood or smoke.
Taste is just as complex. Sweet with the whole list of types. Toffee, molasses, a little vanilla. A bit of coffee and chocolate as well.
Mouth feel is rich and coating. Smooth and sweet.
Overall an excellent stout. Just a hint of alcohol taste which is good. Smooth and complex.

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Photo of reebtaerG
4.91/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Poured 2011 bottle into snifter

A-Pours deep black with a thin brown head. Very good lacing!

S-Aroma of chocolate, coffee, dark fruits and roasted malts.

T-Licorice with chocolate in the front for taste and coffee, dark fine malts and some caramel to follow. Yummy!

M-Soft carbonation and full body. Pleasant bittersweet chocolate aftertaste and some alcohol.

O-Wow glad I had some of this 2011 also had the 2013 on tap at churchkey which just almost as awesome, got to love the vintage flavors.

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Photo of Carb-Overlord
4.85/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

This is simply an incredible Imperial Stout. In my opinion, when stored correctly, these continue to improve with age and grow in depth.

Appearance: This is motor oil black, when swirled in my tulip glass leaves a very appetizing orange residue that slowly runs flows down the glass; very little head from the bottle, more from a tap.

Smell: This is a mixed bouquet of chocolate, coffee, licorice; just a very rich aroma.

Taste: I must say this is one of the smoothest Imperial's I've tried. There is zero bite, initial favors are chocolates, but the flavor keeps going, after taste turns to coffee/licorice. Very interesting.

Mouthfeel: This is a thick chewy imperial, again feels smooth and viscous.

Overall: This is definitely an extremely well crafted beer. I would highly recommend this to any beer connoisseur.

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Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
98 out of 100 based on 797 ratings.