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Darkness - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.

Educational use only; do not reuse.

796 Reviews

(Read More)
Reviews: 796
Hads: 3,274
Avg: 4.42
pDev: 9.5%
Wants: 3,251
Gots: 1,186 | 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
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Reviews: 796 | Hads: 3,274
Photo of younger35
3.03/5  rDev -31.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Had a pint of this on the Friday night (10/24/08) before the actual bottle release at Stub & Herbs. After gorging on Surly Coffee Bender all night, I didn't really enjoy my glass of Darkness. Hoping this was just due to the fact that Coffee Bender is gods gift to man and any beer following it, probably isn't going to be that great. So I tried it the night of the release with my buddy after sleeping off the buzz from the morning and afternoon festivities. Drank from my brand spanking new Darkness snifter.

2008 Edition.

Appearance- Glugs a jet black hue that allows zero light to permeate any part of the beer. Fairly decent one finger dark brownish tan head forms leaving a small creamy cap and collar with loads of sticky lacing. Thickest beer I've seen since Dark Lord.
Smell- Tons of well roasted malt give a burnt perception that lends to the copious amounts of coffee and bakers chocolate that jump out of the glass. Tinges of light alder smoke and dark fruits (prunes, raisins and even dark cherries) are detectable as the hoppyness of this Imperial Stout is taken to a whole new level. A definite sweetness in the form of dark toffee and caramel and even some murky black molasses. So much going on in here I think you can pretty much smell whatever you want.
Taste- Ohhh... The aforementioned sweetness in the nose really starts out strong. The burnt coffee and baker's chocolate are muted a bit but still present. Corn Syrup, caramel and dark brown sugar give way to a more earthy molasses before my tongue is destroyed by the hops. Full of raw pine and lemon grass that produces a very herbal hop bitterness that tries to cut the sweetness. Fail. Dark cherries and perhaps even a touch of vanilla finishes the beer along with a very cloying sweetness. The alcohol is covered super well though.
Mouthfeel- Very thick and viscous with nice smooth creamy feel. The carbonation is light and prickly and very nice.
Drinkability- Overall I can definitely see the reason why people love this brew. It's very unique and I haven't tasted anything like this before but it's just not for me. I don't mind a little sweetness in a nice big brew but I think Darkness is just plain cloying and hard to drink. This is all very disappointing too because the nose is pretty inviting and I've been waiting quite some time to sample this. Not Surly's best beer but glad to have to opportunity to try anyways!

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Photo of accordselux
4.88/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2008 release.

Like Travloh, I couldn't wait. My friends and I waited in line for this and the reward needed to be immediate! Drank it tonight as an after-dinner sipper.

I let the bottle warm up a bit from the fridge cut open that wax, and served it in goblets.

A: A wonderful example of an RIS. It poured well and left a caramel covered head that soon settled. It was pitch black, I held it up to a light and squinted and could see nothing. The foam left no rings as it was drunk, it slowly settled back into the beer.

S: The first thing we smelled as we opened it was a strong, sweet molasses smell, combined with a fruit note. It was overpowering the other smells, but as we let it breathe, I got the chocolate smell as well. The only reason it's a 4.5 is because the sweet smell was overpowering for quite a while.

T: Great. This was aggressive, but very well balanced. The dark coffee/chocolate flavors of the malt, highlighted by a sweet molasses/fruit taste. Hops were present but well integrated into the flavor. A LOT of flavor profiles I can't even begin to describe, but I can say, it's a lot more complex, and dare I say better than the Bourbon County Stouts and Old Rasputins I've had recently in preparation.

M: Very smooth. GD Yeti was very thick and oily feeling to me, and while Darkness felt substantial, it was very smooth to drink. The best sensation of all is the warmth you feel in your throat and chest after drinking, the similar feeling I get after drinking a liquor like scotch. Very nice warmer on the coldest day of the year so far in Minnesota.

VERY smooth to drink, which leads me to...

D: I can see why people are warned on Surly's site. The ABV creeps up on you. The beer is so enjoyable, and the flavors mask the alcohol so well, that you can sip for quite a while.

I was worried I wouldn't make the cut, but was #617. I was worried the beer was overhyped, but it's not. This is incredible. I wish I had sprung for the 6 bottles instead of the 4 I bought, but hopefully someone else got the chance to enjoy it.

Cheers to whoever the lucky party is!

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Photo of KeefD
4.6/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2008 release.

Pours a VERY thick black color into a Darkness glass. Nice, thick and creamy chocolate milk head springs to life that fades rather quickly but leaves some lovely sheets of lacing. A quick swirl of the glass sees the return of dark tan foam. This brew is so dark, light cannot be seen through it, even at the edges. Darkness is right.

Aroma is unbelievable. Dark chocolate, booze, cherries, coffee, burnt caramel. Roasty, toasty, and inviting on this cold Minnesota night.

Taste is unlike any RIS I've ever had. Incredibly sweet, plenty of chocolate, and the biggest hop presence of any beer of this style I've yet to come across. The hop bitterness is surprising for this style, but a welcome treat for this hop-head. Cherry flavor shows up. It's almost like a liquid, boozy Cherry Mash candy bar mixed with bright citrus hop oils and bitter roasted coffee beans, although the coffee flavors are not as prevalent as I expected.

Mouthfeel is thick and creamy like no other. It almost has a melted chocolate milkshake consistency, smooth, silky, heartwarming.

The high ABV makes itself known in the nose but is well hidden on the tongue. It can also be felt in the head as the bottle slowly fills the glass and then makes it's way into my happy belly. Despite the high ABV, it's highly drinkable and dangerously so.

I don't know if it's just the hype or if it's because I'm proud of the best (IMO) brewery in my state, but this is quite possibly the best RIS ever made, or at least better than any that's come across these lips. I'm just going to have to be patient with the aging of another bottle until next year, as it will be hard to keep myself from drinking more.

Surly, you've made us proud. And it was well worth the wait.

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Photo of travloh
4.97/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I was able to make it a little over 24 hours without doing it. On this cold October night I just cannot resist. I must. Halloween approaches and the dark bottle with satan on the label beckons...I give in to sin...

I slice the wax top and pop the top. The first thing I get with a hearty whiff of the cap is chocolate. Rich, dark, sweet smelling. The pour into the Darkness snifter reveals the nectar of the devil. Temptation. Pure temptation. Black like night.

That chocolate is of course ever present in the nose, but an orchestra of smells accompanies it. Coffee, brown sugar, cherries, cocoa. Someone call an exorcist, I am nearly possessed.

The semi aggressive pour produces that delayed storm in the black liquid. The bubbles awaken and energize, and send a frothy head upward that seems to come out of nowhere. It keeps pushing upward to the lip of the glass and halts. Its dark, of course, but it has a yellowish twinge to it, too. As it ever so slowly recedes it leaves its tracks on the sides of the glass. Lacing on steroids, it would seem.

The first swallow and my conversion is complete. "Gimme Shelter" by the Rolling Stones plays in the background as my descent into madness hits full stride. Chocolate, cappuccino, sweet bread, cupcakes with frosting. What I imagine a cuban cigar would taste like, only better. The stuff the devil offers you in Hell's waiting room. The second sip reveals more. A tangyness on the tongue, almost makes it numb. Then the alcohol kicks in to remind you this is still beer. I am under the spell of Darkness...

Why did I stand in line and pay $100 for 6 of these? One sip tells me that I would have paid $200. I wish I had 6 more.

This stuff is so good it truly is sinful. All Hail Darkness...

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Photo of ejquin
4.76/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2008 Vintage, just picked up today. Drove up from Chicago

A: Black wih a beautiful fluffy white head that fades and clings to the glass all the way down.

S: Chocolate, and coffee, you get the roasted malts of a stout with some cherries, but a really nice hop fruity spiciness

T/M: Mouthfeel is wonderful, smooth and creamy. The thing about Darkness is that for a RIS, everything is so clean, so crisp, so drinkable, yet loaded with flavor. Starts off with the dark chocolate fading to cherry liquor, and a nice dose of hop spiciness comes through right at the end, just enough so you know it's there and balances the beer perfectly

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Photo of RustyDiamond
4.85/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2007 bottle #445. Shared with two other BA's recently. Poured into a Samilchlaus glass...off the charts black black pour with a snickers nougat colored head. And a little one that reduced to a shiny film atop the dark liquid. A somewhat winey aroma with a dash of chocolate pudding.
I was surprised to taste that the hops 'still' had so much flavor. Thick and viscous in body, sticky hop and plumy chocolate. The bitter hops and bitter chocolate played so nicely together. The image of chocolate raisins dipped in hop lava kept racing through my brain as I slowly enjoyed this. My mouth filled with fumes of phenol and lovely hops. Definitely full bodied and full figured yet not cloying at all. Sticky, resinous hoppy finish that seemed to never end. Crazy drinkable...I could have enjoyed all of the 750mLs myself in 1 setting.

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Photo of Gueuzedude
4.12/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle Number 172, 2nd RB Tucson Tasting, Sampled September 2008
This beer pours with a frothy, thick textured, light brown colored head and is quite pitch black in color. The aroma has notes of chocolate and cocoa up front, but quickly gets to notes of dark roast and lightly acidic coffee. It has a lightly smoky aroma to it that is almost peat like at times and there is a roast plum fruitiness to it. This does not have as sweet / rich a malt base character to the aroma as I expected. This has a nice grain character that takes on umami laden notes that are a touch like teriyaki, but there is also some subtle licorice and mint notes. The roast character is definitely dominant in the nose, but there is other stuff going on that makes this quite the intriguing beer to be smelling.

As this beer first hits my tongue it feels very thick, chewy and is more sweet than the aroma suggested, but it is still roast malt dominated. There are flavors of coffee, bitter cocoa and burnt grain bitterness that lingers on in the finish with the amply bitter hop notes. Concentrated umami notes in the flavor of rich malt character and some notes that are picked up of a rich, savory, almost salty-smoke character as well as some flavors of burnt, dried plum.

This is subtle complex and it really grew on me as I worked my way through the beer; there is definitely lots of things going on in this beer and it is one of the better Imperial Stouts I have had in a while.

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Photo of largadeer
2.29/5  rDev -48.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 1

Appearance: 2007 vintage, bottle #263, and what an awesome bottle it is; great packaging here. The beer itself has a pitch black body with two fingers of thick brown froth. Rings of lace cling to the rim of the glass as the head slowly falls. Off to a good start.

Smell: Smoky, meaty, a bit burnt actually. Make that burnt sugar. Citrusy hops are still noticeable despite the age of the bottle, almost a year at this point. This must have been a beast when it was fresh. There's an undercurrent of molasses that's fairly pleasant, but this is somewhat rough on the whole.

Taste & mouthfeel: Molasses, charcoal, pervasive roasty bitterness. There's a spiciness that appears mid-sip, bringing to mind anise or fennel. Thick as hell; this is like drinking a pint of whole milk. Whole milk that someone tossed a piece of charcoal into, that is. The finish is charred and extremely hoppy for the style, with a lingering, somewhat acrid aftertaste that sticks to the tongue even after you've brushed your teeth and gargled with mouthwash. This is certainly complex, but I can't say that I'd ever want to drink it again.

Drinkability: Interesting stuff, but finishing an entire glass is a chore.

Notes: My least favorite beer from Surly so far, I'm sorry to say. It's unique, and possibly even worth trying given the chance, but it's not worth all the hoopla.

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

I just recieved this one in a trade today, and was pretty excited to try/and review this very hyped brew from Surly Brewing Company.

This is a 2007 vintage that has been cellared/aged for one year since its original release on halloween of last year. Served at about 60 degree fahrenheit ambiant temperature. Slightly chilled in my trusty fridge and given time to settle so that the yeast has redistributed itself to the brown glass bottle floor.

P=5: The Blood red and black ink double wax dipped 750ml (Nice, those extra ounces come in handy, and I often wish more breweries would bottle in 750ml bombers as opposed to 22oz [660ml] bombers) bomber bottle is very cool looking indeed. Sturdy brown glass with a bitchin' label with the surly logo and a grim reaper on it. The bottle states that this is bottle # 264 although there is no further information about the beer stated except for the bottle size (750ml)

A=5: With a hard pour into a 20oz Imperial Pint Glass this beer is a real beauty to behold. Ink black with no light penetration and a massive espresso coloured head of foam that lasts and lasts with excellent retention, sheeting, and lacing

S=5: When I cracked the top off of this the smell instantly penetrated my nasal cavity. Deep rosated malts, dark russian rye bread, chocolate, dark black unsweetened coffee, condensed milk, earthy green hops, and a melange of other 'dark' flavors

T=4.5: The taste is awesome and smooth as hell. A great blend of green earthy hops, fresh russian rye bread, chocolate syrup/chocolate milk, toffee, with a bit of coffee, vanilla, sweet condensed milk and caramel thrown in for good measure. The yeast is a nice one here with some very English buttery undertones and the front palate and back palate combine nicely to make this a real cigar sipper of a brew. The burnt coffee, and dark fruit/currant flavors really build up when this one warms up to room temperature. I am now beginning to see that the hype is justified. However, the taste profile is not quite Courage 83' or 2004 Dark Lord. Perhaps it's a bit better, fresh, on tap, or on cask, or maybe even from a can [one can wish]. However, this is near perfect for a russian imperial stout. Alcohol is muted and melded, but it makes itself known in the intense, acrid dry finish. Kind of like day old cold pressed espresso discards

M=5: The mouthfeel is extremely satisfying. Thick, chewy, and coating with an exponential warmth about it as well. However it is not quite the beast in the mouth that dark lord is. It could be a bit thicker with more mid body depth, if I am to be completely honest. Still, thick and rich, this is the epitome of a great imperial stout

D=5: This is where this one really shines. This is a big RIS for sure, but the flavors are melded together very well and in the end the drinkability is really excellent for a 10%+ abv brew. Th e fantastic aroma, interesting flavor profile, and satisfying mouthfeel really all pull together to make this a greatly drinkable RIS.

O=4.9: Overall this is pretty much a 4.9 brew. It is one inch away from a 5 in either taste or mouthfeel and it really fires on all cylinders. I can't wait to try this fresh, as even though I did not sample the 2007 batch fresh in the bottle, on tap, or on cask, I can tell that the hop flavors have been somewhat muted and mellowed, and the mouthfeel may have thinned a bit as well. I can see this being a 5 under the right circumstances, and I may have to take the flight over to MN this halloween to find out for myself.

PC: Surly is probably my favorite new brewery (I only discovered them earlier this year). They make interesting limited seasonals like this (as well as One, Two, etc), Great regular seasonals (such as Cynic, Fest, Bitter Brewer, etc), and killer year round brews (such as furious and bender). I look forward to trying more of their beer be it in cans, bottles, on tap, or on cask. I also look forward to trying the Smoke and some of their more obscure tap/cask only products. Whilst hardly life changing, or the best beer that I have ever had, this is an incredibly solid product, and considering that this brewery has only been open for a few years they really have quite the winner here. I look forward to toasting them on many occasions in the future. In the meantime a BIG thanks to Akorsak for hooking me up with this beauty. The check (or the cable car) will be in the mail this week.

This brew really reminded me why I love Russian Imperial Stouts so much...Probably my all time #3 Imperial Stout after 2004 Dark Lord and 1983 Courage Russian Imperial

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Photo of marksto
4.29/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

One of the triumpherant of Imperial Stouts highly rated enough to appear in the BA top 10. Sampled at the recent Tampa BA gathering, thansk to whoever brought it.

Pours jet black with a light hocolate-colored head. A small ring of foam clings to the sides of the glass. Has a very perfumy aroma. Roast malt, chocolate, alcohol, coffee, and dark fruit (cherry) all evident. Has a thick and viscous mouthfeel. Flavor has a blend of cocoa, raisins, and black coffee and roast. I find the roast to be a bit overpowering, as it leaves a tang and slight harshness on the palate.

Overall, certainly a very good RIS, but I found Dark Lord superior to this one.

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Photo of jwolfie70
4.69/5  rDev +6.1%
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 Overlord
5/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5


How do you review a beer like this? With so many positive reviews, anything you say is going to seem like "piling on", or "following the herd." That being said, this is one of the two or three finest beers I've ever had.

Pours quite black, even when held to the light. Large dark tan foam head (surpisingly large given the ABV). Aggressive chocolate, vanilla, and roasted aromes with a shocking amount of piney hoppiness.

Taste is more chocolate, crazy vanilla, dark fruit/plums?/raisins?/figs?/berries?. Maybe a slight bit of burnt coffee. Also, a balancing amount of earthy hops. This surprised me more than anything else. Sensationally flavorful, rich thick mouthfeel, absolutely sublime.

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

Review is from the February 2007 issue of Beeradvocate Magazine.

Only 12 barrels were made, and we've been blessed with a 1/2 gallon, sent directly from the brewery on ice packs. Kickass!

Aptly named, this is one hell of a black brew. Its dark crown is rich, creamy, tightly formed, and coffee colored. Looks like a freshly frothed coffee. Blackberries, strong sherry, velvety dark chocolate, perfume of soft dried fruits. Thick, viscous, chewy, round, smooth and creamy. Semi-spicy alcohol is caught in the center, surrounded by char and smoke, and grasped by a fi st of sweetness. Malty sweet, but not cloying; molasses, dark brown sugar, charred raisins, juicy, ripe black cherries in a sharp, dark berry middle, and an exotically acrid dark-roasted coffee bite. Hop bitterness rises from the depths, along the sides of the tongue, stabbing at the palate here and there with some leafy and oily notes. Smoky-char linger in the fi nish, with a residual, deep, dark sweetness. Alcohol creeps, lurks and eventually strikes a warming blow to the skull.

Dark Lord Imperial Stout, kneel before Darkness! All hail Darkness! The best American-made Russian Imperial Stout we've ever had!

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Photo of Atron67
4.5/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

so this beer is really just a punch in the face. has a strong hop character, whihc is generally what I hear it referred to as why it stands out in the crowd. I disagree but for a slightly different reason. it has a hop character but for an RIS i would definitely not call it dominant (at this age it might have mellowed though its not that old, 2008) but it does have, which is unusual for most RIS's is that it has a solid fruit character which is very solid and very complex. it hits you on the tonuge and doesnt let go.

out standing beer from surly and thanxs for the chance to try. not top ten but delicious

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Photo of Beerking721
4.97/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Had this at the Surly Darkness Release at Blue Nile:

This is my favorite Surly product - hands down! OMG... this is a brew that will exceed expectations and have you wanting more.

A = A fairly dark and syrupy complexion with blonde hued foamy head that can be refreshed over and over again.

S = A complex blending of deep roasted malts and wonderful citrus and spice components. The citrus is more of blood orange and tangerine which works well with the dark chocolate texture.

T = Wow... pure velvet smoothness with chocolate, coffee, and a hint of toffee sweetness.

M = A viscous warmer with high ABV, smooth and rich without the "palate shock" tendancies present with some of the other big dark brews on the market.

D = Amazing simply for what it is. Psychologically, you'll want as much as you can get of this highly prized and limited production masterpiece.

An "A+" rating from the Beerking!

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Photo of rallison
4.38/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thank you Carlos for opening this one (after so many previous attempts at making this tasting happen!).

Great pour with a great, lasting head on this beauty.

Delicious grapefruit/citrus bitterness is still a large component of this beer, despite the bottle having some age on it. I've had hoppy imperial stouts before (Rogue, Victory, etc), but none that came off so citrusy....an interesting choice and one that I find to work extremely well. Great roast character with complementing dark chocolate and a lingering bitterness. Light alcohol presence on the end. Some dark fruits seem to be present as well - specifically raisins.

Huge body with medium to low carbonation - very suitable. Rich and nicely coating.

Excellent beer. Very unique (and this is not an easy thing to be in the RIS category) with the delicious citric hop presence. I'd take a keg of this ;)

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Photo of seaoflament
4.18/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Huge thanks to Floydster for helping me out with a bottle of this rare beer. Split this bottle last night with a few good friends (Joey, Ryan, Tony +1). The bottle number had mostly rubbed off during shipping, I think there is a 1 and a 6. 2007 release.

Not the darkest stout I've seen but the beauty was in the inch+ of head, the excellent retention and lacing. Soapy spider legs on the sides of the glass (Surly pint glass of course!)

The beer has an impressive roasted aroma, not overdone which I like, and also has a pronounced bitterness. The bitterness is both in a roasted/smokey type and also the citrus hops which are fading into the background. As the beer warmed up there was more caramel, cocoa, and chocolate.

The taste was a little more complex than the aroma (probably because this one has been sitting for a few months already). First I get the roasted malts, dark fruits (dates, raisins), some brown sugar; then I start getting more heavily roasted flavors in the form of burnt malts. There is some coffee and chocolate near the finish and anise in the aftertaste. The hops come in near the end with some earthiness and a bit of citrus bitterness.

The mouthfeel of this beast was probably what impressed me the most, really smooth and silky. The beer just felt graceful on the palate. For such a high abv. stout monster, this beer really drinks well.

I hope to get a fresh bottle of this at the next release because I think that I might have missed some of the hop essence that makes this beer grand.

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Photo of hoppymeal
4.7/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle #230. Pours black with a good size dark tan, light brown head that recedes slowly, with just a bit of lacing. Aroma is very citrusy and hoppy, oranges and tangerines, like a citrusy cotton candy. Some roasty, smoky and chocolatey notes as well, these are in the background but work extremely well with the hoppiness in the foreground. Taste is very similar to the aroma with the citrusy hops being the main player, but a very nice roasty and at times, rich chocolatey maltiness in the background. The flavors work very well together and alternate back and forth. Mouthfeel is medium to heavy in body, very soft and full feeling, creamy carbonation is soft on the tongue, some light tingling and a bit of dryness towards the end from the hoppiness. Really, an outstanding and unique beer. I've had hoppy imperial stouts before, but this particular combination works very well together. Tastes as though it will continue to age very well, though it is extremely drinkable at present.

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Photo of mikesgroove
4.92/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

What can I say really about this whole situation. I was lucky enough to acquire this bottle through a very fair trade from a good friend. When I see how much these things go for and the hype surrounding it, it is hard for me to justify it sometimes. I have found several instances where these beers are just complete letdowns. This here was not the case. It was absolutely wonderful and I really think it is worth its reputation. That being said, I new this would be the only bottle I would get so I saved it for a very special occasion and split it with a good friend at Barley's last night for my 30th Birthday. I figured it would be a fitting place, fitting time, and fitting company to open such a rare and sought after treat. Served in multiple sampling glasses at various temperatures up to room temp, this was definitely a wonderful experience. Bottle # 295.

Appearance - So we finally get to pour this one out. Opened the double dipped, wax topped cap and pour out this black as night liquid. Deep dark notes of black, to which no light could penetrate dropped into the glass with each tip. A mushrooming head of tan foam then came up over the top, reaching a height of at least two fingers before starting to break up into a rocky and cratered field. Even at its lowest mark it still carried about a fingers depth of lace with it and the side glass webbing was extremely nice. Overall this was a monster looking beer, however I cannot say it was a five, only because I have seen Dark Lord and the Abyss offer me a slightly fuller poor.

Smell - The aroma was to die for, literally. Everyone of these big RIS are much different then the one before, and everyone one is so unique, but I think once you take a whiff of this one it becomes very clear that this is in a whole different category. Gone are you rum soaked dark fruit and bourbon barrel, oak infused aromas, this was an entirely different beast. Rich and very sweet cocoa aromas are bringing themselves up to greet you first, with a gentle nudge of alcohol underneath. Wonderfully rich coffee then comes in to deliver the next blow. It was more of a roasted coffee bean aroma to be honest, like when you first open up that drawer at starbucks. A veritable assault of floral hops then comes out of nowhere. Grapefruit and pineapple hints mixing in with molasses and vanilla, what was this. As it warmed that sweet and creamy chocolate and coffee just really stole the show, with drops of vanilla just making this one drip with sweetness.

Taste - Now, we dive in to get a taste of what this wonderful liquid could be hiding. The first thing you notice is uber sweet chocolate and coffee. Just that wonderful taste that you want to have in a big stout, but the second that you get used to it, it gets cut like a knife, infused with grapefruit and orange peel. Puckering the lips as fresh grass and lemon hints seal it up and dry the mouth instantly before falling down the back of your through and opening up the scarred taste buds to welcome rush of vanilla. Beautifully complex, the rich notes of smoke and molasses intermingle and marry a wonderful peat like darkness that just sits there for a second before it too passes, getting whisked away and leaving behind only the faintest hint of grapefruit like bitterness soaked in vanilla and coffee. A wonderful voyage of unexpected tastes and bright surprises, wit ha virtually hidden alcohol content that makes it oh so smooth.

Mouthfeel - An speaking of smooth, wow, this was one smooth stout. A little bit less full then the rest of the big boys, but again this was a different type of monster, something entirely different then you milk shake like consistency you would typically associate with the style. This had a light, more carbonated feel to it. A much drier beer, especially in the finish, the flavors exploded out of it more then soaked in and sat there. As it warmed up it really did get a good deal thicker, but still stuck to its roots, setting it apart from the heard.

Drinkability - As for an almost 11% ABV Russian Imperial Stout, this was something I could have drank all night long. It was just tremendous in its complexity with a unrivaled smoothness. The alcohol was nowhere to be found, and the dry, hoppy finish only encouraged me to go back and try it again, and again, and again. It was a sad moment when this bottle was finished, as I really wanted just a little bit more. It was like beer crack for me, really just that good.

Overall I would have to say this really lived up to the hype for me. It was a phenominal beer, much different then anything I had before it, and was a nice breath of fresh air in the category. I was impressed by the floral hoppiness that was brought into this, especially in the finish as it really hid the alcohol well and let you have a nice, and not super filling experience out of it. Overall would I like another bottle, absolutely! Would I travel to Minnesota to get it, if the wife would let me, in a heartbeat!

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Photo of goindownsouth
4.78/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Many, many thanks to BA mikesgroove for sharing the bottle with me on 06/11/08.

Poured into a short glass and allowed to warm slightly. Deep and rich in appearance, black as can be. Beige head with sturdiness and a lacing that lingered throughout the glass.

Aromas of strong coffee flavors intertwined with bittersweet cocoa goodness - fantastic balance of the two. Hints of some heat )good Rum), dark molasses, and warm spices play in concert.

Thick and robust on the palate. Absolutely splended in the mouth. Chocolate, coffee and spice in full form, working and playing off one another. Plemty of hops action to add an unsuspecting balance to those who are not ready. Savoring this brew in the mouth brings out additional noted of dark fruits covered in high quality chocolate. Fantastic staying power with these flavors.

Full bodied in every conceivable way. Big, but not in an annoying way.

IMHO, this is the quintessential Russian Imperial Stout. The balance and variances make this one for the ages. One not only to seek out and savor, but one to celebrate.

I am honored to have been fortunate to had the opportunity.

Thanks, bro.

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Photo of JDV
3.9/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Huge, huge thanks to miketd for his generousity in hauling this beer down to Texas and sharing it with us!! I've been looking forward to this one for many months.<Br>
Pours dark black with a short lived tan head. Smell is chocolately, some faint cake like sweetness and some really roasty sharp, bitter hops in the nose. Some dryness. Taste is dry, roasty, and very hoppy for the style, and a bit more than I'd like. Somewhat of a meaty, roasty flavor too. Slick, oily mouthfeel. Very good, for sure, with no hint of the ABV, but not my favorite Imperial Stout.

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Photo of johnnnniee
4.45/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a solid black with a good size tanish head that sticks with us for a while. Smell is the usual suspects, coffee, chocolate, a bit smokey, but with some grassy hop aroma in the distance. Taste is a bit hoppy with roast coffee, chocolate, some dried fruits. Full body, oily/creamy mouthfeel, ample carbonation. Left a slight ash aftertaste in my mouth. Great RIS I wish it were more widely available.

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Photo of andreasmwatt
3.4/5  rDev -23.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Appearance - Very dark nice looking beer. Way excited when I poured it.

Smell - Pretty bland actually. Not a whole lot of sense.

Taste- I know everyone loves this beer but I don't love it actually I can live without it. I like dark beer and this one just was not my thing.

Mouthfeel - Felt very nice on the palate.

D - Wuite Quaffable, like I said b4 just not my kind of beer.

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Photo of Georgiabeer
4.4/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2nd bottle of Darkness, compliments of RustyDiamond. Bottle 445. Poured black with a thin head that sticks around. Smells of chocolate pudding, roasted cocoa nibs, and with winey notes at the end. The taste was still a bit hot, but with nice long cocoa liquor tastes. Long chocolatey taste with some bitter hop presence. Mouthfeel was super smooth and creamy. A pleasure and I enjoyed it more the second time around.

***Original Review***
This beer was a treat compliments of Cashew70 at the Brick Store Pub. I had already had Kate the Great, Dark Lord, Speedway, the Abyss, and Ten Fidy among others and I was interested in how this stacked up. I'd previously enjoyed some of Surly's other beers on tap and had high expectations. Definitely a solid beer, but given how unbelievably difficult it is to obtain, I probably won't go to quite those lengths to procure some more, but I'm extremely glad I had a chance to taste it. Like the other great Russian Imperial Stouts, this one pours black as night with a tan head that sticks around. Maybe not quite as thick and rich looking a fresh Ten Fidy on tap, but very nice. The first aromas are of burntt roasted grains, followed by chocolate, coffee, and a nice dark but fresh fruitiness reminiscent of plums. The alcohol is well hidden and the beer is well integrated. The taste is also surprisingly fruity with more of that nice plumminess, big flavors of roasted grains and chocolatey malt, and a tad of soy sauce flavor, as well as a bit of fresh cream. The mouthfeel is not as massive as Dark Lord, or as thick, nor is it as creamy as Ten Fidy, in fact, there is a bit of slickness to to the mouth here. A very good, complex RIS. Not as massive as DL nor as creamy and luscious as Ten Fidy on tap, or as assertive as Speedway, nor as complex as Kate the Great. Stylistically, I would put his somewhere between the winey chameleon-like complexity of Kate the Great, and the massive onslaught of Dark Lord. Forr me it probably takes 4th place behind KTG, DL, and Ten Fidy on tap., but at this level I really think it's probably all about the direction one likes to see a beer go and one's personal taste.

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Photo of tpd975
4.2/5  rDev -5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2007 version

This is one I had been chasing for quite sometime. A big thanks goes out to rate beerian ibrew2or3 for sharing this one.

A: First and foremost its one bad ass looking bottle. Pours a deep dark black hue with a nice bubbly one finger head on my pour. There were spots of lacing noted.

S: Nice hoppy aromas right from the start. There were hints of roasted malts and chocolate along with bitter coffee. It had a somewhat green aroma beneath the roast. The ABV makes itself known in the nose as well.

T: This is a hoppy ass stout. Tons of bitter hops noted as soon as it hit my tongue. Beautifully roasted chocolaty malt does come thru as does a hint of vanilla, a nice dose of smoke, and a touch of dark fruit. A slight alcohol burn lingers after each gulp. That being said it don't ever really come together though.

M: Full in body, rich and somewhat syrupy.

D: The beer is sort of sharp on the tongue. I could of had more than my 1/6 of the bottle but this is one to be shared.

Overall: It's a good beer but overall I was a bit let down. I thank ibrew for the chance to try. Would love to get a bottle of my own to age for a bit.

2008 vintage is a syrupy mess. Don't bother.

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Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
98 out of 100 based on 796 ratings.