Darkness - Surly Brewing Company

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797 Reviews

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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
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Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 797 | Hads: 3,277
Photo of kajerm
4.42/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

On tap at Clark St. Ale House. Pours black with a little bit of clarity and two fingers of fluffy white head and massive lacing.

The aroma is strongly coffeeish with a background of coffee and some suggestion of citric hops.

The flavor profile opens with coffeeish malts with sweetness quickly fading to a stronger coffee flavor, but without the chalky astringency that tends to plague drier imps like Nogne Ø and Old Rasputin. The finish is strong citric hops; alcohol is detectable only as warmth.

The mouthfeel is a bit lighter than some other stouts, but still relatively chewy and strongly carbonated.

This is only the second hoppy imperial stout I've ever had, and the other one (Storm King) isn't even in the same league. Drinkability is out of control, assuming you like hoppy stouts in the first place.

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Photo of hero27
4.75/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Blood red & black wax drapes the neck of the 750ml.
Bottle # 185.

Consumed out of the "official" 12oz Darkness glass...

Pours a dark, burnt chestnut...nearly black. Tannish brown head sits atop the dark liquid.
Aroma of dark chocolate, fig, and heavily roasted malts..molasses, caramel, and brown sugar flavors take control with the first sip...it's worth noting that there's a suprisingly strong resiny hop profile, since it's not something most people pay attention to in an imperial stout.
Expectantly huge body...coating, velvety smooth mouthfeel. Each sip I take seems to be more satisfying than the last..it's really hard to find any faults in this beer.
Somehow..(for a Russian Imperial Stout from a brewery only a couple years old) Darkness seems refined..almost like it has been perfected over decades. An absolute delicacy in the world of craft beer.

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Photo of westweasel
4.65/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Served in a goblet at Chef Paul's Barvarian Lodge in Lisle, IL.

The beer is very dark but clear, with about 1/3" tan head. Lacing was left all along the glass as the beer went down. The smell is filled with piney and citrusy hops, but it also contains some caramel and toasty smells. Very light roastiness - less than I expected. If you close your eyes and imagine the smell of their IPA "Furious" - you'll smell it. It smells like a similar mixture of hops.

The taste is filled with great hop flavor. Again nice pine and citrus hops provide a bitter bite. Also some raisin and date flavors.

The mouthfeel is nice and full. This beer is extremely drinkable for a Russian Imperial Stout. It is not too sweet - in fact it is loaded with bitterness (this keg is probably young) and quite a treat for a hop lover. The alcohol is very well hidden. I had barrel-aged darkness at the Great Taste of the Midwest - and was not that impressed. This is much better.

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Photo of Lordsloth
4.8/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Served in a small (5 or 6 oz.) Guinness glass at McKenzie's in Minneapolis.

A- "Blacker than the Blackest Black- times infinity", as one of my favorite sayings goes. A thick foam head with tenacious lacing as the beer goes down.

S- A roasted chocolatey, hop filled nose.

T- It has an amazing, deep flavor. Chocolate, Toast, and a big hop taste that comes quickly and fades back. There was something of a bite like a warm coke(I like warm coke), I thought. Amazingly smooth, as well.

M- Thick! A medium to heavy viscosity in the mouth, and no bad aftertaste to speak of.

D- Highly drinkable. It's a sipper, but you keep on sipping. I can see myself having a few glasses.

My first review- be kind. ;)

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Photo of Erdinger2003
4.88/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Bottle 237

Poured into Darkness glasses bought at Darkness Day. Pours a great brown/tan head with a great lacing and great retention. Black in color letting no light in whatsoever. Smell is hoppy with a good coffee background. The first smell when putting glass to nose was chocolate, then the hoppy/roasty flavor balanced out. The mouthfeel was unbelievably smooth and full bodied. Overall, I loved it. Was a great experience from sitting in the cold to drinking it.

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Photo of GbVDave
4.63/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Served in a 12oz goblet at Chef Paul's Bavarian Lodge in Lisle, IL 12/13/07. Very special thanks to HeatherAnn for the assist!

A: Served a pure pitch black. Espresso coffee black with a coffee crema colored head that leaves a TON of lace. Looks like something you'd find in a junkyard engine oil pan.

S: Huge nose of coffee and fresh, green, and piney hops. Bitter dark chocolate and burnt black malt.

T: Coffee, cherry, chocolate, toasted bread, dark fruit, roasted malt, and brown sugar/molassas. Sweet and tart fruit and incredible fresh green hops. Wow!

M: Looks and feels like thick oily syrup, but the mouthfeel is much more nuanced than that. Starts spicy and peppery and finishes full and creamy.

D: The alcohol is practically non-existant and the aromas and flavors compliment each other expertly. This is a wonderful beer!

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Photo of DavidEddie
4.64/5  rDev +5%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Enjoyed on tap @ Chef Paul’s Bavarian Lodge.

Deep midnight black in appearance. Extremely thick dense brown head. Mega sticky lacing that hung around the entire time. Laid back mild aromas of chocolate, malt, and a hint of piney hops. Taste of rich chocolate, sweet roasted malt, coffee, some burnt toast, and a touch of smoke. Every sip starts off very chocolaty and semi sweet, then finishes piney and ever so slightly bitter. NICE! Mouth feel is thick, extremely creamy, and sticky. This is the thickest brew I have ever experienced. Overall drinkability was incredible. Did not detect the high ABV whatsoever. A fantastic flavorful blend of chocolate and piney hops. A real gem to make out to the Chicagoland Burbs. Well done Surly Brewing Company! This RIS lives up to the hype. Highly recommended!

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Photo of SargeC
4.83/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Appearance: Like the cover of a Spinal Tap record, it cannot be any blacker. Dense brown head that suspends liquid within it and lingers for the long haul.

Smell: Very rich character. Coffee and chocolate, rich malt and a decent hint of hops.

Taste: Chocolaty roast malt. Blasts of sweetness settle to a ripple with a great hop balance. There is so much under the surface that begins to reveal itself, and then disappears back into the Darkness. A Complex and challenging brew.

Mouthfeel: Rich, full body with a smooth oily finish. Very satisfying.

Drinkability: Extremely drinkable for such a big brew. Tasty from start to finish.

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Photo of oakbluff
4.87/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at Blue Nile, and followed up at Stub & Herb’s following day. Presented in both cases in a goblet (Blue Nile being a really nice Surly goblet). Great looking beer- black as night as expected with a chocolate milk head. Nose is heaven- spicy roasty chocolate. Taste- waves of flavours- all the usual suspects in a great imperial stout- dark roasted coffee, dark and milk chocolate, hazlenuts; plus a wallop of hop bitterness. The hops were really well done, and I think I’m lucky to have tried this fresh while the hops are still battling out with the malts. Adds a really nice dimension to the beer. The pineyness of the hops plays well with the decadent desert of the malts. Very smooth mouthfeel and absolutely no booze heat. Damn fine. If I didn’t have these at the start of my drinking day, I could have had many but stopped at two. I can’t think of any other imperial stouts that I’ve enjoyed more. I’m very happy I could time my trip to Minni and get my lips on this sucker. well done Surly- you never let me down.

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Photo of rhoadsrage
4.35/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

(Served in an American pint glass)

A- This beer has a jet black body with a milkshake head of thick coco colored foam that last and last. Is slips down the side of the glass after each sip.

S- This beer has a nice pine hop bitterness with a dark black roasted smooth quality.

T- This beer has a creamy black bitter malt flavor with a dark raisin sweetness to it. There is a note of cream flavor that has a bit of a chocolate malt note to it. The finish is a nice green herbal pine finish that has a bitterness of hops under black malt that lingers after each sip.

M- This beer has a full mouthfeel with a creamy texture and a smooth finish that doesn't really have any alcohol heat.

D-This beer is big and smooth. The hops really hold there own against the dark black malt making this a great beer for the cold months.

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

On tap at Local Option, they had run out at Map Room but Local still had quite a bit, so Chicago BA's get it while it lasts! Local Option is a pretty nice spot too. Served in a pint glass.

Pours opaque black, thin red is visible on the edges, very thick dark tan head, lots of thick lacing on the glass, great retention, really sticks. Smell is awesome, pine and molasses, very rich, brown sugar, chocolate, toffee, roast, sweet fruits, some dates, very complex. Taste is similar, burnt dates/raisins, brown sugar/molasses, milk chocolate, some pine and floral hops, coffee and cream, very rich sugary goodness, nice bitterness in the finish, alcohol is very well hidden. Mouthfeel is thick and viscous, nice body, low carbonation, super smooth and drinkable. At first I wasn't sure what to think, but I can imagine this is exactly what RIS's tasted like when they were developed at the turn of the century. Fantastic stout, worth seeking out, and insanely drinkable, considering I had 3 pints!

2008 bottle: Day 2 of epic DrJay visit tasting, courtesy of grub.

Found this years to be a bit sweeter, not as much roast as the 07. Maybe a little less smooth. But still enjoyable!

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

i had the wonderful pleasure of attending a surly tasting last night and had one of the first tastes of the fresh tapped darkness. i have absolutely nothing bad to say about this beer. pitch black in color a dark caramel dense fluffy head. a practically perfect russian imperial stout. do be careful though it doesnt have the feel or taste of its over 10% abv. with only 25 barrels brewed if you get a chance to taste it is a must.

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Photo of twbrewer
4.75/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Served in a Surly Darkness goblet!

A-Poured the blackest beer I have ever seen,no light could shine thru this.1" of caramel colored head reduces to thick ring around edge of goblet.

S-First smell is soft hops,then a earthy plum and raisin smell with a chocolate and fruit background.

T-Similar to the smell,plum\raisin and a soft fruit\chocolate taste with no bitterness or hint of hops.

M-Velvety smooth over the palate with a nice touch of carbonation.

D-I've heard so much about this beer that I started to believe that it was to good to be true.I was wrong.This is a great beer that given the opportunity to try this you can not pass this up.This is a very drinkable beer but becareful at 9.5% it can sneak up on you.

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Photo of emerge077
4.55/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

On-tap at Local Option, Maproom, and Hopleaf...first pour at Maproom was brimming with foam, at Hopleaf it was gushing from the glass like a muddy volcano. Jet black with a huge cap of lacy tan foam. Over time it forms sheets of webby lacing.

Fruity hop in the nose, Amarillo maybe, tangerine or mango, even juicyfruit gum a little. Hops are aggressive, at 80 IBU's, but the aroma is definitely clean and measured.

Initial burst of fruity/spicy hops are steamrolled by a dense charred chocolate, that lingers for a long time, underscored by earthy, bitter hops. Cocoa blends with a lightly astringent roast in the finish that suggests a quality blend of exotic coffee. Not overbearing, it hides the abv well.

A viscous and velvety mouthfeel, with somewhat low-level carbonation, that still manages to be effervescent. After three, i've reached my limit, but that's a testament to an easily drinkable RIS. Really fantastic, i'm glad Surly has landed in Chicago...

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

Served on tap at Hopleaf in a snifter.

A - This baby is thick,dark and black, who would have thunk it? Slight brown head that quickly disapates. Pretty much what you would think this beer to look like.

S - Holy Shit!!! This is the best smelling RIS I have ever run across. A slight fruit hop scent with a very distinct dark fruit scent. Plum with raisins and a big dark cherry scent. There is also a bit of dark chocolate in there. Wow!

T - Sweet malty goodness, but not too sweet. Flavors of dark chocolate and vanilla. Nice dark cherry and plum flavors here too. Some coffee in there too. Not too bitter or drying. Slight alchohol warmth but amazingly well hidden. Perfectly balanced.

M - Thick and creamy. Heavy but not sticky. Just perfect.

D - Even with the big flavors and high alcohol it is amazingly drinkable.

Overall, this is the best beer I have every had. Better than Westy, Dark Lord, KBS, you name it. I can think of no way to improve it. Man I wish this was easier to obtain. Hopefully the taps at Hopleaf last a while.

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Photo of brewdoc75
4.53/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

On tap at Stub and Herb's into a Goblet....unfortunately the waitress was spilling it all over the floor as she brought it to me.

Appearance: Black, very black. Beautiful brown, persistent head. Quite seductive. I really didn't want to drink it because it looked so lovely, but at the same time it beckons me.

Smell: Not a whole lot at first. I feel that this was due to the fact that the beer was inappropriately, overchilled. Once it warms up, it smells of chocolate, coffee, and roasted malts. It actually has a distinctive hoppy smell for a stout.

Taste: Smooth, clean and rich are the first things that come to mind. Hints of chocolate, but has rich coffee flavors as well. A little sweet w/ a hint of molassess, but not too much. I am actually suprised by the hoppiness of this brew. It has a beautiful bitterness that is not too overpowering and balances out the flavors nicely.

Mouthfeel: Rich, creamy and smooth. Like liquid velvet. The everlasting head is smooth on my lips with every drink. Perfect mouthfeel for this style of beer.

Drinkability: This is perhaps the most suprising thing about this beer. It is one of the most drinkable imperial stouts I have ever had. It is so smooth and balanced, you would never know that it has such a high alcohol content. Just like the description says, I could drink this all night long. In fact I really want more of this one. I hope that some day they will release this in cans, so I can enjoy this one at home nightly.

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

Appearance: Dark black, initially a good head but fades out, good lacing as I drank out of the official Darkness snifter.

Smell: All I could really smell was the hops in this beer. Might be my cold acting up or because this was on tap so I couldn't stick my nose in it while I poured it.

Taste: Made a good impression on me. A nice hop blast followed by bitter chocolate and a little bit of smoky flavor. Not harshly bitter to my tastes. No alcohol to be detected by my senses.

Mouthfeel: Very smooth.

Drinkability: For an imperial this goes down extremely easy. If I wasn't trying multiple beers at the Gnome, I would have had another.

Finally I have tasted the Darkness from Surly. It is an excellent beer even though I don't typically seek out imperial stouts. The only thing to make this better was if it was canned for home consumption. I'm not sleeping in the parking lot for a growler!

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Photo of Bighuge
4.78/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Inky black. Big thick crop of dark brown foam on top. Great staying power too. Spotty patches of brown lace coat the glass as I drink. The aroma is thick with raw, resinous hops. (Very similar to the way Alpha Klaus smelled the very first time I had it years ago.) Also chocolate notes and roasted malts and heavily roasted coffee bean. The flavor exhibits great complexity and depth. Baker's chocolate. Black licorice and hop oils mingle nicely. Intense coffee flavors and mocha/java notes. Fruit nuances are dark in nature....black berry and boysenberry come to mind. And there's a huge bitterness. A big double punch of roasted bitterness and hop bitterness....love this raw ass bitterness. And throughout, there's a nice charred edge to round everything off. The body is medium-full to full. Somewhere in that range. This doesn't have that "motor oil" viscosity, but it really doesn't need it. This is damn impressive the way it is. It's lightly carbonated and the alcohol really isn't that noticeable. It seems to blend in with the bitterness and is hidden to an extent in that capacity. There's a nice oily/greasy feel after drinking which I find appealing. The taste lingers long after I'm done. This is very drinkable. Growler would be no problem.

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Photo of edbeered
4.62/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Served in a tulip glass, this pours an opaque jet black color, with a small brownish head and scattered lacing on the glass. The smell is fruity and chocolaty. The taste is intense, with a peaty earthiness, a fruity plum flavor, a hint of grapefruit hoppiness, and a toasty maltiness. The flavors burst forth, yet this exceptional brew is smooth and balanced. The alcohol content is 9.5%, yet it doesn't feature in the taste. For me, the style makes this a "one and done" beer, due to the intensity of the flavors and the high alcohol content. That said, if any Russian Imperial Stout could tempt me into a second glass, it would be this one. An exceptional effort from the brewers at Surly.

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

I've been luke warm on Imperials in the past, I was floored tonight.

Served from tap into belgian stem-ware, don't recall which. Inky black, while the lighting at the Blue Nile wasn't exactly bright, I am confident there was no light coming through that beer. A light tan head which eventually diminished.

I didn't get a lot from the aroma, there was some malt there, and if my vocabulary was better or I was a more experienced reviewer, I might have something, but I kept trying for it and it never did become pronounced, but it may well have been overwhelmed by the intense flavors because I dove in pretty quickly.

Sweet, malty thickness, like a good 90% dark chocolate and a finish like a really well prepared espresso, bitterness lingering forever, essentially until I couldn't resist another sip.

Mouthfeel that sticky syrupy sweetness that never cloys, it dissipates into a lovely alcohol warmth and the aforementioned espresso.

I usually have an Imperial and I am done with the style but I just couldn't resist a second and was not disappointed.

I seriously have never enjoyed an Imperial more than this.

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

Russian Imperial Stouts are my favorite style, so I'm a bit biased.

I think what Surly is doing is very ballsy. Brewing big beers and canning them. The only other example I can think of that comes close to this is Oskar Blues Ten Fity. I tried this at GABF so it was on draft and from what I heard their not canning this one.

But to get to the point; Darkness is off the charts! Pours a jet black, opaque hue, with a thick tan head.

The roasty, toasty, coffee, caramel and slight whiskey aromas jump out at you.

Strong coffee, roasty malt and toffee flavors. Slight whiskey character, but very subtle.

So drinkable! Just so damn, drinkable! This may be the best russian I've tried since Stone or North Coast.

If you can get your hands on this beer, try it! You won't be dissappointed.

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

I had this on draught at the Autumn Brew Review in Minneapolis, MN. Very dark in color with a caramel/tan head. Aroma of molasses, liqourice, and slight creamed coffee. More flavor revealed in every sip. Sweet cocoa chocolate flavor with some dark fruits also present. This was a real treat.

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Photo of Mebuzzard
4.7/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I've been waiting for this one.
A deep, dark pour. Close to Abyss in total darkness. Small, but dense off brown head, nice chunking action. A bit creamy.
Aroma is full of cocao and coffee. Some anise and dark plum or prune. Not overpowering in the nose, makes mouth water.
Taste focuses more on the chocolate side rather than coffee. A rich cocao powder taste, yet is smooth. Dark chocolate, some coffee and anise, roasted malt and some caramel. Hints of toasted bread in the back.
Drinks very well, alcohol isn't detected. Nice feel. Great beer.

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Photo of mnstorm99
4.54/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

I finally was able to try this one last night, I am not the biggest fans of stout's in general, but I can certainly sit and enjoy one from time to time, and enjoy is what I did. Nice thick dark black color with a tan head that slowly fades but leaves a nice lacing. aroma of sweet fruits and cocoa. Taste is more of an initial fruity hop feel with a sweet taste of fruity hops and carmel. Mouthfeel is extremely thick and chewy that coats my throat all the way down. I will definatly be enjoying another one of these sippers when the next batch comes out.

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

The body is black with a pick-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps, magically self-forming head. It’s a small head, but it gets a nice dark mocha color before slowly fading out. The aroma holds some muted hints of acetone and perfumey alcohol along with dark fruit, chocolate, licorice, raisin and very faint burnt grain notes. Fore is chocolate, dark fruits (blueberry/cherry) and malt sweetness just before the finish. The finish holds dark chocolate, cooked dark fruits, cocoa powder, burnt malt and toasted/burnt grains. The mouthfeel is quite thick and very creamy and pleasing on the tongue. Very nice.

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