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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
View: Beers (53) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 796 | Hads: 3,274
Photo of NuclearDolphin
4.92/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Poured into a 16oz Tulip Glass. After a year of waiting, I was finally able to get my hands on a bottle of Darkness.

Appearance - True to it's name, it pours a pitch black color with the brownest and one of the fluffiest heads I have ever seen. Head is about 3 fingers thick and leaves behind alot of lacing.

Smell - Very rich chocolate smell with butterscotch, rum and toffee. Very healthy burnt malt smell adds more to the aroma along with a slight coffee smell. I don't think I've ever enjoyed the smell of a beer this much!

Taste - I've had beers with chocolate before, but this is by far the most chocolatest beer I've ever had! Rich flavorful chocolate mixed in with very strong caramel and scotch/rum flavors. The burnt malts are also very noticeable which helps add more to the flavor. Amazingly enough, the alcohol taste is masked so well that you can't even tell there is any in here!

Mouthfeel - Body is very thick and heavy, but it's also a very smooth beer to drink. The fact there's virtually no carbonation in this beer also helps it out alot.

Overall - Holy crap, I loved this beer! It was worth being put on the second tier waiting list in order to purchase it. It's a shame this isn't a year round beer because I know this would be a huge seller. Those who are looking for the one of the best Imperial Stouts around need look no further. With it's rich flavor and smoothness, Darkness is one of the best Russian Imperial Stouts around!

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Photo of SquareBrew
4.91/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 5

Holy crap!! 2013 bottle. Been cellared well. Phenomenal. Not so sweet like dark lord (which I still love). So complex. Possibly the best beer I've ever had

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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 tjthresh
4.9/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Pours midnight black with plenty of brown head. Nose of soy sauce, and all of the hops that I have been told that are in this beer. The flavor is different to say the least. It starts of with some maple, then slips into a big date or fig finish. I get all the hops in the finish as well. Full body but it seems to be easily drinkable. Gosh...believe the hype.

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Photo of Douglas88
4.9/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Oh the waiting was painful, this beer is amazing and I wanted to try it for years. 750 ml bottle thanks to footbalm, 2008 edition. Pours a pure black color with a large creamy brown head. The aroma was amazing; huge dark fruits, sweet molasses, caramel, chocolates and rich coffee. Sweet plums especially in the amazing nose. The flavor was amazing as well; initial dark fruits give way to a fizzy and bitter hops. The core of this beer though is a rich chocolate, roasted malt and super decadent coffee mix.The flavor is more than just balanced, you can detect tons of hops, tons of fruit and tons of sweetness. The mouthfeel is very creamy and full. The beer leaves a sludgy leg running down the glass. Amazing. One of the best things I've ever drank. Re-rate: had the 2009 edition at the massive Imperial Stout tasting in Boise. Just as good, rich fruits and aggressive flavors. Still, one of my favorites.

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Photo of Lunch
4.9/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Review #100

Served from a 750ml bottle (2009), obtained via trade with Bulkman (a very generous trader and BA, thanks man!), into my two Darkness snifters (graciously picked up at Surly by kbutler1, thanks man!)at cellar temperature (12/25/09). I have been waiting some time to try this and I must say that it did not disappoint in the slightest.

A: Pours a very thick motor oil black with a one finger mocha colored head with great retention and lacing. Exceptional looking Imperial Stout with a head that would just not go away at all.

S: WOW! What a unique and complex aroma we have here. First roasted chocolate malts jumped out along with some dark fruits, including blueberry, some molasses as well in addition to some smokiness and coffee. Perhaps a hint of piney hops in there too. Not exactly sure what I was expecting from the aroma, but this one truly blew me away with its complexity and depth.

T: And i thought the smell was unique and complex. The tastes brings about a whole new meaning to complex. Everything from roasted chocolate malt, dark fruits, blueberry, smoke, caramel, molasses, coffee, bitter dark chocolate, currant, toffee, licorice and vanilla. Truly amazed at the depth of flavor in this Imperial Stout. The finish has a slight bitterness brought on by some piney hops.

M: Velvety thick and creamy with an appropriately low and creamy carbonation. A slight hint of alcohol in the finish, but really only when it is fairly warm.

D: Very drinkable for such a rich and full-flavored beer, but heaviness of the flavors, even though they are exceptional, will weigh you down at some point. The 10.3% abv. seems to be about as hidden as it possibly could while providing just a hint of warming as the beer is allowed to breathe.

Overall this is has got to be one the best and most unique Imperial Stouts out there. Not one particular flavor or tone dominates another allowing for exceptional complexity and uniqueness. Thanks again to Chuck for being so generous and helpful in allowing this experience to take place. And let's not forget Kevin for providing the Darkness snifters to fully round out this experience. A Must Try.

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Photo of pheggeseth
4.9/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle #069. Obtained by my own two hands at the release event in December. Poured into my goblet of the same name.

A: pours viscous, heavy, with a coffee colored head that appears out of nowhere, frothy and attractive, lacing everywhere

S: buttery/nutty creaminess, next alcohol (as it warms) but starts out as banana and strawberry, malt in the middle and back with hops

T: creaminess upfront, hop bitterness in the back, intense roasted malt in the middle, intense dark chocolate, the creaminess rides subtly above everything

M: THICK, lively but subtle carbonation, smooth, terrific

D: intense, but oh so drinkable, definitely worth it

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Photo of JWD
4.9/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Huge thanks go to phidelt for this one, very excited to try this one as it was #1 on my list of have to trys, so here we go,

A- as you would expect pitch black with a medium tan head, not the dark brown dark lord or abyss head though.

S- very similiar to dark lord with less sweetness, lot of smells here, sweet raisins, chocolate, roasted coffee, and some hop aroma as well. seems like its right where it needs to be a good balance.

T- I loved this, just like the smell it has the balance is exceptional. Starts out a little sweet then hits you with chocolate and coffee and finishes with a little hop bitterness. My favorite RIS so far!!!

M- Thinner than expected, but i have had dark lord very recently so this is expected.

D- I could drink this everyday as the huge variety of smells and flavors are all a little subdued but work flawlessly together.

Great beer and i am thrilled to have had the opportunity to try, now we just need a barrel aged version!!

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Photo of DaveAnderson
4.89/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I was looking for something to drink tonight, and it suddenly occurred to me that I have never reviewed a Surly beer. Which is odd enough, since I am sure I spend more money on Surly than I do on any other brewery. And on top of that, I haven't cracked a bottle of 2012 Darkness yet -- and didn't even sample it on Darkness Day. So...

...2012 Darkness it is! I chilled one down, then cut through the thick red wax, and popped the cap. I have Darkness tulips, but prefer the wider, deeper (and laser-etched) Duvel glass, so I poured vigorously into the Duvel.

It's black. Light does not penetrate this beer. The room seems dimmer, now that I have poured it. And I don't know why I'm always surprised by this, but Darkness produces rather large bubbles. The head is on the thin side, with the afore-mentioned big bubbles, but lasts a long time, and leaves little to no lacing.

Good Lord, this smells fantastic. If there's a hoppier RIS, I have never encountered it. There are tropical fruits, stone fruits, crazy levels of dark chocolate, orange, grapefruit...I just keep burying my nose in this glass.

But enough of that. This needs to be tasted. And wow. I expect this to be sweet, but it really isn't. It has all of the flavors promised by the nose, and more. It finishes with such a satisfying resin and bitterness. It's so soft, yet not sticky.

I'd like to end by offering a wholly subjective ranking of 2007-2012 Darkness, each of which I have had multiple times, and each of which I have had this past year. My order of preference is: 2007, 2009, 2012, 2010, 2011, 2008. Capsule reviews: 2007 was sublime. 2011 did not age well -- think soy sauce. 2008 was too sweet. 2009 was great fresh, as well as every year since. 2010 was super-drinkable fresh, and is still good, and 2012 is too young to know where it's headed.

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

On tap at Cafe 28. First off, I have to say my intents were to go in and slam this beer. I’d had enough with Imperial Stouts in the Top 50 (this may seem hypocritical considering my past endeavors to further a certain example of the style). My injurious intents would soon be quickly assuaged by a single glass of beer...A friend and I headed to Cafe 28, where I had called ahead to ensure the presence of Darkness and to get reservations. They anticipated my arrival with a table and a couple pours.

The beer came to the table in a narrow chalice and it carried a luxurious finger of the most elegantly soapy, soft creamy dark-oak head. It was almost mahogany itself, gently sliding around on the top with large laces following the beer down the glass. The black gold itself absorb all light and possibly other objects with gravity, with just the slighest blood red corners. Beautiful. I put the chalice to my nose and was blown away by a bold, unique aroma. It’s a tough one to finger, because it was so original and something I’d not experienced. There were lots of reduced plums, raisins, dark cherry syrup, Ecuadorian estate chocolates and toasted wheat kernels. It was rather piquant and electrifying, with a real warming phenolic nose, but it wasn’t boozy or chemical-like, instead a real refined almost sherry or perfume signature. Whatever it was, it was like no aroma I’d wafted. Unfortunately, the pour was a little on the cold side, so the aromatics were slightly restrained and my the time the beer reached warmer climes, my olfactories had been saturated.

On the tongue, the texture was immediately astounding. It was so thick and creamy, yet not sticky. Sweet, but not cloying. Smooth and drinkable, yet not watery. Warm and glowing, but not too hot. Hoppy, but was not dry and parching. Some amazing alchemical processes had occurred hear. Brewing magic under the hand of a wizard had formulated a brew so prefect and desirable I couldn’t believe I was drinking it. I kept muttering, "best beer ever" and "damn near perfect." The flavor cascaded with everything and Imperial Stout drinker looks for. Mounds of freshly brewed Blue Mountains dark roast, Dagoba fair-trade dark chocolate, charred oak barrel edges, Italian cherry skins, Tahitian vanilla beans, drops of fresh organic farm cream and Italian espresso and then the dark fruits really came in. Moist rainier cherries, dried succulent wild bog cranberries, fresh raspberries from the stem, a hint of musky Thimbleberries, a cacophony of Bilberry syrup and Blueberry reduction, with a hint of sour cherries and final bit of pomegranate arils. On top of this, an electric wave of bright hops.

Again, the character of the hops so unique as to be something I have a tough time likening it to. It had a real shining lime zest and gin quality. High, thin and mercurial. These bold citrus oils danced over the brewing cauldron of darker flavors, complementing and intertwining magically. Then, the longest draw of a smack I could imagine. It kept going and morphing, with roads of Marcona almonds, toasted earth, light goat cheese rind and ground oak dust. From the sauna floor rose juniper branches and hints of sea oats. The real phenomenal effect of this beer was the ethereal combination of every desirable effect. Each aspect played off of every other one in near perfect harmonic balance. The aroma was different from the flavor and the hops had great interplay and the texture was just plain perfect. It reminded me much of the great singular and touchable quality of Westy 12, with all the individualisms and character of the world’s most perfect Imperial Stout. This is the solar center paradigm shift of Imperial Stouts for me.

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

Pours out a really dark black with no light coming through. One finger of small dark brown suds.
Raisin bread smell. Very doughy with hints of fruits, mango and pepper.
Taste is like sweet mango with sugar malts and raisin bread with just a hint of chocolate and a tinge of coffe aftertaste.
This is a well balanced and very refined drink.
Mouthfeel is wonderful and leaves just a tad of sugar behind. Love how it goes from sweet to salty then coffee bitter to dry sugar. This is a great RIS.
Drinkability is so high here because you cannot taste any alcohol or feel any in the back of the throat.

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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 umustdrink
4.88/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Sampled at Happy Gnome's Firkin Fest

A - Completely opaque pitch black color. Smooth dark brown head retains at a half inch, its darker around the edge of the glass. Thin sheets of lacing.

S - Dark roasted coffee with sharp piny hops. Dark fruits, cream and light vanilla playin in the background.

T - An oily slick bitterness with a sweet dark roasted maltiness starts out the taste. Dark malts get even darker while a sweet cream contrasts simultaneously. Lots going on here and I probably only skimmed the surface... I need more.

M - Thick consistency with a good amount of carbonation.

D - Excellent balance of sharp hoppiness and deep roasted maltiness make for a very unique and flavorful experience. More please.

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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 ForWhatAlesYou
4.88/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Darkness 2011 on tap at Stout's Pub in Falcon Heights, MN. Poured into a Delirium Tremens snifter (per my request).

A: Beautiful inky black with one of the most dense heads I have ever seen. Lace is a timeline of pure savoring bliss.

S: Bitterness over dark fruit. Light pipe tobacco, alcohol, candi sugar, tamarind.

T: Yes. This is what beer is all about. While it drinks like an aged port it holds up the beer end with dark malt profile. So complex in flavor, I am sure a million descriptors are necessary. Raisin, rum, merlot grape, currant, leather, charcoal, dates and figs, coffee-like bitter, pumpernickel, sherry, a little hazelnut or pecan, molasses, cherry tobacco...I keep finding new elements here as the beer warms and airs out.

M: Rich and lucious. Syrupiness isn't overbearing and carbonation is so tight that this is a physical pleasure to the palate as much as it is a (taste) sensory one.

D: Overall, easily the best of the style I've ever had. One of the best beers I have ever had. One of only a handful of brews I have ever had a guttural moan involuntarily emerge from my lips upon nearly every delicious sip. I don't give 5's easily, Surly has earned them.

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Photo of WYVYRN527
4.88/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2009 Vintage... Could not wait any longer... This has been tempting me.

A: Pours black with a tan head that doesn't want to go away. The foam sticks to every part of the glass it touches. One cannot see through this beer. This is Darkness.

S: Roasty as the fires of hell. Coffee, molasses, chocolate, licorice, and slight boozines dominate the aroma, followed by some slight hop notes.

T: At first, the malt comes with a blast of chocolate, espresso, caramel, molasses, and anise. Dried dark fruit and caramel are in the center. It finishes dry with a slightly bitter hop profile. Simply the best release of this beer to date.

M: Full bodied and viscous, this beer has it all. Body, flavor, and a mind of it's own.

D: If it weren't so limited and so strong, I would drink this all night. The best Russian Imperial Stout I have ever tasted. I can't wait to see what they taste like in a few years.

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

'09 pour at the Feb Portland BA tasting at Beer Mongers. This might be the most balanced RIS I've ever had. Hops are present in the nose and in the first part of the taste, with an amazing roaste, chocolate, and coffee synthesis immediately following. Incredibly unique and pleasurable. This absolutely delivers on the hype. Awesome beer.

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

My 2nd bottle from Darkness Day at the Surly brewery, #207.

This pours black as the ace of spades with a nice tan head. It couldn't be any more tempting. Nice lacing on the glass when drinking too.

Smells like dark chocolate and coffee with a slight whiff of hops.

The darkness is all I could want in an imperial stout. The taste is thick with chocolate, rising with a slight bite of hops, and then finishing with a subtle hint of bitter coffee. Mouth feel very well mixed between the smoothness of a stout and the bite of a hoppy beer.

The last bottle was consumed in an imperial stout tasting with some friends; that included: Darkness, Abyss, Speedway Stout, Poseidon, Sam Smith, Rogue, Yeti, Bourbon County, and Old Rasputin. The darkness was my favorite with the Abyss a close second. What really sets the Darkness apart is its unique hop flavors (like other surly beers) and how smoothly integrated all the flavors are making an outstanding beer.

I can't wait for next year! (not to mention all the other great beers from Surly in between)

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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 Mar02x
4.87/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Tasted it at a tasting organized by BA's Jeffo and Doopiedoopiedoo. So with massive thanks to Jeffo and Doopiedoopiedoo I was able to taste the Surly Darkness, and not only that! They had assembled the 2011, 2010, 2009 and the 2008 version of it!!! What a fantastic surprise this was and still is to me.

So the scores above represent the highest score I gave for each separate beer. Below I will review them a all, one by one.

We started with the 2011th version
A4 - The deepest red with a small beige head.

S4.5 - Oak, sweet, liquor, chocolate, vanilla and dark cherries.

T5 - Oak wood, chocolate sweetness and booze (so great).

M4.5 - Low to medium carbonation and what a full body.

O4.5 - A very solid RIS, what a balance!

Than the 2010 version was opened
A4.5 - Pitch black and a little beige foam ring.

S5 - Strong Chocolate and liquor smell. (so nice)

T5 - Chocolate, dark cherries and again some booze.

M5 - A soft carbonation and a light bitterness, it fits the style perfect.

O4.5 - What a great taste, unbelievable good.

Version 2009
A4.5 - A beige brown head on a pitch black beer.

S4 - A slight sour smell mixed with chocolate liquor.

T5 - Chocolate, raisins and a bit to much wood, still perfect though.

M5 - A soft carbonation and so full in body.

O4.5 - The balance is just a tiny bit off, but who's complaining.

And last, but certainly not the least; version 2008
A4.5 - Again a beige brown head on a pitch black beer.

S4.5 - A sweet liquor chocolate.

T5 - Ginger bread, sweet vanilla liquor - excellent.

M5 - A soft carbonation that is so perfect for this type of beer.

O4.5 - Excellent brew, no doubt about it.

Again, thanks guys for searing this with me.

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Photo of user0317
4.87/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

I tried this on tap at Winterfest 2008, in a 4 ounce snifter.

Pours black as night with little carbonation and 1/2 a finger of head. The beer smells amazing and complex, with notes of roasted grain, coffee, chocolate, pine and hops.

I always find it hard to describe the taste of a good RIS, as there is so much character in them. Both sweet and bitter chocolates hit my palate along with subtle smoke flavors, dark grains, molasses, and a bit of hops and alcohol to finish it off.

Darkness seems to coat your mouth and throat with on the way down, and the mouthfeel is viscous and smooth. It would certainly be hard to polish off a lot of darkness in one short sitting, but when put into perspective of ones expectations for imperial stouts, this is an easy drinker. I only wish that I could have taken a little more time to enjoy darkness, but alas there were many fine beverages to sample at winterfest.

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

Had this bottle Darkness Nigh (Darkness day was full of Smoke and Oak Bender). Paired Amazing with a triple chocolate pie.

A: Black. More opaque than me. Nice brown two finger head with beautiful lace. Needs more texture and longevity though.

S: Very strong of Molasses, some cooked sugar, but no roast. Also no hops, just carmelized malt. Phenominal.

T: Tastes. Black. No roast though. Smooth, dark, sweet. Cooked sugar again, more molasses. Dark Chocolate, no Alcohol.

M: Creamy. Perfect carbonation. Super smooth.

D: Excellent, but not something to have too many of.

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Photo of zoso493
4.87/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 2009 vintage 750 ml bottle into a Dogfish Head signature glass.

Appearance: Right off the bat, I can tell that this is one of the thicker stouts I've ever poured. Immediately, the beer pours a viscous, compact motor-oil black that just sludges its way out of the bottle. Atop the beer is a bubbly two-finger head that loses its height quickly, but still retains a slight presence on top of the beer for awhile.

Smell: This is a stout? At first sniff, it seems not. The first thing you get out of the nose, at least in this 2009 vintage, is an immense and glorious whiff of hops. These are not just piny hops, however, as you would normally expect in a stout, but a whole array of piny, sugary, and even citric hops. It's tempting to just enjoy the beautiful scent of caramel-coated hops and forget about the rest of the scent, but there is even more to be found.

While the hops are blatantly the most prominent and intriguing facets of the smell, there is a delightful backdrop of syrupy, gooey dark malts lurking somewhere in the background. This dark malt is so good that if it were the only scent in the nose, I would consider awarding the perfect score. All in all, an absolutely breathtaking nose.

Taste: If the nose had somehow left you skeptical as to the quality of Darkness, the taste puts all doubts to rest. Again, the hops are the first thing I'll discuss, not because they are necessarily the mot obvious taste, but because they form the feature that make this beer like no other RIS. As in the nose, there is a wonderful citric and resinous pine sap taste that is quite unexpected but extremely welcomed by a hophead.

Enough about the hops, though. The impressive malt backbone deserves some attention of its own. Just in case you thought this was a black IPA (or whatever the hell they're called now), the malt reminds you that, yes, you're drinking an imperial stout, and a world-class one at that. The fudge-like malts are prototypical of an imperial stout, but still delicious all the same. Without typing too much, I think the taste of the malts can be summarized as a rum-soaked chocolate cake.

Mouthfeel: Upon first sip, I had reservation about awarding this the perfect score, but now I know that Darkness is well-deserving. Despite the appearance, this is not an exceptionally thick stout, though I will admit it is thicker than average. Where this beer stands out, however, is the silkiness of the mouthfeel. The flavors all tied together so beautifully that I'm certain this is one of the smoother RIS's that I've had.

Drinkability: For starters, there is absolutely no trace of alcohol in this beer, and for that, I applaud the brewers at Surly Brewing Company. Nevertheless, I've taken a good hour and a half to get through this bottle, which is the only thing keeping me from giving it the perfect score.

Surly Darkness is a magnificent beer without a shadow of a doubt. It is an immensely bold and extremely complex stout, but what sets it apart for me is the uniqueness of the flavors. I can comfortably say that this is without a doubt completely unlike any RIS I've ever had. The way the hops are incorporated into the massive malt-profile is truly a work of art, and for that I take my hat off to the brewers at Surly.

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

Review from notes on Jan 30, 2010. 2009 Vintage

A - Ok, I can definitely see why it's called Darkness. That's all you see, if it's something to be seen at all. Maybe your eyes aren't worthy of seeing it. But damn, it's pitch black and nothing shows up around the edges, even in light. Tan head that refuses to go away. No lace. 4.5

S - Well now this is most surprising. It's not your typical sweet and fruity RIS, yet it's not an overly hopped and bitter one either. I pick up a touch of earthiness from the hops, followed by a blend of dark chocolate, spiced rum, prunes, coffee beans, and cream. Maybe a hint of vanilla too? Well, whatever this is, it's causing a nasal addiction and I very nearly snorted this up my nose. 5.0

T - This is a BIG beer. But you can hardly taste the alcohol. The chocolate is the most prominent aspect of the flavor. Bitterness is definitely there but is well blended with the malts, which obviously include chocolate malt and roasted barley. Lots of toastiness and roastiness. Caramel sweetness is in the background, letting everything else shine. I'm kind of at a loss to describe this baby. 5.0

M - Not as thick and viscous as it looks. It's rich and robust, yet drinks like a beer should. Nice and delicate carbonation. 5.0

D - Yes. Indeed. 4.5

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