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Darkness (2006 - 2013) - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Darkness (2006 - 2013)Darkness (2006 - 2013)

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

2,649 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 2,649
Reviews: 765
rAvg: 4.5
pDev: 9.56%
Wants: 2,924
Gots: 1,030 | FT: 72
Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company visit their website
Minnesota, United States

Style | ABV
Russian Imperial Stout |  10.30% ABV

Availability: Fall

Notes/Commercial Description:
This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

Starting in 2014, Darkness will be aged in whiskey barrels.


2007-Grim Reaper
2012 - Werewolf
2013 - Brewcifer

(Beer added by: ryantupy on 10-08-2006)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Usefulness | Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Darkness (2006 - 2013) Alström Bros
Ratings: 2,649 | Reviews: 765 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of JamesMN
4.28/5  rDev -4.9%

2013 vintage.

Appearance: Pitch black body sits below tan foam.

Aroma: Alcohol warmth, toffee, dark malt.

Taste: Starts with light grassy bitterness mixed with sweet dark malt and currants. The bitterness never gets intense and the malt really shines here. There's actually nothing harsh about the flavor which is odd coming from Surly but genius in that it makes for an unbelievably smooth flavor. Effortless finish and hint of caramel liqueur on the back end. Aftertaste of dark malt and hops. I was expecting a lot of chocolate and coffee flavor but the real standout seems to be a deep caramel character alongside the roasted malt. Robust and yet subtly restrained flavor all around.

Mouthfeel: Full in body, nearing the point of syrup. Super smooth with good drinkability for the style.

Final Thoughts: Had all but given up trying to get a bottle of Darkness. Pricy at $25 a bomber but worth it for a once a year release. Great example of the style. Would I drink it again? Yes.

JamesMN, Nov 02, 2013
Photo of NorthsideFred
4.28/5  rDev -4.9%

Had it on tap at Jake Melnick's, (thanks to the Craft Brew Convention).

A: Looks great. Black with a 1/2" thick dark brown head.

S: Sweet and roasty.

T: Very smooth; the alcohol is very well hidden. Quite sweet. Based on some of the other reviews on here, I expected it to be hoppy, but my pour wasn't hoppy at all.

M: Not as thick as most RIS I've had.

D: Very smooth. You would never guess that this is over 10% ABV! Very drinkable; although, I suspect the sweetness would get to you after awhile.

Overall a great beer, and one that I'd order again!

NorthsideFred, Apr 08, 2010
Photo of DoubleJ
4.28/5  rDev -4.9%

750 ml of Darkness is coming my way! I knew one day I would be able to get a bottle of my own, but I didn't expect it so soon. I got this in a trade back in November. From a 2009 Vintage, on to the beer:

The cap has been taken off, so there is no turning back. It is black as black can be, no amount of lighting is gonna get through. The espresso colored head on top has a finger's worth of thickness and retention, and it has good retention. Thing rings of lacing cling to the glass. It's a very resiny smelling imperial stout. There's a lot of it. Some of the pure hoppiness still exists, and among other aromas are molasses, unsweetened chocolate

Unlike other imperial stouts, Darkness is plenty hoppy. Not resiny like the smell, just hop juice. Yeah, hop juice. Sweet tropical juice, orange, some citrus tang. Quite honestly, it resembles more of a yummy DIPA than a stout. But around its edges are yummy notes of chocolate fudge. More and more malty imperial stout hit the taste buds are more beer is consumed. The alcohol is buried extremely well, and it's not thick or viscous, rolls off the tongue with ease...creamy. Mmmm. It's leaving some tasty hoppy-sweet nectar as it dries around my lips.

I'm not as huge of a fan of hoppy imperial stouts as others geeks, but I do like Darkness and its hoppy profile. Needless to say, I'm very happy to have called a bottle of it my own.

DoubleJ, Mar 25, 2010
Photo of eclipse54
4.28/5  rDev -4.9%

A 2010 bottle sent from inlimbo77; thank you! Split at a tasting on 01/03/2012, and reviewed from notes taken then.

Body is pitch black with a viscous appearance and a deep brown head that is darker than many other beers' body; minimal retention and moderate lacing, though not surprising. Aroma is of vanilla, chocolate, caramel, brown sugar, faint roasted malt, date, raisin, and a touch of plum. Very well balanced. Tastes of vanilla, dark cherries, milk chocolate, caramel, cane sugar, and slight roasted malts. Surprisingly smooth and complex. Mouthfeel is thick in texture, but it goes down smoothly with a creamy finish that thinly coats the mouth. Overall, a great RIS. It has a lot going on flavor-wise, but does well to balance them into a single, cohesive offering. This was the highlight of the tasting.

eclipse54, Feb 06, 2012
Photo of afksports
4.28/5  rDev -4.9%

I've been fortunate enough so far to have acquired two bottles of the 2010 Vampire vintage through trades. I'm an Eagles fan, so when DeSean Jackson decided to stick a dagger in the Giants' hearts, I knew it was time for this Surly beast.

The appearance is absolutely hands-down amazing. Dark, huge tan head, brilliant lacing that clings to the glass. The only huge stout that's looked better has been Deschutes' Abyss. Which I suppose is fitting, because those are dark too.

After looking at it for what seemed like hours (and was really seconds) I gave it a sniff. Not that impressive. Chocolate and coffee malts came through, but despite the big head this didn't have a big nose. Its taste was also subdued. Not to say I didn't love it, because it was exactly how it should taste, but it didn't blow me away like the appearance.

Surly's Russian Imperial Stout still fills the mouth well with its full-body, and honestly I've always been scared of Russians and vampires, but I'd still return to this one - especiallyi f it were off the shelf and didn't require trading.

I'd also love to see how it ages. Probably upside down or in a coffin or something.

afksports, Dec 29, 2010
Photo of tjkinate
4.28/5  rDev -4.9%

Was part of a 08-11 Darkness Vert! I found the 09' and 10' were my favorites, 08 was still good, but slight oxidation was detectable during the tasting.

This review will be a combo of my two favorite years.

A: Single fingered head that exhibited solid retention that slowly reduced to a thin film leaving some lacing in its wake. As the name suggests, this brew is completely black.

S: The 10' still had a slight hop profile while the 09' was full of toffee and raison scents. Molasses follows on both and was fairly potent.

T: Similar to the scent, the 10' had some bitterness from the hops and was balanced well by the sweet molasses that followed. The 09' was sweet, not too sweet for a 6 or so ounce tasting, but I would definitely struggle drinking a whole bottle. As the scent indicated the flavor was primarily comprised of toffee and dark fruits. The alcohol was not detectable in any vintage.

M: Medium/heavy bodied, nice and creamy, well carbonated.

O: A fantastic brew from my home state brewery. I suggest others do a vert if they can, was surprising how much this brew changed over time.

tjkinate, Dec 22, 2011
Photo of SkiBum22
4.3/5  rDev -4.4%

2011 Vintage

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

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

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

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

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

SkiBum22, Jul 15, 2012
Photo of badboyrsl84
4.3/5  rDev -4.4%

Pours dark as a darkness should be poured. Nice 2 inch thick mocha head.

Smell - burnt malt, smoked wood, hints of chocolate. Milk chocolate and dark chocolate. Very smooth smelling brew.

Taste - not as much smoked malt in the taste and more chocolate. Smooth chocolate with a hint of bitterness from chocolate in the aftertaste. No hint alcohol in any of this.

Overall - it lives up to the hype some what and is a solid example of RIS

badboyrsl84, Jun 25, 2011
Photo of rpstevens
4.3/5  rDev -4.4%

Reviewed from notes that I found laying around. Thanks to Maximum12 for this from Secret Santa 09. Poured from a bottle into my Darkness tulip. The beer pours pitch black with a thick mocha head. The head faded pretty quickly and left some oily lacing on the sides of the glass.

The smell is very complex inviting. Licorice, dark roasted espresso, dark chocolate, roasted malts, vanilla sweetness leads to some dark fruits (cherries and raisins mostly). The dark fruits are fleeting and they lead to a blast of citrus hops, very strange for a beer like this.

The taste mirrors the smell, lots of roasted coffee, dark chocolate, and that incredible citrus hop finish. Between the acrid roasted coffee and dark chocolate and the hoppy profile there is are fleeting notes of vanilla and cherry sweetness. An interesting flavor combination for sure.

The beer is thick, more carbonated than expected and has a nice dry finish from the hop profile. The alcohol is definitely present, but adds to the flavors more than it takes away. After one glass the alcohol becomes more apparent for sure, reminding me that this is a heavy-hitter. The flavors make this a beer I wish was more readily available, I would like to drink this more often.

rpstevens, Feb 22, 2010
Photo of garbercury
4.3/5  rDev -4.4%

Huge shout out to Beerwolf77...You da man Todd!!! Shared with Reed415, poured into snifter...

A---Dark, opaque with lacing and retention, like black ink...

S---Excellent aspect of this brew. Smell of roasted malt, hops, and chocolate, coffee, complex.

T---Malts and hops are really balanced. Hops really linger in the finish with some chocolate malt going on...

M---Silky smooth and heavy...nice.

D---To the dome homeboy, to the dome...

garbercury, Nov 27, 2010
Photo of bmanning
4.3/5  rDev -4.4%

Thanks to beerdavis for this 09 bottle - shared with Traquairlover.
Pours black with a 2 finger tan/light brown head.
I'm caught off guard with huge citrus and floral aromas - is this a stout or an IPA? There are also background aromas of coffee, chocolate, licorice, toffee, and caramel.
Taste is very odd, but in a good way. This beer has qualities of both an Imperial IPA and a Russian Imperial Stout. There is grapefruit mixed with chocolate, lemon with coffee, orange with caramel. These are very odd combinations together, but they surprisingly work well together.
Mouthfeel is thick and coats very well.
Overall this is a very different stout than I'm used to because the floral and citrus notes are in the forefront right now with the stout flavors in the back. I'm going to give my 2nd bottle a year in the cellar and see how it develops.

bmanning, Nov 23, 2009
Photo of Gary779
4.3/5  rDev -4.4%

2011 Vintage - Zombie

A: As the beer pours, it has a black-brown colour. It has a strong coffee coloured head that develops quite nicely and has great retention. Leaves nice chunky lace as well.

S: Quite hoppy, with clear aromas of coffee and cocoa. The hops aroma has elements of middle eastern herbs. Upon a swirl, the beer gives off a very sweet aroma, filled with dark fruits and vanilla.

T: There is an initial sweetness that tells you a lot of the final gravity of the beer (it IS a heavy beer). A lot of molasses and dark fruits, like dates and plums. Aside from that the taste is just BIG and complex. Alcohol became too prominent after the beer warmed up to room temperature.

M: Beer is heavy and very smooth. It has a certain oilyness that works wonderfully. Carbonation is silky smooth.

O: I was expecting better, but this is nonetheless a brilliant beer.

Gary779, Feb 28, 2012
Photo of Chaz
4.3/5  rDev -4.4%

Dark, very dark and opaque to the eye as it is poured from the tap. Develops a dark tan head, tight, uniform, and very pleasing to the eye. The head along with the lace ("the stickiest of the icky") rings the glass and never seems to let go. The hops are definitely here in the nose, but are blanketed by notes of fruit (ripening plums, Concorde grapes) and a mildly-pungent yeast. Just a touch of lactic sourness on first sip, alongside hop bitterness, notes of green apple and iodine. A rich, smooth, oatmeal stout-like quality pervades the mouthfeel, and carbonation is appropriate for the style. The yeast character remains consistent as this warms, and there are both vegetal and medicinal qualities here as well. Very well realized: the alcohol is boozy and warming yet unobtrusive, and the hops are biting yet not overly assertive, and are woven intricately into the aromatics. Malty and full-bodied yet by no means sweet in the cloying sense. Near the end of the glass (and as near to actual room temperature as I can get without busting out my handy thermometer) I'm getting cocoa, vanilla, and a touch of sour cherry. Final thoughts: while the alcohol is stated to be 9.5% ABV, it is extremely well hidden here and Darkness drinks a little bit "lighter" than a beer going nose to nose with 10%. A very complex brew and definitely a sipper: if I get the chance to do so, I'd like to try this neck and neck with the Le Coq from Belgium some day, as it brings to mind some fond memories and notes of comparison to that brew. Reviewed at Blue Nile.

Chaz, Nov 08, 2006
Photo of mfavoino
4.31/5  rDev -4.2%

Another shared bottle with Treebs. 2011 bottle with Zombie artwork.

A: Motor oil black with a lingering espresso head. Perfect stout appearance.

S: Bitter chocolate, alcohol, and dark roasted malts. A slight hop presence as well.

T: Sweet chocolate bombarded my palate and the roasted malts took over. Alcohol is there along with a very light coffee taste.

M: Thick, creamy, and smooth. Booze heat as it goes down.

O: A very good RIS, just isn't quite on par with some of the others that I've tried recently. I'd like to give a fresh one a try in the future.

mfavoino, Jan 26, 2013
Photo of beerandcycling88
4.31/5  rDev -4.2%

Another one from the bottle share. Part of a 2010, 2011 and 2012 vertical review is of the 2011.

A Very nice dark brown body that is topped off with a mocha head.

S Lots of chocolate both dark and milk with some smoke.

T Some more smoke with more chocolate and some slight hops and coffee. Very tasty.

M Very thick and creamy.

Overall this is an excellent RIS that I'm glad I got the opportunity to try. The 2011 was my favorite of the 3 with the 10 having a bit too much smoke and the 12 having more hops then what I prefer in a RIS.

beerandcycling88, Feb 11, 2013
Photo of Jrdbohr
4.32/5  rDev -4%

Jrdbohr, Aug 18, 2014
Photo of codysjb
4.33/5  rDev -3.8%

Beer tasting 10/14/12
Motor oil black little head
Toffee, dark, caramel small coffe notes
Lots of carbonation, caramel, heavy very heavy.
Still just a massive amount of carbonation here almost over the top.
Good but not standing up to the cbs and dark lord were opening side by side.

codysjb, Oct 14, 2012
Photo of Vonerichs
4.33/5  rDev -3.8%

Dark brown to black. It was served in a snifter with an impressive head and cascading lacing through the finish.

The smell was dark fruit, sweet malt, and a light chocolate.

Delicious. Very sweet malt with a hint of dark berries, a little currant. There are touches of chocolate and dark roast coffee, but both are minimal.

Mouthfeel is creamy, but not too thick. Finish is dry and slightly bitter in a chocolate or coffee kind of way.

The alcohol was detectable, but not 10% detectable. This is a sipper, but damn tastey.

This is one of the better RISs out there, no doubt.

Vonerichs, Nov 12, 2009
Photo of DwnTwnBwn
4.33/5  rDev -3.8%

Enjoyed a '09 from a tulip glass.

A - Pours a dark black with a hunt of khaki. Head is decent 1 finger that falls to a nice ring around the glass.

S - Nice big sweet beer smell. Lots of roasted malt and dry dark chocolate.

T - The taste is a bit offsetting due to the large amount of hoppiness of this beer. The smells come through quite nicely. Plenty of dark fruits too. Wonderful.

M - Velvet smooth. Carbonation keeps the body light enough

O - Wonderful RIS, the hoppyness starts to detract from the flavor. Need to cellar a few.

DwnTwnBwn, Sep 23, 2010
Photo of ritzkiss
4.33/5  rDev -3.8%

650ml 2010 vintage, silver wax - big thanks to viggo for generously bringing this and sharing.

Pours a not quite jet black, viscous brew, a creamy finger and a half of mocha head which sticks around for the duration. Nice.

Nose initially reveals a nice roast, chocolate, coffee character blended with a fresh leafy hop kick, beautifully integrated. Then rich mocha, hints of smooth espresso (not the acrid stuff from Starbucks!), dark chocolate and milk chocolate, cocoa powder, clean earthy roasted malts, hint of molasses, vanilla. The mouthfeel on this is standout, so smooth and creamy without ever being syrupy, aided by just the right hop bite and dryness. Not too sweet, just so fine. Alcohol so well hidden. Perhaps not the most complex of the big beers but this is perhaps the most balanced, drinkable of the big RIS's I've had - which is a real talent. Thanks a ton Eric!

ritzkiss, Dec 08, 2010
Photo of PDXHops
4.33/5  rDev -3.8%

Major thanks to GatorBeerNerd for this 2010 vintage bottle, poured into an oversized snifter. A huge mousselike initial head shrinks to a thick skim that sticks around for a while. A fair amount of lacing is left behind.

Intense roast in the nose, plenty of burnt and chocolate malts. The blackberry and alcohol combo lends a liqueur quality rather than a boozy presence. Thickish body with very modest carbonation and a slick feel. It's a surprisingly smooth drinker in spite of the impressive lingering bitterness (this must have been a hop monster fresh). Loads of roast and dark chocolate flavor and a nice dose of juicy citrus. Very warming but never boozy; sherry up front, blackberry liqueur or perhaps port in the finish.

Overall impression: A badass stout, definitely worth seeking out.

PDXHops, Feb 09, 2011
Photo of ktrillionaire
4.33/5  rDev -3.8%

Big thanks to Blaine for sharing his 2010 bottle during our recent tasting at Willard's. The brew pours a visibly viscous bowling-ball black and is capped with a patchy brown-mocha head that recedes to an encircling wisp; the glass is marked with both legs and lace. The nose has a fair amount of hoppiness; while it is not intensely bitter, it shows a lot of specific hop character, centered in the herbal and lemon-citric range. After a bit the hop impact wanes and suggestions of brutally roasted coffee, 90% cocoa dark chocolate, and something akin to smoked date compote are noted; it is good but not mind-blowing. The flavor kicks it a notch higher in my estimation, with rich sweetness leading the way in the form of suggestions of dark chocolate, dates macerated in port, fig newtons, dark bread and prunes. There are elements at play to temper the sweetness, including hints of meaty smoke, some earthy and herbal hop character, and a fair dose of heavily roasted espresso. The feel is slick and creamy and works quite well. Overall, not world-class, but quite good, nearly exceptional.

ktrillionaire, Jun 29, 2011
Photo of brystmar
4.33/5  rDev -3.8%

2011 bottle from a recent trade. My first Darkness!

A: Black as night. Pours a generous amount of dark tan head with the retention of a champ. Coats my glass with plenty of lace.

S: Dark, roasted malts; chocolate; booze; molasses; some toffee notes too.

T: Smooth and resilient start to finish. Tons of roasted malt and bittersweet chocolate at every turn. Hints of dark fruits in the middle, then boozy warmth as you swallow. On the sweeter side of the spectrum, but not as sweet as Dark Lord. This isn't a super complex stout like DL or Black Tuesday; instead, Surly focuses on one flavor profile and nails it. Reminds me of Zhukov.

M/D: Its full, smooth body pairs well with the soft carbonation, delivering creamy deliciousness to my palate. I could drink this baby all night long.

Bravo to Omar & crew on brewing a stellar RIS!

brystmar, Nov 27, 2011
Photo of Rampage1
4.33/5  rDev -3.8%

This is one imperial that definitely stands out from the others in the hop profile.

Appearance-- The color was a jet black with a head that was always slightly there and had nice carbonation.

Smell- The smell is what sets this beer apart from other RIS's- i smell beatiful hops in a nice floral way. I have never had a RIS that smells like a mellow IPA up front- never smelled so much hoppiness in a RIS- Awesome!

Taste- All i can say is less sweetness than Darklord but tons of chocolate. I liked that it was very balanced and not too sweet- very smooth!

Mouthfeel- This is really creamy - chocolate milk like.

Drinkablility--- I could drink a bunch of this. You would never know this is almost 11 percent- really easy to drink and very enjoyable.

Rampage1, May 17, 2011
Photo of drgonzo3705
4.33/5  rDev -3.8%

A: Beautiful black with a small tan colored head that hangs out around the edge of the glass.

S: Very pleasant chocolate and oat filled nose. Not overwhelming or underwhelming at all.

T: Cocoa, chocolate, and a touch of oat make this a very enjoyable tasting brew.

M: Full bodied with ample carbonation with a nice stout slickness left behind.

D: Pretty damn good. Big tasty RIS here. Looking forward to the new batch.

drgonzo3705, Sep 20, 2009
Darkness (2006 - 2013) from Surly Brewing Company
100 out of 100 based on 2,649 ratings.