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Darkness - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

2,626 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 2,626
Reviews: 763
rAvg: 4.5
pDev: 9.33%
Wants: 2,913
Gots: 1,017 | 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:

2007-Grim Reaper
2012 - Werewolf
2013 - Brewcifer

(Beer added by: ryantupy on 10-08-2006)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 2,626 | Reviews: 763 | Display Reviews Only:
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...

11-27-2010 02:19:33 | More by garbercury
Photo of bmanning

North Carolina

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.

11-23-2009 16:57:12 | More by bmanning
Photo of Gary779

South Africa

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.

02-28-2012 19:04:16 | More by Gary779
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.

11-08-2006 01:09:04 | More by Chaz
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.

01-26-2013 18:34:41 | More by mfavoino
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.

02-11-2013 03:28:12 | More by beerandcycling88
Photo of Jrdbohr

North Carolina

4.32/5  rDev -4%

08-18-2014 03:10:29 | More by Jrdbohr
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.

10-14-2012 21:47:36 | More by codysjb
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.

11-12-2009 03:24:12 | More by Vonerichs
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.

09-23-2010 23:17:25 | More by DwnTwnBwn
Photo of ritzkiss

Ontario (Canada)

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!

12-08-2010 17:21:04 | More by ritzkiss
Photo of PDXHops

South Carolina

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.

02-09-2011 01:43:57 | More by PDXHops
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.

06-29-2011 04:11:42 | More by ktrillionaire
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!

11-27-2011 04:35:11 | More by brystmar
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.

05-17-2011 19:52:14 | More by Rampage1
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.

09-20-2009 01:54:05 | More by drgonzo3705
Photo of crewfan16


4.33/5  rDev -3.8%

2011 vintage poured into a snifter. high hopes for this one considering how somewhat difficult it was to get one, even in the twin cities area.

a- deep dark ruby brown with no light shining through. little khaki head quickly rises and falls

s- lots of roasted coffee and cocoa. hints of hops are there at the end as well

t- incredibly complex and delicious. coffee and chocolate with roasted malt and a light hop finish. really, really tasty

m- thick and coating on the mouth. very little carbonation is right on for the style.

overall, a great complex imperial stout. im not certain it was worth the effort it took to get my hands on it, but it is certainly very good. glad I have a couple to age and see how good this can get.

12-03-2011 19:43:43 | More by crewfan16
Photo of Anthony1


4.33/5  rDev -3.8%

Pours a deep dark black hue with a nice bubbly one finger head on my pour. 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. Tons of bitter hops noted. Beautifully roasted chocolaty malt does come through 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. Full in body, rich and somewhat syrupy.

09-29-2010 23:51:09 | More by Anthony1
Photo of bonkers

New Jersey

4.33/5  rDev -3.8%

Thanks to BOLTZ7555 for this one, 2009 vintage. I split this with friends over Easter, review from notes. The pour is viscous, jet black color, thin tan head. The aroma is full of chocolate, booze, coffee and oak. The flavor is like the nose, and it is very smooth for such a big beer. The beer is thick, and the big abv is not noticeable. A great beer, that I am very glad to have tried.

05-29-2011 01:17:15 | More by bonkers
Photo of boomer31


4.33/5  rDev -3.8%

Kind of dumb luck this happened to be review 100. I've had the '08, '09 and '10 versions. Review for '10 release.

A - Pours a rich viscous black with a deep tan head. The head is amazing, thick with tiny bubbles. No brown around the edges. Black

S - This vintage is probably my least favorite overall and it starts with the nose. I get roast and chocolate. Some sweeter fruit notes as it warms. No hops which I miss from '08.

T - Coffee, chocolate and some bitterness in the back, probably from the chocolate malts. As it warms the sugars start to coat your tongue and the fig and molasses come out. Hints of alcohol as it warms going down

M - Rich and viscous, much like it looks and tastes...very full bodied.

D - This is a sipper to be sure. There are a lot of flavors going on here and a 10%+ be carefull. This is very good, a bit sweet.

Overall I'd have to say this is not my favorit vintage but still very good. I miss the hops that the '08 version had. Again, a good beer, one I'll keep going back for

11-27-2010 18:59:45 | More by boomer31
Photo of kirok1999


4.33/5  rDev -3.8%

Pours a mildly dark black, just a hint of ruby around the edges of the snifter. Thin off white head.
Smells very sweet and malty. Mildly spicy with a bit of alcohol.
Very nice sweet taste, milk chocolate and caramel. Slighty bitter and dry with some noticable hops. Lingering alcohol in the aftertaste in the form of mild bourbon.
Feels dense and creamy and very sticky.
Very smooth to sip. A really well made beer worthy of the hype.

10-05-2009 23:35:19 | More by kirok1999
Photo of BucannonXC5


4.33/5  rDev -3.8%

Type: 750-ml bottle
Glass: Oversized wine glass
From: My cousin Sam
Price: N/A
Misc.: 2012 batch (Werewolf); Original art on bottle by Brent Schoonover; Beautiful bottle, but red wax (I think) on the bottle neck was tough to get off.

Poured a black color with 2-3 fingers of thick, frothy, khaki tan head. Healthy layer of the khaki tan lacing on the side all the way down. Good retention on the top, some parts heavy and bubbly, others a bit thinner.

Smelled a big whiff of alcohol first. Once the dust cleared, I got dark cherry, plum, dark red wine (sherry?), raisin, toffee, caramel and chocolate. Surprisingly just a back whiff of coffee or coffee beans. Not too strong.

Tasted better and stronger than the smell. Also unlike the smell, the alcohol was hidden. I got toffee, dark cherry and chocolate, mostly, but so smooth. Also sherry (I think), blackberries, caramel and light coffee notes. Very, very good.

Medium body (surprisingly). Sticky-to-slick texture. Average-to-soft (below average) carbonation. Long, smooth, warming finish.

A very, very good Russian Imperial Stout. Really hit the spot. Would love to try a few more of these bottles again.

01-07-2013 06:43:17 | More by BucannonXC5
Photo of rhinos00


4.33/5  rDev -3.8%

Finally found a moment to open up this gem. Big thanks to Eric and Russ for giving me this opportunity. Poured from a 750 mL maroon wax-topped bottle into a snifter. 2008 vintage.

A- Imagine the contents of an oil drum being poured into your glass. Dark as night, absolutely no visibility. Produced two fingers width of cocoa colored head. Reduced to a ring. Minimal lacing left on the glass.

S- It's there, just not distinct enough...too neutral and restrained, especially for a beast like this. Getting some sweetness from chocolate malts with an underlying scent of oats. A bit of alcohol is also detectable.

T- Took a while to get used to, but once I let it warm up to room temperature, this beer was spot on. Upfront there was a nice amount of bitter chocolates. From there a rich chocolate flavor comes forth with an undeniable sweetness that builds and lasts to the very end. Did notice a hint of charred character as well.

M- This is what I'm talking about. Absolutely perfect. This beer has what I call the double V's...viscosity and velvety smoothness (yea, I just made that up). Slick and oily. I really can't complain here.

D- The sweetness brings it down a little bit, but by no means was it overwhelming. Did not notice the alcohol whatsoever.

Overall, really happy with this one. Definitely didn't disappoint. The mouthfeel was spot on and the taste was close behind. Highly recommended.

09-23-2009 01:38:03 | More by rhinos00
Photo of bobsy

Ontario (Canada)

4.33/5  rDev -3.8%

Impressively waxed bottle - thanks to Eric for sharing!

Jet black viscous pour with a mocha head that stays the course. Smooth aroma of chocolate and coffee with light vanilla. Relatively simple flavour has chocolate and medium coffee roast along with hints of smoke. While the flavour is very pleasant, there are a few things that really stand out for me in this brew. Firstly, its incredibly balanced. Secondly, the mouthfeel is exceptional - full and smooth. Finally, for its weight it might just be the most drinkable imperial I've come across.

12-08-2010 14:53:21 | More by bobsy
Photo of jdense


4.33/5  rDev -3.8%

Tasted at the Slaintemehor animal call tastefest 7.23.2010.

One finger light tan head, medium dissipation with some lacing. Dark brown opaque body, no visible carbonation. Big complex nose, there is a lot going on here, I picked up chocolate and cherry up front, a bit of coffee and caramel balanced against a stone fruit and bitter on the back end hop bill. Taste mirrors nose, pretty damn smooth, I picked up a milk chocolate cordial cherry taste with some bitterness on back end, not overwhelmingly so. Mouthfeel is medium, smooth, a bit sticky. Didn't want to hoard the bottle, what I had was damn good, looking forward to having this again.

07-28-2010 00:01:42 | More by jdense
Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
100 out of 100 based on 2,626 ratings.