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Darkness - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.

Educational use only; do not reuse.

811 Reviews

(Read More)
Reviews: 811
Hads: 3,343
Avg: 4.41
pDev: 9.52%
Wants: 3,281
Gots: 1,216 | FT: 92
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 (55) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Darkness Alström Bros
Reviews: 811 | Hads: 3,343
Photo of aleigator
4.13/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Darkness '12

Pours a motor oil black color, with a dark brown, stable head, with lots of bubbles in it. Leaves back a viscous film after swirling, revealing the beers thickness. It is actually that viscous, that it leaves spots of lacing on the glass after taking a sip.

Offers sweet aromas of molasses, toffee and caramel on top. This gets balanced by coffeeish earth, charred coal, dried fruits and warming chocolate dipped alcohol. This gets hold together by even more charred malts and toasty bakers chocolate.

Offers the most silk mouthfeel. Incredibly smooth, soft on the palate, with a diverse, fuller body. Low carbonated, with rich roasty flavors to it.

Tastes of dark, roasty malts, accompanied by sweet toffee and smooth chocolate. Turns then sweeter, due to caramel and molasses, with a good amount of roast shining through. Provides boozy, earthy coffee, wrapped up by sweet liquor pralines, resulting in a very sweet finish, driven by milk chocolate and smooth cream.

Has a very sweet but gently balanced appearance, preventing the beer from becoming cloyingly sweet. As for its depth, roasted coffee adds a lot of character to the beer, competing with smooth chocolate and sweet fudge.

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Photo of blockdude
4.62/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Had the '012 this past night and i've been wanting to sample this for the longest time. First off, if there is any imperial stout out there that shows barrel aging is not not necessary to make a damn good beer this is it. This was medium bodied and the nose was pretty bourbon heavy. The beer had noticeable bourbon to it but did not match the amount I got on the nose. I have to say, this was incredibly smooth and had so much complexity that I could care less if it was barrel aged or not. One sip, I tasted bourbon, chocolate, and maple syrup, while another sip I tasted coconut and raisins. This beer does have a good amount of hype but for someone who is not one to seek out imperial stouts, I was impressed.

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Photo of kkleu357
4.36/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

On draft at Cooper’s Tavern. Only $6 a glass. I've had Darkness 2014 a few times, from the bottle only though. This was on draft and lacked the nice bourbon oak taste that I remember. Still, was pretty darn good. More of the chocolate and raisin flavor came through. And hell, at $6 a glass, that was one awesome deal.

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Photo of Treyliff
4.57/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2013 Vintage poured into a tulip glass

A- pours motor oil thick jet black in color with a thick and creamy dark tan head that retains long after the pour, leaving some lacing behind

S- tons of dark & tart cherry aroma up front that smells like the filling of a cherry pie. Underneath the cherry notes are complex layers of chocolate malt that add aromas of dark chocolate, caramel, molasses, brown sugar pie crust, even a hint of cinnamon. Just a hint of oxidation

T- the dark cherry flavors up front follow the nose and add a light tartness, complex flavors of dark chocolate malt, molasses, burnt brown sugar, coffee, fig, date & raisin. More black cherry on the finish with lingers of dark fruit and molasses

M- thick and heavy body with low carbonation leads to a thick and chewy mouthfeel that continues into a creamy velvety finish

O- a supper that is loaded with dark fruit flavors and aromas, perfect mouthfeel makes it a pleasure to drink

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Photo of Tucquan
4.57/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Had this on 2015-04-29 in Portland, OR at Apex on tap

A - Dark opaqur brown with a 1-finger brown head and great lace

S - Rich dark roasted grain, chocolate, molasses, earthy spice.

T - Dark and milk chocolate, dark roast, some char, molasses, prune, some coffee, vanilla.

M - Thick body and light carb. Creamy as can be.

O - Absolutely delicious. One of the best Imperial stouts I've ever had.

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Photo of simcoeluv
3.04/5  rDev -31.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Not barrel-aged.

Had heard a lot about it, so was disappointed.

I could go through the list, but bottom line it was sugar sweet.

Poured it out without finishing.

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Photo of KnowYourCraft
4.63/5  rDev +5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: pours brown and leaves a small espresso colored head, in the glass it looks like glossy motor oil.

Aroma: Huge rush of chocolate, followed closely with roasted coffee, and tart cherry.
When there is a head I can detect vanilla as well.

Taste: Instantly hit with that roasted coffee, that is quickly balanced by chocolate, then this beer turns and hits you with some tart cherry and chocolate only. The finish hits you with char first and then molds into an awesome blend of tart cherry, roasted coffee, chocolate, and a good amount of vanilla. All the flavors mold together wonderfully and every flavor complements other flavors. This is probably the best tasting non barrel aged imperial stouts I have had so far.

Mouthfeel: Medium-thick feel; a little sticky which actually works with this beer quite well, very smooth and drinkable. The flavor lingers a little but it is slightly muted leaving you craving for more.

Overall: This is an excellent imperial stout and Surly has executed it very well. This is definitely a new favorite for me and I need more!

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Photo of JasonHaviland
3.28/5  rDev -25.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3

EBF Sample -- not for me. Way too boozy for me, too hot on the finish with strong astringency. I was really looking forward to this one, but it fell flat. Look and smell were fine, but I didn't feel like it was well integrated with the bold flavors and interesting nuances I was hoping for. Will try again, but won't seek this one out.

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Photo of SierraFlight
4.36/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Shared at Hunahpu’s day 2014 in the massive bottle share, poured into souvenir taster. Opaque black body with a resilient tan cap that leaves webbing all over the little glass. Aroma features roasted malt, coffee, raisin, unsweet chocolate, dried cherries, and a surprising bit of soy and citrus. Taste is roasty malt and dried fruit sweetness, coffee and cocoa bitterness. On the lower end of the full body spectrum, thick and creamy texture, soft but appropriate carbonation, warming boozy finish.

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Photo of sordyl
3.56/5  rDev -19.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This was the 2013 Chicago distribution when Surly came into the market. Opened for a bottle share, smelled and looked great but the tastes really was not exceptional at all.

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Photo of stortore
4.48/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2013 750 ML bottle into a a snifter.

Pours a small but tight head, dissipates pretty quickly. Smells of roasted malts, chocolate, a little coffee. Big, rich taste, malty but not as roasty as many other RIP's. Chocolate very prevalent, pretty sweet for the style. Good body but maybe a little thinner feel than I expected.

This is a great beer and grab it if you have the chance. Looking forward to the BA 2014 version.

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Photo of MichaelNeelsen
4.8/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Drank a 2011 "Zombie" 750ml bottle after aging 3 years, 2 months.

L: Poured like liquid silk. Pitch black, no light penetration. Mocha brown head dissipates and then reappears with each sip. The beer is very reflective - you can see yourself in it.

S: Raisins. Dark chocolate. Brown sugar. Dates. Fig. Smells like bourbon even though it's not barrel aged. Dark cherries.

T: As my friend who drank it with me put it, "Rich and sweet and right down the middle. There's no smoke and mirrors here."

F: Like liquid Robert Patrick. If you could drink the liquid T-1000 from Terminator 2, it would feel like this beer. Feels like wine without the dryness or tack. Glides over the tongue. Thin in the best way.

O: A real treat. It's not my favorite Russian Imperial, but it's really damn good - and a very unique experience to drink. I'll look to get a younger bottle and drink it without aging to compare. Highly recommended.

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Photo of RushLimbmalt
5/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2012 vintage I have had every vintage of this brew. Every single one has been stellar. Do yourself a favor and find some. This is an awesome Russian Imperial Stout

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Photo of richj1970
4.53/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Poured from 750 ml bottle into snifter. 2013 vintage.

A: Pours pitch black with no light penetration at all. Geneerous 3 finger dense mocha head that lasted forever and left 360 degree lacing.

S: Roasted malts, bitter dark chocolate, molasses, and vanilla. Maybe a bit of tobacco and oak.

T: Toasted bread, dark chocolate, caramel, and raisins. Maple sryup sweetness. Alcohol is apparent just at the end.

M: Full bodied with a nice creamy texture. Fairly highly carbonated for an imperial stout.

O: Truly wonderful stout. Nice complexity of flavors and aromas. Something I need to trade for again.

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Photo of SteveB24
5/5  rDev +13.4%

Look-color of the beer is jet black, beer pours a shocking two fingers of frothy, tan head. wonderful lacing left on side of the glass.
Smell- Roasted malts, caramel molasses, coffee, milk chocolate, Raisens.
Taste- Unbelievably complex yet super smooth, roasted malts, toast, raisins, plums, milk chocolate, coffee, pink peppercorns. so much sweetness but banked by the toasted grain taste of the malts and some fruity spiciness.
Feel- Full bodied but not quite oil. perfectly creamy.
Overall- one of the best stouts, if not the best, that i've tried. its really beyond words.

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Photo of ghostwalker
3.91/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2011 Edition
Appearance: Dead black body, light mocha head.

Nose: Light, not much. I expected more aroma.

Flavor: Semi-light for an RIS, hoppy. Cocoa and cofee on the finish.

Mouthfeel: Thin but coating.

Overall: Rich, flavorful, surprisingly drinkable. A really good RIS, only marred by the thin body.

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Photo of SDRedDevil
4.8/5  rDev +8.8%

Got to try 2013 and 2012 side by side at Toronado for a Surly Lunch. Both were amazing with the 2013 having a bit less sweetness and more balance imo. Both were jet black deliciousness though!

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Photo of ONovoMexicano
4.5/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5


A- Another pitch black bodied beer, also pours viscous and also has a dark khaki colored head. Lacing is lining all sides of the snifter. 4.5

S- Heavy oak flavors, dark chocolate, caramel. Tobacco is strong. 4.5

T- The barrel qualities remain but are very mellow and don't take over the beer. Still get oak and tobacco, but they aren't overshadowing the smooth dark malts. 4.5

M- This is exceptionally smooth, viscous and drinkable. No heat and a thick, lightly carbonated mouthfeel. Slightly bitter on the finish. 4.5

Fantastic effing beer. Love that the bourbon and barrels don't run away with the beer.

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Photo of Qbdoo
4.56/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Look: the pure dark of the abyss. Smell: I've got a cold. Taste: smoooooth. Many Russian Imperial Stouts, which I love, can be somewhat rough in taste: super roasty and with strong alcohol burn. But this is elegant with hints of coffee, dark fruit, and maple syrup. None of these jump up. The tastes are superbly integrated and I can't taste the alcohol at all. The mouthfeel is thick and creamy.

The hype surrounding this made me prepared to be disappointed, but I was pleasantly surprised that this was even better than I'd heard. Pretty rare.

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Photo of barnzy78
4.88/5  rDev +10.7%
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 beerdrifter
3.77/5  rDev -14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Picked this up in a great trade with Evan! 2013 vintage. Pitch black pour with a gorgeous two finger caramel-colored head with great retention and decent lacing. The nose is dark and roasty with hints of cocoa, dark fruits, espresso, licorice, and a subtle vinous character. The taste is earthy and vinous and pretty much mirrors the nose. Hints of cocoa, espresso, licorice, dark chocolate, black pepper, dark fruits, leather, tobacco, port wine, and smoke. The mouthfeel is medium bodied, with medium carbonation and a dry, bitter finish. Overall, definitely didn't live up to the hype. Pretty average and overrated...

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Photo of themind
5/5  rDev +13.4%

A dark motor oil beast of a beer! wow! I really liked this beer. Poured a deep, dark, molasses black. Has a roasted, traditional stout aroma. The taste is just awesome. Dark fruit, molasses and coffee make this masterpiece a must seek, must find, must have beer. 2013 version acquired at Darkness Day, this beer lived up to the hype. I have had many good stouts and this one as of now is the best.

Bottom Line: 2013 Darkness is one heck of a beer!

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Photo of vette2006c5r
4.5/5  rDev +2%

Darkness pours a bold black color with a big tan head. There is a weaker aroma, with sweet date aromas. Their are big creamy flavors, big sweet and dry fruit flavors, nice noticeable warmth from the alcohol. Big bold flavors. Overall its a big bold beer, lots of fruit flavors, on the sweeter side.

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Photo of dar482
4.68/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

'15 non-BA on tap at EBF: Great classic notes of the beer up front, but then an offensive amount of hops overwhelm the beer. Definitely a harsh beer when fresh.

On a '13 bottle, the beer has a really wonderful complexity for a non-barrel aged stout. Chocolate, dark fruit, umami, woody and earthy hops. A good transitioning of flavor that makes it quite different from other imperial stouts because of its substantial, but restrained hopping.

Mouthfeel is medium plus.

(2012 vintage)

The beer in the front has roasted malt, chocolate, and slight coffee flavors. The mouthfeel throughout is actually only medium plus, without being as full as other imperial stouts. The beer also begins with a heavy amount of sweetness. On the finish, there is a heavy hoppiness. It's a bittering that is still tannic, earthy, and drying.

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Photo of drmcleod10
4.5/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2012 Surly Darkness split between 4 people served into snifters at 55+ degrees

A - Appearance is dark as night with minimal light being able to penetrate. 1/4 inch khaki to tan foam head appeared. Solid lacing with this beer.

S - Dark fruits are extremely prevalent in this with, oak, cocoa, bourbon barrels, and floral aromas coming through as it warmed.

T - Taste wasn't honestly as good as I was expecting there was slightly too much floral hoppiness and dark fruit for an RIS for my tastes. Although I drank this on a night of BCBCS, Prairie Bomb!, Abraxas, and 1 other massive stout. There is chocolate and coffee not he tongue mixing in with the hops but for some reason this beer just wasn't drinking up to the hype for me.

M - Mouthfeel was smooth, thick, with a decent amount of carbonation. May have to re-visit

O - I thought it was an amazing stout don't get me wrong, but for me the flavor was not what I was expecting and will have to give this one another go in the future.

2013 bottle - Re-review

Taste and flavors were all much the same. I have dipped further into craft since the first time I had this.

The dark fruits, raisins, figs, and plums really cut through and blend well with the chocolate notes that come through on this beer

Quite the treat once you appreciate this beer for what it is.

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Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
98 out of 100 based on 811 ratings.