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Darkness - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.

Educational use only; do not reuse.

811 Reviews

(Read More)
Reviews: 811
Hads: 3,346
Avg: 4.41
pDev: 19.27%
Wants: 3,286
Gots: 1,219 | 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: 3,346
Photo of Bosoxfan20
4.22/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Tasted in a mini-vert with 2010 and 2013 side by side. Review will be based on 2010 Vampire

A- Poured from a 750 ml bottle. Near black with a soft dark caramel head. Some light coming through. Decent legs

S- Aroma is quite intense. 2010 significantly stronger than 2013. Malty as hell, caramelized sugars, and generous amounts of dark cherries. A mix of other dark fruits and a hint of vinous notes.

T- Bold. Dark fruits again, maybe even some raspberries. Lots of sweetness of an RIS. Lots of malty goodness. Not getting the hop character the label speaks of, but very solid none the less.

M- Thick, chewy, and coating. Sweet without cloying. Alcohol present, but welcoming.

O- Terrific. The side by side proves age does this beer well. No signs of oxidation. Flavors only get taken up a notch.

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Photo of Domvan
4.73/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

Poured a dark thick syrup and had a medium head
Smelled of sweet chocolate and molasses
The sweetness was overpowering of the bitterness by most RIS'
A medium bodied mouthfeel
Darkness 13

Darkness 14 - Had a very similar experience, but the barrel enhanced everything that much more, the minor whiskey addition was perfect.

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Photo of Hesscabob
4.73/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Vaguely remember drinking this at Dark Lord Day 2014. While waiting in line to purchase my allottment of DL, a kind DLD go'er shared some Darkness. From what I remember, strong roasted, chocolate malts power through the nose and the taste had more body than most RIS' I've had prior. Delicious and I will try to seek out again for better review.

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Photo of guityler83
4.54/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

2012 Vintage (Werewolf)

A: Black as night, this beer shows no light through when held to the full moon. A thick finger of tan, mocha head made of tight nit bubbles that sustains for a full moon cycle. When the bubbles do fall a residual lacing is left on the full finger of the snifter glass looking like a spider web with only a dusting on top of the darkness.

S: Sweet caramel and toffee overpower the senses on first sniff. As it opens up the chocolate notes come through with cocoa, milk chocolate and hints of tobacco and vanilla. No hop aroma detected, but there is a subtle fruity easter quality that may be coming from the yeast or some kind of candy sugar.

T: Big malty sweetness hits first followed by a charred, roasty and cocoa punch. Big caramel sweetness with raisins and prunes and toffee. The chocolate balances well with the caramel flavor, milk chocolate, bakers chocolate and dark chocolate flavored. A hint of smoke and tar like flavor that comes through adding to the complexity. The balance is on the malt side with a medium hop bitterness that sneaks through in the finish, earthy with pine. Vanilla is there but low and must be the result of the malt complexity.

M: Big thick creamy body that slides slowly down the esophagus trying to hold on. Carbonation is low and there is a slight astringency but nothing that keeps the drinkability from being affected. Alcohol warming is apparent and hits in the chest.

O: Bold and full of complexity, this huge RIS lives up to the reputation. The sweetness isn't nearly as intense as Dark Lord and the hop character comes through slightly (even after a year in cold storage).

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Photo of GJ40
4.27/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Sampled a 22oz bottle from 2012.

A - Deep black with a sturdy head. Clings nicely to the glass. The inside of the cap was oddly bubbled and spotted. Not sure why.

S - Dark chocolate, molasses and brown sugar. Inviting.

T - Moderately sweet with a dark chocolate lead followed closely by brown sugar and raisins. No significant bitterness or roastiness. Smooth and balanced.

M - Creamy and smooth with a low, well behaved carbonation.

O - A little sweet for me but tasty and worth a try.

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Photo of Dawgboned37
4.99/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I love this beer! Poured 2013 (Brewcifer) vintage into a surly tulip glass. Moderate caramel head dissipated to thin layer of bubbles. The beer is very thick and viscous. The nose has complex scents of molasses, chocolate, roasted malts, licorice, and lingering vanilla. The taste follows the nose very well with pronounced dark chocolate, malt, and vanilla flavors accented by oak. Slight coffee bitterness, and even some hop flavors come through toward the end. Fantastic.

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Photo of dexterk1
4.49/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance is jet black. This was werewolf (2012). Strong brown head that remains for a while.
Odor is sweet and rich. Dark sweet like toffee and perhaps molasses. A little bit of chocolate odor and maybe some wood or smoke.
Taste is just as complex. Sweet with the whole list of types. Toffee, molasses, a little vanilla. A bit of coffee and chocolate as well.
Mouth feel is rich and coating. Smooth and sweet.
Overall an excellent stout. Just a hint of alcohol taste which is good. Smooth and complex.

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Photo of reebtaerG
4.91/5  rDev +11.3%
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 Carb-Overlord
4.85/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

This is simply an incredible Imperial Stout. In my opinion, when stored correctly, these continue to improve with age and grow in depth.

Appearance: This is motor oil black, when swirled in my tulip glass leaves a very appetizing orange residue that slowly runs flows down the glass; very little head from the bottle, more from a tap.

Smell: This is a mixed bouquet of chocolate, coffee, licorice; just a very rich aroma.

Taste: I must say this is one of the smoothest Imperial's I've tried. There is zero bite, initial favors are chocolates, but the flavor keeps going, after taste turns to coffee/licorice. Very interesting.

Mouthfeel: This is a thick chewy imperial, again feels smooth and viscous.

Overall: This is definitely an extremely well crafted beer. I would highly recommend this to any beer connoisseur.

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Photo of GreesyFizeek
4.69/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2012 vintage courtesy of stillmatic2232 at the Ithaca Luminous release.

Pours a dark, abyss depths-like black. 2 inch head mocha head, good lacing in the glass.

Smells like dark roasted malt, some dark fruits, chocolate, and espresso.

The taste is similar. One of the biggest expressions of dark fruits- raisins, plums, dark tart cherries- I've had in a sout. The roasted malt and chocolate keep the dark fruit flavor from being too cloying. Some espresso bean flavors as well.

Thick, syrupy mouthfeel, sweet start, bitter finish. No alcohol presence, despite the imperial ABV.

Amazing stuff, really glad I finally got to try it.

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

Poured from a waxed 750 ml bottle into a Surly Brewing Company Darkness Russian Imperial Stout branded goblet/snifter

Pours black as pitch with a huge two finger medium tan head. Excellent retention and plenty of lacing. Tons of dark fruit notes, dark chocolate, and boozy alcohol on the nose. Opens with dark chocolate, bold black cherries, and plum and prune notes. Molasses and raisins midpalate. Finishes with some dark roast coffee, boozy alcohol, piney hops, resin, and continued mixed dark fruit notes. Smooth and silky huge, full body with somewhat syrupy on the finish. Low to low/moderate carbonation. I've found every vintage of Darkness to be excellent and the 2013 vintage is no different. One of the better brews to be found in the style.

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Photo of GarthDanielson
4.64/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

2013 vintage (Brewcifer). Poured from a wax-topped bomber into a snifter, the beer is jet black, almost oily, with a thin, filmy, frothy half-inch head that settles into a filmy surface coating. Nose of black strap molasses, licorice, coffee, baker's chocolate, woody notes, and hints of vanilla. Flavors of rich, heavy molasses and smooth dark chocolate forward. Perfectly balanced. Oaky highlights, with vanilla notes, too. Roasted characteristics throughout, with coffee bitterness in and out of the palate, also. Very layered palate and deep throughout. Velvety smooth body, with a chocolate bitter and roasted aftertaste. Wow! The finish is slick, smooth, and fairly heavy on the linger of rich and heavy. Great beer! Wow!

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Photo of Brenden
4.62/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Super-rich, heavy, thick, viscous, oily-looking; this is looking like one big beer. It's as black as darkness itself. The beer raises up a heavy medium-brown head that looks like it may be almost as thick as the liquid. It takes lots of time to recede and ends up a chunky patch resting on top and, while not clinging to the sides, is still maintained at half a finger for the entirety. Patching is almost beastly.
Every bit as robust and rich as I'd hoped it would be, this beer just pours out so much deliciousness it's scary. Working off a deep roast with just the right note of char to it, coffee grounds and chocolate come through. It's not enough just to say chocolate, though; there's every note in here from cocoa powder to nibs to baker's chocolate to creamy milk chocolate. Not to go too far, it's accompanied by some very ripe sweet/tart currant notes as well as contributions worthy of the especially rich, near-perfect Doppelbocks in thick molasses and almost anise-like notes, just for added depth. This is truly one of the best aromas one could smell from an RIS.
The taste follows suit; again, it's all about richness, depth and complexity. Robust malts contribute their drying char along with coffee grounds and the chocolate, which holds almost all the same complexity as in the nose with the exception that the milk chocolate and sweeter notes come out more strongly. Molasses and anise make their appearances as char kicks into the finish, some leafy hops as well as a boozy note running alongside.
Rich, thick, full-bodied with an appropriate heaviness, this beer hits the mark. It has just enough alcoholic heat to warm without thinning with a viscosity coating the tongue. The finish is semi-dry, some leafy hops and ultra-smooth chocolate easing the finish to linger beautifully.

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Photo of jzeilinger
4.46/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

A - Dark molasses colored with a thick creamy head that subsides to an even, frothy layer that's clingy and with a lot of legs.

S - Black anise, licorice, deep roasted caramel/toffee malt, molasses, light bourbon.

T - Dark molasses and dark roasted chocolate, cocoa, dark roasted caramel cream, toasted sherry/bourbon/oak.

M - Thick, rich, full bodied, sticky, and viscous.

O - Outstanding and seek out.

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Photo of JohnG190
4.94/5  rDev +12%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Pours pitch black with a thick mocha head. Great lacing. So much happening on the nose - lots of dark chocolate, vanilla and stone fruit with hints of roasted malt and smoke. Outstanding aroma! Palate follows the nose, dark chocolate, vanilla, cherries, and dark fruity notes. The malt and smoky notes are even more apparent on the tongue. Body is ridiculously smooth with a medium body and light carbonation. Overall, if there are any faults in this stout I can't discern them. This is not only the best non-BA stout I've had, it's the finest example of a Russian Imperial Stout I've had, period!

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Photo of rjp217
5/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2012 bottle poured into a couple taster snifters....

Pitch black pour with a beautiful one finger head and perfect brown head with a sticky lace retention. So much chocolate and cherry in the aroma and taste. There's a beautiful coffee and caramel finish in the taste. Full body and low carbonation with a silky smooth finish. This beer is absolutely sublime. It's a chocolate coffee marshmallow dream. The 2 years created a perfect symmetry. Epic!

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Photo of MDDMD
4.35/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

A-dark brown black color with a decent light brown head and good lacing

S-chocolate, molasses, coffee, dark fruit, vanilla

T-dark roasted malt, chocolate, toffee, coffee, dark fruit, little vanilla, little on the sweet side

F-full body with light to moderate carbonation, smooth and creamy

O-well-rounded stout, just a little on the sweet side for me

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Photo of dgilks
3.86/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Inky, oily, deep and penetrating black. Big, creamy tan head. Very nice.

Heavily alcoholic nose. Very big. Sweet and very rich. Moderate roast and coffee.

Big. Sugar, sugar, sugar. Chocolate is there as is some roast and caramel.

Full body with moderate carbonation. Okay.

I just can't do these beers anymore. It is just a big diabetes bomb of sugar and alcohol. Seriously lacking in complexity and character to round out the malt and add balance.

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Photo of Josh012012
4.75/5  rDev +7.7%

First tasted fresh 2013 Darkness. I felt that this was far too sweet and rough around the edges it did not live up to the hype and I gave it a 4.0 rating.

A few months later I had the opportunity to try 2010 and 2011 Darkness at a Rare Beer Fest. For me, the two year old 2011 was the best beer I have had to date at a rating of 4.9 and the 2010 might have just been slightly over the hill at 4.6.

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Photo of Fcolle2
4.43/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours dark black with no light making it through. Head is big, anoint two fingers, tan, and frothy. Head also retains nicely.

Aromas is really nice. Booze soaked raisins and chocolate malt are forward. More dark fruit of prunes and fig aromas come in near the mid section. Semi sweet malty finish.

Taste is great and follows the nose. Lots of booze soaked dark fruit flavors of loads of dates some figs and some raisins. Semi sweet at the start and midsection but is cut with a rich roasted chocolate flavor that helps balance the sweetness if the malt.

Mouthfeel is great. Super thick, sweet stickiness and light carbonation. Everything I want in a good imperial stout.

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Photo of AgentMunky
4.38/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.25

2010 edition. Poured from a 22 ounce bottle into a snifter. Many thanks to the guys at Ale Arsenal for sharing.

A: Blood-dark red. Viscous. No head.

S: Smell is amazing. Loads of coffee. Licorice. Aggressive bitterness. Hops?

T/M: This is nutzo good! Kinda balanced, which is shocking. Very thin bodied. Hint of coffee. Hops. Roasty. Actually tastes like a stout. Lingering aftertaste is nutty and delicate. Dry. I love the roasted malt here.

O: Great imperial stout. Delicious and highly recommended.

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Photo of gueuzedreg
4.54/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

'13 into a CS snifter. First Surly.

A- This is the darkest beer that I have ever had. Coffee colored pinky sized head with good retention down to a large sized lacing ring with big legs.

S- Charred dark fruits, molasses, toffee, chocolate. Real rich and dark bold smell. This is my second favorite base RIS behind Zhukov. Brilliant.

T- Totally follows the nose. Reminds me of Portsmouth Impy. Charred dark fruits are upfront>chocolate>molasses.

M- Very thick and creamy. Rich and decadent. Great smooth M.

O- I am very impressed with this base RIS. Brilliant.

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Photo of bodhi185
4.82/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

On tap at Smallbar in Chicago.
A: Jet black with a pretty thin head for the heft of the beer.
S: Raisin, molasses, with a little chocolate and a little alcohol pickup.
T: Supremely bitter black molasses russian imperial flavor that drinks pretty dry and insanely balanced.
M: Actually pretty thin for the style in my opinion, but lingers for days.
O: Bitter, biting, big big beer. Worth the wait...thank you Minnesota for sharing with Chicago again.

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Photo of vic21234
4.57/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

750ml poured into a snifter from cellar temperature. 2011 Vintage.

A- Pours black, as expected. A nice finger's worth of khaki colored head sticks around awhile before slowly fading to the side. Some lacing is noted along the sides of the glass as well.

S- Chocolate and dark malts are heavy on the aroma, along with an overall sweet character.

T- Very nice RIS. Starts off with dark malts before giving way to tons of sweet chocolate notes. There is still some hop presence at the backend even after going on 3 years old, though the malts dominate this one I'd say.

M- Thick and chewy, easy drinking for a RIS, good carbonation.

This is a great beer for sure. I tend to prefer BA stouts but this is a great sipping one as well. Drinks heavy and thick.

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Photo of Alieniloquium
3.92/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

750 mL bottle poured into a snifter. 2011 bottle. Reviewed from notes.

Appearance - Black with nice lacing. Small khaki head.

Smell - Roasted chocolate. Sweet caramel in there too. Fruity with some licorice.

Taste - Sweet, for sure. More than I expected. It blends well with the roasted malts, though. Licorice and dark fruits. Ashy bitter malt finish.

Mouthfeel - Heavy and sweet. Medium carbonation.

Overall - Lots of sugar in this guy. Not to Dark Lord levels, but sweet. It's what Dark Lord should be.

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