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Darkness - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.
DarknessDarkness

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
97
world-class

795 Reviews
THE BROS
100
world-class

(Read More)
Reviews: 795
Hads: 3,247
rAvg: 4.4
pDev: 9.77%
Wants: 3,236
Gots: 1,183 | 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/ 

Labels:
2007-Grim Reaper
2008-Devil
2009-Mummy
2010-Vampire
2011-Zombie
2012 - Werewolf
2013 - Brewcifer
View: Beers (51) | 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: 795 | Hads: 3,247
Photo of schellsbeer
4.7/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Review from notes taken from sampling party early December 2008.

2008 vintage.

Thanks Greggy for the chance to taste this wonderful beer.

Sorry Surly Darkness....but Three Floyd's Dark Lord has you beat...just barely though.

A - Wonderful. Dark black with bitter dark chocolate covered cherry look. Fantastic. Swirl the glass...where the beer meets the top of the glass, a wonderful red color can be noticed. Incredible.

S - Fresh. Raisins. Molasses. Black Cherries. Chocolate. There is so many things going on in this beer, who can describe them all.

T - I think this beer needs to sit for about 1 year....that is why I have my own bottle cellaring under the stairs waiting for next November to roll around. Fruit. Strong Alcohol taste. Cherries. Chocolate. Much better when served at room temperature. Fantastic brew.

M - Thick. Filling. Creamy. I want this beer to last all night but...Dang it doesn't.

D - High Alcohol. Available once a year only in Minnesota...low point but only slightly.

One of my top five beers to date. Fantastic. Almost perfection in a bottle. Close. Will re-review next November. (1,116 characters)

Photo of brentk56
4.85/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2008 bottling

Appearance: Pours a viscous black with chocolate edges and a creamy mocha head; sheets of lace remain in the chalice once the foam has subsided

Smell: Coffee, dark chocolate, berry fruit and a hint of cigar smoke; the citrus hops are mysterious, sometimes making their presence felt and other times indiscernable

Taste: Milk chocolate and Cuban coffee up front, with a developing berry element arriving shortly thereafter; by mid-palate, however, there is a building citrus hop flavor that becomes relentless after a while; after the swallow, the Cuban coffee returns and mixes with dark chocolate; plenty of citrus on the finish as well; the cigar flavors re-appearing in the aftertaste

Mouthfeel: By far, the thickest beer I have ever tasted, with moderate carbonation; a bit of warmth in the gullet after the swallow

Drinkability: New Year's eve, and it is time to break out this special occasion beer; for me, it lived up to the hype; unlike other hoppy stouts where the bitter flavors battle with the malt, in this beer, the blending of the contrasting flavors is unique (1,095 characters)

Photo of PatronWizard
4.56/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A big thanks to trader imperialking for allowing me to get this bottle without offering up an appendage I may some day need.

Been patiently aging it for 2 months and my fucking patience is dead. A special visit from far-away friends and fellow BAs OlieIPA and Aimstatus is the final straw. Darkness dies tonight!

It pours black. Really, it does. Poured hard to create a big, frothy, chunky ass light brown head. Chunks of lace. Not wisps; chunks. The head is an alien landscape of spider webs.

Sniff has ... HOPS! Are you kidding me? Oh blessed day to find a big strong kick ass stout with HOPS! And I haven't had a hop all damn day. Awesome. I hope the mouth picks up what the nose is putting down. OK, the hops aren't smelling super strong, I'm just excited that they are there at all. A slight piney scent that makes me happy.

The taste is quite simply the most unique flavor I have ever encountered in a beer. I taste peanut butter and jelly. Slight chocolate flavor and the pine is there also. Mint chocolate chip ice cream flavors. Tons of flavors. Way damn complex. Sorry - this is friggin good! Reminds me of a Stone XI, only betterer and betterer.

I love to shit on the overhyped beers, but I have nothing bad to say here. This is truly awesome and I hope someday down the road I can have it again. I would drink it fresh to preserve as much of the hop flavor as possible, which collides superbly with the traditional stout flavors.

Smooth texture, but the bitterness keeps it from being silky.

Overall: absolutely awesome (1,540 characters)

Photo of calise1122
4.58/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

I tried, I really did.

After waiting so long, I wanted this night to be perfect and I gave it my doggone best. Waited months to share this with someone who would appreciate it. Bought some nice cheeses that I thought would work well, even spent time and energy to carefully align them on a cheese board so that Darkness would realize that I like to keep things clean and presentable.

I wanted to set up a nice play list, I wanted this to be memorable, I wanted this to be special....

But this demon beer wouldn't have any of it. It spent hours upon hours over the past few months coaxing at me... and when I finally open it the anarchist was let loose:

Computer shuts down, there goes my play list. So I scramble to open up the lap top and try to get hypemachine or Pandora going, figuring that at least that would offer a nice musical background... but this goddamn beer somehow ruined my internet connection. The cheese wasn't right and the room was uncomfortably hot... as if Lucifer here brought the brimstone from the depths of hell with him. What in holy heaven was going on, why after so much time did Darkness feel the need to treat me with so little respect.

Then I took a deep breath, focused, closed my eyes and it all came together. You don't control the Darkness... you don't "create" an environment that works. He dictates his own situation. This beer decides the temperature, it will let you know what music your listening too. It will tell you if and when you should have some damn cheese. Darkness doesn't want Martha Stewart... It won't be manipulated onto a christmas platter with bells and whistles... IT demands YOU to respect IT.

So I gave in. Screw the computer... we went with Comcast Music Channel 814. And you know what... almost as if great change in direction.. channel 814 had Vampire Weekend: Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa playing, too fitting. I prepared myself to completely let go of the situation, finally popped the cap off, jumped in the back seat and let Darkness do some driving:

From the back seat I just can't see thru Darkness. I tilted my head in every conceivable direction to try and see thru this black hole of a monster, but no shot. It is not worth the effort. He has such a big frothy and thick dark tan head. I suppose that is what happens when you spend your days in fire, brimstone and constant heat.

I can smell him easily from back here and you can tell he has lived a bit of life this one. Once a raging alcoholic, he seems to have simmered down a bit (or at least drink a better bourbon). The aromas of chocolate and vanilla come first, but as he jets down this dark highway towards hell I more and more get dark fruits; cherries, raisins, prunes.

He stops the car, turns around and demands me to bow down and kiss his feet. At this point, as Loser by Beck is now blasting from channel 814... I don't think twice. He tastes like chocolate and a homemade dark cherry/blackberry jam. You would think that he would be big, strong, over-the-top... but under all the upside down skulls and long swaying black robes there is a true sweet side to him. Maybe the year or so that he spent on earth softened him up a bit, but as I find myself on my hands and knees kissing the feet of this "monster", I can't help but to relax a bit. Maybe it's all a farce. Maybe, just maybe, when push comes to shove... he is a nice man. As the ride goes on the chocolate and coffee kind of succeed to the sweetness and dark fruit.

The tank starts to empty and I realize I am going to miss this ride. It was a ride that served a purpose, it showed me that with age, bumps and bruises... people, beer, even demon gods can change. They can open up and become even more complex then they originally were, showing more character and personality. I step out almost wanting to get back in, but now is no longer my time.

Farewell Darkness, it's been swell. (3,884 characters)

Photo of ahalloin
4.47/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Found this on tap at Cafe Twenty-Eight. Outstanding find this holiday season.

Poured into a Darkness chalice. Almost pitch black with a very little bit of light getting in on the corners. The head was a tan color and clung to the glass as the beer disappeared.

Aroma is of dark molasses with a slight coffee roastiness.

Flavor is a molasses sweet nose breaking through to a coffee roastiness and slight hop bitterness. Notes of chocolate, figs, with slight hints of fermented fruits like raisins and plums.

Overall an incredible version of the style of RIS! (561 characters)

Photo of yourefragile
4.38/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2008 750 mL bottle split with a friend

A: Pours a very thick, viscous black liquid with a fluffy, dense tan coffee colored head. Amazing retention, the head hangs around for the entire glass with sticky rings of lacing.
S: Dense, complex aroma, but not as strong as expected. Very sweet, dark fruit like raspberries, boysenberries and raisins, etc. Dark chocolate, roasted malt, faint citrus, light hops and alcohol all also come through.
T: First thing that hits me is the strong sweetness, that is slightly bitter. Dark, ripe fruits that persist through the finish, raspberry, blackberry, etc but they fade a little as the beer warms up. Then thisa much richer malty, chocolaty and creamy flavor. A light hop bitterness but most of the bitterness is more coffee and dark fruit flavored. Alcohol is very present, but not abrasive, just a friendly warming.
M: A very thick, creamy beer with very light carbonation keeps this from being too full bodied or chewy. After it warms up the finish is slightly fruity and chocolaty sweet
D: Every sip seems to tilt the flavors back and forth between slightly bitter fruitiness and sweeter malt/chocolate. Finish has a slight medicinal taste but overall the alcohol blends very nicely into the beer. An amazing RIS no doubt, but (while not the same beer) I still prefer something like The Abyss for example over this. (1,360 characters)

Photo of Bierguy5
3.33/5  rDev -24.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

750 ml wax-top bottle. Pitch black liquid. Thich tan head that lasts for quite some time, and surrenders some great looking patchwork of lace.

Loads of citrusy hops up front, big and juicy. Ripe fruit, chocolate, and alcohol come out in the nose. Interesting combo.

What sticks out to me up front is the amount of sweetness, a bit cloying for me. SOme chocolate comes in, but gets overtaken by a huge blast of citrusy hops. SOme warming from the alcohol.

Maybe a bit thin. Lower carbonation. Intesesting, but not my taste. Too much sweetness, with too much hop flavor. (571 characters)

Photo of peabody
4.88/5  rDev +10.9%
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. (597 characters)

Photo of rayjay
2.99/5  rDev -32%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

2008 bottling. This was the beer I wanted very badly to love, but it just didn't work out between us :-(

Assets:
-creamy and dark brown, with a dark brown head and great retention; very inviting
-excellent creamy carbonation
-mouthfeel is heavy but still quite drinkable

Negative factors:
-bizarre sweetness that just doesn't work, like a double foreign export stout
-weird hop use, citrus rind-y like Simcoe; just doesn't work
-I was expecting way more bitterness
-muted nose
-drinkability suffers from the "off" flavors (no actual defects)

My numbers seem critical even to me, but since 2.0 is "not impressed" and I'm definetely not impressed, i gave it a 2.5. I'm not down on Surly at all; I love their other offerings. (725 characters)

Photo of mcallister
3.58/5  rDev -18.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Finally tryiing some of this. Dark nearly black with a slight bricking quality. A pillowing rocky head of mocha has very good length, sponge like in appearance.

Full of citrusy hops leading in the orange rind category. Too citrusy for my liking in an RIS. Big chocolate with caramel and toffee and loads of dark fruits, black licorice and mollasses.

Good very tasty beer yet very out of whack and almost cloyingly sweet with an odd hop flavor to citrusy for the style in my opinion. Chocolate covered hops, fudge and cocoa. Hops are juicy and resiny with that orange peel sense. Blackberry, juicy plum, mollasses, black currant, bitter finish but overpowered by the cloying amounts of residual sugar.

Don't really like the huge hops and the out of whackiness. I will save my other bottles a few years and try again once the hops surrender some. (849 characters)

Photo of dukedevil0
5/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Had this on tap 3 times in Chicago, IL this winter so far at Hopleaf, Sheffield's and Local Option. Each time was served in a snifter or stemmed tulip.

A: DARK black with head ranging from khaki colored to copper brown to almost chocolate milkshake looking. Lots of lacing left on the glass on this one.

S: Smells of chocolate, coffee, toffee, dark fruits or raisins, maybe some slight blackberry or raspberry in there too. Lots of different smells in there.

T: Tastes even better than it smells! but still has the chocolate, coffee, toffee, dark fruits/raisins, molasses, maybe some slight blackberry or raspberry. So many flavors, it's like you could focus on one and love it, then focus on another and it's like you are drinking different beers, but all the flavors are great.

M: Super creamy, sticky (seriously some spilled over and my fingers were sticking to the glass like I had eaten cotton candy), syrupy. Low carbonation.

D: Unbelievably drinkable. You can barely tell that the alcohol is in there and what is there goes so well with the rest of the beer it makes you want even more. I was crushed when I ordered another and they came back with just a couple ounces because the keg was dry.

This is EASILY my favorite beer that I have ever drank up to this point. I get giddy when I go somewhere and see it on the beer list. I hope they bottle more of this and ship it to Chicago next year. I have to give this all 5's until I can find something that proves me wrong. (1,483 characters)

Photo of davedahl
4.85/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I've only had Darkness once - and it was the last 2oz from a keg at Binny's in Chicago's south loop. Talk about a tease.

The apperance was dark black everywhere - not even a hint of color at the edges. Thin layer of dark black rich head of tight bubbles.

Nose is a very complex combination of malt, spice and pepper.

Taste is lots of fruit and sweet malts, even some milky creaminess to it. Aftertaste of more dark cherries and chocolate.

Mouthfeel is amazing. Milky slick coating with a slight alcohol hint.

This badboy just went on my "wants" list. Yum. (560 characters)

Photo of TK5150
4.55/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2008 bottle.

A-Pours nice and thick. Black in color, with a small brown head.

S-Upon first smell I get a little bit of American citrus and piney hops. I then get a lot of chocolate, and dark fruits. Kind of like chocolate covered cherries/blackberries/figs/plums. A very nice nose.

T-Big chocolate. Milk chocolate as well as dark chocolate lead the way. Then the fruits rush in and i get the chocolate covered fruits taste which was great. I got little to no hoppiness on the palate which was a little disappointing, and not what i was expecting. In the finish i tasted robitussin...that medicinal cherry taste. It became more prevalent the more i drank, but doesnt hurt the beer too much. This was one VERY SWEET beer, which I am not usually a fan of, but the flavors mostly made up for that downfall.

M-Full bodied, nice and thick. coated the mouth very well. Silky smooth with low carbonation.

D-Good. The medicinal taste at the end without the hop balance took away from the drinkability some. No trace of alcohol helped.

Overall, this is one of my favorite beers. A little too sweet to drink a full bottle by yourself, but great to split with a friend. A great dessert beer. (1,185 characters)

Photo of DrJay
4.55/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2008 Biergotter Tasting - Day 2. Big thanks to grub for bringing out this bad boy.
Black, nearly opaque, with dark brown edges. A fluffy brown cap appeared after the pour, producing sticky, clumpy lace all the way down the glass. Great aroma, a combination of floral and citrus hops (mostly grapefruit and orange) with roast and burnt malts. Notes of cocoa and dark chocolate, biscuit, and anise wafted in and out. Solid bitterness, more grapefruit hop character, with lots of chocolate, caramel, and toffee. Quite sweet overall. Plenty of dark malts gave it a moderate roast flavour. Full bodied, kind of on the heavy side, with lowish carbonation, very fine bubbles, creamy texture, alcohol warmth, and just a bit sticky. Super delicious and much more balanced than I was expecting. (784 characters)

Photo of OlieIPA
4.56/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2008 Darkness and enjoyed in the company of Amy, Victor, and Lisa. Thanks for sharing this beer Victor!!!!

A: While pouring this beer quite aggressively into my glass, it appeared to boast all the qualities of a good looking stout: Viscous, black, and a huge frothy tan colored head. This beer left a large quantity of lacing around my snifter glass as well, even after I had guzzled down it's delicious contents.

S: The initial whiff is quite shocking, a very hoppy-like aroma mixed in a powdery chocolate/cocoa characteristic. This mix of piney and bitter hops, along with the dark sweetness, reminded more of an American Double rather than a RIS.

T: Unique....unique...unique! An extremely sweet tasting stout, but settled down by the ample amount of hops used in this beer. I pick up chocolate, pines, vanilla bean, maple, gingersnaps (yes, I said gingersnaps), caramel, peanut butter, and so much more.

M: Full-body with almost no indication of carbonation. The flavors cling somewhat to the palate, but not to the point where the hop bitterness becomes a bit overwhelming.

D: I actually don't pick up any of the alcohol content, and the flavor is quite interesting (in a good way), therefore making for a good time....anytime.

Overall: I was actually expecting this beer to be overhyped, but it definitely lived up to the world class standards presented here on BA. Not your typical RIS, to say the least, and displays a multi-faceted array of flavors that my palate got excited over. If I had to sum up this beer in a few words, it would be: Unique, smooth, and yummy! A smile beer and a must try. Cheers! (1,623 characters)

Photo of deltatauhobbit
2.44/5  rDev -44.5%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 1.5

Thanks to mynie for the opportunity to try the infamous Darkness, 2008 750ml bottle, decided to have this one fresh as opposed to letting it age for a bit since I heard it's rather hoppy for a RIS.

Pours a dark brown/black color, some light being able to show ruby colors near the edge, very large tan head that fades slowly to leave some good lacing.

Smell is as anticipated, surprisingly (for a RIS once again) hoppy at first, some malt and smoke in the background, not quite to style but not unpleasant.

Taste takes the normal route and ditches the hoppiness that might have been expected after the aroma, instead it is cloyingly sweet, lots of chocolate and vanilla, also seems like there's other sugars that are added to make it much sweeter than it should be, very syrupy and sticky but not overly viscous.

An interesting take on the RIS, but I think I'd stick with Kate and Dark Lord for the top picks, I'd even reach for an Old Rasputin first. Glad I got to try it, but it doesn't even come close to the hype it has, maybe if it didn't taste like someone added a few cups of sugar to it it wouldn't have been as much of a chore to drink even a glass of it. Maybe a different vintage will change my mind down the road.

Edit (3/6/10): Remove Kate from top pick, 2010 was just as much of a cloyingly syrupy sweet mess. (1,328 characters)

Photo of grub
4.43/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2008 Biergotter Tasting, Day 2: Stouts and Belgians. i contributed this one, purchased at the brewery.

750ml bottle topped with bronze wax. 2008 vintage. sampled nov 28/08.

pours deep black, completely opaque. a huge fluffy dark brown head forms, lasting forever and leaving huge chunks of lace behind.

aroma is great. big hops up front - orange, grapefruit, pine. big bready malt base. biscuit. cracker. light alcohol. anise. dark and bittersweet chocolate. light coffee. big floral character too.

taste is great. just under medium bitterness level. milk and dark chocolate. anise. big caramel and toffee sweetness. bread and biscuit. the citrusy hops are still there, but a bit more subdued than in the aroma. light alcohol. bit of smoke. some dark fruit too.

mouthfeel is great. silky smooth medium-low carbonation level. large body.

drinkability is good. nice balance and great depth, with a bit of lingering sweetness. excited to see how this one will change with time. (980 characters)

Photo of Hophead101
4.08/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

drank on 12.4.08 at Clark St Ale House with friends from work.

I finally got a chance to taste the nectar known as the Darkness. There is so much hype around this beer, you can imagine my extreme joy when I walked into this bar and saw this on tap. Since I can't get it in PA - this was a pleasant surprise.

Of course, as the name says, it pours a dark brown, basically black beer. Had a nice tan head and the lacing on the glass was great. The smell was crisp and sweet, woodsy and smoky. There was a twinge of alcohol in the nose as well.

the taste is simply WOW. very malty, very sweet and you can absolutely taste the alcohol (which is 10%+). there is the roasted malt taste and the earthy and woodsy tastes as well. Mouthfeel was surprising nice with a bit of a sharp alcohol taste. (791 characters)

Photo of goethean
4.55/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

I've had this twice on tap now, and I still find it a bit curious, especially when compared to FFF Dark Lord. Dark Lord has a huge, huge viscous mouthfeel, somewhat like Bell's Expedition Stout. Darkness is not as thick or heavy, but it has a very looong, rich mouthfeel. You just can't gulp it. Each sip just keeps on going and going. As a homebrewer, I think that Dark Lord's weight is due to the heavy use of oats, crystal malt, and a high mash temperature. But as to what makes Darkness have such a long mouthfeel, I'm genuinely flummoxed. (543 characters)

Photo of 0110x011
3.66/5  rDev -16.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.5

Pours pitch black into a Darkness snifter. One finger, dark tan head lasts a good while, with spotty lacing. Nose is an interesting mix of chocolate, earth, plum, raisin and piney hops. Surprisingly sweet and fruity on the palate. A bit of chocolate and vanilla, and pine from the hops, but the overall flavor is dominated by an almost cloying, sugary sweetness. Mouthfeel is very nice, creamy and soft. ABV is nearly invisible. The sweetness makes one glass enough for me.

If this were available for $6.99 at BevMo, I'd say it were a tasty, unique beer. But considering the acclaim and rarity, I think it strays too far from the style. (637 characters)

Photo of gorby10826
5/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

By far the best stout I have ever had. Definitely a great one if you like them on the sweet side. Tried at Firkin in Libertyville, IL.

A: Very Dark. Black.

S:Complex, Chocolate, roasted malt, sweetness, fruit

T: Very sweet. Candi sugar. Molasses. Chocolate. Fruit. Hops.

M: Very smooth. Thick. Good level of carbonation.

D: Would drink it all day long if I could! Very easy if you like it sweet.

Overall: Seriously the best I have had in the last 3 years where I have tried hundreds of different beers. Wish I could get it easier! (536 characters)

Photo of TurdFurgison
4.62/5  rDev +5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I had this on tap at the Local Option, served in a Maudite glass. The beer was dark brown/black color with dark tan froth on top. Lots of wet lacing on the glass. The smell alone tells me this beer isn't over hyped, it smells insanely good. Rich and sweet, no burnt or roasted aromas, maybe some hops citrus but not as much as I'd have expected after hearing how hoppy this beer was last year. The taste is also nearly perfect. Huge malt sweetness, a little bitterness but not much, some citrus flavors too, I can't recall ever tasting a RIS quite like this. The body is substantial while not being as thick as Dark Lord, just about right for the flavors. Absolutely drinkable, the >10% ABV isn't noticeable from the taste. Worth the effort to find, this is great stuff.

1/02/09 edit:
I had this in bottle form, side-by-side against Sexual Chocolate, Dark Lord, and Kate the Great. In this contest Darkness came out the favorite for all 3 drinkers. The citrus flavors were the deciding factor, it seemed like this was a RIS with DIPA genes. I'll plan to attend future Darkness days to get as many bottles as I can. (1,118 characters)

Photo of caskstrength
4.55/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

On tap over a few weeks in several locations, Mpls Nov 2008.

Thick, black, sticky. Got some on the outside of the glass, was sticking like syrup.

Sweet, spicy, fruity (in a good way) smell. Lots of dark fruit, dark sweetness. More sweet than spicy. Very inviting on the nose.

Did I mention sweet? Alcohol barely noticed. Smooth, velvety, perfect on the tongue. Is there a better mouthfeel than this beer? Hops are there too, for sure. Dark fruits work with the molasses type sweetness. Almost cloying in 2008, less so 2009 (and other years I've heard)

I really like this beer. First impression was it's too sweet, subsequent tastings I started to appreciate the sweetness more, didn't notice it as much. It is what it is. A sweet, flavorful monster of a beer, liquid velvet, and quite the feather in surly's cap.

2009: less sweet, more hops.

2010: May be my favorite of the last 3 years. Flavors all seem in the right place. (933 characters)

Photo of ChainGangGuy
4.35/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2008 Vintage.

Appearance: Pours an inky black body with a large, frothy, light tan head.

Smell: Roasty, burnt malt nose with strong notes of dark chocolate liqueur, coffee, smoky creosote, and pine needles.

Taste: Roasty, dark, chocolaty maltiness displays both depth and richness. A few spoonfuls of frothed cream pairs with a flavor of strong coffee. Bracing amount of sweetness present. Vinous fruity character. Touch of creosote. Strong pine and citrus hoppiness though not unreasonably so. The bitterness makes a decent attempt, but, for me, it doesn't ever even begin to overtake the malt sweetness. Darkness finishes with a strapping roastiness and more unyielding sweetness.

Mouthfeel: Decidedly full-bodied with a creamy mouthfeel. Medium carbonation.

Drinkability: Excellent melding of full flavors wrapped up in a dense, creamy body. I wasn't disappointed. Nice work, Surly. (890 characters)

Photo of optiontwo
4.77/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

750 ml bottle acquired at this years darkness day, poured into tulip glass

Appearance: Darkness. Opaque. Beautiful two finger tan head. This is exactly how a RIS should look.

Smell: Wooo. Almost makes me fall back in my seat. Such an array of aromas I don't know where to start. Roasted malt, chocolate, slight coffee, then strong sweetness of fruits ranging everywhere from orange/lemon to strawberry jam and cherries. Amazing.

Taste: This may be the drink of the devil but it tastes like it's straight out of heaven. Dark chocolate, orange, and dark cherries are the first three things that hit me but there is soo much more going on here. Earthy tones and what I have to imagine are hop flavors hit after the initial sweet and roasted flavor. This has got to be the hoppiest imperial stout I've ever had and that's a good thing, a very good thing. The combination of malt sweetness and hop bitterness in this beer make the flavors so complex that each sip is an experience. Outstanding.

Mouthfeel: Perfect. Coats my mouth with the beer but not to the point where it's hard to swallow. The mouthfeel increases the enjoyment of this beer tenfold because it helps the flavors stay in your mouth that much longer. This is also exactly how a RIS should feel.

Drinkability: Surprising. I've had a good amount of imperial stouts and it's one of my favorite styles, but even my favorites test me when it comes to drinkability. I usually want to have more than one or two but can't bring myself to do it. With Darkness though, I could literally drink this all night until I stumble to bed. Very impressive.

Overall: The very best RIS I have ever had. Do whatever you can to get your hands on this miraculous beer. I love Surly. (1,727 characters)

Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
97 out of 100 based on 795 ratings.