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Darkness - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.
DarknessDarkness

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
100
world-class

2,689 Ratings
THE BROS
100
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 2,689
Reviews: 766
rAvg: 4.5
pDev: 9.33%
Wants: 2,930
Gots: 1,037 | FT: 76
Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company visit their website
Minnesota, United States

Style | ABV
Russian Imperial Stout |  10.30% ABV

Availability: Fall

Notes/Commercial Description:
Starting in 2014, bottled Darkness will be aged in whiskey barrels.

Labels:
2007-Grim Reaper
2008-Devil
2009-Mummy
2010-Vampire
2011-Zombie
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 Alström Bros
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Ratings: 2,689 | Reviews: 766 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Sammy
3.98/5  rDev -11.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Caught up with this at the Blue Nile in Minny. Black with huge off-beige head. Hoppy RIS.Sourness in first sip. The bitterness builds up, flows over the sugary finish. Integrated coffee, sugar to make it coffee liquor acceptable?ABove average mouthfeel. Better as warms up, was served a bit on cold side.

Sammy, Nov 19, 2008
Photo of t0rin0
4.25/5  rDev -5.6%

t0rin0, Feb 26, 2013
Photo of UCLABrewN84
4.35/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to shrek086 for sending me this long time want!

2010 vintage with the vampire artwork.

Pours an opaque black with a 3 inch puffy dark khaki head that settles to a dense small cap. A latticework of lace lines the glass on the drink down. Smell is of dark roasted malt, dark fruits, cocoa powder, and an alcohol aroma. Taste is of dark roasted malt, slightly sour dark fruits, bittersweet chocolate, and some roasted coffee bean flavors. A mild roasty bitterness lingers on the palate with each sip. There is a bit of a soy sauce quality in both the smell and taste but it's not at all unpleasant. This beer has a smooth and creamy mouthfeel with a lower level of carbonation. Overall, this is a very good RIS that deserves its status as a highly acclaimed beer. I am very happy I finally was able to snag one of these.

UCLABrewN84, Oct 31, 2011
Photo of djrn2
4.25/5  rDev -5.6%

djrn2, Nov 14, 2011
Photo of zestar
4.5/5  rDev 0%

zestar, Jun 11, 2013
Photo of spycow
5/5  rDev +11.1%

spycow, Nov 15, 2011
Photo of Thorpe429
4.55/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks for Jerk44 for hooking me up with some of this at Dark Lord Day 2009.

A: Very dark with a dark head to go along with it.

S: Roasted malt and the sweetness of dried fruits. Some molasses and brown sugar to go with dried cherries mixed with some espresso.

T: Similar to the nose, with more of the espresso/dark cherry tarnish.

M: Some alcohol, but a good, warming amount. Very full bodied.

D: Excellent beer, though not quite as drinkable as Dark Lord. Very, very deserving of its high place of honor. I cannot wait for this summer to get out to Minnesota and sample all the Surly I can find.

Thorpe429, Apr 29, 2009
Photo of acurtis
4/5  rDev -11.1%

acurtis, Dec 14, 2011
Photo of nmann08
5/5  rDev +11.1%

nmann08, Nov 25, 2011
Photo of Texasfan549
4.5/5  rDev 0%

Texasfan549, Dec 19, 2011
Photo of brentk56
4.88/5  rDev +8.4%
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

brentk56, Jan 01, 2009
Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.8/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle #211. 2007 release. Necrosis black that crowds the sides and bowl of the glass so completely that light doesn't stand a chance in hell. Nothing is visible except... Darkness. The coffee colored cap looks as though it won't fade completely until sometime tomorrow, and there's a surprising amount of lace that can only be described as eye candy. I'm well aware that glassware shouldn't be taken into account when assigning an appearance score, but Darkness in a Darkness snifter is perfection.

Believe it or not, the hops can still be appreciated in the nose after almost a year. I guess that means they were added with a heavy hand back in '07. They're far from numero uno, though. As expected, ridiculously roasted malt is a rompin' and a stompin' all over the joint. Dark chocolate is at least twice as strong as black coffee. I've smelled better, but the nose is good. Damn good.

Believe the hype. My first impression is that Darkness tastes like no other RIS. I'm not sure I'll be able to explain why that is... but it is. My second impression is that a tremendous amount of green hop flavor and bitterness has survived. This stuff just might give Old Crustacean a run for its money when fresh.

Even though the malt backbone is massive, this beast isn't anywhere near as thick and syrupy as Dark Lord (which might make it more drinkable). Some of the bitterness could also be coming from barley that has been fire-roasted to within an inch of its life. The result is a flavor profile that includes chocolate liquor, blackstrap molasses and large splashes of Sambuca and espresso.

If Darkness was limited to those flavors, it would still be exceptional beer. The fact that candied citrus peel and resiny pine sap are added to the mix puts it over the top for this hophead. I can see how some might not like the emphasis on the little green cones, but then this is Surly... what the hell did you expect?

With each eager gulp, I am making Darkness prove every one of the final three scores. Believe me, it more than lives up to the challenge of a critical palate, especially since the flavors become even better integrated as the beer picks up a few degrees. The alcohol provides warmth (not heat) and plenty of power. This is massive beer for massive beer lovers.

My first inclination was to give the mouthfeel a less than perfect score. However, as the middle portion of the bottle approaches, it will not be denied. The melted ice cream-like viscosity that was almost there initially is now there in spades. Carbonation is on the generous side, but it's so soft and so well-buried that it adds just the right amount of energy and lift.

Darkness is a masterful creation from a masterful brewer. I allowed a few doubts to creep in prior to cracking the crown, but I doubt no more. In an amazingly short period of time, Surly has entered the upper echelon of craft breweries with such all-out masterpieces as Furious, Bender and CynicAle. Darkness is simply the shiny, juicy cherry on top. A huge thanks to feloniousmonk, the consummate BA, for the best extra in the history of extras.

*originally reviewed on 10-08-2008

BuckeyeNation, Oct 27, 2009
Photo of BEERchitect
4.6/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

An absolute pleaseure to finally have the opportunity to enjoy this beer. Absolute chocolatey notes with licorice and char blend beautifully in this molassas-rich Imperial Stout.

An very viscous pour of oily black liquid falls from the bottle- this is going to be one full beer. Completely opaque, the beer lathers into a thick, lightly browned, dense foam stance that seemingly never waivers. Both lacing and legging have a convincing say in the coatings left behind on the glass.

Robust aromas of both semi-sweet chocolate morsels and dry cocoa powder lead the way with a heafty sidekick of burnt cherries, licorice, rum, and fruitcake. Mouthwatering and seductive, the aromas are near flawlessness.

The chocolate-heavy tone continues in flavor, similar to fresh baked brownies and Hershey syrups. Background fruity notes of cherries, grapes, currants, and dates are accompanied by deep roasted coffee, char, and roasted marshmallows creaminess. Molassas sweetness brings these flavors together seamlessly while giving a soothing taste to the aggressive roast.

Full, viscous, creamy, and oily in mouthfeel, the beer has a slow transition from early thickness to a late sweet, warming, and bitter finish (bitterness is in form of both char and hops). This beer is obviously intended for after dinner compliments or in place of dinner alltogether.

A special thanks goes out to Shango42 for the unique opportunity to finally enjoy this beer. He gets my right arm if he ever requests it.

BEERchitect, Jul 27, 2010
Photo of kjkinsey
4.5/5  rDev 0%

kjkinsey, Dec 19, 2011
Photo of Phyl21ca
4/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle: Poured a pitch-black color stout with a large deep dirty brown color head with good retention and some lacing. Aroma of roasted malt and black chocolate with some light liquorice and dry coffee notes is quite enjoyable. Taste is also a heavy mix between some roasted malt with light bitter notes with rich black chocolate notes and very subtle notes of liquorice and dry fruits. Sweetness is very well balanced and not nearly as cloying as Dark Lord. Body is full with good carbonation and warming notes are perceptible though nothing too heavy. Well done and still retaining some balance even though it is an extreme beer.

Phyl21ca, Jul 12, 2010
Photo of GRG1313
5/5  rDev +11.1%

GRG1313, Nov 23, 2011
Photo of mikesgroove
4.93/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

What can I say really about this whole situation. I was lucky enough to acquire this bottle through a very fair trade from a good friend. When I see how much these things go for and the hype surrounding it, it is hard for me to justify it sometimes. I have found several instances where these beers are just complete letdowns. This here was not the case. It was absolutely wonderful and I really think it is worth its reputation. That being said, I new this would be the only bottle I would get so I saved it for a very special occasion and split it with a good friend at Barley's last night for my 30th Birthday. I figured it would be a fitting place, fitting time, and fitting company to open such a rare and sought after treat. Served in multiple sampling glasses at various temperatures up to room temp, this was definitely a wonderful experience. Bottle # 295.

Appearance - So we finally get to pour this one out. Opened the double dipped, wax topped cap and pour out this black as night liquid. Deep dark notes of black, to which no light could penetrate dropped into the glass with each tip. A mushrooming head of tan foam then came up over the top, reaching a height of at least two fingers before starting to break up into a rocky and cratered field. Even at its lowest mark it still carried about a fingers depth of lace with it and the side glass webbing was extremely nice. Overall this was a monster looking beer, however I cannot say it was a five, only because I have seen Dark Lord and the Abyss offer me a slightly fuller poor.

Smell - The aroma was to die for, literally. Everyone of these big RIS are much different then the one before, and everyone one is so unique, but I think once you take a whiff of this one it becomes very clear that this is in a whole different category. Gone are you rum soaked dark fruit and bourbon barrel, oak infused aromas, this was an entirely different beast. Rich and very sweet cocoa aromas are bringing themselves up to greet you first, with a gentle nudge of alcohol underneath. Wonderfully rich coffee then comes in to deliver the next blow. It was more of a roasted coffee bean aroma to be honest, like when you first open up that drawer at starbucks. A veritable assault of floral hops then comes out of nowhere. Grapefruit and pineapple hints mixing in with molasses and vanilla, what was this. As it warmed that sweet and creamy chocolate and coffee just really stole the show, with drops of vanilla just making this one drip with sweetness.

Taste - Now, we dive in to get a taste of what this wonderful liquid could be hiding. The first thing you notice is uber sweet chocolate and coffee. Just that wonderful taste that you want to have in a big stout, but the second that you get used to it, it gets cut like a knife, infused with grapefruit and orange peel. Puckering the lips as fresh grass and lemon hints seal it up and dry the mouth instantly before falling down the back of your through and opening up the scarred taste buds to welcome rush of vanilla. Beautifully complex, the rich notes of smoke and molasses intermingle and marry a wonderful peat like darkness that just sits there for a second before it too passes, getting whisked away and leaving behind only the faintest hint of grapefruit like bitterness soaked in vanilla and coffee. A wonderful voyage of unexpected tastes and bright surprises, wit ha virtually hidden alcohol content that makes it oh so smooth.

Mouthfeel - An speaking of smooth, wow, this was one smooth stout. A little bit less full then the rest of the big boys, but again this was a different type of monster, something entirely different then you milk shake like consistency you would typically associate with the style. This had a light, more carbonated feel to it. A much drier beer, especially in the finish, the flavors exploded out of it more then soaked in and sat there. As it warmed up it really did get a good deal thicker, but still stuck to its roots, setting it apart from the heard.

Drinkability - As for an almost 11% ABV Russian Imperial Stout, this was something I could have drank all night long. It was just tremendous in its complexity with a unrivaled smoothness. The alcohol was nowhere to be found, and the dry, hoppy finish only encouraged me to go back and try it again, and again, and again. It was a sad moment when this bottle was finished, as I really wanted just a little bit more. It was like beer crack for me, really just that good.

Overall I would have to say this really lived up to the hype for me. It was a phenominal beer, much different then anything I had before it, and was a nice breath of fresh air in the category. I was impressed by the floral hoppiness that was brought into this, especially in the finish as it really hid the alcohol well and let you have a nice, and not super filling experience out of it. Overall would I like another bottle, absolutely! Would I travel to Minnesota to get it, if the wife would let me, in a heartbeat!

mikesgroove, Jun 13, 2008
Photo of ygtbsm94
4/5  rDev -11.1%

ygtbsm94, Jan 13, 2012
Photo of jaydoc
4.75/5  rDev +5.6%

jaydoc, Jan 25, 2014
Photo of womencantsail
4.08/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Review #300 comes courtesy of mikesgroove. Thanks again Mike for hooking it up with this one.

2009 Vintage

A: The pour is viscous, black, and wonderful. It fills the glass with a fluffy mocha colored head on top of the thick liquid below.

S: Generally with an RIS (or any stout, really) you don't expect citrus and pine hops to be the primary aroma, but that's just what we have here. The malt and other traditional RIS aromas don't come through quite as much as I would have liked. Still, the malt and chocolate and coffee do come through at times.

T: The hoppiness is still present on the tongue, but not quite as intensely. A good roasted malt background with some hints of coffee and chocolate. Perhaps a bit of dark fruits as well, which go interestingly with the hoppiness.

M: The body is nice and full and the beer feels quite creamy on the tongue. The carbonation is at a moderate level.

D: D: The booze is hidden very well by the myriad of flavors that are present. I wish, however, that this was more RIS like and not basically a black DIPA.

womencantsail, Jan 05, 2010
Photo of Knapp85
4.63/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Vintage 2011: This poured out as a deep black color with a brown head on top. There is a nice retention with a good lacing as well. The smell of the beer is of dark berries with deep roasted malts chocolate and subtle vanilla and soy. The taste is the beer is really nice, bold roasted malts, some smoke and bit of dark chocolate, there is a touch of saltiness in there too. The mouthfeel is silky smooth with a creamy body and subtle carbonation. Overall it's excellent. I had been curious how it would compare to Dark Lord and this is much better in my opinion.

Knapp85, Apr 11, 2013
Photo of ChainGangGuy
4.38/5  rDev -2.7%
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.

ChainGangGuy, Nov 29, 2008
Photo of westcoastbeerlvr
3.25/5  rDev -27.8%

westcoastbeerlvr, Nov 14, 2011
Photo of JAHMUR
4/5  rDev -11.1%

JAHMUR, Nov 14, 2011
Photo of largadeer
2.23/5  rDev -50.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 1

Appearance: 2007 vintage, bottle #263, and what an awesome bottle it is; great packaging here. The beer itself has a pitch black body with two fingers of thick brown froth. Rings of lace cling to the rim of the glass as the head slowly falls. Off to a good start.

Smell: Smoky, meaty, a bit burnt actually. Make that burnt sugar. Citrusy hops are still noticeable despite the age of the bottle, almost a year at this point. This must have been a beast when it was fresh. There's an undercurrent of molasses that's fairly pleasant, but this is somewhat rough on the whole.

Taste & mouthfeel: Molasses, charcoal, pervasive roasty bitterness. There's a spiciness that appears mid-sip, bringing to mind anise or fennel. Thick as hell; this is like drinking a pint of whole milk. Whole milk that someone tossed a piece of charcoal into, that is. The finish is charred and extremely hoppy for the style, with a lingering, somewhat acrid aftertaste that sticks to the tongue even after you've brushed your teeth and gargled with mouthwash. This is certainly complex, but I can't say that I'd ever want to drink it again.

Drinkability: Interesting stuff, but finishing an entire glass is a chore.

Notes: My least favorite beer from Surly so far, I'm sorry to say. It's unique, and possibly even worth trying given the chance, but it's not worth all the hoopla.

largadeer, Oct 01, 2008
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Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
100 out of 100 based on 2,689 ratings.