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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: 19.27%
Wants: 3,280
Gots: 1,217 | 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 TheSevenDuffs
4.88/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2011 Vintage. Thanks to Spencer for this bottle! Poured in to CBS snifter.

A - Poured ink black. Half a finger of medium brown head with good retention.

S - Roasted malts, smoke and a noticeable hop presence up front. A big semi-sweet chocolate aroma and a touch of licorice round out the nose.

T - Extremely robust flavour up front. Starts out with huge roast and semi-sweet chocolate flavours with a touch of smoke. Some sweet molasses and a fairly prominent hop profile enter in the middle. The finish is full of sweet chocolate and has a lingering bitterness. The ABV is very well hidden. The perfect balance of sweetness and bitterness.

M - Full body. Thick and viscous. Light carbonation.

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

Thanks goes out to Buebie for this brew.

Red Waxed Cap/Gold Wax
2008 Vintage

Poured into a chalice a deep black color, nice carbonation, nice one-finger creamy tan head, which leaves some nice oil slicks and some sticky lacing behind. The nose is sweet, malty, lots of chocolate/toffee, some roastyness, vanilla. The taste is pretty sweet, malty, very nice touch of chocolate/toffe, with some slight roasty note. Medium body, the ABV is hidden pretty well with this one. Very drinkable, this is an awesome brew, glad to finally get a chance to try it.

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Photo of John_M
4.6/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

On tap at Cafe 28 the other day. This was the 2010 Darkness and was vastly superior, I thought, to the bottled version I had some years back.

The beer pours a blackish brown color with an impressive looking, coffee colored, long lasting head. Head retention is very good in this beer, and there is considerable sicky lacing all around. The nose is equally attractive in this beer, showcasing dark chocolage, light coffee, vanilla, cherry and light licorise. The flavor profile replicates the nose, but if anything, is even more impressive. There is some nice, light hoppy bitterness in the finish, which really blends well with the licorise, cherry and vanilla. Also, the dark chocolate really comes through on the palate, making is a very delicious, easy to drink beer. Mouthfeel is full, with a very long finish. The beer is fairly soft on the palate, but comes across as very potent as well. This was a beer that seemed to improve and become ever more delicious as it warmed in the glass. Drinkability was pretty good, though you can certainly tell that the abv. was up there in this beer.

Very imperssive and an absolute treat to have on draft. Yummm....

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Photo of JohnGalt1
4.47/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Big thanks to Jake65 for helping out the RIS tasting a couple of weeks back.. Thanks Jake!!!

'09 bottle...

Thick on the pour.. dark dark brown head.. the brew is of course black... swirls give nice dark legs... great retention

Nose has tidal waves of dark malts ... fairly abundant hops that mesh well with dark chocolate and French Roast.. Honestly, no complaints.

The bitterness from the hops is apparent and combines with some drying dark malts and moves into nice RIS characteristics.. fudgey brownies.. grassy and mild citrus hops are pretty much there throughout the flavor.. coffee remnants that have a bit of dark malt bite... dry finish has some citrus hops and drying cocoa and bits of coffee....

Body is pretty dialed in.. carbonation seems maybe a bit high.. but it may be too warm at this point..

Reminds me alot of the 110K.. but the hops seemed more aromatic and somehow balanced.... pretty damn good beer.

Thanks again Jake!!

I wish I had taken better notes.... This is the 2nd bottle of the '09 I've had.. the '08 seemed a bit muddy the couple of times I tried it before, but it also seemed like it needed some time to find the stride.


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Photo of vfgccp
4.66/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

A - Amazing looking stout. Full, thick, creamy khaki head with sheets of lace. Pitch black body with no highlights to speak of, even when backlit.

S - Raisin, booze, spiced rum, oatmeal, whoppers, vanilla malt milkshake, almond, touch of licorice.

T - Milk chocolate, oatmeal, nutmeg, brown sugar, caramel, cream, vanilla, bourbon, charred oak, molasses, rum soaked raisins, licorice, black cherry.

M - Outrageously smooth. Creamy full body.

O - A killer RIS that lives up to its reputation.

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Photo of barleywinefiend
3/5  rDev -32%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured a deep black with decent carbonation and a small brown head. Nose is rather funky here. Dried fruits, alcohol, roastiness, cocoa. taste is dried fruits like prunes, raisines, figs and some cocoa with a subtle roasted malt. Mouthfeel is thinner than expected and I have no idea where th high ABV is? Not feeling this brew at all.

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Photo of rhoadsrage
4.35/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

(Served in an American pint glass)

A- This beer has a jet black body with a milkshake head of thick coco colored foam that last and last. Is slips down the side of the glass after each sip.

S- This beer has a nice pine hop bitterness with a dark black roasted smooth quality.

T- This beer has a creamy black bitter malt flavor with a dark raisin sweetness to it. There is a note of cream flavor that has a bit of a chocolate malt note to it. The finish is a nice green herbal pine finish that has a bitterness of hops under black malt that lingers after each sip.

M- This beer has a full mouthfeel with a creamy texture and a smooth finish that doesn't really have any alcohol heat.

D-This beer is big and smooth. The hops really hold there own against the dark black malt making this a great beer for the cold months.

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Photo of akorsak
3.38/5  rDev -23.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A bottle of the 2008 release, shared with Deuane and Ffejherb.

A: The stout is admirably dark, a pitch black monster that has an off-white head that doesn't linger for long.

S: The stout is bold, thick and syrupy with an ancho chile smokiness. The thick malts reveal chocolate and caramel over time.

T: Chocolate nuttiness leads off the ale, dark and thick with a graham cracker-like finish. The ancho chile flavor is present, giving the stout a buffalo wing-like taste. Syrupy flavors are intense, sweet with a near-cloying presence. Coffee and cocoa see the stout away and they may be the best features of the bottle.

M: Syrupy, the stout borders on cloying at times. The cocoa powder is nice but it doesn't last long enough to make a difference.

D: To paraphrase, did I really shave me legs for this? I am underwhelmed and ranked this one behind the Coronado bourbon RIS, Dark Hollow and Full Sail Black Gold. Don't believe the hype!

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Photo of aasher
3.79/5  rDev -14.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2010 vintage, courtesy of backfat (thanks Dave!).This beer poured a midnight, oily black that didn't allow any light to pass. It smells of deep, dark roasted malt and that's about it. The coffee is subtle, the rest of it was expected. I hoped this beer was the equivalent to Darklord but I was wrong. It is coffee, sweet, chocolate and roast. This is cloyingly sweet. The balance is questionable at best. God, I wanted so much more. It is very smooth though and drinks like a champ. It's drinkable, yet too sweet. The complexities aren't there.

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Photo of corby112
5/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Pours a deep dark blood red burgundy brown that almost black and completely opaque with a thick frothy 2.5 finger dark chocolate coffee colored head that has excellent retention, lasting throughout and leaving large chunks of soapy lacing.

Roasted malt aroma with sweet bitter dark chocolate and hints of molasses, honey, burnt toast, caramel, oatmeal, coffee bean, toffee, licorice and sweet alcohol. Possibly the best aroma I've experienced yet.

Thick chewy viscous mouthfeel with some slight carbonation and a huge roasty malt flavor. Soooo smooth with a full viscous mouthfeel. The ABV is so well masked that it's almost undetectable. Slightly dry finish with some slight alcohol warmth. Extremely quaffable with awesome raosted malt profile. Lots of sweet bitter dark chocolate, coffee bean, toffee, molasses, honey and caramel sweetness that balances out the deep roasty and burnt toast characteristics. Very subtle hops in the finish as well as some slight alcohol warmth.

This is one of the most complex, flavorful and drinkable Imperial Stouts I've ever had and possibly one of the best beers I've ever had the pleasure of sampling. All I can say is WOW. Highly recommended.

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Photo of Derek
4.63/5  rDev +5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2000th review. Thanks Rutager!

Mummy pic, so I'm guessing 2009.

A: Very thick pour, black with a tan head, only a thin ring of retention but leaves some nice lace.

S: Black strap molasses, bakers chocolate and bourbon. Nice, but not as much aroma as one might expect.

T: Black strap molasses, bakers chocolate, espresso, salted licorice, piny resin from the new-school hopping (a bit dank), tobacco, caramelized raisins, sponge toffee. Seriously bitter, but not at all harsh. Nice alcohol warmth. It seems like it spent some time in a bourbon barrel. I really like the malts here, plenty of chocolate, a good amount of black and a restrained amount of roasted barley... it's like they brewed it for me.

M: Full, thick, creamy body has some roasted acidity.

D/O: One heck of brew.

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Photo of DrJay
4.55/5  rDev +3.2%
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.

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Photo of Bitterbill
4.79/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I got this bottle in a trade with incutrav. Thanks Travis!

This pours from the 750ML waxed bottle, close to room temp, as dark as dark can be. Pitch black and no highlights of any kind when I held the glass up to a light. I poured it rather vigorously and am rewarded with about a one finger head of tan foam. Head retention was good and there was some lacing.

The smell has all sorts of things going on. Lots of sweetness on the nose with big caramel, big notes of sherry and roasted malt, and lots of chocolate with some vanilla, maybe a touch of some dark fruits like raisin and plum. This is a great "smeller"; one of the best I've encountered to date.

The taste...can it live up to what I just experienced with the smell? We shall see.
First sip and I'll be...danged. No dryness here at all. Lots of caramel malt sweetness starts the session off followed by lots of milk chocolate, a touch of dark chocolate that adds just the right amount of bitterness, and big sherry notes along with that roasted malt goodness. The vanilla shows up mostly near the finish as does the dark fruitiness which gives me a light bit of tartness that's a plus for this RIS...man, this is one hell of a complex brew bordering on the over the top in complexity but there is nothing in the flavour that I can say detracts or is overused. It's just outstanding, plain and simple, and the abv is *very* well hidden.

It definitely has a fullish mouthfeel and the carbonation is lightly but rightly done. Silky smooth.

Drinkability? 1 at a sitting would be all that I can handle but that *1* is turning out to be a disappearing act that most magicians would drool over. I kid you not!

Big thanks again to Travis for giving me the chance to try my first Surly in a bottle. What a treat!

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

750ml red waxed 2012 poured into tulip 12/6/13 big thanks Rutager for the bottle, split with alpineclimber

A lives up to the name, black with a deep edge, massive three fingers of dark mocha foam stick around long enough to leave a a few well spaced thick rings, looks decent

S shocking how well the hops stand out against all this dark malt, grapefruit, tangerine and a little pine, sweet chocolate fudge smells so rich, Hershey's syrup, molasses, and a little coffee but not much, just a hint of plum and the booze is well hidden

T much like the nose but a little sweeter and the chocolates a little darker, coffees a little burnt and the hops are still strong, crazy strong, they must have used a shitload of the green stuff making this bad boy

M rich thick and creamy from the bubbles, a little sticky on the lips and I really have no idea where the booze is hiding

O hopped to hell and rich fudge make a great combo, pretty much zero booze and my glass is already empty at this point

Its always a great thing when a beer lives up to the hype and this one did exactly that. I wasn't expecting the high levels of hops but I loved it, for a fresh big stout the booze is nearly invisible. This one could age for years but great fresh if you like a hop bomb

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Photo of rudzud
3.78/5  rDev -14.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Well, a belated Halloween beer. 2013 Brewcifer bottle.

A - Poured into my Duvel tulip a dark oily black with a fat two finger mocha head that fades to leave a creamy blanket and light lacing.

S - Aromas of hickory, licorice, roast malts, chocolate, vanilla, very light dark fruit.

T - Taste is similar to the to the nose, hickory, licorice, anise, roasty almost charred malts. Fair amount of sweetness, both in malt and in dark fruit juice. Raisins and prunes. The finish has just a little bit of hop bitterness on the finish, but still, once the licorice and char is gone all you're left with on the tongue is sweet dark fruits.

M - Mouthfeel is slick and a bit oily. Bit smooth and syrupy too. Alcohol is hidden very nicely though.

O - Overall, this beer was a rather standard RIS. I can see why when it first came out the beer was great, however, 8 years later there are loads of russian imperial stouts on the market. For the money, I'd go with nearly any readily available RIS.

Serving Type: Bottle

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Photo of VeganUndead
4.85/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Enjoyed a 2012 vintage with a friend after letting it age for 2 months, this is the second best imperial stout I've ever had imo, only falling short to Abyss. Really excited about the 2011 I've got in the cellar, going to have to think of an excuse to open that some day. Cheers

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

On tap at Local Option, they had run out at Map Room but Local still had quite a bit, so Chicago BA's get it while it lasts! Local Option is a pretty nice spot too. Served in a pint glass.

Pours opaque black, thin red is visible on the edges, very thick dark tan head, lots of thick lacing on the glass, great retention, really sticks. Smell is awesome, pine and molasses, very rich, brown sugar, chocolate, toffee, roast, sweet fruits, some dates, very complex. Taste is similar, burnt dates/raisins, brown sugar/molasses, milk chocolate, some pine and floral hops, coffee and cream, very rich sugary goodness, nice bitterness in the finish, alcohol is very well hidden. Mouthfeel is thick and viscous, nice body, low carbonation, super smooth and drinkable. At first I wasn't sure what to think, but I can imagine this is exactly what RIS's tasted like when they were developed at the turn of the century. Fantastic stout, worth seeking out, and insanely drinkable, considering I had 3 pints!

2008 bottle: Day 2 of epic DrJay visit tasting, courtesy of grub.

Found this years to be a bit sweeter, not as much roast as the 07. Maybe a little less smooth. But still enjoyable!

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Photo of Bighuge
4.78/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Inky black. Big thick crop of dark brown foam on top. Great staying power too. Spotty patches of brown lace coat the glass as I drink. The aroma is thick with raw, resinous hops. (Very similar to the way Alpha Klaus smelled the very first time I had it years ago.) Also chocolate notes and roasted malts and heavily roasted coffee bean. The flavor exhibits great complexity and depth. Baker's chocolate. Black licorice and hop oils mingle nicely. Intense coffee flavors and mocha/java notes. Fruit nuances are dark in nature....black berry and boysenberry come to mind. And there's a huge bitterness. A big double punch of roasted bitterness and hop bitterness....love this raw ass bitterness. And throughout, there's a nice charred edge to round everything off. The body is medium-full to full. Somewhere in that range. This doesn't have that "motor oil" viscosity, but it really doesn't need it. This is damn impressive the way it is. It's lightly carbonated and the alcohol really isn't that noticeable. It seems to blend in with the bitterness and is hidden to an extent in that capacity. There's a nice oily/greasy feel after drinking which I find appealing. The taste lingers long after I'm done. This is very drinkable. Growler would be no problem.

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Photo of pat61
4.75/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

This is the Zombie version bottled 10-22-11 and retrieved from the cellar 6-27-14. Review from notes. L: Pours pitch black under a 1” tan foam cap that slowly dissipates to a thick film. S: Chocolate, sherry, prune. T: Rich caramel, hints of sherry and prune, chocolate, espresso. F: Very creamy with medium carbonation and a full body. O: An excellent desert beer that improves and develops with age.

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Photo of HuskyinPDX
4.21/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2011 Zombie bottle.

A - Pours a very dark brown with a one finger light brown head. Great retention.

S - Milk chocolate, slight oak, slight bourbon and vanilla as well.

T - Vanilla milk chocolate, with a slight bourbon and oak finish.

D - Sweet and Oily. Average body and carbonation.

O - Very good. Smooth and delicious.

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Photo of Beerandraiderfan
3.53/5  rDev -20%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2009 vintage: Pours out black, you know the story. A dark fruit aroma, plum, prune, fig, raisin.

Taste, reminiscient of dark lord, but a little thinner. Sweet, dark sugar. This really is right up the alley of a traditional RIS, sweet, not super thick, no coffee, chocolate seemed to be on the lacking side for any kind of stout. Boozy, didn't pick up any vanilla, lots of wood, probably oak, oak was all over this.

Was comparable to tenfidy also. Not my favorite RIS, but definitely solid. But I'd rather have coffee bender, abrasive, furious or wet. This would be no big deal if it was in a can.

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Photo of spinrsx
4.12/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bomber from the end of year Ottawa Tasting

Appearance - Dark brown colour with a small size frothy light brown head. I can't make out the amount of carbonation showing and there is some great lacing. The head lasted for around 5 minutes before it was gone.

Smell - Malts, chocolate, coffee, vanilla, oats

Taste & Mouth - There is a below average amount of carbonation and I can taste malts, chocolate, and vanilla. There is also some coffee, roasted/toasted nuts, and some oats.

Overall - Really smooth and enjoyable to drink. A great balance of flavours and something that I would drink a lot if it was regularly available to 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 sweemzander
4.15/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Tap pour into a snifter at the Barley House in Algonquin.

(A)- Pours thick and pitch black. Produced a minimal tan head, but pretty decent retention. Subtle lacing.

(S)- Malty and rich. Has a heavy brown sugar/toffee sweetness wit hints of coffee and dark chocolate aspects. Some woody dry notes.

(T)- Very similar to the smell. Good malts and richness. The same sweet aspects in the smell, yet has an underlying spicy herbal woody notes. As it warms, some nice licorice flavors start showing themselves.

(M)- A good carbonation level and balance. Surprisingly, a bit thinner than I expected it to be; and not quite as rich or heavily roasted. Because of this, it is actually smoother; more balanced, and easier on the palate in my opinion.

(D)- A solid RIS for sure. It was really nice to see that it was not overly rich, sweet, or viscous as I was expecting; rather, it is far more sessionable because of that. If I could, I would do a whole bottle of this on my own if I felt like it. The drinkability and mouthfeel are where this beer truly shines. In terms of flavor, however, it might need some more time to age.

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Photo of TurdFurgison
4.62/5  rDev +4.8%
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.

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