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Darkness - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.

Educational use only; do not reuse.

796 Reviews

(Read More)
Reviews: 796
Hads: 3,274
Avg: 4.42
pDev: 9.5%
Wants: 3,252
Gots: 1,186 | 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/ 

2007-Grim Reaper
2012 - Werewolf
2013 - Brewcifer
View: Beers (53) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 796 | Hads: 3,274
Photo of sully11277
4.65/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

A- Jet black with a nice brown head that sticks around for the whole thing.

S- You get a lot of an alcohol burn then you get a nice sweetness. You get a lot of cocoa and vanilla. You get a lot of roast. there are so many smells coming off this beer they blend very well.

T/M- You get a lot of sweetness upfront, you get a lot of dark chocolate then you get more of a milk chocolate and vanilla. It is very smooth which i was shocked by because of the alcohol burn you get from the smell.

O- This beer is amazing. all the flavors blend so great together I can not wait to see how this ages.

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Photo of mrseano
4.68/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

2010 vintage, received 11/10 from friend and opened 3/11.

A: Dark, dark black pour. No light shining through this beast. Deep color quickly surprised friends with whom I shared the beer.

S: Roasted, caramelized, hint of the strong alcohol within the beer. Smells of strong coffee.

T: Awesome chocolate-infused coffee. Strong, developed taste that lingered on the tongue.

M: Smooth and filling. Very full-bodied and felt like a meal in a bottle. Alcohol hidden within roast coffee taste and smooth mouthfeel.

O: I have just begun reviewing after many years of sampling and consuming beer, but this is currently my favorite beer I have the chance to experience. Received in beer trade from Great example of Imperial Stout and wowed me from first drink.

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Photo of pepsican
4.45/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

07 vintage on tap. Poured very dark brown, thin tan head. Has a strong hop aroma. Tastes extremely hoppy with all sorts of nice stout goodness hiding behind the initial blast of hops. Chocolate, espresso, oatmeal, roasted malts, dark fruits. You can tell there is a completely different beer hiding under everything. Hop flavor was similar to furious, which to me is a good thing. Finished thick and oily, nice and creamy. alcohol goes unnoticed. I can only imagine what this will turn into as the hops drop back and everything else comes forward. One of the most complex beers I've ever tried.

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Photo of gorby10826
5/5  rDev +13.1%
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!

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Photo of Eldalonde
4.7/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

’08. Pours as black as any stout I’ve seen with a thick syrupy pour and a deep dark brown head. Smells of sweet caramel and chocolate, vanilla, oak, tobacco, and licorice. Lots of tobacco on the palate with chocolate and coffee really coming through. Honey and vanilla with some nice dark fruits like raisins and plums coming through. This is very oily, with a very heavy mouth feel. Long bitter finish.

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

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

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Photo of NorthsideFred
4.26/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had it on tap at Jake Melnick's, (thanks to the Craft Brew Convention).

A: Looks great. Black with a 1/2" thick dark brown head.

S: Sweet and roasty.

T: Very smooth; the alcohol is very well hidden. Quite sweet. Based on some of the other reviews on here, I expected it to be hoppy, but my pour wasn't hoppy at all.

M: Not as thick as most RIS I've had.

D: Very smooth. You would never guess that this is over 10% ABV! Very drinkable; although, I suspect the sweetness would get to you after awhile.

Overall a great beer, and one that I'd order again!

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Photo of Nashvillain
3.86/5  rDev -12.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2010 Version, Gold Wax and a fucking VAMPIRE on the front.

I really do think the appearance of the actual beer is amazing, but I love that label art. The beer itself pulls a pitch black into the glass and lets NO light through. Darkness is right. Head retention is decent, leaves a perfect lacing behind.

Smell is booze, licorice, faint coffee, booze, roast, a light milk chocolate, and booze.

Taste is heavy handed on the licorice with chocolate and booze providing backup. I can't say it's not good, but I just don't get as much out of this as I thought I would. Definitely thankful to get a bottle either way though. There may have been hops here at one point which would make everything that much more interesting, but they're gone now for sure.

Overall a good beer but not as great as expected. Maybe it's meant to be had fresh at which point I'll alter the review but for now the only thing legendary about this beer is the label.

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Photo of accordselux
4.88/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2008 release.

Like Travloh, I couldn't wait. My friends and I waited in line for this and the reward needed to be immediate! Drank it tonight as an after-dinner sipper.

I let the bottle warm up a bit from the fridge cut open that wax, and served it in goblets.

A: A wonderful example of an RIS. It poured well and left a caramel covered head that soon settled. It was pitch black, I held it up to a light and squinted and could see nothing. The foam left no rings as it was drunk, it slowly settled back into the beer.

S: The first thing we smelled as we opened it was a strong, sweet molasses smell, combined with a fruit note. It was overpowering the other smells, but as we let it breathe, I got the chocolate smell as well. The only reason it's a 4.5 is because the sweet smell was overpowering for quite a while.

T: Great. This was aggressive, but very well balanced. The dark coffee/chocolate flavors of the malt, highlighted by a sweet molasses/fruit taste. Hops were present but well integrated into the flavor. A LOT of flavor profiles I can't even begin to describe, but I can say, it's a lot more complex, and dare I say better than the Bourbon County Stouts and Old Rasputins I've had recently in preparation.

M: Very smooth. GD Yeti was very thick and oily feeling to me, and while Darkness felt substantial, it was very smooth to drink. The best sensation of all is the warmth you feel in your throat and chest after drinking, the similar feeling I get after drinking a liquor like scotch. Very nice warmer on the coldest day of the year so far in Minnesota.

VERY smooth to drink, which leads me to...

D: I can see why people are warned on Surly's site. The ABV creeps up on you. The beer is so enjoyable, and the flavors mask the alcohol so well, that you can sip for quite a while.

I was worried I wouldn't make the cut, but was #617. I was worried the beer was overhyped, but it's not. This is incredible. I wish I had sprung for the 6 bottles instead of the 4 I bought, but hopefully someone else got the chance to enjoy it.

Cheers to whoever the lucky party is!

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Photo of andreasmwatt
3.4/5  rDev -23.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Appearance - Very dark nice looking beer. Way excited when I poured it.

Smell - Pretty bland actually. Not a whole lot of sense.

Taste- I know everyone loves this beer but I don't love it actually I can live without it. I like dark beer and this one just was not my thing.

Mouthfeel - Felt very nice on the palate.

D - Wuite Quaffable, like I said b4 just not my kind of beer.

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Photo of dtmets84
3.34/5  rDev -24.4%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

2011 vintage. Shared the bottle with DTMets84.

I have been waiting to dabble in darkness for sometime now and what is a better excuse then no work monday? Yahoo for labor day.

Appearance: Pours a dark dark black with an inch head.
Head is the color of khaki jeans?

Smell: Sweet? Black tuesday again?! Roasty as well.

Taste: Lots of something I can not put my finger on yet but it is not something that appeals to me. Its Dark Lord again.

Mouthfeel: My first surly brew ever and I am too letdown to discuss the mouthfeel.

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Photo of BS68280
3.59/5  rDev -18.8%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

Big thanks to Joseph for opening this one up (finally getting the review up here). Poured into my DFH signature glass. I had this after DL and I have to say they are two different beasts, but i was fairly underwhelmed by this one.

A: Pours just as black as I have seen, with a foamy khaki tan head.

S: Way more hops than i was expecting out of an RIS. Earthy hops, with hints of dark fruits behind it. It smells alot more like black IPA than an RIS.

T: Right along with the smell. No surprises here. The earthy hops lead the way and kind of took away from what otherwise was a great RIS. Dark chocolates, and dark fruits follow, but i can't get over that much hops in my RIS.

M: Full bodied, thick.

D: Didn't really love this one, I don't think i could finish a bottle off myself.

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Photo of WonderWoman
4.18/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This poured so dark there was no penetrable light. There was a ring of golden head reminding me much of motor oil.
Smelt of chocolate and coffee.
Tasted alot like hoppy dark chocolate. Oddly it was salty when I licked the brew off my lips. There was a noticeable alcohol after taste.
It was thick and smooth with mild carbonation.
This was a bit much for me, but I thought it was nice for the style.

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Photo of Duffman
4.78/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Thick, black, oily, viscous, this beer truly deserves its name. A dense, mocha-colored vibrant head adds considerable life and beauty to the appearance of this beer, which is absolutely exceptional.

Seductively aromatic. I imagine that if the finest velvet had an aroma it could well be this beer. Nutty, chocolaty, with dried fruits (notably cherry) and rich creamy notes. Amazingly complex and well-balanced, even for a russian imperial stout.

Exquisite and luxurious. Rich malted notes contrast wonderfully with the mild hop bitterness coming through. While fruitier than most imperial stouts it is not pointedly so, like Bell's Expedition Stout for example. Raisins, sherry, cream, cinnamon, the flavors come in waves and continue to reveal themselves.

The body is extraordinarily well-rounded and deep. Thick, smooth, and sumptuous the mouthfeel is truly exemplary. A long, lasting, and richly clinging finish is a fine finish to this highly drinkable stout. While I don't doubt that there are betters beers and that I have many comparably favored beers left to discover I have yet to come across a beer this refined and enjoyable.

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Photo of calise1122
4.58/5  rDev +3.6%
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.

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Photo of Rampage1
4.32/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This is one imperial that definitely stands out from the others in the hop profile.

Appearance-- The color was a jet black with a head that was always slightly there and had nice carbonation.

Smell- The smell is what sets this beer apart from other RIS's- i smell beatiful hops in a nice floral way. I have never had a RIS that smells like a mellow IPA up front- never smelled so much hoppiness in a RIS- Awesome!

Taste- All i can say is less sweetness than Darklord but tons of chocolate. I liked that it was very balanced and not too sweet- very smooth!

Mouthfeel- This is really creamy - chocolate milk like.

Drinkablility--- I could drink a bunch of this. You would never know this is almost 11 percent- really easy to drink and very enjoyable.

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Photo of mikevanatta
4.65/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Pours blacker than motor oil, and tastes of raisins, dates, figs, chocolate, and a slight tinge of booze. Incredible amount of depth for a non-barrel aged beer.

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Photo of iLovehops23
4.43/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Big up's to Dennis Brothers for the hook on the darkness. This was a 2010 shared with friends at a birthday party. This was one of my top wants. I'm glad I was able to knock this off my list.


S- Hoping for the complexities to really show. I get a lot of malts and a faint hint of dried fruits maybe a figs or prunes.

T- Lot of malts and again the flavor of figs. I wouldn't consider it bad, just nothing amazing.

M- Very thick. Like drinking a milkshake. This was the best aspect of the beer.

D- The darkness is very delicious and dark just want to say i think very highly of surly beer because the come thru time and time again with soild and wounderful tasting product.

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Photo of RobertDwight
4.75/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Had this on tap at the Blue Nile...I had it after a furious and some food so my palate was really saturated with flavors already. This brew is almost pitch black and has a really thick brownish head. This beer has so many complex smells and tastes that it is almost like an enigma. Espresso, coco-chocolate, dark fruits, balanced by a nice hoppiness. This has to be one of the best tasting beers I've ever had! This beer has the THICKEST and creamiest mouthfeel I have ever encountered in a beer, I'm serious. Its so thick that its almost like chocolate pudding. This is definitely not a session beer, but is best savored after a good meal. I really wish this wasn't a seasonal beer and was brewed all year round. Surly PLEASE give us more.

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Photo of smm
3.83/5  rDev -13.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.5

Vintage 2009 bottle I picked up last year and have been saving for either something special or whenever October rolled around again.

Appearance: Black like night. Thin foamy tan head.

Smell: Sweet, very very sweet. Raisins and Alcohol, I was expecting some chocolate but there isn't any.

Taste: The taste is quite close to the smell, dark and fruity, a bit hoppy. The hoppiness really lingers which I wasn't expecting.

Mouthfeel: Amazing, very very mellow. Theres a bit of zip on the tip of the tongue from the hops, very low carbonation, but really well balanced. Leaves you with the feeling of having a tablespoon of syrup in your mouth.

Drinkability: I think one bottle will be enough for me. The abv doesn't really weigh it down while drinking it, but the sweetness is a bit too much.

I enjoyed the 2009, but I'd like to see how it has changed in 2010. If the sweetness dropped down a bit I would love it.

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Photo of BigTomZ
4.65/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2008 vintage.

Pours a nice black with a nice thick tan head that left lots of lacing.

Smells roasty and sweet. Molasses, dark fruits, roasted malts, chocolate, coffee.

The taste followed the nose for the most part. There was a little brown sugar and licorice that was not really evident in the nose. This was pretty sweet but done in a good way.

This brew was thick and viscous with just enough carbonation to keep it pleasant.

I drank the whole bottle by myself without any problems and could have drank another if I had more.

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Photo of Lordsloth
4.8/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Served in a small (5 or 6 oz.) Guinness glass at McKenzie's in Minneapolis.

A- "Blacker than the Blackest Black- times infinity", as one of my favorite sayings goes. A thick foam head with tenacious lacing as the beer goes down.

S- A roasted chocolatey, hop filled nose.

T- It has an amazing, deep flavor. Chocolate, Toast, and a big hop taste that comes quickly and fades back. There was something of a bite like a warm coke(I like warm coke), I thought. Amazingly smooth, as well.

M- Thick! A medium to heavy viscosity in the mouth, and no bad aftertaste to speak of.

D- Highly drinkable. It's a sipper, but you keep on sipping. I can see myself having a few glasses.

My first review- be kind. ;)

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Photo of travloh
4.97/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I was able to make it a little over 24 hours without doing it. On this cold October night I just cannot resist. I must. Halloween approaches and the dark bottle with satan on the label beckons...I give in to sin...

I slice the wax top and pop the top. The first thing I get with a hearty whiff of the cap is chocolate. Rich, dark, sweet smelling. The pour into the Darkness snifter reveals the nectar of the devil. Temptation. Pure temptation. Black like night.

That chocolate is of course ever present in the nose, but an orchestra of smells accompanies it. Coffee, brown sugar, cherries, cocoa. Someone call an exorcist, I am nearly possessed.

The semi aggressive pour produces that delayed storm in the black liquid. The bubbles awaken and energize, and send a frothy head upward that seems to come out of nowhere. It keeps pushing upward to the lip of the glass and halts. Its dark, of course, but it has a yellowish twinge to it, too. As it ever so slowly recedes it leaves its tracks on the sides of the glass. Lacing on steroids, it would seem.

The first swallow and my conversion is complete. "Gimme Shelter" by the Rolling Stones plays in the background as my descent into madness hits full stride. Chocolate, cappuccino, sweet bread, cupcakes with frosting. What I imagine a cuban cigar would taste like, only better. The stuff the devil offers you in Hell's waiting room. The second sip reveals more. A tangyness on the tongue, almost makes it numb. Then the alcohol kicks in to remind you this is still beer. I am under the spell of Darkness...

Why did I stand in line and pay $100 for 6 of these? One sip tells me that I would have paid $200. I wish I had 6 more.

This stuff is so good it truly is sinful. All Hail Darkness...

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Photo of MichaelNeelsen
4.8/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo of Gary779
4.28/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2011 Vintage - Zombie

A: As the beer pours, it has a black-brown colour. It has a strong coffee coloured head that develops quite nicely and has great retention. Leaves nice chunky lace as well.

S: Quite hoppy, with clear aromas of coffee and cocoa. The hops aroma has elements of middle eastern herbs. Upon a swirl, the beer gives off a very sweet aroma, filled with dark fruits and vanilla.

T: There is an initial sweetness that tells you a lot of the final gravity of the beer (it IS a heavy beer). A lot of molasses and dark fruits, like dates and plums. Aside from that the taste is just BIG and complex. Alcohol became too prominent after the beer warmed up to room temperature.

M: Beer is heavy and very smooth. It has a certain oilyness that works wonderfully. Carbonation is silky smooth.

O: I was expecting better, but this is nonetheless a brilliant beer.

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Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
98 out of 100 based on 796 ratings.