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Darkness - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

2,685 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 2,685
Reviews: 766
rAvg: 4.5
pDev: 9.33%
Wants: 2,922
Gots: 1,037 | FT: 77
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.

2007-Grim Reaper
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
Ratings: 2,685 | Reviews: 766 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of AlexChillton
4.75/5  rDev +5.6%

AlexChillton, Aug 22, 2014
Photo of stevec32
4/5  rDev -11.1%

stevec32, Aug 06, 2014
Photo of hwwty4
4/5  rDev -11.1%

hwwty4, Nov 14, 2011
Photo of ahbithwabm
4.75/5  rDev +5.6%

ahbithwabm, Jan 23, 2014
Photo of drgonzo2k2
4.25/5  rDev -5.6%

drgonzo2k2, May 19, 2013
Photo of tswater
4.5/5  rDev 0%

tswater, May 30, 2013
Photo of davey101
4.5/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2011 vintage, Zombie label. Reviewed: 06-04-2012, almost 8 months old.

750 ml red waxed bottle into a brandy snifter. Served at cellar temperature.

A - Pitch black body that shows show red tints when the glass gets low enough. Perfect dark khaki two finger high head. Moderate lacing and retention. Damn near perfect. 4.5/5

S - Amazingly decadent burnt dark fruits, almost quad like but backed up with some amazing stout aromas. Cocoa powder, vanilla, and coffee beans. 4.0/5

T - Rich and smooth milk chocolate, fruity red wine notes, molasses, brown sugar, vanilla, coffee and some light licorice. Very smooth with all of these flavors blending together perfectly. Aftertaste is a bit bitter. 4.5/5

M - No alcohol present, even at room temperature. Medium to heavy bodied with some lively carbonation. Somewhat syrupy and coating. 4.0/5

O - This is the best RIS and certainly the best non barrel aged stout I have tried. Thats probably due to my love of quads and dark fruits which this stout has on full display. For me there has always been three icons of the big waxed stout world. Abyss, Darklord, and Darkness. The Abyss is roasty and tobaco rich, Darklord is an overtly sweet vanilla bomb, and Darkness is strong on the dark fruits. This is just about perfect for me. 4.5/5 (4.45 score)


2012 vintage, Werewolf label. Reviewed: 12-23-2012, almost 2 months old.

750 ml red waxed bottle into a Founders 15th anny glass. Served at cellar temperature.

A - Pours a pitch black body. Two fingers of light mocha foam from the pour settles into a one finger lasting cap that looks like the head of a latte. Swirling creates a thick wall of lacing that cascades down leaving behind strings of foam. Absurd retention level. 5.0/5

S - Dark fruits, brightly roasted malt, espresso beans, and vanilla. Powdery chocolate and molasses. Sweet and savory. 4.0/5

T - Rich dark chocolate and sweet milk chocolate, roast and char, espresso, molasses, and some piney hops. Long and harsh finish that's bitter and boozy. The aftertaste is just phenomenal though. Vanilla rich fudge and dark fruit. 4.0/5

M - For being only 10% abv this beer feels MUCH larger. Thick and syrupy, very coating and rich. Perfect dessert beer. 4.5/5

O - Still a phenomenal beer (that I'd chose over Abyss and Darklord) but I'm afraid I'm just not a huge fan of this beer when its on the fresher side. The hops are present and I just wish the pine and citric notes would take a back seat to the rich chocolate and dark fruits. 4.0/5

davey101, Jun 04, 2012
Photo of Mike
4/5  rDev -11.1%

Mike, Apr 10, 2014
Photo of alysmith4
4.86/5  rDev +8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Whoa, what a beer! Had this as part of a 30+ mini-whale share that I went to. It was the second beer I tried, and ended up being the best of the night for me. Appearance and mouthfeel are good, but smell and taste were both awesome! Definitely on the sweet side for a RIS, but still well-balanced. And it's surprisingly non-BA, as all those wonderful barrel flavors seem to come through as it warms. Would have this beer again, and again, and again.

alysmith4, Mar 13, 2013
Photo of brew3crew
4.68/5  rDev +4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A- very dark with tan head around the edge.
S- very suprisingly hoppy. Roasted malts and deliciousness
T- suprisingly hoppy. Nice dark malts follow. Almost sweet. Love it.
M-medium body and so smooth
D-very drinkable and awesome. My top want and would love to see this with age.

brew3crew, Feb 26, 2011
Photo of JellyJacket
4.25/5  rDev -5.6%

JellyJacket, Sep 09, 2013
Photo of zac16125
4.58/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

750mL bottle poured into my favorite snifter
2011 Zombie Vintage

Big thanks to haveanother1 for sending this one over in a trade

A: Pours a somewhat viscous jet black, with only the slightest browning around the edges, and 1 fingers width of dark mocha colored head which dissipates down at a fairly slow rate to a thin film.  Leaves a small amount of patchy lacing.  

S: The aroma is so sweet, with tons of dark fruit including raisin, plum, and red grape.  Other aromas noted are a significant bourbon character, a touch of black licorice, some anise,  and booze.  I get almost none of the  roasted/chocolate/coffee aromas that are present in  most RIS, but still, just an awesome aroma.

T: Unlike the nose, the flavors noted on the first sip are roasted malt, coffee and bitter bakers chocolate.  The dark fruits are there as well, with fig and raisin.  I also detect notes of vanilla, anise, milk chocolate that's reminiscent of a chocolate milkshake, a balancing booze character, and a touch of hop bitterness.  There is a lot going on in the palate profile, and really well balanced which prevents any one characteristic (ie the sweetness) from becoming cloying.  

M/D: Smooth, full bodied but not as thick as some of the other big RIS's.  Carbonation is not terribly high, but heavier than some.  A somewhat chewy and sticky mouthfeel which coats the palate nicely.  Very nice mouthfeel but could be thicker.  Still way above average, plus it gets even smoother as it warms and the carbonation subsides.  Drinkability is actually very good for such a big beer, and the ABV is very well contained.

O: Overall, really a great beer.  Well worth the wait, and worth the hype.  Not sure when I will get ahold of another one of these, but when I do I'll be sure to enjoy the hell out of it.  

zac16125, Apr 12, 2012
Photo of Ristaccia
4.75/5  rDev +5.6%

Ristaccia, Jun 25, 2013
Photo of fuzzcherry
5/5  rDev +11.1%

fuzzcherry, Nov 28, 2011
Photo of sukwonee
4.08/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2011 vintage red wax

A: Black body with one finger head

S: chocolate, hops, some sweetness

T: Its a bit disapppointing for me. Its a great stout but it does not stand out from other good stouts. Chocolate, malt, brown sugar and hops. very straightforward and nice.

M: Thick and syrupy. no alcohol burn.

O: Its up there with Stone IRS but nothing too special. Its a great stout regardless.

sukwonee, Sep 09, 2012
Photo of RMoeNay
4.5/5  rDev 0%

RMoeNay, Jul 15, 2012
Photo of CharlesDarwin
4.9/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

On tap at Cafe 28. First off, I have to say my intents were to go in and slam this beer. I’d had enough with Imperial Stouts in the Top 50 (this may seem hypocritical considering my past endeavors to further a certain example of the style). My injurious intents would soon be quickly assuaged by a single glass of beer...A friend and I headed to Cafe 28, where I had called ahead to ensure the presence of Darkness and to get reservations. They anticipated my arrival with a table and a couple pours.

The beer came to the table in a narrow chalice and it carried a luxurious finger of the most elegantly soapy, soft creamy dark-oak head. It was almost mahogany itself, gently sliding around on the top with large laces following the beer down the glass. The black gold itself absorb all light and possibly other objects with gravity, with just the slighest blood red corners. Beautiful. I put the chalice to my nose and was blown away by a bold, unique aroma. It’s a tough one to finger, because it was so original and something I’d not experienced. There were lots of reduced plums, raisins, dark cherry syrup, Ecuadorian estate chocolates and toasted wheat kernels. It was rather piquant and electrifying, with a real warming phenolic nose, but it wasn’t boozy or chemical-like, instead a real refined almost sherry or perfume signature. Whatever it was, it was like no aroma I’d wafted. Unfortunately, the pour was a little on the cold side, so the aromatics were slightly restrained and my the time the beer reached warmer climes, my olfactories had been saturated.

On the tongue, the texture was immediately astounding. It was so thick and creamy, yet not sticky. Sweet, but not cloying. Smooth and drinkable, yet not watery. Warm and glowing, but not too hot. Hoppy, but was not dry and parching. Some amazing alchemical processes had occurred hear. Brewing magic under the hand of a wizard had formulated a brew so prefect and desirable I couldn’t believe I was drinking it. I kept muttering, "best beer ever" and "damn near perfect." The flavor cascaded with everything and Imperial Stout drinker looks for. Mounds of freshly brewed Blue Mountains dark roast, Dagoba fair-trade dark chocolate, charred oak barrel edges, Italian cherry skins, Tahitian vanilla beans, drops of fresh organic farm cream and Italian espresso and then the dark fruits really came in. Moist rainier cherries, dried succulent wild bog cranberries, fresh raspberries from the stem, a hint of musky Thimbleberries, a cacophony of Bilberry syrup and Blueberry reduction, with a hint of sour cherries and final bit of pomegranate arils. On top of this, an electric wave of bright hops.

Again, the character of the hops so unique as to be something I have a tough time likening it to. It had a real shining lime zest and gin quality. High, thin and mercurial. These bold citrus oils danced over the brewing cauldron of darker flavors, complementing and intertwining magically. Then, the longest draw of a smack I could imagine. It kept going and morphing, with roads of Marcona almonds, toasted earth, light goat cheese rind and ground oak dust. From the sauna floor rose juniper branches and hints of sea oats. The real phenomenal effect of this beer was the ethereal combination of every desirable effect. Each aspect played off of every other one in near perfect harmonic balance. The aroma was different from the flavor and the hops had great interplay and the texture was just plain perfect. It reminded me much of the great singular and touchable quality of Westy 12, with all the individualisms and character of the world’s most perfect Imperial Stout. This is the solar center paradigm shift of Imperial Stouts for me.

CharlesDarwin, Feb 07, 2007
Photo of Skunkdrool
4.5/5  rDev 0%

Skunkdrool, May 19, 2014
Photo of Vdubb86
4.45/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Served in a snifter on-tap at the Barley House in Algonquin, IL

I was so happy that this beer actually found its way to Illinois. This beer is as advertised...Darkness is spreading in my glass. It is adorned by a finger of sandy brown foam with some nice lacing on the glass as it goes down. The smell is of a weaker bourbon, there is a citrus hop aroma, a bit of caramel and what seems to me to be the essence of Belgian yeast. The flavor is bourbon, brown sugar, caramel, hints of vanilla and clove as well to help with the nice complexity of this beer. I found the mouthfeel to be a little too carbonated for me, but that didn't mean it wasn't good. The drinkability is really good. Though it may be high in ABV you really can't tell too much on the palate. It's a really well made beer and I hope to get it again someday.

Vdubb86, Nov 17, 2010
Photo of schmidtmattsays
4.75/5  rDev +5.6%

schmidtmattsays, Jan 25, 2014
Photo of Diomede
5/5  rDev +11.1%

Diomede, Nov 20, 2011
Photo of DSlim71
4.5/5  rDev 0%

DSlim71, Jan 09, 2013
Photo of kevanb
4.71/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

750ml bottle, 2013 vintage, purchased at Binny's Grand in Chicago (much to my surprise) and poured into a 2012 Darkness tulip. I've heard rumors that the batch sent to Chicago was different than the batch released at Darkness Day in 2013, but I have nothing to substantiate this, that being said, this bottle was quite different than the draft offering I had at Northdown Cafe not a few weeks earlier.

The beer pours a super deep jet black color, wonderful opacity and just a touch of cola brown color when hit by the light. A thick, taut, caramel colored head rises from the beer, not instantaneously, taking its time to thicken and settle before receding slowly and gracefully leaves a few nice spots of lace behind. The aroma is roasty, dark brunt grain with some toasted coffee bean before a rush of chocolate, also a touch charred gives way to a plethora of fruit flavors, cherry, plum, prune and fig, with a bit of brown sugar and raisin as well as some molasses and toffee. The flavors however, are on point, loads of rich chocolate, bittersweet that brings out the fruit flavors impeccably well, huge amounts of cherry and plum with some backing raisin and licorice that leads to a rich malt and brown sugar sweet finish, but boy does the roast get cut down on the tongue. I'm used to this beer exerting some bitterness and hoppyness, especially when this fresh, but this bottle is so rounded and smooth. The body on this bottle is perfection, incredibly rich, soft, smooth, velvety, all of the synonyms for those words apply. It coats the mouth so gently and eloquently that it's almost unnoticed while asserting itself so well. The finish is wonderfully creamy, soft and has a perfect level of warming as it goes down.

Verdict: I always thought of Darkness as a rather unique and inventive take on the style as it was assertively bitter and always had a distinctive piney hop flavor to me, however this bottle changes everything. It's incredibly rich, smooth and balanced. The complexity is astounding and this is deserving of all accolades. Perhaps there is some truth to the notion that the recent distribution was slightly different than the release day batch, but whatever was in my bottle was superb and I want more.

kevanb, Jan 24, 2014
Photo of MrVonzipper
4/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2011 Vintage
Black. Pretty viscous. A little oily. Nice fluffy khaki head with pretty good retention and spotty lacing.

Pretty nice nose with sweet toasted brown sugar and mild dark fruit.

Flavor follows the nose. Pretty sweet. Notes of brown sugar, molasses, dark malt and brownie-like chocolate.

Mouthfeel is pretty full bodied, smooth with creamy medium carbonation.

Overall it's a good beer but a little bit of a disappointment. I for some reason was hoping for a bit more, and more depth. Good flavor and characteristic but leaves a little more to be desired.

MrVonzipper, May 04, 2012
Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
100 out of 100 based on 2,685 ratings.