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Darkness (2006 - 2013) - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Darkness (2006 - 2013)Darkness (2006 - 2013)

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

2,649 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 2,649
Reviews: 765
rAvg: 4.5
pDev: 9.56%
Wants: 2,924
Gots: 1,030 | FT: 72
Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company visit their website
Minnesota, United States

Style | ABV
Russian Imperial Stout |  10.30% ABV

Availability: Fall

Notes/Commercial Description:
This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

Starting in 2014, 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 (2006 - 2013) Alström Bros
Ratings: 2,649 | Reviews: 765 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of fuzzcherry
5/5  rDev +11.1%

fuzzcherry, Nov 28, 2011
Photo of MrVonzipper
4/5  rDev -11.1%

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
Photo of EB1
3.5/5  rDev -22.2%

EB1, Jun 01, 2014
Photo of afksports
4.28/5  rDev -4.9%

I've been fortunate enough so far to have acquired two bottles of the 2010 Vampire vintage through trades. I'm an Eagles fan, so when DeSean Jackson decided to stick a dagger in the Giants' hearts, I knew it was time for this Surly beast.

The appearance is absolutely hands-down amazing. Dark, huge tan head, brilliant lacing that clings to the glass. The only huge stout that's looked better has been Deschutes' Abyss. Which I suppose is fitting, because those are dark too.

After looking at it for what seemed like hours (and was really seconds) I gave it a sniff. Not that impressive. Chocolate and coffee malts came through, but despite the big head this didn't have a big nose. Its taste was also subdued. Not to say I didn't love it, because it was exactly how it should taste, but it didn't blow me away like the appearance.

Surly's Russian Imperial Stout still fills the mouth well with its full-body, and honestly I've always been scared of Russians and vampires, but I'd still return to this one - especiallyi f it were off the shelf and didn't require trading.

I'd also love to see how it ages. Probably upside down or in a coffin or something.

afksports, Dec 29, 2010
Photo of CarolinaKev
4.5/5  rDev 0%

CarolinaKev, Dec 22, 2013
Photo of csmartin6
4.5/5  rDev 0%

csmartin6, Jan 22, 2014
Photo of ahbithwabm
4.75/5  rDev +5.6%

ahbithwabm, Jan 23, 2014
Photo of Traquairlover
3.6/5  rDev -20%

22oz bottle poured into a snifter. 2009 vintage. Thanks to bmanning for sharing this bottle with me. I had a hard time with this review. This beer was much, much different than I expected (or indeed expect from any RIS). Although I can see why some BA's love it so much, I would be very put off if other breweries try to replicate the style of this beer. It really seemed like a DIPA that used roasted malts and a longer than usual boil to simply be darker than usual, but still remain essentially an IPA like drinking experience. It wasn't different enough from expectations to give it bad scores exactly, but I did not find it a great example of an RIS.

A = Dark mahogany, coppery tan medium sized head with a mix of foam, small bubbles and a few large bubbles. Decent retention.

S = Strong, strong citrus smells of grapefruit rind and lemons, hiding under that is some burnt coffee, very light smels of roasted coffee beans and cocoa powder, after a good swish I pick up uncooked bread dough. Even with those other scents though, the entire experience is one of floral "C" hops with everything else playing second fiddle. It seems like it must have been heavily dry hopped or something. Rather than simply using hops for their bittering properties and letting bitterness from hops meld with forceful malt flavors such as coffee, chocolate, tobacco, etc., this beer seems to simply be all about hops smells and flavors.

T = The tastes of this just continue the jarring mental disconnect I get between what this beer looks like, what I look for in an RIS and what I am in fact getting. There is just a crazy mix of flavors, though, it's like drinking a mocha coffee drink that has been randallized using Pacific NW piney/citrusy hops varietals, bringing flowers, grapefruit, lemons zest, light resiny pine. Hidden behind all this are more of the flavors I would expect to stand out more. There is definitely the coffee and chocolate notes one often finds and also some dark fruits. All in all it is kind of like a black IPA on steroids rather than a strong bitter stout.

M = Medium-heavy full body, decent carbonation to keep the beer interesting and flowing in the mouth, good mouthcoating.

D = This just wasn't all that drinkable for me. I enjoy both sweet imperial stouts and bitter imperial stouts. I really do not particularly care for extremely strong C hops flavors clouding up the issue though. I drank my glass, but really did not particularly want another one. I may see about trying this again if it has been aged some, but I do not think I will seek out a fresh bottle.

Traquairlover, Nov 08, 2009
Photo of Skunkdrool
4.5/5  rDev 0%

Skunkdrool, May 19, 2014
Photo of mkennedy119
4.5/5  rDev 0%

mkennedy119, Apr 26, 2014
Photo of Quackus
4/5  rDev -11.1%

Quackus, Jan 08, 2013
Photo of HopsHopenstein
4/5  rDev -11.1%

HopsHopenstein, Feb 10, 2014
Photo of andrewinski1
3.93/5  rDev -12.7%

Bottle from 2009, but drank today. Poured into a tulip. A large, tiny bubbled light brown head fills the glass. It's about 3 inches and doesn't settle down for a while.

There is an overwhelming aroma of chocolate. A bit of hop aroma is noticed, but it is quite secondary.

The taste starts out sweet and chocolatey. The roasted flavor is relatively mild here. Most bitterness that is detected is in the finish and I would attribute it to a hoppy bitterness.

The mouthfeel is full and smooth. This is a thick brew. The carbonation is appropriately smooth, and not prickly.

This is a really big, kind of sweet stout. A very good offering.

andrewinski1, Nov 29, 2010
Photo of hopfacebrew
4.55/5  rDev +1.1%

Another hookup from Kiddwhiz! Poured from 2011 to Duvel tulip the beer arrives a deep dark black color with a finger's worth of tannish head, good retention and lacing. Looks thick. The nose is a very enjoyable roast mixed with dark fruits and sweet caramel tones. Smells great! The flavor follows suit with an impressive smooth creaminess. The roast and sweetness found in the nose are more pronounced and coupled with hints of bakers chocolate and dark fruits. Sweet but not overly so. Mildly bitter and hides the alcohol very well. Finishes smooth and creamy with a lingering roast and hint of the dark fruit, perhaps a touch dry. Overall, this is a fantastic brew! What a treat!

hopfacebrew, Apr 23, 2012
Photo of ari32
4.75/5  rDev +5.6%

ari32, Nov 11, 2013
Photo of RMoeNay
4.5/5  rDev 0%

RMoeNay, Jul 15, 2012
Photo of ColdPoncho
5/5  rDev +11.1%

ColdPoncho, Dec 31, 2011
Photo of johnyb
4.25/5  rDev -5.6%

johnyb, Feb 25, 2013
Photo of udubdawg
4/5  rDev -11.1%

udubdawg, Nov 14, 2011
Photo of billshmeinke
3.38/5  rDev -24.9%

Poured into a tulip. Thanks to biniek13 for trading it to me. 2009 vintage.

Two finger beige head. Pitch black body. Great retention that leaves nice lacing behind.

Smells of tootsie rolls. Dark fruits (plumbs and raisins). Nose reminds me quite a bit of Chokolat by Southern Tier.

Taste is similar. Tootsie rolls, sugar, plumbs, prunes, brown sugar, a touch of dark chocolate, subtle black berries and raspberries, candied dark fruits, and a hint of roastiness/smokiness on the back end. Too much fake sugary like flavor for me.

Thick and full bodied. Low carbonation. Quite smooth, and luscious. Perfect RIS mouthfeel.

A bit cloying, but the alcohol is well hidden. One bottle wasn't exactly easy to put down. Really similar to Chokolat which is much easier to trade for. It also gets a bit better after it warms.

billshmeinke, Aug 21, 2010
Photo of zac16125
4.58/5  rDev +1.8%

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 Walkerjgt
4.5/5  rDev 0%

Walkerjgt, Jun 12, 2014
Photo of Retail1LO
4/5  rDev -11.1%

Retail1LO, Mar 31, 2013
Photo of JellyJacket
4.25/5  rDev -5.6%

JellyJacket, Sep 09, 2013
Photo of kevanb
4.71/5  rDev +4.7%

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
Darkness (2006 - 2013) from Surly Brewing Company
100 out of 100 based on 2,649 ratings.