Darkness - Surly Brewing Company

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DarknessDarkness

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BA SCORE
97
world-class

789 Reviews
THE BROS
100
world-class

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Reviews: 789
Hads: 3,221
rAvg: 4.39
pDev: 9.79%
Wants: 3,207
Gots: 1,175 | 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/ 

Labels:
2007-Grim Reaper
2008-Devil
2009-Mummy
2010-Vampire
2011-Zombie
2012 - Werewolf
2013 - Brewcifer
View: Beers (51) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 789 | Hads: 3,221
Photo of DefenCorps
2.86/5  rDev -34.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

I received bottles from beerbeagle, Viggo and scoobydank. Thanks for this, guys! Split it with johnmichaelsen last night.

A: Jet black with an inch-thick dark brown head. Looks very impressive with some lacing.

S: Spicy hops right out of the gate, spicy enough to make me think of a papad (matpe bean flour and black pepper roasted together). Definitely pine-like in hop character. Dark bitter chocolate in the back with a LOT of roasted malt aroma, roasted and acridly bitter. The hops lend a unique twist to this beer but there isn't enough of a backbone to pull this off.

T: Opens up WAY too sweet, artificially so (is this beer approved for phenylketonurics?), malted milk balls. Hops come through with a piney bitterness but not enough to balance the sweetness. At the risk of belaboring a point, this beer is all too sweet, lacking in any real complexity. In addition, there's a rather strange acrid malt bitterness that just does not work

M: Light in body, almost too light. Carbonation is good but the finish is too sweet for my liking.

D: Poor, I'm having a hard time finishing this. In fact,I couldn't finish the 8-10oz I poured for myself.

Notes: I really wanted to like this beer but it's an imperial stout in the vein of the sweeter ones - DWF WWS, Dark Horizon (both beers being superior) and in some respects, the Mikkeller Black. If you like these beers, you'll go apeshit over this but honestly, I'm not really a fan. (1,441 characters)

Photo of BeerFMAndy
4.97/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

750 ml wax-dipped bottle poured into a snifter.
10.3% ABV, 2010 Vampire design.

A - The thick pile of bubbles which rests on the beer displays an oily rainbow color swirling on it's surface. Coincidentally, it coincides with the thick, syrupy used oil-looking beer fills the snifter for a pitch-black darkness light cannot penetrate. Even with the high alcohol level, the head maintains its stature for quite some time, slowly lowering to leave a smattering of light bubbles on the snifter.

S - Sticky burnt molasses, lightly charred oak, and bitter dark chocolate are conjured up from a thick malt bill which incorporates more subdued notes of cold coffee, roasted malt, and cocoa. Hops provide just a miniscule drop of citrus and earthiness into the mix with an old, dusty basement sense pulling through. Even with two years on it, this beer still has some warming alcohol perception on the nose.

T - Darkness' rich malt level isn't surprising in flavor but what is, is the lack of bold roasted, almost burnt notes that the aroma exhibits. The taste compounds are much sweeter and subtler with smooth Hershey milk chocolate, a touch of black licorice, and soft molasses finishing out the back end. Dry cocoa and seemingly absent hops balance the malt sweetness' flavor as does just a hint of alcohol.

M - To describe this beer as full bodied would be quite the understatement. Smooth as black velvet (don't sue me Alanna Myles!) Darkness is almost creamy feeling with a rich, throat-coating finish that carefully teeters on the verge of sweetness and balance. All this while maintaining warming, soothing alcohol and an insatiable draw.

O - I recall Darkness having one of the hoppiest aromas of any Russian Imperial Stout I've encountered while being sweeter than all get-out. Suffice it to say, age has done this beer an incredible favor; rounding out some of the rougher edges for an insanely crave-able, lustful, sinfully delicious stout. For every bottle you hoped would age well and failed, Darkness makes up for, rewarding your patience with big dividends. This chocolaty, roasted malt-rich brew exceeds expectations of greatness and completely satisfies. (2,169 characters)

Photo of VeganUndead
4.85/5  rDev +10.5%
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 (278 characters)

Photo of tectactoe
4.45/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Thanks to Mike for sharing this one with me! 2011 version. Pours a midnight black color, only the very edges show some dark brown hints; thick, dark, and opaque. The head is a deep tan color, comprised of very fine bubbles and appears to be creamy as hell. It hangs around for a while before it complete vanishes, and it's pretty hard to bring any of it back by just swirling the glass. No real lacing left behind.

Right out of the gate, the aroma is super sweet. Dark currants and fruits, black licorice, toasted brown sugar, and bits of bittersweet chocolate. Some small, extra hints of vanilla reside in the back as well. Not much coffee on the nose (though there is a little bit) - the sweet fruits, sugar, and chocolate kind of steal the show. Booze is apparent, but masked well enough from the barricade of other flavors.

Many other people are calling out a big hop profile in the aroma, but I'm just not getting it. Some very faint char/ashiness that may be from the hop, but I'm grasping at straws, here. I'm just not picking up a big hop character on the nose (barely any at all, actually). This aroma reminds me quite a bit of Dark Lard, but lighter on the brown sugar and not quite as sweet.

A similar thing could be said about the taste. Darkness hits you with a sweetness first and foremost, just like Dark Lord did, but it's a little more tamed in this one. Sugary, burnt caramels, bittersweet cocoa, syrupy molasses, licorice - quite a lot going on here. There were actually a few sips that would remind me of the syrup used in fountain machines to make cola. Less dark fruit on the palate than in the aroma, but some currants and dates are there, sugar coated and sweet as hell.

I'm finally picking up a touch of hops, but still nowhere near enough to combat the sheer malty sweet intensity of this beer. The coffee comes out a little over halfway through and ride well into the aftertaste, leaving a nice roasted coffee bean flavor in my mouth. The sweet brown sugar also hangs in the aftertaste, probably for a little too long. Thick, heavy mouth, though not incredibly creamy or chewy, with lower end carbonation. Lacquers the mouth with a sticky, syrupy coating.

This is a damn fine brew, and I enjoyed it a little bit more than Dark Lord. But unfortunately it suffers from the same flaw of still being a bit too sweet. Darkness does a little bit better of a job taming the sweetness than Dark Lord, however. Lots of different flavors and aromas going on here, and this is a nicely crafted RIS - but the relentless sweetness (in my opinion) is holding it back from being "top of the list" for me.

EDIT: 7/19/2013

2012 Vintage shared thanks to Kevin R... Thanks! I liked this one even a bit more than the 2011 that Mike cracked with me earlier this year. Sweetness was evident, yet more controlled. Hoppier, with a better balance of ashy bitterness. More roasty, more drinkable, and even more enjoyable, even though I already like it in the first place. Great brew. (2,993 characters)

Photo of barnzy78
4.88/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

2013 release, "Brewcifer", 750mL. I've had Darkness multiple times, but have never given it a review until now
A 4.75 - opaque and jet black with a tall, frothy light brown head that hangs around awhile leaving sticky lacing as it slowly dissipates
S 4.75 - huge roasty nose with plenty of dark chocolate, raisin, and fruity esters
T 5 - dark chocolate slathers the palate with cherry, raisin, coffee, roasted barley, oat, faint pine all melded together perfectly
M 5 - full bodied, sticky and sweet, velvety smooth and creamy, exceptionally balanced finish makes it incredibly easy to drink; it is boozy but not overly
O 4.75 - always has been a favorite beer of mine. Apparently they're now barrel aging it starting in 2014, but in my opinion it doesn't need to be. It's phenomenal the way it is. Maybe they should keep both options open. (840 characters)

Photo of VelvetExtract
4.4/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2013 vintage

A-Pours thick and black. The body even looks dark falling out of the bottle in a well-lit room. A stocky, tan head rises from the DARKNESS! Slithering lacing stains the glassware.

S-I can now see why this beer is such a legend, I'm not necessarily saying that I am absolutely smitten by it but it's definitely very unique and admittedly quite intoxicating. It's unlike many big Stouts I have sniffed. The label states there are cherry notes and I am detecting them for sure. There is also a relevant hoppiness. The standard chocolate, espresso, roast and the like pop up too but it's the unique qualities that make this one so neat.

T-The flavor is even better. I recently had Kate The Great (may she rest in peace) by Portsmouth and while the beers have their blatant differences, there are some general similarities; this is probably why both are so highly regarded. Darkness has a whimsical, dark fruit fruity/cherry note that dances and weaves between the other flavors. The hops don't really give you much descriptive flavor but they add a bitterness that is more complex than general roast bitterness. Standing pat twitch the unique flavors is a great Russian Imperial Stout. Some char, chocolate, coffee and the like.

M-Not elite in the feel. Could stand a bit more thickness of body. It does have a nice creamy aspect to it. A little hot but I'm not surprised, nor do I frown up heat from a big beer. Tingly bubbles.

O/D-I was really happy to try Darkness, any geek should be. I found myself having a distant respect for the beer rather than a full fledged lust for it. It's well crafted, unique and yummy but it didn't click with me like others have. I still really enjoyed this brew and would love to try an older vintage. (1,751 characters)

Photo of Jwale73
4.03/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2008 vintage, courtesy of DbHog (an awesome trader). Beer #5 in the "Motha of all Stout Tastings." Pours two shades shy of black with rubye highlights around the edges. Half inch mocha-colored cap embedded with ringlets - generous head recedes into a swirl. Glass was coated with delicate strands of lacing during the tasting. Nose is hoppy - enough said. Taste is really interesting and was difficult to tease out - a full malt bill mixed with citric acid, artificial sweetener, grapefruit and some booze towards the back. Mouthfeel is medium-bodied and slightly viscous. A complex and interesting beer, but a bit off-style in my opinion. (639 characters)

Photo of cpetrone84
4.53/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2009 Bottle from trade from Hayesez (thanks Erik, awesome trader!)

A-an aggressive pour produces huge espresso colored head that is extremely thick and creamy. the retention is very good and it completely coats the glass as it slowly works down the glass. the beer is just one shade from pitch black and lets a hint of a red hue through with a maglite shined on it. very attractive beer!

S-the nose is average in strength. there is a light aroma of chocolate, molasses and tobacco that is taken over by the smell of sweet dark fruits. there is some dark cherries and raisins. the end brings a fair amount of hops, it actually has quite a hop profile. mostly citrusy hops

T/M-this is extremely thick, creamy, and chewy, very good feel. the body is quite full as it rolls down the throat. the taste is quite nice and bold. it brings dark chocolate up front, the dark cherry and raisins come in to complement the chocolate, some citrus hops and light bitterness fade in at the finish.

D-this is extremely drinkable and very tasty. great feel and so creamy. it has bold flavors in the taste and really shows no presence of alcohol.

***

Review of the 2008 and 2009 side by side

2008

A-pours jet black liquid with dark tan colored head
S-the nose is nice, molasses up front, notes of dark chocolate, caramel and toffee undertones. the back has some fruity sweetness, raisins and cherries with notes of booze. still a faint citrus hop note, can't be but seems to be.
T-the taste is quite sweet, not a ton of roasted malts happening here. a good bit of molasses, notes of anise and dark chocolate. lots of sweetness in the back, cherries, plums, touch of raisin. hops aren't really present here.
M-full body, just a little thin, but so smooth and creamy, low carbonation but tight to hold the body. silky on the throat.
D-quite sweet but ever so smooth. one of the best feels on beer you can imagine. booze is gone, just present in nose, none in the taste.

2009 is pretty much the same with more hop profile in the taste. hasn't really evolved in a year. (2,056 characters)

Photo of thagr81us
4.25/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Big thanks goes out to beeruser for sharing this one with me! 2009 (Mummy) Vintage! Served from bottle into a Mikkeller taster flute. Poured pitch black with a half finger brown head that subsided to a minimal amount quickly. Maintained decent lacing throughout the glass. The aroma was comprised of roasted malt, dark chocolate, alcohol, and subtle vanilla. The flavor was of roasted malt, dark chocolate, sweet alcohol, dark fruit, subtle vanilla, slight smoke, and very subtle molasses. It had a heavy feel on the palate with mild carbonation. Overall this was a pretty good brew. The flavor and aroma on this one were quite complex and inviting. The booze was still present after all this time, but it was quite nice with the other notes in the flavor. I was really glad I got the chance to finally tick this one officially as I have only had very small samples in the past. A definite must try for any beer fan. (916 characters)

Photo of Brenden
4.62/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Super-rich, heavy, thick, viscous, oily-looking; this is looking like one big beer. It's as black as darkness itself. The beer raises up a heavy medium-brown head that looks like it may be almost as thick as the liquid. It takes lots of time to recede and ends up a chunky patch resting on top and, while not clinging to the sides, is still maintained at half a finger for the entirety. Patching is almost beastly.
Every bit as robust and rich as I'd hoped it would be, this beer just pours out so much deliciousness it's scary. Working off a deep roast with just the right note of char to it, coffee grounds and chocolate come through. It's not enough just to say chocolate, though; there's every note in here from cocoa powder to nibs to baker's chocolate to creamy milk chocolate. Not to go too far, it's accompanied by some very ripe sweet/tart currant notes as well as contributions worthy of the especially rich, near-perfect Doppelbocks in thick molasses and almost anise-like notes, just for added depth. This is truly one of the best aromas one could smell from an RIS.
The taste follows suit; again, it's all about richness, depth and complexity. Robust malts contribute their drying char along with coffee grounds and the chocolate, which holds almost all the same complexity as in the nose with the exception that the milk chocolate and sweeter notes come out more strongly. Molasses and anise make their appearances as char kicks into the finish, some leafy hops as well as a boozy note running alongside.
Rich, thick, full-bodied with an appropriate heaviness, this beer hits the mark. It has just enough alcoholic heat to warm without thinning with a viscosity coating the tongue. The finish is semi-dry, some leafy hops and ultra-smooth chocolate easing the finish to linger beautifully. (1,803 characters)

Photo of AgentZero
4.01/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

On-tap at the Darkness release part at Sheffields in Chicago.

A - In a heavy glass chalice, looked thick like oil in the dark bar. A small tan head which was barely present by the time I got to mine. Nice lacing throughout the course of the drink, very attractive beer.

S - I think this is the strangest smelling stout I've ever smelled. I half thought I had the wrong beer for a while. Get some deep coffee and chocolate, with some undertones of vanilla and a touch of raisins. The strange part of all of it was the distince hops smell on the end of the nose. Very odd.

T - Is this really an RIS? It's either a really interesting take on one or it's just not. Don't get any of the classic stoutish taste on this. Very creamy and chocolatey with a nice splash of vanilla in the middle. Faint IPA-ish taste at the end due to the hops, how very different. I like it, but not at all what I was expecting.

M - Smooth and creamy, leaves the mouth cleanly with a mild hoppy bite at the end. Full bodied, but not heavy like I would expect a heavy stout to be.

D - Can't believe it's 10%+. Way too easy to drink, sessionable stout. Even those who have a hard time drinking stouts could get this one down with no problem. (1,217 characters)

Photo of tavernjef
4.56/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

On-tap at the Blue Nile: Dark pruney brown. Thickly puffed and creamy milk chocolate browned topping that stays for a good stint. After a time, a sandy skim is remaining with a firm collaring and thinnly placed sheets of lace coats the glass with immense sticking power.

Aroma is a lofty yet mild with an array of sweet dark fruity skins and juices of plum, pineapple, banana, and fig, all mixing with a dollup of chocolate cake and frosting. Ethanolic heat gets in the way as it sits and becomes the everstanding presense after a while, but stay fairly tropical and cocoa covered.

Taste is a brigade of sweet, dark flavors; at first, as this Imp. Stout changes its way some as it goes. But this has a tropical, yet dark, sweet front side that has a good slice of dullish pineapple, some slimming banana, dried plums and figs, and a scant of spicey molasses. Then chocolate comes in and covers it all up with one creamy cake filling smoothness and slight bitterness. The palate is soothed over with a delightful stand of bold chocolate tone in a fluff of dark cocoa bitterness. Slight hints to the spice and fruits lingering in the corners. A mighty nice taster of a stout. The front part starts bright and tropical, but fades as it warms. This was served pretty darned chilly for an Impy, but patience pays off by letting it sit about 10, 15 minutes.

Feel is smoothly silken and thickly set in a grand tone of wonderfully delightful chocolate malt and brief, slippery Doppelbock dark fruityness. Firm and strong with only a slight hint to higher ABV type warmth that's not really evident in any fashion other then the aroma. It reminded my of a chocolate silk pie. Kinda fluffy with that certain texture thats melting and coating. Quite nice. The finish is lengthy in chocolate tone and blended well in dark set bitterness.

Surly have done themselves well with this treat. A true winter sipper that can be easily enjoyed fully and with more in mind once the glass has emptied.
Beware: Darkness has set across the Land of Minnesota Beerdom. Close the door and lock it behind you. It's time for drinkin' some Darkness! (2,123 characters)

Photo of sweemzander
4.15/5  rDev -5.5%
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. (1,126 characters)

Photo of jbaker67
4.44/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours jet black with a substantial mocha-colored head that dissipates pretty quickly. Nose is dried fruit, toffee and malt. Mouth is full and silky, with lots of candy-like sweetness up front, then some dates, raisins, chocolate, caramel, with a bittersweetness fading out on the back end. Alcohol is well hidden, with only a slightly detectable warmth near the finish. (369 characters)

Photo of maximum12
5/5  rDev +13.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Every time I have a Darkness, I wait for it to let me down. Just a little.

Still waiting. This is the best beer I've ever had, period. Exclamation point. Semaphore. Whatever.

I had my first shortly after its Halloween release, & had the pleasure of consuming three of them that early November night. I've had several since, the latest at Firkin Fest & two short pours at the Acadia Cafe grand re-opening this past Friday.

Darkness pours black as the heart of Charon with, always, a beautiful but not overwhelming head. Smells like...Darkness. Nothing smells like it. Or tastes like it. Chocolate & beer & malt & all sorts of Russian goodness. After our last my wife commented that she might not brush her teeth for a few days to retain that lingering feel of pure heaven on the back of the tongue.

Drinkability is ridiculously off the scale for a beer this strong & dark. It is, however, definitely a sipper. I could put away one an hour for, oh, maybe half a day, but that'd be my limit.

Amazing. I can't wait for my next - I'm hoping there'll be a Darkness pour at the upcoming Happy Gnome dinner in mid-April. That, & my wife and I will be arm-wrestling to see who watches the kids for the anticipated Halloween 2008 release. (1,238 characters)

Photo of GreesyFizeek
4.69/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2012 vintage courtesy of stillmatic2232 at the Ithaca Luminous release.

Pours a dark, abyss depths-like black. 2 inch head mocha head, good lacing in the glass.

Smells like dark roasted malt, some dark fruits, chocolate, and espresso.

The taste is similar. One of the biggest expressions of dark fruits- raisins, plums, dark tart cherries- I've had in a sout. The roasted malt and chocolate keep the dark fruit flavor from being too cloying. Some espresso bean flavors as well.

Thick, syrupy mouthfeel, sweet start, bitter finish. No alcohol presence, despite the imperial ABV.

Amazing stuff, really glad I finally got to try it. (634 characters)

Photo of 4DAloveofSTOUT
4.13/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Huge thanks to Daniloknezic for sending me this bottle of beer! Thanks for my first taste of "darkness" Don!

Vintage 2011 (Zombie)

poured into snifter glass.

Appearance: black bodied beer with 1 finger of medium brown head. Decent lacing sticking on the side of the snifter.

Smell: Big malt profile with a decent amount of hops to balance. Big roast, caramel, molasses, and a hint of tobacco from the malts. Hops are pine.

Taste: Brown sugar, caramel, toffee, chocolate, creamy nougat, and molasses. Mild roast and dark fruits. Cherries, tobacco, leather, and black licorice. Hops start to take over about midpalate. Then bakers cocoa, bitter cherries, and piney hops really linger for a while into the the aftertaste. Eventually the pine takes over the entire aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: medium almost full bodied beer. Moderate carbonation. Creamy and slightly chewy beer; almost syrupy, but its got a perfect carbonation level that keep the beer from getting very syrupy! This beer has no hint of alcohol and it drinks like it only 8%; soooo smooth. Rediculious mouthfeel on this beer. Its mouthfeel is perfect! Best attribute of this beer!

Overall: Really interesting RIS. It really throws out alot of big flavors and has alot of complexity in the malt profile of this beer. I appreciate that this beer is fairely different and unique from many other RIS in its respective beer style "family". I prefer less hops in my big stouts and this one is over run by piney hops on the back end of this beer. The hops distract too much from the malt profile in my opinion. The mouthfeel is simply amazing especially for a non-barrel aged beer. (1,642 characters)

Photo of AgentMunky
4.38/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.25

2010 edition. Poured from a 22 ounce bottle into a snifter. Many thanks to the guys at Ale Arsenal for sharing.

A: Blood-dark red. Viscous. No head.

S: Smell is amazing. Loads of coffee. Licorice. Aggressive bitterness. Hops?

T/M: This is nutzo good! Kinda balanced, which is shocking. Very thin bodied. Hint of coffee. Hops. Roasty. Actually tastes like a stout. Lingering aftertaste is nutty and delicate. Dry. I love the roasted malt here.

O: Great imperial stout. Delicious and highly recommended. (505 characters)

Photo of cosmicevan
4.77/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Shared a 2010 bottle with speedwayjim, capra12, billyshears. Thanks to speedwayjim for sharing!!!

Poured a stunning thick black with a thin tan head into a Darkness glass. This brew smells of vanilla, hops, and even licorice or good and plenty. The hops really add a nice element to this RIS. The beer is thick and wonderful, pretty sweet but the hops add such a nice element. Has a nice tingle to it, this one was my fav of the tasting.

--- edit --- 2012-01-01
vintage 2011: 4.5 - 4.5 - 5.0 - 4.5 - 5.0
decided to pop open my first 2011 bottle for the giant game. pried open the waxed cap and filled my 2010 surly snifter. poured a silky shiny black with a generous frothy mocha frappacino like head that hung out for a while after it built like a guiness. the head was milky and chunky and bubbled away slowly, but was there for the duration. looks awesome. much like last year, i get a bit of a hoppy vanilla. some roastiness, but milked over. the hops give it an almost charred smell. BAM - there's that flavor. what a fricken beer. i forgot how much i love this beer. a bit on the sweeter side than i had remembered, but the hopping gives the roastiness some balls. really enjoyable.

--- edit --- 2012-11-18 (fresh!!!)
vintage 2012: 4.5 - 4.5 - 5.0 - 4.5 - 5.0
removed the wax, decapped and filled my new darkness snifter. brew poured a deep dark ominous, yet slightly watery black. as the beer settled in my glass it embodied the name of the beer. a finger and a half of off white-acino looking head appeared on the surface. as the head dissipated it left thick foamy lacing on the glass. inviting and menacing! wonderful black malt with a solid amount of roast and a great hop to balance things out. some bitter coffee and chocolate notes on the nose as well. nice hoppy stout (actually kind of reminds me of hoppy stout from greenport harbor). a bit of char. really just a phenomenal beer. big bold and roasty with a slight amount of char on the feel. overall, one of my favorite stouts. great year after year. (2,021 characters)

Photo of gford217
4.45/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Review #400 so let's make it Darkness. Bottles courtesy of a couple of super generous traders in Surly country poured into a snifter.

Not surprising, it's dark...pours jet black with hints of mahogany as it comes out of the bottle. The head is tan and three fingers high before receding to an inch-thick cap that lingers throughout with tons of lacing.

While not typical of the style, I found the aroma fascinating. The first smell was of floral hops, especially pine, along with some citrus. As it warmed, some of the dark malts and chocolate came out, but still with a heavy hop presence. It smells damn near like a DIPA. Crazy.

The taste steers back toward an RIS, but not all the way there. The initial taste is a quick citrus hop kick that tingles the tongue before the dark roasted malts and bakers chocolate melt the tingling away to a thick malty coating. The finish is a tad dry with a slight hop bitterness as well. The sweetness of dark fruits comes out much more as it warms, but again this is probably the hoppiest tasting RIS I'be had.

The mouthfeel is truly exceptional. Very, very creamy but with the perfect amount of carbonation to help the flavors pop.

Well, this may not be the best RIS I've had, but it is probably the most original. I'd heard it was hoppy, but I just had no idea. Big thanks again to Brian and Brent for opportunity to try this gem. (1,376 characters)

Photo of mynie
4.66/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle art looks like a D&D handbook from 1983. Maybe a zine from some kids who really, really like the old Heavy Metal books. Not to say that this kind of stuff affects my review, but already this RIS takes a distant fourth behind Kate, Abyss, and Dark Lord (which at least looks like a Magic: The Gathering card).

Pours brilliantly into a long-stemmed chalice, though. Perfectly opaque blackness (like the soul of a really evil dude) with an amazingly large and retentive head.

I was told that this was the hopheaviest of all American RISes, and even with the glass two and a half feet away from my face right now I can smell some firm, dry hops. Closer to my face, the beer smells strong and gigantically raw. Maybe this should have been left to age for a few months? (I *will* try another in early 09, and update if necessary.) Anyhow, there's an alcohol burn in there, nodes of thick red wine, tons of ultrasweet malt. Espressoish, fresh cacao, with some hints of vanilla. Really nice, lots of complexity, but the alcohol strength is just a wee bit overwhelming and it'll probably only get better with age.

Tastes perfect. Just perfect. The hoppiness is what jumps out at you, since it's so unexpected. It does such a great job of complimenting the beer's huge sweetness that it almost seems to be a part of a the sweentess. Can this be? Can black be a part of white? Can love be a part of hate? Of course. I guess.

The overall effect is less like a traditional Impy stout and more like some kind of combination of deliciously harsh alcohol and a mocha cappuccino with like ten shots of espresso in it.

You know what it's like? It's like Big League Chew. It doens't taste anything like the gum, no, but it's similar to it in that it just tastes too good that you don't let yourself enjoy it properly. I always swallow Big League Chew, since it tastes so good for some weird reason I want to swallow, and then I get a stomach ache. No stomach ache, here, but it's been like 7 sips and I still am slurping it down, unable by the force of this strange compulsion to hold this in my mouth long enough to savor it. I want to consume it. I want to pound this like chocolate milk.

The body is creamy, thick and fizzy. Never quite come across a body like this in a bottled beer. Delicious. Tastes like something that could be healthy. I--if I didn't know this had alcohol in it I could almost see myself giving it to a kid. (2,430 characters)

Photo of cbutova
4.75/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Reviewed from notes from an epic tasting with BCBCS. Thanks to Chico1985 and whoever traded it to him. Certainly one of the coolest (painted!) bottles ever.

A- If this beer was not pitch black I think another name would be appropriate. A light tan/beige head builds up and retains fairly well. It leaves thick lacing made up of fine bubbles. A nice ring and random cloud float on the beer.

Before smell and taste, it is worth mentioning that this was one of the most complex beers I have ever had.

S- Extremely roast malt up front. A cherry/dark fruit scent blends into the nose nicely. Molasses comes in pretty strong. I also get hints of pine, cocoa, dark fruits, earthy hops, caramel and even some citrus. A tiny bit of alcohol as well. The aroma itself has nice strength. There was also something I couldnt quite identify but it reminded me of my homebrew, maybe overly roasty?

T- A great balance of a ton of flavors. Very roasty malt with dark chocolate up front with molasses. Cherries and dark fruit make the main flavor of this one like a chocolate covered cherry. A tiny hint of alcohol hits the tongue but doesn't even come close to affecting the great flavor. A lot of earthy, grassy and pine hops round out the stout flavors. Sweets come into play but it doesn't bother me. The caramel malt shines its head later on and makes this one taste a lot like a Barelywine RIS. Very complex and balanced well. It never got old after an hour of sipping on it.

MF- Very creamy but not hugely thick, reminds me of KtG in a way. A very nice amount of warmth on the palate for a big RIS. Low carbonation but that is desired in this style. Roast caramel coats the palate. Needs more straight up thickness but the creaminess saves from being way off.

DB- Obviously rare and probably decently expensive. For how many flavors and the great time I had drinking this I would say it's worth it. Very complex Barleywine-like RIS with a great balance of a many different flavors. (1,975 characters)

Photo of illidurit
4.85/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Pitch black color with a cascading cocoa colored head. Tons of sticky lace and retention like mousse. Aroma is extremely hoppy with monstrous fresh cut pineapple notes. Not really any stout character, but it works. Flavor is decadent chocolate covered candied pineapple with a light roasted finish. Palate is very dry and smooth. Perfect carbonation. The body is not overly thick and there's not alcohol at all. Insane drinkability. (432 characters)

Photo of francisweizen
4.8/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I just recieved this one in a trade today, and was pretty excited to try/and review this very hyped brew from Surly Brewing Company.

This is a 2007 vintage that has been cellared/aged for one year since its original release on halloween of last year. Served at about 60 degree fahrenheit ambiant temperature. Slightly chilled in my trusty fridge and given time to settle so that the yeast has redistributed itself to the brown glass bottle floor.

P=5: The Blood red and black ink double wax dipped 750ml (Nice, those extra ounces come in handy, and I often wish more breweries would bottle in 750ml bombers as opposed to 22oz [660ml] bombers) bomber bottle is very cool looking indeed. Sturdy brown glass with a bitchin' label with the surly logo and a grim reaper on it. The bottle states that this is bottle # 264 although there is no further information about the beer stated except for the bottle size (750ml)

A=5: With a hard pour into a 20oz Imperial Pint Glass this beer is a real beauty to behold. Ink black with no light penetration and a massive espresso coloured head of foam that lasts and lasts with excellent retention, sheeting, and lacing

S=5: When I cracked the top off of this the smell instantly penetrated my nasal cavity. Deep rosated malts, dark russian rye bread, chocolate, dark black unsweetened coffee, condensed milk, earthy green hops, and a melange of other 'dark' flavors

T=4.5: The taste is awesome and smooth as hell. A great blend of green earthy hops, fresh russian rye bread, chocolate syrup/chocolate milk, toffee, with a bit of coffee, vanilla, sweet condensed milk and caramel thrown in for good measure. The yeast is a nice one here with some very English buttery undertones and the front palate and back palate combine nicely to make this a real cigar sipper of a brew. The burnt coffee, and dark fruit/currant flavors really build up when this one warms up to room temperature. I am now beginning to see that the hype is justified. However, the taste profile is not quite Courage 83' or 2004 Dark Lord. Perhaps it's a bit better, fresh, on tap, or on cask, or maybe even from a can [one can wish]. However, this is near perfect for a russian imperial stout. Alcohol is muted and melded, but it makes itself known in the intense, acrid dry finish. Kind of like day old cold pressed espresso discards

M=5: The mouthfeel is extremely satisfying. Thick, chewy, and coating with an exponential warmth about it as well. However it is not quite the beast in the mouth that dark lord is. It could be a bit thicker with more mid body depth, if I am to be completely honest. Still, thick and rich, this is the epitome of a great imperial stout

D=5: This is where this one really shines. This is a big RIS for sure, but the flavors are melded together very well and in the end the drinkability is really excellent for a 10%+ abv brew. Th e fantastic aroma, interesting flavor profile, and satisfying mouthfeel really all pull together to make this a greatly drinkable RIS.

O=4.9: Overall this is pretty much a 4.9 brew. It is one inch away from a 5 in either taste or mouthfeel and it really fires on all cylinders. I can't wait to try this fresh, as even though I did not sample the 2007 batch fresh in the bottle, on tap, or on cask, I can tell that the hop flavors have been somewhat muted and mellowed, and the mouthfeel may have thinned a bit as well. I can see this being a 5 under the right circumstances, and I may have to take the flight over to MN this halloween to find out for myself.

PC: Surly is probably my favorite new brewery (I only discovered them earlier this year). They make interesting limited seasonals like this (as well as One, Two, etc), Great regular seasonals (such as Cynic, Fest, Bitter Brewer, etc), and killer year round brews (such as furious and bender). I look forward to trying more of their beer be it in cans, bottles, on tap, or on cask. I also look forward to trying the Smoke and some of their more obscure tap/cask only products. Whilst hardly life changing, or the best beer that I have ever had, this is an incredibly solid product, and considering that this brewery has only been open for a few years they really have quite the winner here. I look forward to toasting them on many occasions in the future. In the meantime a BIG thanks to Akorsak for hooking me up with this beauty. The check (or the cable car) will be in the mail this week.

This brew really reminded me why I love Russian Imperial Stouts so much...Probably my all time #3 Imperial Stout after 2004 Dark Lord and 1983 Courage Russian Imperial (4,596 characters)

Photo of dar482
4.68/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

'15 non-BA on tap at EBF: Great classic notes of the beer up front, but then an offensive amount of hops overwhelm the beer. Definitely a harsh beer when fresh.

On a '13 bottle, the beer has a really wonderful complexity for a non-barrel aged stout. Chocolate, dark fruit, umami, woody and earthy hops. A good transitioning of flavor that makes it quite different from other imperial stouts because of its substantial, but restrained hopping.

Mouthfeel is medium plus.

(2012 vintage)

The beer in the front has roasted malt, chocolate, and slight coffee flavors. The mouthfeel throughout is actually only medium plus, without being as full as other imperial stouts. The beer also begins with a heavy amount of sweetness. On the finish, there is a heavy hoppiness. It's a bittering that is still tannic, earthy, and drying. (826 characters)

Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
97 out of 100 based on 789 ratings.