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Darkness - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.

Educational use only; do not reuse.

811 Reviews

(Read More)
Reviews: 811
Hads: 3,345
Avg: 4.41
pDev: 19.27%
Wants: 3,286
Gots: 1,218 | FT: 92
Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company visit their website
Minnesota, United States

Style | ABV
Russian Imperial Stout |  10.30% ABV

Availability: Fall

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: ryantupy on 10-08-2006

Starting in 2014, bottled Darkness will be aged in whiskey barrels. This listing is ONLY for Darkness that is NOT barrel-aged. For 2014 Darkness go here:  http://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/p ... 14/141724/ 

2007-Grim Reaper
2012 - Werewolf
2013 - Brewcifer
View: Beers (55) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Darkness Alström Bros
Reviews: 811 | Hads: 3,345
Photo of jrallen34
3.81/5  rDev -13.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2010 bottle drank into my Darkness tulip...A dark as midnight night with a huge dark tan head. The head is amazing as it literally arises from beneath the beer foaming up a full four fingers. The head is two colors, dark tan on the bottom with a lighter color on the top. The retention and lacing are amazing...The aroma is muted from the 09 version in terms of the hops as they do not show through. Very malty, lots of sweet milk chocolate with a hint of grass on the back. Not what I was expected, but still pretty decent...The taste thankfully brings out more of the hops as this has a grassy hop backbone from start to finish. A lot of the sweetness is gone, only a little is left but as it warms the hops disappear too. This turns into a really boring beer, so disappointing.

The 09 version is so much better than this, the 10 is just a big let down.

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Photo of jbaker67
4.44/5  rDev +0.7%
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.

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Photo of GreesyFizeek
4.69/5  rDev +6.3%
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.

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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.

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Photo of DefenCorps
2.86/5  rDev -35.1%
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.

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Photo of dirtylou
4.35/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

on-tap, brouwers

I believe this was the first time I've had this outside of a festival setting - 12oz pour in a snifter, ebony body, light tan lace. Definitely sticky-sweet and less hopped than I recall from past years, but still not without some nice pine resin traces. Rich, decadent and very smooth. A good RIS, but one whose legacy seems to have faded...

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Photo of barnzy78
4.88/5  rDev +10.7%
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.

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Photo of ccrida
3.88/5  rDev -12%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2008 vintage, cellared since release. Poured into my Delirium Tremens snifter, Darkness is dark, thick, with a dark tan head leaving lots of lace.

Smell is on the sweet, malty side.

Taste is fairly sweet malt, chocolate, modest roast, nice hop bitterness as well as still some spicy, herbal hop flavor. Obviously way dialed down compared to how it is fresh, better integration by now.

Mouthfeel is pretty silky, on the thick side.

Drinkability is fine. It's a well made RIS. Certainly not worth any great expense or hassle to acquire though. I traded mine with a local for some limited release HOTD, dollar for dollar, which was fair.

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Photo of BeerFMAndy
4.97/5  rDev +12.7%
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.

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Photo of Jwale73
4.03/5  rDev -8.6%
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.

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Photo of xnicknj
4.37/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

750mL bottle poured into snifter - big thanks to poneill for sharing

Pours inky black with some frothed thinner light brown head with swirls of lacing and film around the glass.

Slight sweetness in the nose with cherry and raisins, charred malt creates roasted warmth, hint of alcohol.

Smack of dark fruit sweetness with cherry and raisin. Roasted malts with chocolate and molasses. Syrupy and rich and a slight char from the malty backbone. Little hop flair with pleasant juiciness and cherry fruit. Finishes with alcohol warmth and some lingering dry sweetness.

Full syrupy body, lower carbonation, sticky and chewy. Drinks really smooth and easy with a delicious silky body. Darkness creates a nice mix of fruit and chocolate tempered by alcohol heat and slight hop bitterness.

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Photo of tectactoe
4.45/5  rDev +0.9%
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.

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Photo of cpetrone84
4.53/5  rDev +2.7%
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


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.

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Photo of dar482
4.68/5  rDev +6.1%
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.

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

2009 trade from MPLS, thank you sir.
Darkness; that is the mood with MSU out of the tournament in the 1st round after 2 final fours.

Opaque viscous black pour. A thinner layer of tan head that did retain fairly well.

Very vinuous aroma. Quite a bit of fruit and some light herbal and citrus hops. Roast malt, some molasses and cocoa.

There's the initial smack of some dark red fruits, but that fades quickly into roasted malt, chocolates, molasses. Finishes with some anise and coffee and cocoa. Still some piney hop action and bitters through that finish. Actually finishes quite clean for all the unfermented I'm sure is in this.
This is really near a 4.5. As it warmed more flavors popped even more, so I bumped it up.

Thick and coating. A velvety carbonation almost creamy. Warming but the alcohol is well within check. Goes down better than some others of this status.

Certainly worth trying and the age probably did good by me as I'm not big into the overly hoppy Imperial Stouts.

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Photo of Immortale25
4.75/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2013 vintage was big, bold and roasty in the front, but somehow smooth and restrained in the finish. Still some substantial hop bitterness after two years of aging. Mouthfeel was slightly creamy but not particularly silky. Very robust body though. Excellent overall and saw little room for improvement.

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Photo of 4DAloveofSTOUT
4.13/5  rDev -6.3%
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.

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Photo of AgentMunky
4.38/5  rDev -0.7%
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.

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Photo of Brenden
4.62/5  rDev +4.8%
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.

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Photo of thagr81us
4.25/5  rDev -3.6%
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.

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Photo of maximum12
5/5  rDev +13.4%
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.

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Photo of AgentZero
4.01/5  rDev -9.1%
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.

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Photo of cbutova
4.75/5  rDev +7.7%
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.

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Photo of tavernjef
4.56/5  rDev +3.4%
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!

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Photo of mynie
4.66/5  rDev +5.7%
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.

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