Surly Brewing Company

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Stout - Russian Imperial
Ranked #7
Ranked #144
4.51 | pDev: 8.65%
Surly Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States
Notes: This listing is ONLY for Darkness that is NOT barrel-aged, which excludes all of the 2014 bottles, all of which were aged in whiskey barrels. 2014 has a separate entry (http://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/13014/141724/). Any subsequent years that have barrel aged variants, indicated by gold wax and lettering, also have their own separate entries.

This massive Russian Imperial Stout brings waves of flavors; chocolate, cherries, raisins, coffee, and toffee. We add a touch of hops to make this delicious brew even tastier.
85 IBU

MALT: 2-Row, Golden Promise, Aromatic, Chocolate, Black, Special B, Roasted Barley, Oats, Brewers Crystals, DME 50/60.
HOPS: Warrior, Amarillo, Simcoe.

2007 - Grim Reaper
2008 - Devil
2009 - Mummy
2010 - Vampire
2011 - Zombie
2012 - Werewolf
2013 - Brewcifer
2014 - Harpy
2015 - Bat
2016 - Cerberus
2017 - Forest Witch
2018 - Minotaur
2019 - Tree Monster
2020: Gorgon
View: Beers
Reviews: 958 | Ratings: 4,179 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of MostlyMetalz
MostlyMetalz from Illinois

4.1/5  rDev -9.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Love this one. Simple and to the point. It's fairly easy to obtain which is an added bonus. Stouts that are this simple and available are in a class all their own.

Jun 15, 2021
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Rub_This_BBQ from Massachusetts

3.95/5  rDev -12.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

2016 - Cerberus poured into a sulry snifter tasting glass

L: pours like clean oil brown but allows some light, darker in the glass but not pitch black.
S mellow raisin, cola candied fruits
T: cola like notes lead the charge finishes with more cherry like coke sweetness no hops

F: medium , more slides of the tongue vs sticks to it light carb

O: sometime time is great for stout, others time hurts Feel it is the later for this bottle for 85 IBU there was no hops/bitterness to balance out the cherry cola flavors and touch to syrup like

Apr 26, 2021
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stevoj from Idaho

4.26/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

2009 bottle thanks to BuckeyeBoy. Still, flat black pour.Aroma is cherries, chocolate. Taste offers brown sugar notes, raisins. Sticky and sweet. And still good after 11 years.

Mar 29, 2021
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michaelsmith11 from Illinois

4.43/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Sweet, burnt black figs, Fruity, mid palate sticky finish. Velvetly smooth. Roasty. Chocolate. Hint of black licorice. Very little bitterness. Very nicely done.

Mar 29, 2021
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Sigmund from Norway

3.97/5  rDev -12%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle, RBNAG 2009 in Vatlandsvåg. Pitch black colour, low brown head. Complex aroma, chocolate, coffee, soy sauce, prunes. Full and rich flavour, loads of malty sweetness, also some fruitiness, loads of chocolate and caramel, notes of coffee.

Mar 22, 2021
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Suds from Missouri

4.62/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Dark black label with red lettering. The beer itself is absolutely black as well...and the aroma that rises from the glass when pouring is incredible. It is like a boozy fruit syrup scent. Wow. The taste is powerful...warming...fruity and intense. Bitter and alcoholic and rich. Wow. This is an incredible beer.

Jan 17, 2021
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Jmsnowstorm from Colorado

4.82/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.75

Reviewing both 2019 and the 2018 versions.

Purchased mostly for the bottle. Loved the label art. Beer poured a jet black, with minimal caramel head. Smelled rich, boozy, and like cocoa. Tasted like a rich, boozy RIS with dried fruit and licorice notes. Less cocoa in the flavor profile. Had a malty, silky mouthfeel.

Drank at room temperature. Not sure if it would be worse ice cold, but really enjoyed it at ~65 degrees.

Jan 10, 2021
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Craftbeerfan666 from Norway

4.98/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

This one was looked forward to with lots of excitement. Complex, yet super balanced, exceptionally great stouts from the masters of Saint Paul. You do want to taste this.

Jan 08, 2021
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57md from Pennsylvania

4.46/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2020 vintage enjoyed in January 2021.

Pours a dark brown color with beige edges and over a finger of tan head. The nose has notes of roasted malts with a touch of smoke. The flavor is complex - cherries and raisins meld nicely with the roast, dark chocolate and mild coffee. The body is NOT thin but also not as thick as I imagined it might be. The mouthfeel is creamy.

Jan 07, 2021
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MichaelInMA from Massachusetts

4.6/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.75

Bottled 9.18.20, opened 12.31.20 Room Temperature in tall rounded pilsner glass.

Look: It is black. Totally black. Even around the edges no hind of color. Spilled on the light color counter (just a couple drops by accident) no hind of color.

Head retention was poor. Started out dense bubbles on top and small almost like a nitro on bottom. Quickly dissipated. Typical of warm beer.

Smell: Not strong. You have to wait for it to fill the the glass. Very pleasant and complex.

Taste 1: When first hits the tongue It fills the mouth in a pleasant way before you even drink it in.
Taste 2: Pulled into mouth and swirled around, nothing really changes still pleasant. Very little to none carbonation
You do not really notice the alcohol with all the other strong flavors. Just the way an RIS should be. There is a weird tingling on the tongue. The tingle is just odd and different.
Taste 3: Just swallowed. This is the strongest flavor and most satisfying.
Aftertaste: The really hard one to master. They got it perfect. It lingers quit awhile morphs but stays quit pleasant. Never to sweet or to bitter.

Feel: It is kind of thin but it does not distract from the beer with such a great aftertaste.

Problem: The taste is so nice and it goes down so smooth I find myself drinking it much faster than I should. Especially for a 12%.

I am going to have to cellar some but do not see how it could improve much. It is already as good a 2 plus year old Stone RIS.

Note: From Massachusetts but staying in Minnesota for awhile.

Jan 01, 2021
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WunderLlama from Massachusetts

4.68/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Bottled 9.18.20, opened 12.31.20

Bomber poured into a stemmed Schilling chalice . The bomber black wax coating is amazing with a “ ponytail” in the back

Two finger dense brown foam cap , good retention , good lacings settles to a solid layer over a deep, dense dark cola liquid

Aroma is chocolate, molasses, licorice, char, whiff of smoky peat

Taste is roast malts , char, dark chocolate

Mouthfeel is thick , velvety smooth , the char taste is mild and nicely coats the tongue . Abv is invisible under this luxurious coating

Great beer, repeatable

Dec 31, 2020
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jimmah120 from Minnesota

3.71/5  rDev -17.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 1.75

big 2020 bomber shared amongst friends, hendry

inky with a ruby outline. smell is choco and alco. taste is mostly choco with a tobacco and resiny finish; tons of hops

Oct 28, 2020
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bret27 from California

4.28/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2019 bottle courtesy of JohnnyHops.
L: essentially darkness, creamy tan head. Retention check.
S: molasses, licorice, peat, fig.
T: Molasses, chocolate, caramel, malt, black licorice, peat, raisins/figs/dates.
F: fairly thick.
Overall: solid Imperial stout. No big frills, no big flaws.

Aug 28, 2020
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Franziskaner from Missouri

4.33/5  rDev -4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Black in color with no penetration to light. There’s a fingernail of brown around the rim and covering nearly all of the top. Moderate lacing. The aroma is of smoke, roasted barley, molasses, and figs. I’m tasting smoke, roasted barley, tobacco, and leather. The mouth is dry, oily, and assertive.

Jul 30, 2020
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zonker17 from Texas

4.42/5  rDev -2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2019 bottle - black, some beige head, good lacing. Nose predominantly roasted malt and cocoa with light vanilla. Taste big, sweet, chocolate, bitter coffee. Big, silky feel and below moderate carbonation. Was going to hold it, but TSA repacked the bag poorly.

Jul 28, 2020
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arizcards from North Carolina

4.51/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Picked up a 750 ml bottle from the Craft Beer Quick Stop 5-27-20 for $22.99. Bottled on 9-26-19, consumed 7-24-20.

Beer poured black with a very nice tan head that has some good hang time.

Nose is very good, full of medium to heavy roasted malts, a touch of coffee, and a touch of dark fruits.

Taste is a huge malt base that lends a prevalent cherry profile, some licorice and a hint of coffee that is really well balanced by what i would imagine a ton of alpha hops. Finishes with a nice touch of heat that could easily miscast this brew as barrel aged.

Mouthfeel is very full and very satisfying, the way impy stouts should be!

Overall i had always seen this as an over-hyped old guard brew but i am now convinced this is the real deal! Given the high abv and the nice warmth it seems barrel aging is not needed but i do look forward to the BA version of this!

Jul 24, 2020
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sjdevel from Utah

4.85/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Look......super thick coming out of the 750 ml bottle - very dark black - 1 finger head that dissipates quickly - foam ring continues on - reddish hue in the glass - no light gets through this one

Smell......rich caramel and burnt sugar - some prune and tobacco - molasses and chocolate - slight hop presence with some floral and pine

Taste......wow!!!! - super rich caramel - chocolate and coffee - burnt wood - charred grains - a bitter bite from the dark roasted items and hops - super powerful and a bit boozy - molasses and sweet syrup come in - really rich, earthy, and woodsy

Feel......very thick and full bodied - lower carbonation - still active - oily and syrupy

Overall......this is an amazing beer - close to the best RIS I've ever had - so rich and complex - I should always have one of these on hand for special occasions - can't go wrong with this one - Surly is becoming one of my favorite breweries in the country

Jul 12, 2020
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laketang from Arizona

4.65/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured pitch black with a tan foamy head. Not a great deal of head retention, but, what was there stayed around.
Nose had lots of booze with vanilla smoke wood char and chocolate. Taste was boozy, chocolaty delight with some roast, raisins or dark fruit and had an edge to it. Smooth velvety thick feel. Took 5 years + on this site to finally try it and glad I did.

Jun 07, 2020
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folkstar from Rhode Island

4.69/5  rDev +4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Shared this with a friend on my back porch as evening descended on Little Rhody. Pours pitch black with a beautiful head of tight-bubbled foam which dissipates after a few sips... aroma is quite pronounced, little creamy and a lot of roastiness. Nice so far!

Taste is very roasty with some notes of dark fruits and slight sweetness that never overpowers. Mouthfeel could not be more perfect - this is carbed just right and despite the 12% ABV it does not coat the mouth and never becomes cloying or sticky sweet.

Overall a very enjoyable heavy-hitting stout, so glad I got to try this!

May 16, 2020
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wmscottsimpsonjr from Missouri

4.2/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Black with tan head. Mild chocolate on top of malt with toffee, dark dried fruit, and a decent helping of American/citrus/pine/grass hop character. Not too sweet, not too bitter, with a luscious mouthfeel.

Jan 27, 2020
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beergoot from Colorado

4.51/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

2019 Version (bottled 09/04/19)

Opaque ebony body topped with an exquisite dense and creamy light tan head; dense and sticky rings of foam descend the glass. Gentle aroma of milk chocolate and vanilla. An immensely pleasing taste of cocoa and bitter chocolate; somewhat nutty; caramel and honey; dully sweet with an undercurrent of bourbon. Heavy, soft and billowy; marshmallow mouthfeel; dense with residual sugar body; smooth velvet; some alcohol warmth.

Near perfect visual appeal, a rich yet subtle aroma, and an incredibly balanced and flavorful taste with an unforgettably thick and creamy body -- that sums up this beer. A most heavenly Russian imperial stout. Hell, an exquisite stout no matter what the style!

Jan 04, 2020
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VashonGuy from Washington

4.45/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

I've been waiting a long time for a chance at Darkness. I finally picked up a bottle this summer in Durango Colorado, of all places. I suppose I could sit on it for a while, but it seemed like the perfect beer for a dark December night in rainy Seattle.

It's dark, oh yeah. There's a good tan head, but it doesn't last long. The taste/smell are notable first for what's not there. There's no bourbon, no chocolate, no coconut, in fact there's no sweetness at all. In an era of tarted up over sweet stouts (hello, CBS), Darkness is refreshingly basic ... it's a very fine mix of roasted malts and hops. Now the roasted malts do have some dry cocoa flavor, but this is not like drinking a Hershey bar. I get dark fruits (raisins, sort of), but again it's not sweet. There's a hefty dose of hops that give the beer a kick. The 12% ABV is somehow hidden.

I had the 2018 vintage. By the way, this does remind me of Old Rasputin.

Dec 09, 2019
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Sandis from Minnesota

4.44/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2019 version poured into a snifter. This year is as creamy smooth as any prior version. For me, this beer is like a less sweet Dark Lord which is a good thing.

Nov 25, 2019
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GrumpyGas from Illinois

4.68/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

12oz draft poured into a tulip glass boasts a deep, dark, walnut brown body and floats a proud 3/4" head of cinnamon brown mixed bubbles that eventually falls to an edge-hugging ring and leaves falling sheets of spotted lacing.

Aromas of licorice, molasses, raisin, prune, leather, coffee, ash, and a hint of booze.

Those aromas open up in the taste to welcome cocoa and chocolate, roasted barley/toasted white bread, vanilla, and even a hop bitterness.

Mouthfeel has a full, creaminess that leaves a chalky residue reminiscent of cocoa.

Overall a solid imperial. Happy to have it on draft.

Nov 10, 2019
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superspak from Ohio

4.36/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

750 ml bottle into snifter, bottled on 9/25/2019. Pours dense pitch black color with a 1-2 finger dense and rocky tan head with amazing retention, that reduces to a large cap that lasts. Thick foamy lacing clings on the glass, with a fair amount of streaming carbonation. Amazing appearance. Aromas of big dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, caramel, brown sugar, molasses, toffee, raisin, prune, cherry, fig, date, apricot, orange, grapefruit, citrus peel/rind, wood, peppercorn, pine, roasted nuts, toasted biscuit, and dark bread/crust; with lighter notes of licorice, smoke, charcoal, leather, tobacco, herbal, floral, grass, and yeast/roast/toasted earthiness. Mild increasing booze as it warms, but not overwhelming. Damn nice aromas with great balance and complexity of dark/black/roast/bready malts, citrus/earthy hops, and fruity yeast notes; with big strength. Taste of huge dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, caramel, brown sugar, molasses, toffee, raisin, prune, cherry, fig, date, apricot, orange, grapefruit, citrus peel/rind, wood, peppercorn, pine, roasted nuts, toasted biscuit, and dark bread/crust; with lighter notes of licorice, smoke, charcoal, leather, tobacco, herbal, floral, grass, and yeast/roast/toasted earthiness. Light-moderate pine, citrus peel/rind, herbal, floral, woody, grassy, peppery, roast, charred bitterness on the finish. Lingering notes of dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, caramel, brown sugar, molasses, toffee, raisin, prune, cherry, fig, date, apricot, orange, grapefruit, citrus peel/rind, wood, peppercorn, pine, roasted nuts, toasted biscuit, dark bread/crust, licorice, smoke, charcoal, leather, tobacco, herbal, floral, grass, and yeast/roast/toasted earthiness on the finish for a while. Amazing complexity, robustness, and balance of dark/black/roast/bready malts, citrus/earthy hops, and fruity yeast flavors; with an awesome hop/char bitter/sweet balance; and no minimal acrid/astringent flavors after the finish. Medium carbonation and fairly full body; with a very smooth, creamy/silky/velvety/bready, and fairly sticky/chalky/resinous/rindy balanced mouthfeel that is great. Mild increasing warmth of 12% after the finish. Overall this is an amazing Russian imperial stout. All around amazing complexity, robustness, and balance of dark/black/roast/bready malts, citrus/earthy hops, and fruity yeast flavors; very smooth and dangerously easy to sip on for the huge ABV with the modestly bitter/charred/resinous/drying finish. Nicely soft, and not overly bitter/charred. Definitely needs a bit of age for the freshness. Perfectly balanced between super rich dark/black/roasted malts, citrus/earthy hops, and fruity yeast. Mild residual sweetness with lingering hop/char bitter dryness. A highly enjoyable offering, and amazing spot on style example as expected. Reminds me of Old Raspy a lot on the fresh hop intensity.

Oct 26, 2019
Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
Beer rating: 100 out of 100 with 4179 ratings