Surly Brewing Company

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Surly Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States
Stout - Russian Imperial
Ranked #16
Ranked #229
4.48 | pDev: 8.71%
May 01, 2022
Oct 08, 2006
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
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Recent ratings and reviews. | Log in to view more ratings + sorting options.
Photo of MacMalt
4.42/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5
by MacMalt from New Jersey

2020 release. Poured from undated bottle into a pint glass. It pours a dark mahogany with a full finger of luxurious, creamy, light mocha head and very thick lacing. It's a great looking pour. On the nose there is rich chocolate, freshly-brewed coffee, caramel/toffee, roasted nuts, leather, tobacco smoke, and char. The taste opens with lots of chocolate, toffee, raisins, and black cherry, along with strong coffee, dark chocolate, and dry barley. The fruit influence is stronger than I anticipated but welcome. It's also more bitter and hoppy than expected. The Amarillo and Simcoe adds a different dimension. The balance of sweet and bitter is terrific. Its mouth feel is creamy but not as thick and chewy as other big Russian Imperial Stouts. The carbonation is appropriate and the 12% ABV is warming. Overall, Darkness is an extremely well crafted RIS and deserves its World-Class rating.

May 01, 2022
Photo of argock
4.22/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25
by argock from Virginia

2019 vintage. Thanks Greg for sharing with us.

Huge roast and coffee component with dark chocolate and mild-moderate umami. Low carbonation but relatively healthy head nonetheless. Great beer.

Mar 12, 2022
3.5 by wshinevar from Massachusetts on Feb 25, 2022
Photo of MikeWard
4.4/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5
by MikeWard from Pennsylvania

750ml bottle into a goblet. 2020 Medusa release.

Looks stupendous in the glass. Black as black body. Big tan head persists in excellent form throughout, impressive given the abv, leaves a sheet of lacing.

Light chocolate and dark fruit aromas.

On tasting, so smooth. Warming. Dark chocolate and dark fruit. Rolls around the tongue beautifully. Not a hint of bitterness or roast.

Mouth full, finish sweet, warming, and dark fruit.

Overall, a magnificent RIS. Rivals Cigar City Marshal Zhukov.

Feb 21, 2022
4.23 by chrisb53188 from Wisconsin on Feb 19, 2022
Photo of Holderness
3.42/5  rDev -23.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.5
by Holderness from Massachusetts

Classic RIS profile -- lots of herbal hop, char, black licorice, tobacco leaf, and bittersweet chocolate. Oily and lightly velvety mouthfeel. Appearance is the high mark. Great head retention and lacing, even 15 minutes after pouring. Very expensive for the quality


Feb 09, 2022
Photo of Thomas_Wikman
4.53/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5
by Thomas_Wikman from Texas

I just had the 2018 version, the one with the Minotaur, IBU 85 (at release, maybe not now), and it was delicious.

Look: jet black with thick fluffy mocca colored head

Aroma: roasted malts, dark chocolate, coffee, maybe cherry

Flavor: The flavor is dark roasted malts, dark chocolate, coffee, very noticeable cherry, perhaps some dark fruits, raisins, plums, ending in a grassy and grapefruit rind like bitterness. Very flavorful. Slightly bitter, no alcohol flavor, very complex.

Body/Overall: Full body, very delicious.

Feb 07, 2022
Photo of wl2bill
5/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5
by wl2bill from Wisconsin

This is an AUESOME beer. May be the best Imperial stout I have had to date. HAD IT AGAINST 3 OTHER imperial stouts on the same day and blew them all away. My only regret is it is all gone. So far this is the only beer I have given straight 5.

Jan 30, 2022
Photo of HuskerTornado
4.92/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5
by HuskerTornado from Arkansas

2016 Cerebus bottling.

Opaque in the glass, nice 2 fingers of head.

Aroma of dark chocolate, dark roasted malt, sambuca, molasses, sweet dark fruits.

Velvety smooth in the mouth, has a good amount of weight to it as well.

Tastes just as it smells, this is Russian Imperial Stout decadence here. Dark chocolate present throughout the palate, the molasses and sambuca are more mid palate, and the sweet finish of dark cherries and currants are a lingering treat in the finish along with that dark roasted malt.

Aging for over 5 years likely softened any alcohol heat and made for a delicious and decadent stout that does not disappoint, even with sky high expectations going in. I also have a 2020 bottle I will be comparing it to soon.

Jan 24, 2022
4.42 by not2quick from Missouri on Jan 18, 2022
4.53 by Gkruszewski from New York on Jan 16, 2022
Photo of ThrewRedButter
4.54/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5
by ThrewRedButter from Massachusetts

2021 Vintage

Pitch black body and a hefty three fingers of fluffy, tan-colored head

An onslaught of leather, coffee, black licorice, tobacco, char, cherries. I mean, it goes down the list of everything you want in a superior RIS.

Dark chocolate bomb with all of the aforementioned RIS accoutrement (fancy word) from the aroma. Most prominent is the black coffee and cherries. A finish of tobacco and smoke is blowing wind up my dress and a lingering hop bitterness has my leg shaking reminiscent of a dog getting a belly rub.

Smooth and velvety. There is no alcohol taste on this big bastard, but a noticeable warmth is prevalent on each sip.

World Class RIS. I am no stranger to Surly Darkness and will never pass up a chance to have this.

Jan 03, 2022
Photo of LeRose
4.59/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5
by LeRose from Massachusetts

2021 edition. In the glass it looks almost black, but on the pour it looks a deep ruby red dark brown as light passes through. Quite pretty to watch. There is an inch plus of dense, brown foam falls to a substantial layer of bubbly goodness that laces incredibly.

The smell is rich, dark malt and more rich, dark malt. As it comes to life with warming, noticeable alcohol, coffee, baking chocolate, a dried fruit like dates and figs with some cherry. I think a slight caramel or brown sugar note creeps in.

The taste...holy mother of dark malty goodness! The promise of the aroma is delivered by the boatload. Waves of malt, the chocolate melds with the caramel/sugary and fruit notes, a mild coffee flashes by, and it becomes almost like fudge. The malt rules but doesn't overpower. Just when you think it's done, a strong bitter hit wakes you up along with a smack of booze for good measure. A very mild charred taste creeps in, but it is not overly strong.

The mouthfeel is smooth and rich, but not overly thick - luxurious and indulgent. Carbonation is tame as it should be. The quick but strong bitter hit and alcohol tingle remind you this isn't a lightweight.

Overall...I might have to go on the hunt to find more of this. I suspect it will age incredibly well. Outstanding in every way, this beer has everything and RIS should have and nothing it shouldn't - as worthy a brew as you can find.

Jan 03, 2022
Photo of beerjerk666
4.23/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25
by beerjerk666 from Florida

2016 - Cerberus. Black wax.

Poured aggressively into a Snörkel tulip glass.
Thick head of tiny dark tan bubbles that dissipated to a thin cap. No lacing left in the glass.

Aroma of dark roasted malts, burnt coffee beans, raisins and char.

Taste is an abundance of dark roasted malts, coffee, bitter cacao and black cherries. Help up surprisingly well after 5 years!

Mouthfeel is heavy and full of tongue coating malts. Carbonation seems to be light, but could be due to age, not a negative. Not Eben a hint of double digit abv.

Overall, there's a reason why this is so highly rated. It's a winner through and through, even after sitting for 5 years waiting. Strong RIS, not to be taken lightly.

Jan 03, 2022
Photo of Roguer
4.54/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5
by Roguer from Connecticut

Really quite incredible head production, retention, and lacing given the ABV. Head is dark beige, not quite dark brown; body is an ebon hue befitting the name.

Impressively roasty aroma, along with a healthy dose of hops. Red grape, toast, moderate char, prune, dark bread, cola. It's dark, over the top, impressive, and incredibly inviting.

Thick and creamy mouthfeel, bordering on chewy. Fantastic. It feels every bit of the 12% ABV, but without harshness. It's bold enough to scare away the weak-willed, but smooth enough to reward the bold.

It's a bit of a throwback RIS on the palate: hoppy, charred, roasty, and very, very strong. Tons of dark fruit and dark bread, along with red grapes, caramel, toffee, chocolate, espresso, leather.

This is nothing less than a fantastic RIS, fully worthy of its lofty standing and rating.

Jan 03, 2022
Photo of jb_4226
4.9/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5
by jb_4226 from Texas

#100, yummy!

Jan 02, 2022
Photo of mntlover
4.65/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75
by mntlover from Tennessee

Pours darkness of course, dark tan head good lacing.

Aroma is huge roasted malt notes, rich chocolate and coffee smooth and sweet with dark fruit notes, vanilla almost like cherry vanilla coke notes. All this is blended together in harmony.

Taste is like the nose rich and smooth big roasted notes. Loads of chocolate smooth and sweet but also some roasted coffee bitterness mingled with dark fruits. Hops keep it from cloying but don't really pick up bitterness except for the roasted bitterness. Finish is smooth and delicious lingering chocolate and roasted malts with the cherry vanilla coke notes.

Mouthfeel is big and smooth a creamy treat. Smooth mellow carbonation.

Overall amazing what can be done with just roasted malts none of the additives used in all the big dessert stouts now a days. One fabulous brew. Bought another bottle to bring home to share it was so good.

Dec 24, 2021
4.84 by Resistance88 from California on Dec 06, 2021
4.43 by LunchMoney from Minnesota on Nov 28, 2021
4.71 by Fubudu187 from Illinois on Nov 28, 2021
4.46 by Manthon from Pennsylvania on Nov 27, 2021
4.46 by jak from North Carolina on Nov 26, 2021
4.19 by dt_gbpackersfan from Missouri on Nov 26, 2021
Photo of yanlikesipa
4.85/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75
by yanlikesipa

Incredibly balanced for a burly 12% wonderful vanilla flavor and bourbon caramel flavors yum

Nov 06, 2021
5 by tatecarson from Louisiana on Oct 26, 2021
Photo of oberon
4.54/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5
by oberon from North Carolina

2020 bottle.Pours into a goblet jet black with a billowing deep mocha colored head that leaves a nice full ring of froth behind as it settles very slowly.Fig and caramel aromas up front then the deep chocolate and toffee really come thru,amazing on the nose.Flavors of cherry and fig hit the palate than the deep chocolate/fudge hits with a hefty roast but not big enough to over take the dark fruits and chocolate,booze in the back end.Wow great stuff,been holding it,it lived up to the billing for me.

Oct 20, 2021
4.25 by beermanben from Wisconsin on Oct 05, 2021
4.53 by BrewSTL from Missouri on Oct 02, 2021
4.48 by Dgman8053 from New York on Sep 22, 2021
Photo of tigg924
4.32/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75
by tigg924 from Massachusetts

Pours jet black in color with minimal head. Taste is baker's and milk chocolate, slight barrel and char with a touch of vanilla. Heavy body, roasty, slightly sweet, low carbonation. Based off of some of the variations, I was not expecting to like this as much as I do. No frills stout that tastes like beer, not dessert, not barrel...even though they are there, but beer. Very very impressive. One of the best stouts I have had in some time.

Sep 18, 2021
4.34 by Jcoleman4 from Ohio on Sep 14, 2021
4.43 by chossboss from Oregon on Sep 04, 2021
4.33 by Phoodcritic from Michigan on Aug 28, 2021
4.25 by rstump24 from Ohio on Aug 24, 2021
4.75 by wolverine0712 from Missouri on Aug 18, 2021
Photo of eric5bellies
4.7/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75
by eric5bellies from Australia

OK Silver Wax Vampire from 2010. This beer is now 11 years old that I traded for some Cantillon so here goes.
A - Well its still pours a thick oily colour with a big Beige head that retains so very well and laces
S - Massive roasted malts with yeast extract like aromas. Wow, when I swirl the glass the aromas are massive.
T - Well its not lost its flavour that is for sure ! The end is a lingering old Coffee flavour with a distinct Vanilla start that is very well balanced but slightly sticky sweet marshmallow
M - Very very smooth with minimal Carbonation
O - This beer has stood up to the test of time so very well. You can store these beers and still get a great experience as I did. In fact I would say that this beer is better than the fresh version

Aug 06, 2021
Photo of BeerImmediately
4.46/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5
by BeerImmediately from Pennsylvania

Glad I finally picked this up... was reluctant to do so at $25, since it hit my "$1/oz." personal threshold :-)

Amazingly strong head and lacing... it just doesn't quit.
Aromas are not my favorite for the style... a slight chemical quality throwing off the otherwise pleasant butterscotch and roasted malt.
Flavor is awesome ... great balance of creaminess, dark malt, sweetness, roast, etc.
Mouthfeel is insanely smooth for this ABV. Nothing astringent in the aftertaste.
Overall a top-notch RIS, and everything I could've hoped for.

Jul 25, 2021
4.69 by JAWS from New York on Jul 08, 2021
4 by Rkitchen from Michigan on Jun 19, 2021
Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
Beer rating: 99 out of 100 with 4215 ratings