Surly Brewing Company

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Surly Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States
Russian Imperial Stout
Ranked #12
Ranked #223
4.48 | pDev: 8.71%
Apr 05, 2023
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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Photo of UWDAWG
Reviewed by UWDAWG from Washington

4.58/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5
2022 vintage:

Poured from a 16 ounce can dated 9/28/22 into a snifter.

Look- Black, opaque, medium brown frothy head, above average head retention and lacing.

Smell- Toasted oats, cacao, toffee, medium strength of scent.

Taste- Coffee, cacao, cherry, mildly sweet, high strength of flavor.

Feel- Between medium and full body, average carbonation, moderately bitter, mildly sweet, moderately mouth coating, moderately mouth warming.

Overall- Black with medium brown frothy head and above average head retention and lacing. Bouquet was medium in strength and dominated by toasted oats with notes of cacao and toffee. Taste was high in strength and a superbly balanced mix of coffee, cacao and cherry. Feel was between medium and full body with moderate mouth warming and moderate coating properties. Overall the bouquet of this beer was more understated than expected, but the rest of the attributes more than made up the difference providing an overall great drinking experience.
Apr 05, 2023
Rated: 4.25 by bacher468 from Pennsylvania

Mar 31, 2023
Rated: 4.57 by Giggy from Michigan

Mar 24, 2023
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Reviewed by Tsar_Riga from Indiana

4.33/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25
A huge RIS, well appointed with robust fruit and chocolate, an earthy and grass splash of hops, and a long lingering alcohol warmth. The finish is clean, and impressive for it. Well done!
Mar 11, 2023
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Reviewed by augustgarage from California

4.12/5  rDev -8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25
Traded for this ages ago, probably from ShogoKawada, thanks whoever it was! 2008 vintage. Enjoyed on 3/3/23. Poured from a 750mL waxed and capped bottled into a snifter. Served lightly chilled.

Impenetrable seal brown liquid with a lasting dun collar. Fine lacing; thick viscous legs. Surprisingly good retention.

Molasses, chocolate covered cherries, medium-roast coffee, maple candy, and complex malt in the nose.

Stale coffee, milk chocolate, weak tobacco, and brown sugar on the palate. Low bitterness, faint grapefruit, but the hops have faded. Flavors are good but a bit flat, though there are few other signs of oxidation. Medium finish with malt balls, loam, and plum pudding.

Medium-full bodied, creamy, with decent carbonation. ABV is well integrated.

After 15 years this is surely past its prime, but remains a brooding, stately gentleman of an ale.
Mar 04, 2023
Photo of Roy_Hobbs
Reviewed by Roy_Hobbs from Connecticut

4.06/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25
2016 Vintage served at 52 degrees.

While the color of this beer is like pretty much every other stout, what stands out is the glorious, thick and persistent dark tan colored head. Beautiful looking consistency and excellent lacing. Rare for me to think of a stout as anything above a 3.75, but this is getting a 4.5

Nose isn't up to the same level as the look, but it's still really nice, highlighted by loads of chocolate, toffee and faint roast. Taste largely follows, but with much more roast & coffee. Body is not quite as hefty as I anticipated. I want to say it's light, but it also feels like a milkshake, and those two things don't seem to make sense together, so I'm not sure how to describe it. Regardless, this is quite tasty. Glad I finally cracked it open.
Feb 10, 2023
Rated: 4.42 by bruindre from Massachusetts

Feb 08, 2023
Photo of Bouleboubier
Reviewed by Bouleboubier from New Jersey

4.54/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5
(bomber, black-waxed, Darkness 2020; purchased off shelf at Shangy's last week... poured into my Trillium fat tulip)

L: tight, creamy dark tan foam; dark brown liquid, bordering on black, opaque... head recedes into a splotchy cap and smeared collar, but it laces lots in jagged, fingery-flecked bands

S: mint and espresso overtones; bittersweet dark chocolate... slowly emerging hints of roasted grains, alcohol, Irish Cream qualities... a few beats later, charred and deeply toasted, caramelized grain... kind of an overall typical RIS aroma profile; tonic, outdoorsy top notes; perhaps short of cinematic in scope, but nonetheless invigorating

T: big burst of bold flavors: espresso, toffee, molasses cookie... sweetish, roasty, residual underbelly and lightly campfiery, roasted nutty overtones in the aftertaste; big burp after a minute brings up sweetish, sooty dark chocolate... second big sip, more of a rounded malt character, with the interplay, contrast, and divide of heavy roast and rich crystal malts more stark; still little booziness, but some delicate spicy phenols and dark dried fruit notes starting to surface, and not long after some subtle black licorice... hop herbality finally opens up, rising above the burnt bliss of sugars below

F: cooling quality to its aromatics... slick velvet texture... lithe levity despite its luscious lines... medium-full bodied, bordering on the latter... malt milk, attenuated and accentuated by the balance of booze; dark nog, rib-sticking... maybe it's the 2 years on this, but it's heaven to my senses

O: not the most nuanced, but a pretty darn solid RIS... its sweetness is a touch more redolent than most style examples but luckily the roasted barley and hop bitterness are as intense, lending some needed balance... as expected, its high marks are likely because of its relative unavailability; this was the first time (along with Abrasive) that I've encountered it out this way, so I was easily compelled to buy a bottle (2086)
Feb 05, 2023
Rated: 4.08 by BSW from California

Jan 27, 2023
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Reviewed by The_Snow_Bird from Michigan

4.6/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5
This beer is dark but not dark like used motor oil. Smells of roasted coffee. This is one beer where you definitely have to let sit out for awhile to really taste it. Has a strong malt taste and not boozy at all.
Jan 24, 2023
Photo of Rug
Reviewed by Rug from Massachusetts

4.34/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25
2021 vintage

I’ve been sitting on this one for a minute now and I’m excited to finally try it. An absolute classic RIS, and one that totally caught me off guard when I saw it at the store, just sitting on the shelf. This is also my first beer from Surly so I’m even more hyped. Let’s tackle this massive beast

Pours a very dark brown with a finger of tan head that fades to a thin cap and leaves minimal lacing

There’s still a solid bitterness to this for being 2 years old which is quite surprising to me. I’m picking up on aromas of leafy hops, burnt caramel, molasses, dark chocolate, charred wood, dark roast coffee, light vanilla, and red grape

While still bitter in taste, it feels like it’s integrated much better than the nose. On the front end of the sip I’m tasting red grape, cocoa powder, charred malt, caramel, vanilla bean, black cherry, sweetened coffee, light earthy hops, and toffee. The swallow brings notes of res grape, black cherry, molasses, milk chocolate, light roast coffee, leafy hops, vanilla bean, sweet caramel, and charred malt

A full body pairs with gentle carbonation, resulting in a slick and lightly boozy beer. Finishes a tad sticky but dries out over time

Oh yeah, this is really good. Warm and complex, it develops over the course of the drink. I’ll have to try other vintages
Jan 19, 2023
Rated: 4.77 by blissfulNemo from Michigan

Jan 16, 2023
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Reviewed by gcasher from Pennsylvania

5/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5
Straight 5s. Sublime is my word for 2023 and it applies here. Labeled a RIS, this is not the traditional version. While high in abv and pitch black, it is super creamy and loaded with underlying tones of dark dried fruit like prunes, figs, or dates, and subtle hints of cocoa and coffee. I am not suggesting they are added, but they are present in the flavor profile. This stout is truly remarkable and I am so happy it is available locally (PA) for the first time in forever.
Jan 12, 2023
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Reviewed by Whyteboar from Michigan

4.6/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5
Canned 10/19/22, enjoyed 1/9/23
Poured pitch black, very slowly as the tan head was quite aggressive. Lots of lacing left as I sipped it down.
The aroma, even to my damaged nose was dark fruit and caramelized sugar and roasted malts.
The taste was all that and more, the flavor just kept coming. The front was the sweet part and the middle the savory with the swallow bringing in the hops to keep it from going all mushy.
The feel was spot on, a very nice sipper and just overall an excellent RIS.
Jan 09, 2023
Rated: 4.02 by carolinabeerguy from North Carolina

Jan 04, 2023
Rated: 4.35 by BeerMe8 from Florida

Jan 02, 2023
Rated: 4.17 by dan_amdg from Illinois

Dec 31, 2022
Rated: 4.46 by WDJersey from Colorado

Dec 31, 2022
Rated: 4.18 by npendres from Wisconsin

Dec 29, 2022
Rated: 4 by GarrettBoots from Georgia

Dec 24, 2022
Photo of Olesjm
Reviewed by Olesjm from Kansas

4.42/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5
A: deep abysal black with a long lasting tan head
S: boozy, malty, sweet.
T: boozy, malty, smooth, sweet.
M: silky smooth, medium bodied
O: very easy and smooth drinking for its ABV.
Dec 17, 2022
Photo of DarkLordScott
Reviewed by DarkLordScott from Wisconsin

4.67/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75
Pours luxuriously dark, with bronze caramel and dark brown sheen. The head is three fingers deep that leaves beautiful lacing. Aroma is chocolate, dark malt, vanilla and temptation. Taste is smooth, medium bodied with chocolate, vanilla, dark malt, dark fruit and ruin.

This is the 2022 version with the wizard.

This is a Russian Imperial Stout. You may not be worthy.
Dec 16, 2022
Rated: 4.55 by joran from Kansas

Nov 20, 2022
Rated: 4.19 by AGoodStout from Kansas

Nov 12, 2022
Photo of 5toutman75
Reviewed by 5toutman75 from Illinois

4.5/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5
2022 release

Consumed 10/31/22

What better beer for Halloween than the original Darkness?! I’m surprised I haven’t written a review for this beer yet considering how much I’ve always liked it and how long it’s been around. This is the first time I’ve gotten regular Darkness in a can, and I am happy to see the switch. Now I can buy more and actually drink one by myself!

So it’s a perfect looking stout. Deeply black and some creamy (almost) looking lacing that stays after the pour. It’s nice and thick and creamy and full bodied as a great stout should be. It’s certainly less syrupy and motor oily than a barrel aged stout, but that’s appropriate. The thing I love about Darkness is that it’s not sweet. I crave the bitterness of a proper RIS. 2022 version (and all before really) knock it out of the park. Never pass on it and I hope this style stays prominent.
Oct 31, 2022
Rated: 4.93 by Fallen232 from Pennsylvania

Oct 30, 2022
Photo of drdiesel9483
Reviewed by drdiesel9483 from Ohio

4.18/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25
2020 in 2022
Look - big tan sticky head. Black and thick
Smell - roasted malt dark fruit
Taste - chocolate toasted malt slight dark fruit
Feel - fluffy full body light carb
Overall - really nice russian
Oct 16, 2022
Photo of BubbleBobble
Reviewed by BubbleBobble from New York

4.04/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4
Pours a deep, inky black from the can, moderate tan head with good lacing for ABV. Nose is big on bourbon barrel, oak, vanilla, an alcohol heat. Taste is very barrel and heat forward; big notes of spice as well, almost chile-like, though only a suggestion from the booze. Dark chocolate and sweet fruit round things out. Mouthfeel is thick and creamy with only light carbonation. Very solid, but hard to separate it out from the rest of the BA Stout field.
Oct 08, 2022
Photo of JohnMag
Rated by JohnMag

5/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5
Truly a tremendous stout. I’m enjoying the 2020 vintage. I won’t repeat the reviews that have already been posted here. They ring true.
Sep 04, 2022
Rated: 4.58 by beerman2017 from Virginia

Aug 31, 2022
Photo of Ozzylizard
Reviewed by Ozzylizard from Pennsylvania

4.36/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25
Darkness (2020) from Surly Brewing, Gorgon label with black wax. Picked up at Shangy’s, Emmaus, PA. $ 18.00 (Including tax)/22 oz bottle ($ 0.819/oz) on 18/09/21. On room temperature shelf at store, stored at 37 degrees at home. Reviewed 09/07/22. Note that I use DD/MM/YY protocol.
Stamped on shoulder of bottle in nearly invisible ink “BOTTLED ON 09/08/20”. Served at 58.6 degrees in a hand washed and dried Jester King Snifter. Final temperature 65.6 degrees.
Appearance – 3.75.
First pour – Amber Brown (SRM 18), muddy.
Body – Brown (SRM 30), opaque. When rear-lite, limited penetration but deep amber at the edges.
Head – Large (Maximum six cm, aggressive center pour), initially brown sugar but lightening to fawn as it breathes, high-density, good retention, diminishing to a 0.3 to 0.5 cm crown and complete, rocky cap. As the head retracts, multiple partial and complete rings of tiny to small bubbles remain.
Lacing – Good. As the level drops, a wide band of tiny to small bubbles grows, separated from the above band by tiny stalactites and stalagmites. See also above.
Aroma – 4 – Moderate fruity malt and chocolate. No hops, no yeast.
Flavor – 4.75 – Begins markedly bitter with malt, although this bitterness ameliorates as it breathes. Seems pretty straightforward in taste – malt, a little chocolate, no dark fruit, no char, no coffee. No ethanol (12 % ABV, according to BA, NOT marked on label) aroma or taste. Good gastric warming. No dimethylsulfide or diacetyl. Ends with hops predominating.
Palate – 4.25 – Full, creamy, soft carbonation.
Final impression and summation: 4.25 Looks like pretty much every Impy stout and RIS on the market. Both the aroma and flavor are uncomplex and good – malt and chocolate – with only a small taste of organic acids edging in at the aftertaste but not pushing out the hops. The hoppy ending is unexpected and excellent!
Jul 09, 2022
Rated: 4 by shigg85 from Japan

Jul 01, 2022
Rated: 4.4 by Spaceman_Jer from Colorado

Jun 26, 2022
Photo of robotic_being
Rated by robotic_being from Florida

4.43/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5
2017 Vintage. Date stamped on bottle: 09/18/17, Forrest Witch label art; drank on June, 16th, 2022.
Jun 16, 2022
Photo of MacMalt
Reviewed by MacMalt from New Jersey

4.42/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5
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
Reviewed by argock from Virginia

4.22/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25
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
Rated: 3.5 by wshinevar from Massachusetts

Feb 25, 2022
Photo of MikeWard
Reviewed by MikeWard from Pennsylvania

4.4/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5
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
Rated: 4.23 by chrisb53188 from Wisconsin

Feb 19, 2022
Photo of Holderness
Reviewed by Holderness from Massachusetts

3.42/5  rDev -23.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.5
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
Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
Beer rating: 99 out of 100 with 4248 ratings