Darkness | Surly Brewing Company

BA SCORE
98
world-class
3,825 Ratings
DarknessDarkness
BEER INFO

Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States
surlybrewing.com

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.30%

Availability: Fall

Notes / Commercial Description:
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.

Labels:
2007 - Grim Reaper
2008 - Devil
2009 - Mummy
2010 - Vampire
2011 - Zombie
2012 - Werewolf
2013 - Brewcifer
2014 - Harpy
2015 - Bat
2016 - Cerberus


Added by ryantupy on 10-08-2006

BEER STATS
Ratings:
3,825
Reviews:
878
Avg:
4.42
pDev:
9.28%
 
 
Wants:
3,306
Gots:
1,521
For Trade:
139
View: Beers | Events
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 3,825 |  Reviews: 878
Photo of edbeered
4.62/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Served in a tulip glass, this pours an opaque jet black color, with a small brownish head and scattered lacing on the glass. The smell is fruity and chocolaty. The taste is intense, with a peaty earthiness, a fruity plum flavor, a hint of grapefruit hoppiness, and a toasty maltiness. The flavors burst forth, yet this exceptional brew is smooth and balanced. The alcohol content is 9.5%, yet it doesn't feature in the taste. For me, the style makes this a "one and done" beer, due to the intensity of the flavors and the high alcohol content. That said, if any Russian Imperial Stout could tempt me into a second glass, it would be this one. An exceptional effort from the brewers at Surly.

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

Photo of Jackd175
4.62/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

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

2011 bottle

A - motor oil black. Black the whole way through, even at the edges.. The thickness of the beer is obvious from its appearance. Small to medium amount of dense tan head.

S - aggressive chocolate, milk and dark. Coffee. Maybe molasses, some anise/black licorice. Dense and roasty.

T - wow. powerful. It tastes like someone made a great stout and then distilled it down to an extract. Really really rich. Up front there is a bunch of sweet dark chocolate, black coffee, sweet molasses. Roasted malts. The ABV is completely imperceptible.

M - this really is the perfect mouthfeel for a stout. Pretty thick, but not overly so. Light carbonation, smooth. One of the best I've encountered in this category.

O - quite simply an outstanding stout. Just an unbelievable amount of flavor. If there is a demerit, its that its so intense it is almost fatiguing. I split the beer with a friend, and we agreed it would almost be difficult to finish a bomber on your own, just due to the fact that it almost overwhelms you with the flavor profile. This is a must try for any stout lover. Easily the best non-barrel aged stout I've ever had, and one of the best stouts I've ever had period.

Excellent beer.

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Photo of dcloeren
4.62/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

"Rick James used to call me and my brother Darkness. This was back before Wesley Snipes when we was tha darkest niggas on tha planet." - Charlie Murphy

Thanks to my boy JR for sharing this bottle with me.

2011 vintage

Poured pitch black with 2 fingers of dark tan head. Pretty solid retention that slowly receded to a thin bubbly film... no lacing.

Very sweet aromas of dark fruits, berries, figs all covered in chocolate with a little bit of caramel and coffee to round it out. Smells heavenly. The aroma literally explodes out of the glass as it is being poured.

Taste follows the nose. Sweet sweet chocolate covered fruits and figs. Very slight coffee taste, perfectly roasted malt, and a little bit of caramel. Delicious and decadent.

Full bodied with a minimal amount of carbonation. Not extremely thick but it coats every inch of my mouth with each sip. Top notch mouthfeel.

This was an amazing stout. I loved every bit of it. This beer was just a power house without being over the top with anything. If this beer was a linebacker, it would be Brian Urlacher. Just a bad mother fucker and knows it but doesn't have to go around telling everyone how good he is. Top notch for sure. Big thanks again to JR for sharing this bottle.

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Photo of BEERchitect
4.62/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

An absolute pleaseure to finally have the opportunity to enjoy this beer. Absolute chocolatey notes with licorice and char blend beautifully in this molassas-rich Imperial Stout.

An very viscous pour of oily black liquid falls from the bottle- this is going to be one full beer. Completely opaque, the beer lathers into a thick, lightly browned, dense foam stance that seemingly never waivers. Both lacing and legging have a convincing say in the coatings left behind on the glass.

Robust aromas of both semi-sweet chocolate morsels and dry cocoa powder lead the way with a heafty sidekick of burnt cherries, licorice, rum, and fruitcake. Mouthwatering and seductive, the aromas are near flawlessness.

The chocolate-heavy tone continues in flavor, similar to fresh baked brownies and Hershey syrups. Background fruity notes of cherries, grapes, currants, and dates are accompanied by deep roasted coffee, char, and roasted marshmallows creaminess. Molassas sweetness brings these flavors together seamlessly while giving a soothing taste to the aggressive roast.

Full, viscous, creamy, and oily in mouthfeel, the beer has a slow transition from early thickness to a late sweet, warming, and bitter finish (bitterness is in form of both char and hops). This beer is obviously intended for after dinner compliments or in place of dinner alltogether.

A special thanks goes out to Shango42 for the unique opportunity to finally enjoy this beer. He gets my right arm if he ever requests it.

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Photo of BeerMeBro720
4.62/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Photo of SykDoc
4.62/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Had this at a stout event courtesy of brdc and company, much thanks to them.

Poured from a bottle into a flute. It pours a very thick deep brown that is opaque when held to the light, except at the edges. A 1-2 inch mocha colored head forms and is short-lived with minimal lacing.

The aroma is assertive and complex with sweet components of caramel and molasses and something that seemed to me like cotton candy/corn syrup. The usual chocolate culprit is also present as is a later coffee note. Very unique and very good.

The taste also highlighted a sweet caramel taste which includes molasses and chocolate. The bitter coffee and hoppy components were not as intense to me but still present and a nice balance.

The mouthfeel seem to have a medium carbonation and significant thickness that was quite smooth. There was a sticky finish that lingered with some of the bitter tastes.

Overall, this is an extremely drinkable beer and one of my favorites from the night. I will continue my search for me and hope to make it to the Darkness event next time. This was at the top with Dark Lord at our event.

 1,106 characters

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

Photo of blockdude
4.62/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Had the '012 this past night and i've been wanting to sample this for the longest time. First off, if there is any imperial stout out there that shows barrel aging is not not necessary to make a damn good beer this is it. This was medium bodied and the nose was pretty bourbon heavy. The beer had noticeable bourbon to it but did not match the amount I got on the nose. I have to say, this was incredibly smooth and had so much complexity that I could care less if it was barrel aged or not. One sip, I tasted bourbon, chocolate, and maple syrup, while another sip I tasted coconut and raisins. This beer does have a good amount of hype but for someone who is not one to seek out imperial stouts, I was impressed.

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Photo of Lukafer
4.62/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

edited for vintage: 09
Split amongst friends at a tasting. Review from notes.

Pours jet black with a pinky fingers worth of tan head. Smells are chocolate, roasted malts, a lo of cocoa, dark fruits and booze! Tater are much like the nose, chocolate, cocoa, malt and booze and goddamn good! Mouthfeel is sticky and chewy, perfect. We could have easily split another bottle this was so good. Worth the hype.

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Photo of ironchefmiyagi13
4.62/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Had the 2012 and 2013 next to each other.

2013 stole the show, hands down. The grade is reflective of that one.

Great color and head on both beers.

Aroma on the 2013 was much more powerful in terms of coffee, chocolate and hops. 2012 was sweeter smelling with a lot of dark fruit.

Flavor was much of the same differentiating factors. 2013 was balanced, hoppy, smooth and delicious. 2012 had a weird metallic 'twang' to it with every sip, and was just way too fruity and sweet with no hops or coffee/chocolate to add a little bitterness.

Overall, I was very disappointed with the results. While I am now glad I traded away my older bottles, I was expecting something a little more 'badass' in terms of a vintage showdown. Oh well, maybe my bottle just didn't age properly. Either way, the fresh bottle was outstanding and on par with my favorite RIS...Stone RIS.

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Photo of TurdFurgison
4.62/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I had this on tap at the Local Option, served in a Maudite glass. The beer was dark brown/black color with dark tan froth on top. Lots of wet lacing on the glass. The smell alone tells me this beer isn't over hyped, it smells insanely good. Rich and sweet, no burnt or roasted aromas, maybe some hops citrus but not as much as I'd have expected after hearing how hoppy this beer was last year. The taste is also nearly perfect. Huge malt sweetness, a little bitterness but not much, some citrus flavors too, I can't recall ever tasting a RIS quite like this. The body is substantial while not being as thick as Dark Lord, just about right for the flavors. Absolutely drinkable, the >10% ABV isn't noticeable from the taste. Worth the effort to find, this is great stuff.

1/02/09 edit:
I had this in bottle form, side-by-side against Sexual Chocolate, Dark Lord, and Kate the Great. In this contest Darkness came out the favorite for all 3 drinkers. The citrus flavors were the deciding factor, it seemed like this was a RIS with DIPA genes. I'll plan to attend future Darkness days to get as many bottles as I can.

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Photo of DanOLeary
4.62/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Aroma: Very rich dark fruits fill the nose with some sweet chocolate. A trace of alcohol spice rounds out the fruit and sweetness, though the alcohol isn't as prevelant as expected. No hop aroma. 

Appearance: Black as midnight death. Head pours a billowy bread crust brown, though fairly quickly fades to a ring at the edge of the glass with some light lace.

Flavor: Initial plum sweetness quickly transitions to chocolate with an orange peel twang. Molasses lingers lightly in the middle but gives way to more chocolate, though this time it comes off as dark and bitter as the alcohol spice kicks in. Finish is drying from the alcohol, but not hot. Plum stickiness retains well in the end on the lips and back of the throat.

Mouthfeel: Full body with light carbonation. Most of the body is defined by the dark fruit character in the beer, creating the feeling of light molasses and sticky dried fruit. Alcohol bites the back if the throat with light burn in the finish. 

Overall: The aroma and flavor of this beer provide an exclusive look into the complexities of dark fruit and sweet chocolate created by a well crafted Russian Imperial Stout. The alcohol provides a nice warming and spicy presence and the orange peel was a surprising twist. While I describe the beer as full bodied, I would expect this style to hold more of a chewy character. Instead you're presented with sticky sweetness that somewhat artificially fills the palate. By the end of my review the head had completely disappeared as well.      

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Photo of ZEB89
4.62/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Photo of camp0474
4.62/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2009 Darkness poured into a tulip whiskey snifter

A: Dark tan head, frothy at first. Deep reddish purple color, very close to black.

S: Dried dark fruit and molasses. Maybe prune or black cherry. Smells sweet. Many complex smells that are hard to pin down.

T: Dark fruit with a bit of malt. Very sweet. Dark cherry or plum. No trace if hops until they punch through in the finish. The hop oils linger on the tongue after you swallow. Wouldn't be Surly without the hops, makes this beer even better. Hints of alcohol, not a surprise at this ABV. Multiple layers of complex flavors from start to finish.

M: Thick and chewy. Very fine carbonation bubbles.

D: Good drinkability for a beer this strong. Not an everyday beer but a very enjoyable experience, especially in cold weather.

Definitely worth the time and trouble to seek out this limited beer. Glad I picked up mutiple bottles when I did.
Another great unique beer from Surly.

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Photo of abuliarose
4.61/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

09 vintage, poured into a wide-mouthed snifter revealing black body with a dense and thick milk chocolate head. Looks like a milkshake at the top. Strong lacing. As far as RIS's go, this is tops. Smells hoppier than I've ever had an RIS smell, especially in terms of floral notes. Underneath that there are meaty, roasted raw chocolate notes. All good smells.

Tastes sweet, malty and boozy. Nice thick roasted and chocolaty malt character with some vanilla to it. Quite bitter as well, which works well with the sweetness to cut through it and add gains in drinkability. Very smooth for its harshness. Carbonation is small and and tingly to a tongue-numbing point. I mean that in the best way. Quite warming. Heavy-bodied, but oh so smooth. For its sweetness, I find it quite drinkable.

This is a top-notch RIS.

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Photo of MissSmisje
4.61/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

L: motor oil with a thin tan head
S: chocolate malt, bitter chocolate, dried dark fruits, particularly cherries and raisins
T: roasted coffee, bitter coffee, fidgety, dried dark fruits - cherries, raisins, dates, gently fruity tartness in the finish.
F: good chewy thick feel
O: excellent. Intense flavor.

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Photo of tlio72
4.61/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

Photo of Taybeh
4.61/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

from old notes...i try to make sure to track Darkness down on tap every year, and though imp stouts aren't my favorites, this one, many years, is a killer. I still remember finding the '11 version at 11:30 pm at an Uptown bar of that year and wondering if it could get any better.

This is the non-b/a/ '14 edition (not the one available in bottles which is aged in rye whisky barrels), on tap at the Lyndale tap, into a snifter with a thin khaki head that subsides after a minute. Nose is a little elusive, but a lot there and it works well for me...suprisingly juicy, with cherries, and some leather, and some dark chocolate and espresso. Great waves and layers of flavors on the tongue, especially as it warms. The end is really great...ties everything together with a earthy and grassy hoppy kick...sticky and very substantial but also a lively mouthful.

Also had the 2015 non-b/a, but I preferred the 2014.

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Photo of Rockjocknroll
4.61/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Photo of Elumbeer
4.6/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Photo of zjungleist
4.6/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

First off... thanks Justin. Second vintage I was told, not sure on the year though. Red devil drinking from a skull on the bottle, so that vintage whatever that one is.

A: Poured into a Surly snifter. Looks seriously black and thick straight from the bottle. It is black. Did I mention how black it is? The truly noteworthy thing about it's appearance, however, its the mile high head and shimmery lace.

S: Immediately I smelled the hops. Slightly citrus, grassy hops, followed by some serious sweetness. There was certainly some chocolate syrup smells at points, and hints of caramel too.

T: The notes in the taste were harder to pinpoint. Sweetness was the dominating flavor, and milk chocolate was present at well. Bitterness was subdued largely by the sweetness, but there were notes of burnt toffee and a slight nuttiness, dates perhaps as well.

M: Rich and velvety. Certainly thick, and perhaps a tough cloying. Spot on for the style.

D: How drinkable can an RIS ever be? It is a huge beer. You'd be foolish to go for more than a few glasses, if not for the alcohol, then certainly for the sweetness. But this is certainly drinkable for the style.

Overall, great great beer. I wish some of the subtle flavors had been a little more prominent, but overall it packs a punch both in flavor and ABV.

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Photo of Paponetti44
4.6/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Photo of BillyB
4.6/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Russian Imperial Stouts are my favorite style, so I'm a bit biased.

I think what Surly is doing is very ballsy. Brewing big beers and canning them. The only other example I can think of that comes close to this is Oskar Blues Ten Fity. I tried this at GABF so it was on draft and from what I heard their not canning this one.

But to get to the point; Darkness is off the charts! Pours a jet black, opaque hue, with a thick tan head.

The roasty, toasty, coffee, caramel and slight whiskey aromas jump out at you.

Strong coffee, roasty malt and toffee flavors. Slight whiskey character, but very subtle.

So drinkable! Just so damn, drinkable! This may be the best russian I've tried since Stone or North Coast.

If you can get your hands on this beer, try it! You won't be dissappointed.

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Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
4.42 out of 5 based on 3,825 ratings.
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