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Darkness | Surly Brewing Company

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850 Reviews

Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.30%

Availability: Fall

Notes / Commercial Description:
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/profile/13014/141724/

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

Added by ryantupy on 10-08-2006

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Reviews: 850 | Ratings: 3,638
Photo of mikey711
4.08/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Enjoyed this one over a long sunday. Received from fbm115 and reviewed from notes. this was the 09 bottle

A: Syrupy black, with no light able to get through that had an espresso like frothy head about half an inch thick that sat atop. The head retention was great and the walls were covered with spider webbing.

S: Heavy milk chocolate aroma up front followed by a far amount of roastiness, then a super burst of citrus hops which caught me by surprise.

T: Again it starts out with the sweet chocolate then leads into a bitter roastiness and a bitter hoppy finish. Some nices mocha notes were present as well and much of the coffee and espresso flavor came out as it warmed. My main criticism was the lemon hoppiness which felt odd

M: Big bold flavors, with plenty of body to spare. It did get slightly heavy at times, but there was no booziness and lots of creaminess to rectify that.

D: I remember asking myself while I was drinking this, is this an A beer? I was able to finish the bomber myself over the course of the day, but wish that I had someone to share it with at times. I also was not super keen on the amount of hoppiness in this stout. Something I would surely have

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Photo of sukwonee
4.08/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2011 vintage red wax

A: Black body with one finger head

S: chocolate, hops, some sweetness

T: Its a bit disapppointing for me. Its a great stout but it does not stand out from other good stouts. Chocolate, malt, brown sugar and hops. very straightforward and nice.

M: Thick and syrupy. no alcohol burn.

O: Its up there with Stone IRS but nothing too special. Its a great stout regardless.

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Photo of womencantsail
4.08/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Review #300 comes courtesy of mikesgroove. Thanks again Mike for hooking it up with this one.

2009 Vintage

A: The pour is viscous, black, and wonderful. It fills the glass with a fluffy mocha colored head on top of the thick liquid below.

S: Generally with an RIS (or any stout, really) you don't expect citrus and pine hops to be the primary aroma, but that's just what we have here. The malt and other traditional RIS aromas don't come through quite as much as I would have liked. Still, the malt and chocolate and coffee do come through at times.

T: The hoppiness is still present on the tongue, but not quite as intensely. A good roasted malt background with some hints of coffee and chocolate. Perhaps a bit of dark fruits as well, which go interestingly with the hoppiness.

M: The body is nice and full and the beer feels quite creamy on the tongue. The carbonation is at a moderate level.

D: D: The booze is hidden very well by the myriad of flavors that are present. I wish, however, that this was more RIS like and not basically a black DIPA.

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Photo of scottfrie
4.08/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750ml bottle into Delirium Noël snifter. 2009 vintage. Split with mjyoung and bbb099. Huge thanks to thecaptain073 for trading me this one.

A: Pours jet black with a thin, dense, dark brown head that faded into a bubbly collar and left a web of thin lacing down the glass.
S: Big roasted notes of dark malts and molasses. There is a fair amount of alcohol vapor. I pick up sweet notes of dark fruits as well.
T: Very sweet and sugary with big notes of molasses, brown sugar, and chocolate covered berries. There is a sweet fruitiness to this beer that I just can't tack down. Finish is syrupy and sweet and the aftertaste is lightly roasted and bitter.
M: Alcohol adds some warm viscosity to the mouth. Body is full and thick, but not as thick as possible. Goes down sweet and smooth and is even a little spritzy in the finish.
D: Don't get me wrong, this was an amazing beer and deserves a very high score. It's one of the better RIS I've had, but I was actually expecting a little more given all the hype around it. I would drink this as often as I could if I was able to, but I think even something like Ten FIDY in a four pack off the shelf is pretty damn comparable.

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Photo of number1bum
4.08/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

On tap at The Map Room, Chicago, IL.

10z glass was pitch black with a dark khaki head, which left a nice amount of stick and kept a thin lace.

Smell was very malty, with sweet chocolate aromas, some molasses and caramel, and dark fruit. Taste was also quite sweet, with chocolate and roasted malt flavors, lots of caramel and chocolate sweetness. Good amount of dark fruit, too, like maybe figs and plums. I found it to be maybe a tad too sweet, which took away from the drinkability for me. It was rich and full bodied, chewy and creamy. Overall a very good, very tasty beer. Glad I got to try this on tap.

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Photo of birchstick
4.08/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served on tap at the Republic. First time having it fresh and on tap.

A - pours black as night with a nice 1.5 finger chocolate mo ha head that retreats quickly.

S - The nose is pretty faint on it, but what I get is a lot of chocolate with some toffee and vanilla in the mix. It smells pretty hoppy as well with some. It the malts.

T - starts off with a lot of sweet milk chocolate and some vanilla upfront. These fade to some cola like flavors and some oakiness (I know this wasn't barrel aged but it tastes like something is in there). There is also some bitter candied fruits and spicy tobacco. Ends with a blast of bright, citrus hops that are muddled with dark chocolate and toffee booziness. This is still a little rough around the edges, but I like it that way as you can pick out more of the flavors and make this a bit more complex.

M - mouthfeel is a little watery yet full bodied and a little chewy.

D - I was pumped to see this one on tap as I haven't come close to trying it on tap before. This is more complex than I remembered it being last year but like I said it seems a bit rough now. I think time will do this one well and help calm this one down a bit. Definitely worth seeking out if you like big, complex stouts.

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Photo of slyke
4.08/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Darkness 2011 pours black with a finger of tan head that falls to a thin cap after a few minutes and laces a bit.

The smell is dark fruit, licorice, alcohol and a note of wet leather.

The taste is has notes of coffee, dark fruit and licorice. There is a deep sweetness and a warming sense from the alcohol in this beer.

Mouthfeel is light-medium weight, but coating and and leaves a warming aftertaste.

Overall this beer is pretty good. I saw it at a local bottle shop and never having vertured to "Darkness Day" at the brewery, I thought I'd find out what the hype was all about. I was not disappointed.

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Photo of PittBeerGirl
4.08/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Darkness '08 and Darkness '09 side by side. Thanks Brian and Chris!

A- Body is a thick, dark, almost black hue. Pours with a small foamy off white head which dissolves to a thin collar and leaves traces of lacing behind in the glass.

S-Earthy hops, a hint of alcohol, a hint of cocoa and roasted malt, and anise. Decent balance and slightly mild.

T- There is a faint herbal/earthy hop accent initially with a mild roasted malt backbone. Chocolate and anise flavors come rushing through for the finish and are more prominent than the initial flavors. Mild impressions of the initial flavor linger.

M- low carbonation with a syrupy medium to heavy weight body that is slightly thin.

D- Overall- I REALLY like this beer. Its very good overall. The '08 and the '09 were very similar in overall profiles so I didn't comment on individual differences because I noticed few, if any. I'd still like to try this beer fresh when the hoppy notes tend to really shine. ABV was pretty well hidden here as well.

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Photo of pdoran10
4.08/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Served on tap at darkness day 2009 at Hell's Kitchen in downtown Minneapolis. Have procrastinated a long time on reviewing this beer.

When I ordered it, I was presented with a 10oz goblet of very dark brown beer, with a luxurious looking half inch of head. The smell is right away of toasted malt with dark chocolate, can't quite put my finger on some of the other flavors, but very complex. I was surprised when I tasted it, very thick and syrupy. I taste toasted malt right away, much like the smell. After that passes, I get an explosion of other flavors, chocolate, expresso, I might even taste some fig in there. It took me a few sips to get a grasp for all that was going on. Good taste, but a lot of toasted malt and a bit of alchohol taste are going on. I was not a big fan of the mouthfeel of this one. I'm all for thick imperial stouts, but somehow this one was much more syrupy than I liked, it felt a little to sticky sweet in my mouth. The drinkability is good enough. Some alchohol presense, and a bit syrupy, but it can't be all bad as I still had two and considered a third. Good beer, didn't live up to my expectations though.

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Photo of Hophead101
4.08/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

drank on 12.4.08 at Clark St Ale House with friends from work.

I finally got a chance to taste the nectar known as the Darkness. There is so much hype around this beer, you can imagine my extreme joy when I walked into this bar and saw this on tap. Since I can't get it in PA - this was a pleasant surprise.

Of course, as the name says, it pours a dark brown, basically black beer. Had a nice tan head and the lacing on the glass was great. The smell was crisp and sweet, woodsy and smoky. There was a twinge of alcohol in the nose as well.

the taste is simply WOW. very malty, very sweet and you can absolutely taste the alcohol (which is 10%+). there is the roasted malt taste and the earthy and woodsy tastes as well. Mouthfeel was surprising nice with a bit of a sharp alcohol taste.

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Photo of zhanson88
4.07/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2010 vintage.

Appearance: Pours out a deep, dark brown that appears black in the glass. About 3/4" of dark tan head forms, which has pretty good retention and very nice lacing. Pretty good start to this beer.

Smell: Smells pretty roasty, but not overly so, with light coffee bitterness and stronger dark and milk chocolate sweetness intermingling.

Taste: Roast bitterness and milk chocolate sweetness all the way. Good balance of the two. Lingering bitterness from the roast. Not the most complex beer, but what is there is very solid.

Mouthfeel/Overall: Mouthfeel is just under full, with an excellent level of carbonation. Overall, a very good non barrel aged stout. It gives up a bit of complexity but is very well put together, and has an excellent sweet/bitter balance. Definitely a recommend.

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Photo of shroompod
4.06/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours dark! This has the best head retention of any RIS I've ever seen.

Aroma of citrus hops , dark chocolate and sweet caramel.

This beer is sweet. A lot of dark candy sugar tastes. Molasses, raisins, caramel, and figs. The sweetness comes at the expense of darker flavors I enjoy (coffee, chocolate & bitterness). Hops are their, but somewhat subdued.

Mouthfeel is thick , carbonation is good.

Overall an exceptional RIS that's too sweet for me.

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Photo of paulozanello
4.05/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2011 version, on tap:

Pours a really opaque dark color with a light brown head with great retention and lacing.

Aroma is of dark malts, mollasses, some coffee, vanilla and chocolate.

Taste somehow follows the aroma with a very "dark malt" profile, with dark fruits, vanilla, coffee and bitter chocolate.

Body is heavy with a silky and smooth mouthfeel at first, with mild tart and astringent dark malt notes later on. Aftertaste is a little hop bitter.

Overall a very good RIS from surly. Not the most complex beer within the style but a great beer nonetheless.

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Photo of mikeyv35
4.05/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

Date: 05/25/2010
Type: 750ml. Bottle
Vintage: 2009
Glassware: Usual Portsmouth Tulip

Poured a nice charcoal black w/ a 1/2 finger light brown creamy head w/ minimal lacing. Nose was fantastic, w/ aromas of chocolate malts, light coffee, black licorice, slight smokiness, and a touch of earthy peat. Taste was excellent as well, w/ notes of dark chocolate, vanilla bean/marshmallow, and a finish of substantial hop bitterness. This brew contained a flavor in the middle that took me awhile to pinpoint, eventually I realized it was burnt toffee mixed w/ star anise. Mouthfeel was pretty viscous and oddly pillowy at the same time. The only negative on this brew for me was the sweetness, that got to me after only a 12oz. glass. To be honest, it kind of sadened me because it overshadowed the amazing complexity of this fine brew.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this brew, but could only handle drinking a 4-8oz. pour. The next time I crack one of these bad boys open, it will be w/ other BA friends.

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Photo of ChugginOil
4.05/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Review #500

2011 Zombie bottle

Pours very black, dark as night with an eager finger of light brown head. Stringy and spotted lacing.

The nose has a ton of anise and bitter chocolate. If I take a huge whiff, the abv comes through slightly. Cocoa and licorice.

The flavors are heavy on bakers chocolate and anise. The is some sweetness involved but the dry roasty flavors take over. Roasty, dark, slightly sweet, and full of anise. Solid for the style but I had hoped for more.

The mouthfeel is sticky and rich, mixed with those dry bakers chocolate flavors. Sweet, roasty and dry. This is the best part of this beer.

Overall, I expected much more going into this because I have had many off the shelve beers that are just as good, if not better. Too much hype behind this one. Solid top tier stout but not near the best or even near it.

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Photo of punkrkr27
4.05/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2008 bottle. Lots of rich sweet yet bitter black strap molasses character with a shot of espresso. There's some milk chcoclate that comes out in the middle and it finishes with a long bitter black coffee finish. There was a hint of soy I didn't care much for though. The body is sticky and full with moderate carbonation.

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Photo of jeonseh
4.03/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle poured into a CBS snifter. 4th beer in my the baller blend tasting

A - Deep brown, almost black in color. Had a nice off white head that sat on top throughout.

S - Smells of cocoa, vanilla, and slight caramel. Has a strong hop, pine presence that comes through in the nose. Get a hint of the alcohol coming through as well

T - Taste at first is sweet caramel with a hint of chocolate. It is almost like a milky way at first. As the beer continues there is a stronger vanilla flavor that comes through. Near the finish we get a hint of bitter hops that reminds us that this is a surly beer

MF - No carbonation at all. There is a slight stickiness to it and it had a medium body that is not too thick or thin.

O - Solid RIS from Surly. Has a good balance between the sweeter flavors, cocoa, and hops on the backend. Nice to get if I ever get a chance to make it out to Darkness Day

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Photo of DavoleBomb
4.03/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a snifter. 2010 vintage.

5.0 A: Pours black. About three fingers of thick, mostly creamy, secondarily frothy medium-brown-colored head. Very good retention and lacing covering most of the glass.

4.5 S: Mighty chocolaty is my first impression. This has a great mixture of roasty and sweet aromas with the sweet being moderately stronger. Hops are readily apparent in the form of herbal and citrus. Sweet caramel, a touch of smoke, and some toastiness to cap it off. Very nice.

4.0 T: Taste is pretty good, though somewhat disappointing based on the nose. This isn't nearly as sweet as the nose suggests. Rather, hop bitterness is apparent and hop flavor is nearly as strong as the malts. Hop flavor comes in the form of citrusy orange, herbalness, and a touch of spiciness. Malts contribute milk chocolate, caramel, molasses, anise, a touch of smoke and fruitiness in the form of plum, prune, and parsimmon. The malts aren't big and powerful like I like, but this is still pretty tasty.

3.5 M: Heavier medium body. Not the thick, rich imperial stout I was looking for. Moderate carbonation is a bit "dead" leaving the beer limp and heavy on the touch. However, this has a good creaminess to it and it otherwise smooth.

3.5 D: Gave this a 3.5 because the taste was a borderline 3.5. This is easily the best hoppy imperial stout out there, but I'm not that big of a fan of that approach to stouts. I like big malty flavors and low hop contribution. Still, this is a pretty tasty and I think this will be damn good once the hops have time to fade.

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Photo of LittleBreeze
4.03/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4


Thanks for sharing this one, drseamus.

I'm not sure this one "poured". It more like gulped from the bottle. Tan head.

The hops surprised me. I don't recall ever smelling a RIS that hoppy. Other tasters commented that it was a Surly smell. But it smells like a Double IPA

A nice malt bitterness sets up the caramel and chocolate. Nice bitter bite.

Dandy mouthfeel. A little dance on the tongue but not too much carbonation.

This is a very nice RIS. It didn't "win the night" when lined up against a few other beers in this category. I'll admit to expecting...more.

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Photo of kkipple
4.03/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Cashew70 earns my undying respect for bringing a bottle of this to the now legendary Spring '08 Brick Store tasting. We did a side by side with a 2007 Dark Lord. Never thought I'd get to do that. Thanks, Cashew!

Pours a very dark black-brown, with a small head comprised of fat bubbles. Sinister to be sure, but nothing we haven't seen before. It absolutely does not stick to the glass like ye ole DL.

Smells surprisingly... hoppy. You have to wait till this warms up a little, but Darkness has a definite hop edge of pine that fights through the strong burnt, charred grain, chocolate and coffee denseness. Oh yes, there's alcohol and some sweet molasses / sugar lurking there too. Darkness certainly smells like a winner, but the only unusual thing here is the level of hops present.

Ahh, now we're talking! Super roasty, and the big (for a RIS) citrus hop bite equates to a bold, brash, wild beer with a lotta punch. The hops are dirty and rough, and it's altogether boozy and heavy. This is the kind of stuff Klingons would drink out of corroded metal canisters while stranded in deep space.

Mouthfeel is slick, heavy and lowly carbonated. Finishes hoppy, roast-bitter and oily sweet. It lacks the cake-batter thickness of it's nemesis from Munster, but it's good even so.

Drinkability? Well, pretty low. This is good, but quite honestly, does not live up to the (unfair) hype. Darkness is quite solid, but there are a lot of great Imperial Stouts coming out of the US and this one is certainly not worth the insane premium it commands. If you have a bottle, count yourself lucky and share with friends. They'll owe you!

Oh yeah, was it better than Dark Lord? No. Dark Lord still holds the tarnished, sickly crown for this sort of thing.

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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 MbpBugeye
4.03/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

I know you'll be glancing at this, AleWatcher. Sorry the Westy 12 didn't make it for my 800th. It'll be split with my girlfriend at a more special time, to be determined.

2010 (vampire)
This long time want graciously provided to me by bauermj. Poured into my new Darkness glass that was sent by Beeruser in perfect timing.

The beer flows forth languidly, boasting its full body and robust color. The collection in the glass is dense and blackened. An undertone of burnt red, much like the color of the wax that crowns this bottle, gives the beer warmth and character. The head is a yellowed khaki with a frothy and soft pretense. Creeping rings of lace adorn the glass in short order, fueled by the ever-present ring of foam.

Darkness carries with it aromas of soy sauce and tobacco that are uniquely its own. Rich molasses and brown sugar lay a sweetened backdrop to licorice, steak sauce and freshly laid mulch. The bouquet is indeed full of darkness but encompasses the realm of caramelized and aged sugars and sweets. A consideration of the final glass of the bottle yields strong aromas of prunes and hints of chocolate covered raisins.

The soy sauce and molasses flavors are the dominant ones. They grip the sides of the tongue with a sharp, rum soaked fruitcake flavor that is bracketed by sweet pipe tobacco. There is a milky creaminess that tries to push through but the denser molasses and anise flavors suppress it for the most part. As the glass warms, caramel and a faint citrusy hopping come out. A fleeting hint of smoke pops out just at the end, and only after this beer warms to room temperature.

The best part of this beer is the way it slides over the palate, offering little resistance. It feels frictionless. Its very low and fluffy soft carbonation furthers the effects of the full body. There is a little bit of stickiness left on the lips, but this is a sweet beer, that should be expected. Some alcohol warmth and an oily, licorice flavored coating is left behind for a long finish and aftertaste.

This is a great stout. It’s large in stature and silky smooth and thick. It is, however, quite sweet and wrought with tobacco and soy sauce notes that get in the way of its roastiness. So, all things considered, this did not live up to what I expected from it.

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Photo of s1ckboy
4.03/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2010 bottle with about 10 months on it.

A - Dark(ness). Pretty sure I'm the only one to make that comment. Small finger of head that stuck around for a bit leaving small bubbles around the edges

S - Bitter chocolate, roasty.

T - A ton of chocolate, malty, molasses, some bitterness to it. Very sweet. Some other typical imp stout flavors (dark fruits etc). No alcohol taste to speak of. Sweetness got to me a bit after 12 oz. Reminds me a lot of Ten Fidy, but sweeter.

M - Thick. Leaves a coating on your mouth.

O - Not my favorite imperial stout but very good.

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Photo of trxxpaxxs
4.03/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Starting off 2012 in style. Thanks to LaCoursiere for this bottle.

2011 vintage poured into a Surly Darkness snifter.

A: Pours a deep black with about one and one half fingers of mocha head. The foam settles nicely on the top of this beer, leaving a thin film of bubbles. Some decent lacing as it drinks.

S: Smells of raisins, plums, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, caramel, and a touch of vanilla. There is also an underlying earthiness to this beer.

T: The taste follows the nose really closely. I get the raisins, plums, chocolate, and caramel notes.

M: Full bodied beer. This beer is a seriously creamy. It has great mothfeel, but the finish is a bit cloying. There is a stickiness that lingers for a bit after drinking.

O: In all honesty, I'm not super impressed. There just seems to be something missing, and I can't put my finger on it. I sincerely remember last years version being better. I'm looking forward to seeing how this beer develops over time.

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Photo of ThePorterSorter
4.03/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

the beer pours jet black with a thin tan head. the nose is caramel, alcohol, bandaid (subtle) & sugar. the taste is definitely all chocolatey malt forward with booze. the mouhfeel is definitely full bodied rich chocolatey stout, but easy drinking and smooth, very slight bitterness. this beer is definitely an approachable, drinkable ris that most people would enjoy

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Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
4.41 out of 5 based on 3,638 ratings.
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