Darkness | Surly Brewing Company

3,826 Ratings

Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States

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.

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

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Ratings: 3,826 |  Reviews: 878
Photo of Flounder57
4.45/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

750 ml bottle was poured into a goblet.

Appearance: A one mocha head was poured that reduced to a thin layer. It is a pitch black color with no vision of anything.

Smell: Milk chocolate, roasted, toffee, caramel, molasses, toasted, dark fruits, and nice subtle warm alcohol.

Taste: Very tasty, nice flavor, so smooth, some soy, light bitterness, and very enjoyable. Definitely a sipper.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, medium bodied, light bodied, silky, creamy, medium carbonation, slight warm booze, and light light bitterness.

Overall: Pretty solid RIS. Holding onto the other 2 bottles for several years down the road.

 625 characters

Photo of SpeedwayJim
4.46/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Sampled at hoppymcgee's tasting 1/16. '09 vintage (mummmy). A 4oz. pour into an 8oz. pint glass. Reviewed from notes.

A: A gentle pour yields a .5 finger fine chocolate head with good retention. Quite carbonated for an RIS. Beer is a nice motor oil black though not quite as thick. Lacing is spider-web like. Doesn't get any better than this...

S: Nose is citrus hops which makes me a little confuzzled... from an RIS? Chocolate, roasted malts are present but pushed far into the background. Grapefruit is present as well as cocoa.

T: Opens slighlty hoppy, chocolate, prunes, citrus, grapefruit, soy sauce, and surprisingly, not boozy at all. Hop character fades at the end, giving way to a more traditional RIS profile. Finish is a bit of roasted coffee bean sourness even though the coffee is absent from the rest of the experience.

M: Medium bodied, coarse, carbonated, and not as oily or viscous as I expected. The feel works well here to integrate the flavors though. Finish is a bit sticky and sweet with a lingering hoppiness that dissipates rather quickly.

D: I don't know how but the hop character works amazingly well for this beer. Very well balanced and perfectly executed, this one was the highlight of the night for me. What keeps it from being a 5 for me here is that I feel like I gotta be ready for this one. However, there's no doubt the hype is deserving of this beer here.

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Photo of dbossman
4.46/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

A: Opaque and black; thick one finger head that really holds its form; lacing is great

S: Roasted chocolate malts; a piny hops is also strong; subtle smokiness, molasses, and coffee

T: The piny hops is prevalent but the dark cocoa is dominant; this beer is so smooth and the alcohol isn't noticable at all

F: So smooth and creamy; such a wonderful mouith coating and amazing mouth feel

D: This is a nearly perfect RIS; the alcohol is so well-masked; it is smooth, dark, creamy, and so damn delicious. Mmmm.

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Photo of Z_Anderson_0406
4.46/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.5

Photo of marcobrau
4.46/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.5

Simply the most viscous and flavorful RIS I've ever had.
A wonderful piney hop blast in the aroma and great looks; deep black with a tan head that leaves a thick ring of lace with each sip. A whiff of fudge complicates the aroma and is a precursor of the decadent fudge-like instensity of chocolate flavors to come. Hops and instense chocolate flavors mix exceptionally well as they mingle with subtle bits of anise and a streak of blackstrap molasses.
I love how thick this stout is up front and then how it finishes somewhat dry. The viscosity, bold flavors and alcoholic kick affects the drinkability of this stout, but it is a drink to be savored and served as my dessert at Cafe Twenty-Eight.

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Photo of WeisGuy
4.46/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Lucky to catch this on-tap at Cafe Twenty-Eight (highly recommend the restaurant, by the way)

a - pours deep dark and black, amazingly dense tan head that lasts forever and leaves great lacing, nice reverse cascade of bubbles with every drink, beautiful looking beer

s - very "bright" aroma with lots of citrusy hops apparent in the nose along with more traditional RIS aromas of dark, bittersweet chocolate and dark fruits

t - very complex on the palate with lots of dark, bittersweet chocolate, coffee and deeply roasted malt mixed with citrus and hoppy bitterness on the finish, the alcohol is remarkably masked, fairly sweet, but much less so than many big imperial stouts such as Dark Lord, faintly reminiscent of Stone IRS in its hoppyness and balance

m - medium-to-full bodied with moderate carbonation, not the viscous mess that many big imperial stouts become, this is one area where Darkness really excels, enough body to satisfy as an imperial stout, but not overly thick

d - an intense stout no doubt, but subtle and relatively drinkable at the same time, much more drinkable than many of the top tier imperial stouts such as Dark Lord and Abyss, fairly easy on the palate while bringing a whole lot of flavor, and the alcohol is well-masked

Overall, a stellar imperial stout and another very fine effort from Surly. Well worth seeking this one out if nothing else than for its uniqueness amongst its peers in the imperial stout category.

 1,456 characters

Photo of Ewlew
4.46/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Photo of DocSkalski
4.46/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

A bit light and hoppy with the opening aroma. Pours about what you'd expect from a RIS, thick and black with a small tan head. Tastes as Surly describes, but a bit less flavorful than one might expect from such a prestigious and rare brew; it's fantastic but no Dark Lord. The palate is a bit thinner than the pour suggests, not the thick motor oil feel we expect from RIS's, but good none-the-less. Overall it's among the top of it's style, but might not be worth the hype, and for the price I think i'd rather have a couple Goose Island Nightstalker's.

 554 characters

Photo of motoxrdr21
4.46/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Photo of pezhead_79
4.46/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Photo of jzeilinger
4.46/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

A - Dark molasses colored with a thick creamy head that subsides to an even, frothy layer that's clingy and with a lot of legs.

S - Black anise, licorice, deep roasted caramel/toffee malt, molasses, light bourbon.

T - Dark molasses and dark roasted chocolate, cocoa, dark roasted caramel cream, toasted sherry/bourbon/oak.

M - Thick, rich, full bodied, sticky, and viscous.

O - Outstanding and seek out.

 407 characters

Photo of Wer34truh
4.46/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.25

Had on tap, both at the brewery and at a local bar.

Comes in a silky black color, with a dirty-white head. Definitely lives up to its name.

Taste is marvelous, and besides subtle tones of roasted coffee beans, it also includes plum, raisins and cranberries. Despite being an incredibly dark beer, it's surprisingly fruity - without ever becoming unbalanced. The feel is delightfully thick, while never being combative.

All-in-all, a most fantastic beer, and well worth its reputation.

 489 characters

Photo of kyleryan
4.46/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Photo of aricwarner
4.46/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Photo of warrendietrich2001
4.46/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Photo of pagriley
4.46/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Photo of jcattey
4.46/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Photo of deebo
4.47/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This review from fresh 11 Darkness had on DD.
A-Black as night with a thick tan head that laces and lingers throughout.

S-Malt bomb. Sweet raisins and molasses are the most noted flavors.

T-Sweet with heavy malt bill. Stout meets Quad.

M-Alcohol well hidden. Nice medium body that isn't too heavy or oily like some RIS.

D-These are not meant for slamming but drinkability is good for the style-maybe I could have 2 if in the right mood.

O-Not a huge RIS fan, but this one has very good taste while also being drinkable. Enjoy having this on tap, but not likely to buy too many $18 bottles of this or any other RIS.

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Photo of mdaschaf
4.47/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Big thanks to Shane for bringing this down to share with me. 2010 Vintage, review from notes.

A: Pours black in color with a nice two finger tan head on top. The head lasts for a little while leaving a foam cap on top. Thin lacing forms all around the glass.

S: Tons of dark fruit on the aroma, cherry and plum dominate. There is some chocolate and cocoa mixed in as well. Exactly what I am looking for.

T: This beer tastes great, more dark fruit (cherry, plum, raisin) mixed with chocolate and minimal roast coming forward. There is a touch of honey and caramel.

M: Medium to full bodied, extremely smooth with moderate carbonation.

O: Very impressed, probably my favorite non BA stout. It drinks so easy that it would get me in trouble if I had a lot of it. Definitely a beer I will try to get more of.

 814 characters

Photo of DoubleBaco
4.47/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Photo of Franchise
4.47/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This offering pours a deep dark black leaving a thick tan head in it's wake. Wow the smell is super strong I haven't even put my nose to the glass and i can smell the strength of this beer.

Nose is malty, roasted nuts, coffee, very herbal deep pitted dark fruits, super sweet smelling tons of aromatics. The taste is syrupy, cherries, sweet prunes, dark pitted fruits, raisins coffee, super malty with a minimal hops presence but just enough to balance that maltiness.

I'd pair this beer with dessert or game meat like venison as the sweetness with really play with the savor aspect of the beer. If choosing dessert I'd go with something black forest cake that the bitterness would play well with this sweet beer!

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Photo of JohnGalt1
4.47/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Big thanks to Jake65 for helping out the RIS tasting a couple of weeks back.. Thanks Jake!!!

'09 bottle...

Thick on the pour.. dark dark brown head.. the brew is of course black... swirls give nice dark legs... great retention

Nose has tidal waves of dark malts ... fairly abundant hops that mesh well with dark chocolate and French Roast.. Honestly, no complaints.

The bitterness from the hops is apparent and combines with some drying dark malts and moves into nice RIS characteristics.. fudgey brownies.. grassy and mild citrus hops are pretty much there throughout the flavor.. coffee remnants that have a bit of dark malt bite... dry finish has some citrus hops and drying cocoa and bits of coffee....

Body is pretty dialed in.. carbonation seems maybe a bit high.. but it may be too warm at this point..

Reminds me alot of the 110K.. but the hops seemed more aromatic and somehow balanced.... pretty damn good beer.

Thanks again Jake!!

I wish I had taken better notes.... This is the 2nd bottle of the '09 I've had.. the '08 seemed a bit muddy the couple of times I tried it before, but it also seemed like it needed some time to find the stride.


 1,176 characters

Photo of Theortiz01
4.47/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Photo of T_Hass
4.47/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Photo of ahalloin
4.47/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Found this on tap at Cafe Twenty-Eight. Outstanding find this holiday season.

Poured into a Darkness chalice. Almost pitch black with a very little bit of light getting in on the corners. The head was a tan color and clung to the glass as the beer disappeared.

Aroma is of dark molasses with a slight coffee roastiness.

Flavor is a molasses sweet nose breaking through to a coffee roastiness and slight hop bitterness. Notes of chocolate, figs, with slight hints of fermented fruits like raisins and plums.

Overall an incredible version of the style of RIS!

 561 characters

Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
4.42 out of 5 based on 3,826 ratings.
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