Darkness | Surly Brewing Company

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3,938 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
2017 - Witch

Added by ryantupy on 10-08-2006

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Ratings: 3,938 |  Reviews: 896
Photo of angelmonster
4.2/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Reviewing the 2010 vintage

Pours a nice 1 finger milk chocolate head, body is pitch black. Head retention was good and lacing was very good.

Smell is of rich chocolate cake batter, roasted coffee, charred oak, and slight alcohol. As soon as I opened bottle, aromas went directly in my nose. There is also some oxidation, prunes, but no hops.

Taste is charred oak, burnt chocolate malt, slightly bitter coffee, and chalky bakers chocolate. There is slight soy sauce/oxidation and prunes but chocolaty sweetness helps hide it. Hops really arent detected here. Alcohol is slightly present but for 10 percent, its very smooth

Mouthfeel is nice and rich, almost chewy. Carbonation is on the higher side but it helps to keep the body from becoming too syrupy. Small head of foam adds some nice texture to the beer.

Overall this beer was pretty good. Been waiting acouple years to try this beer and glad I finally got my hands on it. As a big vampire fan was really stoked to get this vintage but at around 18 bucks a bottle, dont know if I'd trade for it again. Tasty stout though, glad I received it in a BIF

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Photo of Mikestaf
4.2/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Photo of tpd975
4.2/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2007 version

This is one I had been chasing for quite sometime. A big thanks goes out to rate beerian ibrew2or3 for sharing this one.

A: First and foremost its one bad ass looking bottle. Pours a deep dark black hue with a nice bubbly one finger head on my pour. There were spots of lacing noted.

S: Nice hoppy aromas right from the start. There were hints of roasted malts and chocolate along with bitter coffee. It had a somewhat green aroma beneath the roast. The ABV makes itself known in the nose as well.

T: This is a hoppy ass stout. Tons of bitter hops noted as soon as it hit my tongue. Beautifully roasted chocolaty malt does come thru as does a hint of vanilla, a nice dose of smoke, and a touch of dark fruit. A slight alcohol burn lingers after each gulp. That being said it don't ever really come together though.

M: Full in body, rich and somewhat syrupy.

D: The beer is sort of sharp on the tongue. I could of had more than my 1/6 of the bottle but this is one to be shared.

Overall: It's a good beer but overall I was a bit let down. I thank ibrew for the chance to try. Would love to get a bottle of my own to age for a bit.

2008 vintage is a syrupy mess. Don't bother.

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Photo of woosterbill
4.2/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

08 vintage into a Weyerbacher tulip.

A: Black body with a thin, but present, brown head. Nice enough for me.

S: Hugely oaky, very sweet, and boozy. Good, but not quite as transcendent as I might have hoped.

T: Sweet, boozy, and very, very tasty. Maybe a bit of hop bitterness, but the emphasis here is on the chocolatey malts and fruity alcohol. Again, it's very, very good, but not great.

M: Full bodied with lots of alcohol burn. I wouldn't want it to be any other way.

D: Somehow, I can't get enough of drinking this beer - even though it doesn't live up to my hopes.

Notes: What a beer to act as the capstone to a truly epic
afternoon/evening/night of beer wonderment. While I stand by my assessment of it, I will definitely rereview whenever I get a crack at a bottle that I can take my time with (and can be more sober for). Huge thanks to the Matt for pulling ths crazy beer out of nowhere. Awesome.


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Photo of TWStandley
4.21/5  rDev -6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Photo of BZero007
4.21/5  rDev -6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle from the 2010 release with the Vampire on the label.

Glad I jumped the gun on this brew as it is not what you would expect for a popular limited release RIS. This brew poured a extremly black color with the formation of a dark brown colored head. The head stuck around and graced the glass with lace, which I love. The aroma was not extremly powerfull but carried notes of a sweet malt and dark fruits. The taste was extremely interesting as I said above it is not what you would think. Most limited RIS have a extremely thick body with overly powerfull roast flavor, this brew did not. The brew carried a medium style body with a bit more carbonation then is usual with this style. Flavors jumped off the brew as balanced roast/sweet malt/Darkfruits. I was taken back as I was prepared to have my taste buds thrown back by the usual unbalanced nature of RIS. This brew was elegant and is incredibly deserving of its popularity. Will be looking for more bottles of next years release.

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Photo of ptrck_nl
4.21/5  rDev -6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Photo of ThreeThousand
4.21/5  rDev -6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Photo of jdklks
4.21/5  rDev -6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Thanks to Steve (fbm115) for the opportunity to try this. I've been waiting to mark it off my list. It doesn't disappoint.

This is a good looking brew: dark with amber edges, and a light fluffy brown head that graces the surface as softly as silk. The smell is, well, different; different, that is, in terms of imperial stouts. The big standout here is HOPS! Hops in a major way. They mix interestingly (not badly, but not necessarily well either) with your typical RIS characteristics: dark, roasted malts, with a dark fruit sweetness (cherries), chocolate, and alcohol. The hops add a citrusy "flair" that is, as before, interesting.

The taste is as interesting as the smell, but better. It takes a little getting used to, but all the complexity of a good RIS is here. It's sweet and majorly chocolatey, with a just a little roastiness. There are hints of caramel, brown sugar, and molasses. overall, very sweet. To throw excessive amounts of hops in the beer almost seems stupid at this point, but it somehow pulls it off. there is a citrus hop flavor up front that is immediately subdued by the more traditional stout flavors mentioned above. The hops do remain present throughout, though, and are most notable in the oily mouthfeel and the bordering-on-hop-bitterness finish and aftertaste. I taste DIPA, and I taste RIS. This is a beer experiencing an identity crisis, something that perhaps a little maturation could help. overall, its very intriguing and very interesting; on top of that, its actually pretty damn good.

The mouthfeel is silky smooth and extraordinarily well-carbonated. nice and thick as well.

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Photo of jolly_lynch
4.21/5  rDev -6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Photo of HuskyinPDX
4.21/5  rDev -6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2011 Zombie bottle.

A - Pours a very dark brown with a one finger light brown head. Great retention.

S - Milk chocolate, slight oak, slight bourbon and vanilla as well.

T - Vanilla milk chocolate, with a slight bourbon and oak finish.

D - Sweet and Oily. Average body and carbonation.

O - Very good. Smooth and delicious.

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Photo of HOMEPL8
4.21/5  rDev -6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Photo of KobraKai
4.21/5  rDev -6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of Pecorasc
4.21/5  rDev -6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Vintage 2008, split two ways with Boothbeer into wine glasses. 750mL red waxed bottle with a great looking demonic character holding a skull. Not the typical Surly artwork, but impressive.

A- Pitch black at center with ruby to brown highlights when held to light. Latte colored head with large bubbles that reverse gravitate into a thick and creamy collar. Intricate lacing is formed as the heavy foam dissipates. No signs of carbonation are visible through this murky sludge.

S- Restrained licorice, dark fruits, a medley of boxed chocolates, and heat from the alcohol. Underneath these different aromas is a persistent sugary sweetness. While complex, this is lacking in intensity; I expected more.

T- Up front- intense sweetness accompanied by various dark fruits: prunes, dates, plums, and figs. There is a gradual progression that leads to a combination of roasted barley and dark fruits. At the end there is a only the roasted aftertaste balanced by a sugary sweetness- a combination reminiscent of molasses. Leaves a good amount of sugary residue on the mouth and lips. Moderate alcohol burn. Intense... more than made up for my disappointment with the aroma.

M- Very viscous and milky with little carbonation. The consistency reminds me of a warm glass of Ovaltine. If there was one aspect of this beer that I would equate with the name "Darkness", it would be the mouthfeel.

D- This is a sipper, but not because of the alcohol. The sweetness and viscosity make this one to be consumed in limited quantities.

Notes: Drank this side-by-side with the '09, but did not review that vintage. The intensity of the dark fruits and sugary sweetness in the '08 separated that year from the '09. Additionally, the '09 had a hop bitterness than was not present in the '08.

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Photo of Eiwatts9
4.21/5  rDev -6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Photo of Jmoore50
4.21/5  rDev -6%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Sparklepants for this awesome brew.

The appearance of this one is superb. Super high SRM, like pushing the limits on this one, dark as night. The head is caramel colored and sticks around for some fun. Great small bubbles, head foam is dense. The legs on this one are beautiful, alcohol residue as well as heavy lacing. Great look on an epic brew.

The smell is hoppy, interesting. Molasses and licorice, with HUGE roasted grains. Some ABV is present, also some burnt coffee smells as well. What is going on with the hop character in the smell? I am not liking it, gives off a citrus-grapefruit characteristic that kind of clashes with these darker fruit smells. Toffee and caramel, sweet dark candy is very present as well.

The taste is good, but not blended very well. There are very strong characteristics of roasted and black malts. There are also roasted coffee flavors as well, but not coming from actual coffee, most likely coming off of the malt. This coffee malt gives it an earthy flavor as well. Black licorice and a lot of the ABV are noticed. The ABV is nice because it brings out the roasted malts more and also some chocolate. Why are hops coming through so strong?!? Citrus bitterness is such a strong characteristic in this one that it stands out from everything else. I went to the Surly website and they say that they 'add a touch of hops to make it tastier'. NO! It makes it a totally confused RIS. Chocolate is strong in the brew as well as caramel and toffee. I cannot believe the hops in this, really misunderstanding the direction the brewers wanted to go with this one. Starts on such a good direction and the hops throw a wrench in the clogs. Weird.

The mouthfeel is great and creamy. Lots of hot ABV flavors help you out as well as the roasted malts. Perfect carbonation, really great.

The drinkability is really good for a few bumps in the road. This is still a really good beer but. . . overrated. Maybe it is just me and how I like my RIS', but this much hops in a RIS? Sure you add them for bitter aspects, but if they dry hopped this with a bunch of hops then they are very brave in doing so. I think that the hops bring the beer down and distract from the other great flavors in this beer.

Thanks again to Sparklepants for sending me this. Knocked out another 'big RIS' that I have always wanted to try.


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Photo of ZombiesAteMyDog
4.21/5  rDev -6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

REVIEW # 666 - Darkness 2011 (Zombie)

A - The body appears thinner than I expected; the glass is not "stained" as I move the zombie molasses around the glass. Opaque black with a small, warm tan head that lasts.

S - Hmmm... rum raisin, some slight char/smoke, bakers' chocolate, and coffee... All of the somewhat usual suspects, but it seems a bit fruitier for an RIS, which I like.

T - First off, this reminds me of Black Albert a lot due to the dark fruitiness I am picking up. The taste follows the noise quite well, but the char flavor lingers on the tounge for a bit longer. Not overly sweet, and the alcohol is well hidden, but then again, this is not even hitting 11%... I'm used to having 14-15% stouts lately, so this is a nice change of pace.

M - Not overly heavy or syrupy, which is quite pleasant. Too many sought after stouts get overly thick and syrupy. Don't get me wrong, I generally like that in my stouts, but in moderation.

O - A great stout, and I'm glad I was able to trade for it. Thank you to whoever traded this to me back in the last part of 2011.

***I had CBS on Canada Day '13, and now I've had Darkness as my 666th beer... I am a beer nerd.

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Photo of peacemakers48
4.21/5  rDev -6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Photo of Bosoxfan20
4.22/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Tasted in a mini-vert with 2010 and 2013 side by side. Review will be based on 2010 Vampire

A- Poured from a 750 ml bottle. Near black with a soft dark caramel head. Some light coming through. Decent legs

S- Aroma is quite intense. 2010 significantly stronger than 2013. Malty as hell, caramelized sugars, and generous amounts of dark cherries. A mix of other dark fruits and a hint of vinous notes.

T- Bold. Dark fruits again, maybe even some raspberries. Lots of sweetness of an RIS. Lots of malty goodness. Not getting the hop character the label speaks of, but very solid none the less.

M- Thick, chewy, and coating. Sweet without cloying. Alcohol present, but welcoming.

O- Terrific. The side by side proves age does this beer well. No signs of oxidation. Flavors only get taken up a notch.

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Photo of mbbransc
4.22/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Photo of Keffa
4.22/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Photo of kemoarps
4.22/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Based on a google search of the label artist, this must be a 2013 bottle. Thanks to Dominique for including this in his predraft box. The only good thing to be associated with that league this whole year as far as I'm concerned...
Pours that beautiful obilisk-black that gets us all a titter in a good big stout. Finger or so of brown head settles relatively early into a thin film with disparate colonies of soapy bubbles. Surprisingly little lacing.

The nose fluctuates depending on how far from the glass I am. Sitting a ways back I get an undeniable hit of fresh hand made bread dough as it's rising. Yeasty dark grains. In passing past the glass there can be hints of dark fruit with sweet plums and prunes and boozy black cherries. But stick your nose intentionally into the abyss and you get blackstrap molasses and sin.

Initially sweeter than I would have expected. And not a bittersweet, no, this is more fructose and juice. The finish carries this through to its logical conclusion of candy sweet peaks. Far from one note, though layers of chocolate and cold pressed coffee give way to the aforementioned sweet peaks balanced by the coffee's bitter close.

Initially, the alcohol overwhelms a bit, but as the glass warms it mellows in to a nice complementary role. Fine carbonation steps aside and lets the smoothe if a bit... thin. Not thin thin, but medium where I was looking for thick and chewy as toffee... anyway, sweet and smoothe and incredible. This is my assessment. Too bad so sad this is the only bottle I've got.
Thank you @domvan for sending it along!!

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Photo of SmangTown
4.22/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Photo of A_Rad
4.22/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Photo of DanGeo
4.23/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
Beer rating: 4.48 out of 5 with 3,938 ratings