Darkness | Surly Brewing Company

BA SCORE
98
world-class
869 Reviews
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:
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/

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
Reviews:
869
Ratings:
3,736
Avg:
4.42
pDev:
9.28%
 
 
Wants:
3,307
Gots:
1,478
For Trade:
128
View: Beers | Events
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Reviews: 869 | Ratings: 3,736
Photo of AylwinForbes
4.72/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Unlike the similarly cultish Dark Lord, the Darkness is at least obtainable. Surprisingly, we have been supping it locally for a few weeks now; I was worried it would have disappeared the first tapping night.

Anyway, to the beverage. Exceptionally dark, black as night, tho tempered by a tinge of burnt umber. The head is relatively thin with slight foaminess and is dark brown.

The aroma is arresting; a warm, complex but balanced combination of hop, espresso roast, dark chocolate, malt.

The smoothness is shocking: no hard edges or strong statements, but a gorgeous, luxurious, rich but subtle concoction. Not overly sweet like perhaps the Goose Island Bourbon Stout inclines to. The espresso bite reigns it in there. You don't want to pour this over ice cream; you want to savour and sip it.

This has a complex flavour profile that would put many much more expensive wines to shame, yet we are drinking for a fraction of the cost.

 940 characters

Photo of DCon
4.72/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Enjoyed on-tap w/ xsists @ the Surly Brewing Company's Darkness Day 2011 in Brooklyn Center, MN for $5. Tapped from the Black Handle into my new 12oz Surly Darkness Tulip Glass! Here's the brew we are here for!

Aroma- Tons of espresso, malt, and booze hit the nose. Strong and appropriate! Very complexed though... Alot of the aromas I couldn't pick out. No cherries like the Bourbon, Oaked version.

Appearance- Received with a .5 finger head that was dark brown. Died very quickly. Has a deep opaque and jet black color body. Light lacing is left on the sides of the glass with dark brown suds.

Flavor- Sweet taste! Roasty and has a ton flavor as well. The hop flavor is higher in this one and can tell the grains and malts make a light chocolate taste come around at the finish. Not much booze but still evident.

Mouthfeel- Full Bodied, Light Carbonation, Nice texture (from how viscous it is), and leaves sweetness and light booze. A bit lighter than the other version but perfect!

Overall Impression- As it did warm up a bit for me, I should have waited longer for my first tasting of this... The Bourbon Oaked Darkness kicked this ones ass! Too bad it was only on-cask the day of the event. The darkness with still awesome and had a great amount of richness and booze to it, but not as powerful as their bourbon, oaked cask. I'm excited to see what this bottle does in a year or so!!

 1,397 characters

Photo of zeledonia
4.72/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

A beer I've had many times, but never done a full review. 2012 vintage. Tasted 3 August 2014.

Pours black and dense, with a big, thick, coffee-colored head. Looks like old engine oil.

Smell is a little bit hoppy, heavy on the fruits and chocolate. Cherries and plums and raisins and chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. Like a box of designer chocolates.

My favorite non-barrel-aged stouts have incredibly rich and varied flavor. This has exactly that. Sweet, but balanced by hops that tend to fade with age, making this 2-year-old bottle a lot more malt-forward. Chocolate, cherries. Rich. Raisins, plums, figs. All these different deep fruity flavors. Fantastic.

Feel is so thick and chewy, but with carbonation that's almost foamy.

A fantastic imperial stout. Really sweet and rich, but balanced enough for me. And all the elements work together so so well.

 861 characters

Photo of trbergman
4.72/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Served on tap at Prairie Moon in Evanston. 10oz pour.

A - Pitch black with a quarter inch of brown head that quickly fades, leaving nice lacing on the way down.

S - Chocolate, coffee, licorice, citrusy hops.

T - Sweet, roasted, and bitter all at once. Plenty of chocolate, caramel, and vanilla, with notes of hazelnut. There are also flavors of roasted grain, smoke, and coffee. Hops sneak through the rich malt structure with flavors of orange zest and grapefruit, as well as aggressive bitterness.

M - Viscous and rich; creamy, full body.

D - Potent, but delicious. A good contemplative sipper.

 601 characters

Photo of BuckeyeOne
4.73/5  rDev +7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a Darkness snifter at Cafe 28 in Mpls. Beautiful 1 inch head of bubbly tan that left only a bit of lacing down the glass.

The aroma is milk chocolate, espresso, vanilla, and only a bit of tart cheeries.

The taste is a perfect reflection of the aroma. Despite the 10% ABV, this is not hot in the least.

This is oily and smooth with medium carbonation. Despite the smoothness, it's a little dry on the finish, which I think is a good thing. It doesn't linger too long, which entices you for another sip.

This is the perfect dessert drink. Was the perfect accompaniment to the molten chocolate cake I had at Cafe 28.

 629 characters

Photo of supercolter
4.73/5  rDev +7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Oh baby, finally you and I meet. Had this on tap at a Surly get together at Stub and Herbs in Minneapolis.
Appearance is well, I don't think it can get much better. Blacker than coffee, nice head and a bit of lacing. Smell and Taste are pretty similar. Lots of dark fruit, fig is most prominent, but side notes of cherries, raisins and plums. Taste is a bit more pronounced and a bit of the hops come through on the back end. Mouthfeel is thick and creamy- like drinking a cappucino. Drinkability is really good for the style.

 527 characters

Photo of Hesscabob
4.73/5  rDev +7%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Vaguely remember drinking this at Dark Lord Day 2014. While waiting in line to purchase my allottment of DL, a kind DLD go'er shared some Darkness. From what I remember, strong roasted, chocolate malts power through the nose and the taste had more body than most RIS' I've had prior. Delicious and I will try to seek out again for better review.

 345 characters

Photo of MeLikeBeer
4.73/5  rDev +7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Darkness on tap at the Blue Nile...

Darkness is a fitting name for this incredible RIS. Deep black in color, as if it were a black hole, light goes in but does escape.
The cocoa brown foam settles quietly and thickly at the top of the glass. The head does not recede through the duration of my tasting...instead it sticks along the top of the beer and sides of the glass....amazing.

Smells sticky-sweet...stinging aromas of cocoa and coffee. Cherry and molasses round out the mix. Throw in some hops and you're in scent heaven...I could also smell this stuff all day.

The first sip is still the best...tremendous malt flavor. Giant hop blast. Roasted chocolate. Very thick mouthfeel, but not overpowering. The fruity cherry flavor and sweet rum/molasses is complimented by the warming alcohol.

I could probably drink a few of these- but I'd need to be careful- that 9.5% could sneak up quickly.

Delicious! An Imperial Stout at it's finest and yet another fantastic offering from Surly.

 1,003 characters

Photo of ATLbeerDog
4.73/5  rDev +7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2008 Three months old - Pours a beautiful pitch black that is completely opaque. A heavy two inch dark tan/caramel head proudly crowns this masterpiece. The large head very slowly and reluctantly recedes. Smells of chocolate, coffee, licorice, alcohol and hops complete the nose. Tastes of dark chocolate, coffee grinds, raisins, tobacco and "licorice...yeah black licorice" add to the amazing complexity. One of many amazing aspects of this beer is the mouthfeel which I can only describe as complete milkshake. An intense hop presence separates this puppy from the other top RIS's in the world. It does not get any better than this. Big, bold, beautiful...if this beer doesn't make your pecker hard, you are likely gay and need to go back to wine.

 749 characters

Photo of dptaylor
4.73/5  rDev +7%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Oh man, what a delight to try such a rare RIS.

My good friend works at a liquor store in the Twin Cities, so naturally he had a 2012 "Werewolf" bottle aging in the basement for the entire winter. We spontaneously decided to crack it open after what had already been a long night of drinking beforehand, so I apologize if anything seems biased and I obviously didn't take any notes. I drank the beer. I loved the beer. The wax around the cap that looks like blood was pretty cool, but a bit of a pain to cut through. Onwards!

Poured into a 12oz mug at basement room temperature (~65-70F)

A: Flawless black opaque with below average amounts of lacing. This is not an especially carbonated beer. I definitely enjoyed it's appearance though, you will not be able to shine light through this one, and the head has that awesome darkened "chocolate" appearance which you see on other heavy stouts and especially cream sugar stouts like Tallgrass Buffalo Sweat, etc.

S: Dark, earthy, chocolate, mocha, toffee, lots of toffee at the end too. Not much hop aroma that I remember (note: remember)

T: The complete, utter lack of alcohol taste is the most notable thing about this beer. It is 10.30ABV and yet it DOES NOT taste or burn like booze whatsoever. Deep, chocolately coffee notes and a sickly sweet fruitiness (prunes? raisin? some kind of dark fruit) intermingle with caramel, vanilla, they packed almost every usable stout every flavor into this RIS and with success. My ONLY gripe, is that it is a little too sweet for me. I would prefer the creaminess to be upped a little bit and the sweetness toned down, as it's slightly too "fruity" and sweet. The beer IS hopped, despite what I'm about to say, but to me the finish has a tiny itty bitty microscopic bitter note at the beginning and end, but I'd say it's safe to say it's almost pretty much hop-free to my worn out taste buds.

M: It's a tiny bit thinner than you'd think it is, and not very carbonated. But the MASSIVE body makes up for it completely. The aftertaste is addictive, you will want another sip!

In short, the best RIS I've ever tried. Tastes better than most stouts at half the ABV I've tried!

 2,168 characters

Photo of Domvan
4.73/5  rDev +7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

Poured a dark thick syrup and had a medium head
Smelled of sweet chocolate and molasses
The sweetness was overpowering of the bitterness by most RIS'
A medium bodied mouthfeel
Darkness 13

Darkness 14 - Had a very similar experience, but the barrel enhanced everything that much more, the minor whiskey addition was perfect.

 324 characters

Photo of iceboi15
4.73/5  rDev +7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

*MY FIRST REVIEW*
I was lucky enough to have one on draft @ FFF 15 anniversay party as well as to score one at Map Room in Chicago.

I am new to the Imperial Russian Stout Game, but I know what I like. Big coffee notes up front, kinda like a double brewed slightly sweetend cup of joe. Then that mocha sneaks up on you. These flavors do a great job of hinding the alcohol, especially when you let it warm up to room temp. I love looking at the rim this beer leaves behind in the glass, it reminds you of what was once there.

It's such a complex beer, but any fan of the the Russian Imperial can truely appreciate the craft that went into Darkness.

 649 characters

Photo of Scott17Taylor
4.74/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Pours black with small head that dissipates quickly.
I get aromas of dark chocolate, roast, fig, and piney hops.
Delicious, dark fruit, chocolate, and a pleasant hop bitterness. The dark fruit dominates with the chocolate comin throw mid palate. The hops play really nice. Just an incredible beer.
The mouthfeel is fairly thick with a nice warming as it goes down.
Overall, this is an outstanding stout. Put it on your list, it's absolutely worth trading for.

 460 characters

Photo of doubleshovels
4.74/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Deep darkness in a tulip glass lulls one into a haze from one whiff of its very distinct dope aroma. I cracked a smile and started laughing as soon as it got close to my nose, surely love at first scent. Darkness also has a deep rainbow of flavors to back up its out of the ordering aroma and a mouthfeel that’s open to one more before we go.

 343 characters

Photo of bsp77
4.75/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Serving glass: Poured from magnificent 750ml bottle into Snifter.

Appearance: Exceedingly dark brown that might as well be black with a thick mocha head that mostly recedes, but only after several minutes.

Smell: Very fruity aroma for a RIS, with a strong citrus hop bitterness. Some floral notes (roses?) are apparent as well as something akin to raw meat. The roasted aroma is quite low, with just a slight touch of chocolate.

Taste: Same as the aroma, it is very fruity, both due to the malts (plum, figs) and the hops (citrus). The citrus is especially off-putting, but in a good "wow I didn't realize that could work" way. Also notice some rich molasses, licorice and chocolate, with a nice mild bitterness at the end.

Feel: Low carbonation, full chewy body that is exceptionally smooth.

Drinkability: I really can't tell this is over 10% at all. Despite how thick it is, it is very easy to drink. Overall, not a typical RIS at all considering the lower roasted character and the citrus hops, but quite exceptional.

 1,025 characters

Photo of pat61
4.75/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

This is the Zombie version bottled 10-22-11 and retrieved from the cellar 6-27-14. Review from notes. L: Pours pitch black under a 1” tan foam cap that slowly dissipates to a thick film. S: Chocolate, sherry, prune. T: Rich caramel, hints of sherry and prune, chocolate, espresso. F: Very creamy with medium carbonation and a full body. O: An excellent desert beer that improves and develops with age.

 403 characters

Photo of THANAT0PSIS
4.75/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Surly Darkness 2012

Appearance: Surly’s most exclusive beer pours a midnight black. No light gets through this beer at all. The head is a massive three fingers, and is a great-looking khaki color. As it descends, the head leaves swaths of lacing intricate lacing. Alcohol legs are present, but that is to be expected at 10.3% ABV. Really, it just looks like an especially dark Russian imperial stout, but the crazy lacing and head really push it over the top.

Aroma: Huge, roasty coffee aromas flow out of the glass from across the room. They are followed quickly by dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and a fantastic creaminess. Amidst all the organized chaos, a molasses sweetness runs under the entire aroma. The alcohol just barely comes in at the tail end. This beer smells crazy good and enormous.

Taste: Follows the nose, except with huge chocolate notes taking the forefront completely. The roasty coffee comes in as an aftertaste, but cannot quite fight off the dominating milk, dark, and baker’s chocolates, and the burnt sugar sweetness that comes with it. Thankfully, hops come in at the very end and do their best to balance the taste. They cannot quite do it, but the effort is very much appreciated. The alcohol makes its presence known along with some dark fruits at the tail end of the taste. A little more balance would be great, but as it is, this beer is off-the-charts amazing.

Mouthfeel: This beer is silky smooth on the palate, and has a great, minimalist syrupy character that makes it a joy to drink. Unfortunately, the carbonation is extremely minimal. It would really benefit the beer to be a tad fizzier, which would help separate out all the complexity going on here. The alcohol also provides a very calculated warmth that remains exactly in the realm of pleasantness. The carbonation, though…

Overall: This beer was everything I could have hoped it would be. After the first two categories, I thought this might be my first perfect 20/20. Unfortunately, it was not to be due to the slightly imbalanced taste and the almost complete absence of carbonation. Still, this is worth the hype. I cannot wait to try the bottle I currently have aging in the cellar. Things can only go up from here, as I assume it will level out the sweetness. 19/20

 2,279 characters

Photo of Immortale25
4.75/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2013 vintage was big, bold and roasty in the front, but somehow smooth and restrained in the finish. Still some substantial hop bitterness after two years of aging. Mouthfeel was slightly creamy but not particularly silky. Very robust body though. Excellent overall and saw little room for improvement.

 306 characters

Photo of mbudner
4.75/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2009 release, big thanks to rpohagan for this one. Poured into a delerium tulip/snifter.

A- Pours a deep black, dare I say Darkness. Deep tan to mocha 1-finger head leaving spotty lacing.

S-Very sweet smelling. Molasses and chocolate. Very different from the 2008 I sampled fresh last year, which was quite hoppy.

T-Mmmm mmm mmm. This is a fine one. Very sweet with subtle soy sauce notes (it's pretty young at this point, but I'm still getting some.) Some bitter roasted malts and definitely a fair amount of sweet molasses-like flavor. The sweetness gives way to a decent hop profile for a stout of this magnitude.

MF- Nice and creamy with subtle carbonation and very full-bodied. Really well done on the mouthfeel. The sweetness doesn't leave a cloying flavor/feeling.

D- Like I said with the mouthfeel, nice and sweet, but doesn't become cloying at all. Alcohol is completely masked and I could have probably finished the bomber no problem (but I split it with a friend because you can't just crush Darkness alone.)

 1,024 characters

Photo of twbrewer
4.75/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Served in a Surly Darkness goblet!

A-Poured the blackest beer I have ever seen,no light could shine thru this.1" of caramel colored head reduces to thick ring around edge of goblet.

S-First smell is soft hops,then a earthy plum and raisin smell with a chocolate and fruit background.

T-Similar to the smell,plum\raisin and a soft fruit\chocolate taste with no bitterness or hint of hops.

M-Velvety smooth over the palate with a nice touch of carbonation.

D-I've heard so much about this beer that I started to believe that it was to good to be true.I was wrong.This is a great beer that given the opportunity to try this you can not pass this up.This is a very drinkable beer but becareful at 9.5% it can sneak up on you.

 726 characters

Photo of cbutova
4.75/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Reviewed from notes from an epic tasting with BCBCS. Thanks to Chico1985 and whoever traded it to him. Certainly one of the coolest (painted!) bottles ever.

A- If this beer was not pitch black I think another name would be appropriate. A light tan/beige head builds up and retains fairly well. It leaves thick lacing made up of fine bubbles. A nice ring and random cloud float on the beer.

Before smell and taste, it is worth mentioning that this was one of the most complex beers I have ever had.

S- Extremely roast malt up front. A cherry/dark fruit scent blends into the nose nicely. Molasses comes in pretty strong. I also get hints of pine, cocoa, dark fruits, earthy hops, caramel and even some citrus. A tiny bit of alcohol as well. The aroma itself has nice strength. There was also something I couldnt quite identify but it reminded me of my homebrew, maybe overly roasty?

T- A great balance of a ton of flavors. Very roasty malt with dark chocolate up front with molasses. Cherries and dark fruit make the main flavor of this one like a chocolate covered cherry. A tiny hint of alcohol hits the tongue but doesn't even come close to affecting the great flavor. A lot of earthy, grassy and pine hops round out the stout flavors. Sweets come into play but it doesn't bother me. The caramel malt shines its head later on and makes this one taste a lot like a Barelywine RIS. Very complex and balanced well. It never got old after an hour of sipping on it.

MF- Very creamy but not hugely thick, reminds me of KtG in a way. A very nice amount of warmth on the palate for a big RIS. Low carbonation but that is desired in this style. Roast caramel coats the palate. Needs more straight up thickness but the creaminess saves from being way off.

DB- Obviously rare and probably decently expensive. For how many flavors and the great time I had drinking this I would say it's worth it. Very complex Barleywine-like RIS with a great balance of a many different flavors.

 1,975 characters

Photo of garymuchow
4.75/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2009 version.
This was sublime.
Aroma was complex and enjoyable. Rich dark malts with sweetness, roast and a nice layer of hops.
Poured like syrup. Pitch black. Very dark head of black and brown.
Flavor was remarkable. Deep dark fruits. A subdued hop presence but still noticeable.
Incredibly smooth and rich without excess. Like velvet on the tongue. Just enough carbonation to contribute without being noticeable.
This was one helluva' beer. Savored well.

 457 characters

Photo of RobertDwight
4.75/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Had this on tap at the Blue Nile...I had it after a furious and some food so my palate was really saturated with flavors already. This brew is almost pitch black and has a really thick brownish head. This beer has so many complex smells and tastes that it is almost like an enigma. Espresso, coco-chocolate, dark fruits, balanced by a nice hoppiness. This has to be one of the best tasting beers I've ever had! This beer has the THICKEST and creamiest mouthfeel I have ever encountered in a beer, I'm serious. Its so thick that its almost like chocolate pudding. This is definitely not a session beer, but is best savored after a good meal. I really wish this wasn't a seasonal beer and was brewed all year round. Surly PLEASE give us more.

 740 characters

Photo of mnredsoxfan69
4.75/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

10 oz. tap pour at the brewery. Magnificent! One of the truly great beers in the world. This is what others want their RIS to be. Black as night with a thin, tan head. Aromas of coffee, cocoa, roasted malts and molasses with more of the same in each sip. Viscous mouth feel, low carbonation and warming alcohol on the palate. Very malty, sweet but not cloying. Legendary.

 371 characters

Photo of korguy123
4.75/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2010 into tulip. Special thanks to biglobo8971 for this bad boy.

A- Thick, syrupy totally opaque pour. Three finger dense foamy milk chocolate colored head. Very slowly recedes to finger width cap. Lacing is remarkable.

S- Roasted coffee, figs, bakers chocolate, molasses, brown sugar and subtle vanilla.

T- Milk chocolate, bitter roasted coffee, vanilla and molasses. Slight woody notes. Very smooth, very balanced.

M- This is a meal... And the light carbonation make it feel even heavier. It's silky, smooth and creamy. Probably the best feeling stout I've had yet.

O- This is supposed to be up there in stouts and does not disappoint. The tastes meld together in perfect harmony, it feels remarkable and the alcohol is invisible. The people that can attend darkness day are lucky sob's!

Thanks for this experience!

 824 characters

Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
4.42 out of 5 based on 3,736 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • BeerAdvocate Microbrew Invitational

    Join us June 2-3, 2017 in Boston, Mass. for beer, cider, mead, kombucha and sake from over 70 small producers.

    Learn More
  • Subscribe to BeerAdvocate Magazine

    No fake news here. Get real beer content delivered to your doorstep every month.

    Subscribe