Darkness | Surly Brewing Company

875 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
2014 - Harpy
2015 - Bat
2016 - Cerberus

Added by ryantupy on 10-08-2006

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Reviews: 875 | Ratings: 3,787
Photo of WesMantooth
4.51/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

2015 "bat" edition 750ml bottle poured into a snifter

Fairly viscous looking black with a moderate dark brown head that retains a solid ring for quite awhile.

Outstanding aroma! It smells like rye, whisky, chocolate, dark fruit, tobacco, leather, and charred grains.

Spicy rye flavor and a bit of alcohol up front, followed by a bitter bakers chocolate, some sour cherry, raisin, oak, tobacco, ashy/burnt grains, some brown sugar, and a stong lingering rye bread and piney bitterness.

It has a very solid, almost oatmeal like, chewy body. Among the more viscous barreled beers I have had for sure. Reminds me of a Parabola.

My biggest knock is that this beer is a little too bitter. Not in the monent necessarily, but a very resinous, lingering hop flavor. Ofher than that, it is world class, and the best rye stout I have had.

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Photo of cokes
4.82/5  rDev +9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Absolutely jet black under a promontory rise of dark sandstone froth.
Wet rye bread, dark rum, molasses, canned fruit cocktail, and chocolate brownie batter aroma.
Densely dark chocolately as it initially assaults the tongue. Scrapings of char and espresso. Quells some with a broader glazed donut notion fills the mouth. Spiciness hits and it's like biting into a rye loaf, and equally as mouth filling. Fruitiness washes in with burnt peaches, grilled pineapples, bruised pears, blackberries, and blueberries. Backing notes of molasses and, vanilla give it a Caribbean dark rum aura, complete with vapors of heat. Rides out with touches of burnt fruit alcohol sourness and chocolate chip cookie dough batter.
It's thick as fuck. Crazy big. But somehow still never over sweet, over big, or over boozy.
I just needed to join the choir here. So many Whales don't deliver in full. I was glad to finally track down a bottle (and then was less pleased to drop $20 for it).
But I'd do again, and again, and again.

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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.

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Photo of Chizzlethespeez
4.95/5  rDev +12%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

My buddy scored this in a beer trade. Poured into three mini snifters.
Creates a small pale Caramel colored head that recedes quickly but leaves some lacing. Smell is dried cherries. Hint of chocolate. The taste is hard to pick apart at first. But once it warms up, You get the cherry, chocolate and raisin. The feel is unlike any other beer

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Photo of fireazzi
4.71/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Had the 2016 version of this. Wasn't really familiar with this one when I had it but definitely want more. Dark color look, followed by a nice boozy chocolate taste. The mouth feel was really smooth for a high ABV beer. Great smell and chocolate notes on this one.

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Photo of racerdave
4.89/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

First time with this one. Blown away. Pours thick. Surprising amount of carbonation with a medium tan head. (it could've just been a bad pour on my part) Mouthfeel was substantial and slick, although not crazy slick. Dark fruits, bit of coffee, some cherry... a lot going on. And it morphed often as it warmed.mThere was something new every few minutes. Super complex. Loved it. I'm normally a BA guy, but this beer is proof that BA can be overrated. This beer is brilliant as is.

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Photo of Tycoon5000
4.85/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Super dark appearance (as its name would suggest). Very smooth. A little hot to start but the longer you age it, the smoother it gets. Absolutely worth the wait and the hunt every year.

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Photo of daledeee
4.92/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

First time this beer came to Iowa in bombers(or at all). I got this by accident since there is a frenzy for this.

Poured into my normal glass and got a great light tan head and nose that shows it's colors. Chocolate, booze, malt. The color is very dark brown and "clear".

Taste is true to form. Lots of flavor with dark chocolate, some oakiness, hints of cherries and not overly bitter. I found this to be a very balanced stout. Not quite as thick and high gravity as others but i don't care because the taste is what really counts.

The mouth feel is perfect. Just enough carbonation and plenty of lingering taste. I suggest drinking this at about 50F, This is a top shelf stout. No wonder about 2000 people stand in line at the brewery for this. I walked right up to the register and forked over the cash. Then my kids bought me 2 more so I ended up with three bottles to relish. One of the best.

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Photo of Detlef90
5/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

As a pure Russian Imperial with no added ingredients I can't possibly imagine this example of the style getting better. Tastes better fresh than a three year old Expedition or Stone Russian Imperial (and both of those are mighty fine beers!) The mouth, the smell and the taste on this beer all are just magic. I highly recommend this for those that love pure Russian Imperials. There is none better than this one. Rating is based on the style.

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Photo of WadeBridgman
4.31/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Great velvety mouthfeel to this beer, a lot of people commenting on the "chocolate milk" aspect to the flavor and I would agree. I also think this beer requires a certain amount of aging to be fully enjoyed but overall very impressive, very enjoyable

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Photo of Peepskp
4.57/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

I had this beer along with two central waters reserve beers. This beer was very exceptional and I would be happy to drink again. I think the price would be more appropriate around 15, not 20.

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Photo of The-Adjunct-Hippie
4.18/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Inky black. 2 fingers of head.

Aromas of fresh peaches. Chocolate shell. Oatmeal. Lactose

Taste is more of the same. Dark chocolate covered peaches.

Feel is numbing. Thick. Raw.

Overall, this will kick your ass. It destroyed mine.

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Photo of Benish
4.12/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2016 release.

Appearance: poured a pitched black color with a beautiful rich brown head.

Aroma: almost mainly rich malted milk chocolate.

Flavor: very sweet and chocolatey-like. Could almost compare it to drinking chocolate milk but with a more roast character. It was slightly hoppy at the finish, leaving a somewhat annoying bitter aftertaste. The flavors are one dimensional, really not much more I could taste.

Mouthfeel: very thick and creamy. Full-bodied and rich.

Overall: everything was above par but the flavors could be way better. Not something I would ever buy again for $20.

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Photo of CarlosSpicyWeiner
4.5/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

One of Minnesota's nicest russian imperial stouts. This one is really thick with a heavy feel to it. Lots of chocolate with some creaminess. Rich with molasses and dark fruits.

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Photo of gregy55902
4.52/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I always enjoy going to Darkness Eve at Stub & Herbs not for the darkness itself, but for all the other rare beers they would get (BCBCS, for example, and the unexpected free bottles of KBS last year). Nonetheless, I'm cracking this 2016 bottle to honor Todd Haug who recently stepped down as brewmaster at Surly.

A - Pours into my B&B XL snifter with a deep motor oil color and sexy tan head with oily-looking bubbles and lacing in the glass. Some of the foam glued itself to the side of the snifter, and it won't budge. Intimidating for sure!

S - A multitude of fudgey chocolates, anise, a hint of dark fruits (dates?), caramel sweetness and hops on the nose.

T - Follows the nose. Very good. It is a bit on the sweeter side and is definitely a dessert beer, but the nice fudge/anise combo makes for an excellent dessert. The earthy hops make an appearance here as well. I imagine that this stuff could be aged for years! Marshmallow candy aftertaste that can only be described as utter decadence.

M - Sweet but not cloying, thick but not sludge-like. Lower carb which is appropriate for the style. Alcohol is there but it is kept in check by the sweetness.

O - I think this batch is great. While I admit to passing over this beer for others simply because it is produced in my area, it is world class and would hold its own against any other RIS produced today. It is quite unique and definitely deserves the following it has achieved over the years. Thanks Todd (the axe man) and Omar for making it happen - let's see where the future takes this operation.

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Photo of Schimms
5/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

750 mL bottle - 2016 Cerberus

L: Beautiful dark with a slight reddish tint. Poured into a large snifter yielding about a 1 inch tan head that dissipates over a couple of minutes.

S: Strong, sweet raisin, juicy dates.

T: Everything promised by the smell enhanced! Raisin/date, coffee. Great taste left on the tongue. Complex sweet dates and roasted coffee blended perfectly. After it warms up - more prevalent nutty taste. After taste is pleasant. Alcohol is there, but hiding behind the curtain - careful with this one - it sneaked up on me quickly.

F: Chewy, smooth. Perfect carbonation.

O: Perfect Russian Imperial Stout. Up the same level with Bell's Expedition Stout and Old Rasputin. Amazing complexity. Can't wait to see how this cellars and develops!

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Photo of Nic1985Ace
4.59/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2016 Poured on draft at Hopleaf in Chicago

L: Pours pitch black with 2 fingers of tan head, good retention

N: Gettin chocolate, candied dark fruits, roasted oats.

T: Nice sweet maltiness up front, follows nose with dark fruits, but finishes with a nice toasty bitterness.

F: Good medium to thick mouthfeel. Flavors coat your mouth and linger on the tongue.

O: Great RIS, well balanced, worth seeking out!

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Photo of JebBeerFish
2.94/5  rDev -33.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

2015 bottle.

A: 1/4 head on gentle pour.

S: very mild bitter chocolate, a little molasses.

T: A pleasant, mild dry, bitter chocolate rudely interrupted by hops. Does mild dark chocolate with piney resin sound yummy to you? If so, then this may be your beer. I like my Cherios and milk without salt, and my pancakes and maple syrup with out soy sauce, so sadly, this will not be a beer to which I will return.

O: unpleasant.

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Photo of bbtkd
4.02/5  rDev -9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Surly Darkness 2016 from a grumbler. Pours thick and black with a four finger brown head that left real nice lacing. Nose is coffee, fruit, and chocolate. Taste is bitter throughout, with a hint of coffee, fruit, and chocolate. Mouthfeel is decent. Overall - though I sought this out due to the cult status - not a fan, due to the bitterness. It did improve as it warmed. I'd like to try the BA version.

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Photo of Furlinator
4.28/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Vintage 2013.

Pours pitch black with a half-inch khaki head that remains as a thin ring on top and leaves faint spots of lace. The smell is of cocoa and dark fruit. The taste follows with cocoa, ripe dark fruit, subtle earthy hops and faint coffee. Smooth, full texture.

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Photo of MOVERTON1284
4.5/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2013 vintage, so aged 2+ years when consumed a a share. Very solid stout that was strong but not overpowering. Very good balance overall and pretty easy to drink.

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Photo of kitch
4.64/5  rDev +5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

A 200ml pour on draft of the 2015 version at Mikkeller Bangkok into a mini stemmed Mikkeller tasting glass.

Appearance: It was pretty much pitch black with a half finger beige head that dissipated fairly quickly, leaving sparse lacing.

Aroma: Chocolate, vanilla, roast and hints of dark fruit.

Taste: Dark fruit, plum, prune, chocolate, roast, vanilla and caramel.

Mouthfeel: Rich, creamy, full bodied with light carbonation.

Overall: This was really good. Really nice aromas and great flavours. It’s a sipper, but the dark fruit, chocolate and caramel works well.

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Photo of Marius
4.55/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

On tap at CBC 2016, day 2. Pitch black with a beige head. Very nice rye whiskey notes (the first beer I think, where I am able to identify the rye whiskey exactly), chocolate, molasses, coffee.

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Photo of chinchill
3.73/5  rDev -15.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Large shared 2008 bottle. (Thanks Dan).
Similar aroma to the FFF Dark Lord I had a few minutes earlier. Seems just a touch sweeter and a bit less complex.
Thick, oily body with light carbonation.

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Photo of brewskifan55
4.25/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2012 version. Taster glass. Thanks for the share, Shannon!

A: Rich black with a half finger tan head that lingered.

S: Molasses, dark fruits (dates, raisins, plums) chocolate.

T: Dark chocolate and dark fruit flow in like a werewolf in heat, tearing your taste buds into a helpless victim of pleasure as a light hop bitterness and smooth cherry/vanilla rip out your throat. In other words, fuckin' YUM!

M: Thick, creamy and carbonated to full moon standards.

O: Only once in a blue full moon do you get to taste something this good. An RIS with teeth.

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Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
4.42 out of 5 based on 3,787 ratings.
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