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Darkness | Surly Brewing Company

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DarknessDarkness
BA SCORE
4.48/5
Outstanding
3,894 Ratings
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:
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.

Labels:
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

BEER STATS
Ranking:
#131
Reviews:
892
Ratings:
3,894
pDev:
8.93%
Bros Score:
4.5
 
 
Wants:
3,310
Gots:
1,552
Trade:
135
HISTOGRAM
 
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User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 3,894 |  Reviews: 892
Photo of liamt07
4/5  rDev -10.7%

Photo of BeerOps
4.75/5  rDev +6%

Photo of Wasatch
4.5/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks goes out to Buebie for this brew.

750ml
Red Waxed Cap/Gold Wax
2008 Vintage

Poured into a chalice a deep black color, nice carbonation, nice one-finger creamy tan head, which leaves some nice oil slicks and some sticky lacing behind. The nose is sweet, malty, lots of chocolate/toffee, some roastyness, vanilla. The taste is pretty sweet, malty, very nice touch of chocolate/toffe, with some slight roasty note. Medium body, the ABV is hidden pretty well with this one. Very drinkable, this is an awesome brew, glad to finally get a chance to try it.

 559 characters

Photo of Dicers
4.25/5  rDev -5.1%

Photo of Cynic-ale
4/5  rDev -10.7%

Photo of Sweffin
4.5/5  rDev +0.4%

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

For my 1000th review, I had to choose whether to go with something extremely rare or something nostalgic. Since my last few milestone reviews were Belle Vue Sélection Lambic, Kaggen! Stormaktsporter Rauch, and Cantillon Loerik, I figured it was time for a change of pace, so I picked the first beer for which I traveled to a release party.

This review is an aggregate of all four bottled vintages. Thanks to hoppymeal, northernbrews, and hophobo for supplying vintages '07, '08, and '09 respectively.

(And no, I've never had '06, nor would it be appropriate for this review as it was growler/tap only.)

A - All vintages of Darkness are essentially reference quality Imperial Stout when it comes to appearance. Pours yield a few fingers of dark tan/mocha foam over top of a pitch black body that reveals a sheen of brown at the top of the glass when held up to the light. The head slowly dissipates leaving behind a thin cap and splotchy fingers of lacework. Earlier vintages have slightly worse retention, but all look quite excellent and sufficiently evil.

S - On the other hand, the aroma varies markedly by vintage. The most hop-forward at this stage is '09, with some floral, earthy, leafy, and slightly citrus hop character still present after a year. You can tell '07 was similar when it was bottled as it also features some faded herbal hop notes. The '10 is far more understated in this area, with a floral character that is roughly as potent as the three-year old '07 vintage. Whatever hops were present in '08 are long gone (and they were there, as I remember them when I had it fresh on-tap). Malt character always features sweet dark fruits, figs & prunes, and baker's chocolate, but roast character ranges from fairly intense in '07 to almost non-existent in '08.

T - The taste mirrors the aroma fairly accurately, but there are a few unusual disconnects. '07 features present but well-attenuated hop and char bitterness, as well as dark chocolate and dark roast coffee. '08 tastes largely of cherry cordials, milk chocolate, and dates. '09, even with its still-present hop aroma, is surprisingly high in caramel, molasses, and dark fruits. There is some fairly potent roast character but this is sweeter than I remembered. '10 is most similar to (aged) '07 with roast espresso notes, earthy and herbal bitterness in the finish, and understated sweetness.

M - All vintages are quite similar in this regard. A smooth, creamy, medium-full body that is big enough for the circa 10% alcohol, soft medium-low carbonation, and some light warming alcohol after a few ounces.

D - This is a definitely a sipper, particularly with the sweeter vintages. The 750ml bottles are probably best shared 3-4 ways, and the sugar levels can reach critical after having much more. I find this more drinkable than Dark Lord, but significantly less so than something like Ol' Jack Frost.

It's quite interesting to chart the (d)evolution of the beer and the cautionary tale it can teach about transitioning from small-batch brewing to large-scale production. I'm actually fairly confident the malt bill hasn't changed significantly over the years - what DOES seem to change is the timing and size of hop additions. I wish I'd taken notes on fresh pours of each vintage on-tap, but I do remember that while '08 and '09 both smelled brutally hoppy when first tapped, the hop character vanished from '08 in only a few months. On the plus side, the cloying nature that the '08 displayed after a few months is largely gone, and while certainly sweeter it's actually quite pleasant.

The score is representative solely of the bottles as they tasted circa October 2010.

 3,660 characters

Photo of sendbeer
4.84/5  rDev +8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Photo of Gonzoillini
4.5/5  rDev +0.4%

Photo of Nichols33
3.5/5  rDev -21.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Photo of Erik-P
4/5  rDev -10.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of Gobzilla
4.17/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: poured a dark as night black in color with a half finger worth of dark brown head that dissipated quites fast but left a little bubbly lacing sticking to the glass.

S: interesting aroma which consisted of a little roastiness, chocolate malts, but with earthy hops coming through. I was able to sniff of caramel sweetness, molasses, and hints of brown sugar.

T: like the aroma chocolate malts were there upfront on the palate alongside some roastiness, pretty good earthy grassy hop profile which added a little bitterness to the flavor. Caramel molasses accents, and a touch of brown sugar.

M: the brew was medium to full in body with a fair amount of carbonation which had a sweet, roasty, chocolatey, mild hoppy, silky, and slightly bitter finish.

O: I honestly was not really digging this beer and it has been on my gots list for some time now. This is one of those that just has too much hype IMO.

 908 characters

Photo of drabmuh
4.18/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2008 bottle. Beer is black with a thick brown head of small bubbles that leaves a lot of lacing on the glass.

The aroma is sweet and some roastiness. Smells good.

The beer is sweet and has a definite chocolate bitter / semisweet flavor to it. There is a nice maltiness to the beer that is really nice. Beer overall has a medium body and as it warms there is more caramel in the palate. Drinkability high and mouthfeel is high. I'd be interested in the other vintages.

 470 characters

Photo of Rochefort10nh
5/5  rDev +11.6%

Photo of beernads
4.5/5  rDev +0.4%

Photo of Mebuzzard
4.7/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I've been waiting for this one.
A deep, dark pour. Close to Abyss in total darkness. Small, but dense off brown head, nice chunking action. A bit creamy.
Aroma is full of cocao and coffee. Some anise and dark plum or prune. Not overpowering in the nose, makes mouth water.
Taste focuses more on the chocolate side rather than coffee. A rich cocao powder taste, yet is smooth. Dark chocolate, some coffee and anise, roasted malt and some caramel. Hints of toasted bread in the back.
Drinks very well, alcohol isn't detected. Nice feel. Great beer.

 547 characters

Photo of ShanePB
3.05/5  rDev -31.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Vintage 2009, black wax. Poured into a tasting glass, courtesy of an anonymous BA at Imminent Liquidation. Thanks for the opportunity!

A: Darkness is no understatement - pitch jet black with a very minimal mocha colored head. Quick dissipation, not bad.

S: Nice aromatics, some lactose, sweet notes of milk chocolate, roasted caramel malt elements. Well balanced, nothing dominating or show stealing. All in all, it's still a nice display of flavors.

T: Holy hell, this is not as inviting as the aroma. Really sweet milkiness up-front that is palate coating and sticky. It won't go away. I can't get any other flavors to compete with this taste left in my mouth. Some overly sweet chocolate notes try to break through but it's not enough. Where's the roast? The malt base? SOMETHING! Nothing. Disappointing.

M: Pretty thin for the style, definitely does not have the creaminess or full-bodied mouth feel I am looking for. The carbonation is on the lower end, which helps this from becoming a complete mess.

I'm not quite sure if it was just this vintage or if something went wrong in this bottle but it tasted soured, but I don't think there were any reports of infection, so I'm just assuming this was how it was meant to be. I'd gladly taste another vintage to see what the heck was going on here. Thanks again though to whoever brought the bottle, not your fault, but just a let down for a beer I've almost traded a lot for -- or even dropped some $$ for on the 'bay.

 1,475 characters

Photo of NickThePyro
5/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Photo of AngusOg
4.5/5  rDev +0.4%

Photo of tempest
4.53/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

When I was drinking and thinking about this beer, two things occured to me:
1) Man there's a lot of hop flavor, is this really a RIS?
2) RIS? Who the bleep cares, this beer rocks!

Got a 8 oz. goblet at Cafe 28 with dessert. While the chocolate cake was pretty good, this beer stole the show. It's a hoppy SOB, there's no doubt and that only builds as it warms. At first there's more malt, big delicious chocolate and coffee. Reminds me of chocolate covered coffee beans.

Then the hops get you. Big citrus fruit flavor ranging from the acidic rind to more mellow, flowery tastes. I've never experienced this much hop flavor in a stout, this rocks. I just wish somehow I could get some more delicious malt flavor out of it. Whatever, this beer was great. I want more.

 774 characters

Photo of tobelerone
4.5/5  rDev +0.4%

Photo of StoutSnob40
4.5/5  rDev +0.4%

Photo of Eziel
4.5/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Photo of afsdan
4.75/5  rDev +6%

Photo of TheSevenDuffs
4.88/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2011 Vintage. Thanks to Spencer for this bottle! Poured in to CBS snifter.

A - Poured ink black. Half a finger of medium brown head with good retention.

S - Roasted malts, smoke and a noticeable hop presence up front. A big semi-sweet chocolate aroma and a touch of licorice round out the nose.

T - Extremely robust flavour up front. Starts out with huge roast and semi-sweet chocolate flavours with a touch of smoke. Some sweet molasses and a fairly prominent hop profile enter in the middle. The finish is full of sweet chocolate and has a lingering bitterness. The ABV is very well hidden. The perfect balance of sweetness and bitterness.

M - Full body. Thick and viscous. Light carbonation.

 700 characters

Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
Beer rating: 4.48 out of 5 with 3,894 ratings
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