Darkness | Surly Brewing Company

BA SCORE
98
world-class
875 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:
875
Ratings:
3,772
Avg:
4.42
pDev:
9.28%
 
 
Wants:
3,316
Gots:
1,499
For Trade:
135
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Reviews: 875 | Ratings: 3,772
Photo of dukedevil0
5/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Had this on tap 3 times in Chicago, IL this winter so far at Hopleaf, Sheffield's and Local Option. Each time was served in a snifter or stemmed tulip.

A: DARK black with head ranging from khaki colored to copper brown to almost chocolate milkshake looking. Lots of lacing left on the glass on this one.

S: Smells of chocolate, coffee, toffee, dark fruits or raisins, maybe some slight blackberry or raspberry in there too. Lots of different smells in there.

T: Tastes even better than it smells! but still has the chocolate, coffee, toffee, dark fruits/raisins, molasses, maybe some slight blackberry or raspberry. So many flavors, it's like you could focus on one and love it, then focus on another and it's like you are drinking different beers, but all the flavors are great.

M: Super creamy, sticky (seriously some spilled over and my fingers were sticking to the glass like I had eaten cotton candy), syrupy. Low carbonation.

D: Unbelievably drinkable. You can barely tell that the alcohol is in there and what is there goes so well with the rest of the beer it makes you want even more. I was crushed when I ordered another and they came back with just a couple ounces because the keg was dry.

This is EASILY my favorite beer that I have ever drank up to this point. I get giddy when I go somewhere and see it on the beer list. I hope they bottle more of this and ship it to Chicago next year. I have to give this all 5's until I can find something that proves me wrong.

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Photo of mechamifune
4.33/5  rDev -2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

2009 edition

Pours jet black with about an inch of dark brown creamy head. Beer looks very "alive" so to speak and is about as nice as you can expect a RIS to look.

Nose is pleasant with mostly notes of chocolate. Not what I would call a strong smell (in contrast I found the taste much stronger and distinct) but still a very pleasant one with minimal sense of alcohol.

Taste makes me think of chocolate milk.... to me that seems like the overpowering note, which I enjoyed immensely. Coffee there too and a few slight underlying flavors that my palate isn't good enough to identify with certainty. The longer I drink it the more the sweetness of the beer starts to take front stage, but never to the point of being overpowering.

Keeping with the chocolate milk theme, the mouthfeel is fantastic. As creamy of a RIS as i've ever had and fantasticly easy to drink for such a high abv.

In total a great beer that I think probably benefited a good deal from cellaring a year. I had this a day after having a 09 dark lord and its amazing just how different two huge beers made in the same general style can be. Glad I finally got a hold of this one, but unless I move to minnesota for some reason, I don't anticipate going through the trouble of obtaining it again.

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Photo of BillyB
4.6/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Russian Imperial Stouts are my favorite style, so I'm a bit biased.

I think what Surly is doing is very ballsy. Brewing big beers and canning them. The only other example I can think of that comes close to this is Oskar Blues Ten Fity. I tried this at GABF so it was on draft and from what I heard their not canning this one.

But to get to the point; Darkness is off the charts! Pours a jet black, opaque hue, with a thick tan head.

The roasty, toasty, coffee, caramel and slight whiskey aromas jump out at you.

Strong coffee, roasty malt and toffee flavors. Slight whiskey character, but very subtle.

So drinkable! Just so damn, drinkable! This may be the best russian I've tried since Stone or North Coast.

If you can get your hands on this beer, try it! You won't be dissappointed.

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Photo of SpanishUnicorn
4.58/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Enjoyed on tap at Surly Darkness Day 2015. Pours pitch black, with a nice head (my girlfriend thought it was a nitro pour at first). Amazing aroma of espresso, chocolate, raisons, figs, and dates. It's thick but goes down smooth. Taste follows the nose with a nice hoppy kick on the back end. I'd put this right up there with Ten Fiddy and Old Rasputin for best RIS.

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Photo of beckje01
4.45/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

First review from 1-16-2007 This was from the Darkness's first batch. A: 4 S: 3 T: 3.5 M: 4 D: 3

A- Black with a low caramel head which is very thick, has some good lacing as well.

S- Fruity hops with some malt but very much in the background.

T- Starts with a bit of hop then a big hop hit, then a hint of vanilla. I can find some caramel and lots of underlying levels are there and get a hint of them but the hops are distracting.

M- Thick and smooth with some activity in my mouth, very nice really.

D- Easy if you like the hops pretty balanced but there is so much more in this beer that I just can't quite get to because of the hops. If you can find this you should have at least two, maybe not in the same night but at some point.

____

This is for the 2008 version that came out in October.

A- Black no light getting through this one, tan head with wonderful lacing.

S- Wow just a wonderful nose full of malts just so nice.

T- Nice malty some hops in there that really work well together, hints of caramel but very good.

M- Good thickness very smooth, work great with the flavors.

D- Very drinkable and very dangerous because of it.

This is my second review of this beer its much better then the first version put out. They have really improved the taste, hence why its only getting a 4 for taste if they can improve this much in this short of time they can improve much more.

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Photo of Mauerhan
4.48/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

So about time I got my hands on a bottle of this.

Pours black with a fucking sexy three finger head off a very aggressive pour. lacing is some of the best i have seen. period. they called it the darkness for a reason. light couldn't get through this if it was held at gun point.

smell is complex. surprisingly hoppy. slight sweetness. this smells completely unique. like no ris that i have ever had.

taste follows right behind smell. rich and complex. smooth. nice malt that is countered by a nice earthy hop character. rich chocolate, vanilla, molasses. this flavor is incredible. seriously. rad...yes im bringing rad back.

mouth is creamy. thick. delicious.

this beer is extremely well made. I couldn't manage more than one of these in a night. it is a silent ninja. sneaky mother fucker has kicked me in the face. well done sirs well done.

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Photo of jt31914
4.97/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

'08 Bomber aged for a year and a half or so.

A: Couple fingers of head, dark black color with coffee colored lacing/head. Not too carbonated except at the top of the beer; no bubbling in the body of the brew.

S: Strong! I could smell it from five feet away; it is a wonderfully sweet aroma of chocolate, coffee, licorice, and barley that is balanced by oats. The oat and barley are dominant and there is a mellow alcohol melded in.

T: Super sweet and malty with licorice, chocolate, and barley on the palate. This is balanced by the oats and bitter coffee on the finish. The alcohol is super smooth and pleasant, and this beer reminds me of a better, sweeter, and more drinkable version of GI's BCS.

M/D: It just sits in your mouth and you never want to swallow. Super smooth, creamy and drinkable.

This is the new best beer I've ever had... by a decent margin.

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Photo of hophead7117
4.49/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

The bourbon sticks out in the first glass, but after that it is almost non-existent. Second glass, as it warmed, became much more hoppy/fruity. This was pleasant. Final pour, much of the roasted malts of chocolate and notes of coffee became much more apparent. Even though this is a big brew, it was very smooth and didn't feel heavy.

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Photo of cetherid
3.78/5  rDev -14.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

had on tap at Jake Melnick's - Chicago

A.

A nice dark black stout. The bar wasn't too lit so I couldn't hold it up to the light to see if brown/red hues coming through but it was still a nice looking beer. About 1 fingers worth of brown head.

S.

not as strong as I thought it would be. I was expecting some deep coffee and chocolate notes but I was pretty surprised. I get some dark fruits, like prunes, deep roasted malts and a little hop aroma. I was hoping for something a little stronger, more prevalent.

T.

a little disappointing here. Perhaps I just had too high expectations for a one day release beer? A very deep roasty beer, some dark fruit (mainly prune) taste to it. It was fairly sweet as well. Perhaps subtle chocolate notes in there. A little bitterness towards the end then kinda drys out the mouth a little.

M.

definitely full bodied. Good amount of carbonation. A slight slick feel but relatively smooth going down. As said previously, a slight dry aftertaste as well but enjoyable on the mouth.

D.

I wouldn't give this too high. Just an above average RIS for me honestly. Combine it with the price, availability, the hype and the overall flavor, I doubt I'd be seeking this out again. I have a bottle of 2010 at home and I'll probably let that age for a year or so and see what a difference cellaring the beer does.

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Photo of GOGRANDE
4.85/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A: pitch black. Really sticky looking, tiny head.

S: hops! what? really? thats awesome. You would Surly. You would. Sweet nose with a combo of big hops... Choc, pine,floral,little vanilla. Almost like a black IPA but bigger and thicker looking. I love Surly.

T: huge bold flavors. Just like the nose with this nice pairing of Choc big stout like taste and then a nice hop punch. Not crazy complex but sooo good. Caramel, choc, pine, butterscotch. WOW. incredible.

M: Amazing mouthfeel. Perfect. Nice and chewy and all the hop oils give it a nice silky oily feel. This is perfect. It just is.

D: great! nice and smooth. Not too hot. Just great.

Thoughts: Surly is one of the most talented brewies in the craft beer world. I have not had a ton of beers from them but everything I have had is amazing. They are quickly becoming one of my favorites. AND the awesome kick ass bottle art is just adding to it. THIS IS TRUE CRAFT BEER. CHEERS!

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Photo of lhaqq
4.5/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A: Coffee-colored body, translucent but black, thin cappuccino head.
S: Not too much of a smell. Some chocolate milk, malts, and brown sugar.
T: Probably the least cloyingly sweet imperial stout I've had. Gets a lot of flavor in, but finishes dry with a little bit of chocolate. Molasses, brown sugar and dark malts.
M: Smooth, not too creamy, kind of syrupy thick.
D: Can barely taste the alcohol. Had a couple of these at Pizza Lucé after 2 years of attempting to be around MN when it was released.

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Photo of codysjb
4.32/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Beer tasting 10/14/12
Motor oil black little head
Toffee, dark, caramel small coffe notes
Lots of carbonation, caramel, heavy very heavy.
Still just a massive amount of carbonation here almost over the top.
Good but not standing up to the cbs and dark lord were opening side by side.

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Photo of paulozanello
4.05/5  rDev -8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2011 version, on tap:

Pours a really opaque dark color with a light brown head with great retention and lacing.

Aroma is of dark malts, mollasses, some coffee, vanilla and chocolate.

Taste somehow follows the aroma with a very "dark malt" profile, with dark fruits, vanilla, coffee and bitter chocolate.

Body is heavy with a silky and smooth mouthfeel at first, with mild tart and astringent dark malt notes later on. Aftertaste is a little hop bitter.

Overall a very good RIS from surly. Not the most complex beer within the style but a great beer nonetheless.

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Photo of smokeypeat
4.45/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

One of the bottles opened this New Years, pumped to try out the 2010 (Vampire) version. Poured into a snifter this beer was a deep black with no light coming through at all. Only about half a finger of a deep brown head. Some slight alcohol legs on the glass. Really getting strong roast presence in the aroma with some anise, chocolate, and molasses in the smell. The taste on this one is great. I was actually surprised to get some hop bitterness on this over year old bottle still to add some balance I don't always get in these big stouts. Again hints of caramel, breakfast blend type coffee, chocolate malt, and dark molasses in the taste. This beer was nice and smooth with a solid level of carbonation that made it fairly easy to drink for such a big beer. This is a great beer from Surly and one that I will continue to seek out.

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Photo of kirkpjr
4.45/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Given to me by a generous soul at DLD for nothing more than the locals in my cooler. Split amongst friends for the LOST series finale. 2009 vintage I'm assuming, even though the wax looks black to me.

A: Oily black darkness fills the glass. One finger of chocolate-mocha head that retains fairly well. Not as thick as I might expect, but still very full looking.

S: Dark fruits, maybe cherry and fig, on top of an overwhelming chocolate and malt sweetness. Fairly complex, but not too many scents I can pull out and name.

T: Dark chocolate, roasted malts, and a sweetness that lingers around on the palette. Some coffee and raisin flavors. A little soy actually plays in, although not necessarily in a bad way.

M: Fairly thick and creamy. Moderate to low carbonation. Rich and full in body.

D: Rich, sweet, and filling. This was a great beer, but I'm glad I had friends to share this with. Would love another to add to the cellar.

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Photo of TongoRad
4.87/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Right off the bat- dear lord, this is gonna be powerful; I can smell it as I'm pouring. Immediate sniff: holy crap, this is a hoppy stout! I love hoppy stouts!

Aroma is multi faceted with lots of complexity; I seem to get a different angle with each smell. Initially I get lots of dark chocolate roast, citrus oil and pine resin. This immediately begins morphing into prune, toffee, tobacco, smoke and ash, spices (nutmeg and vanilla), blackstrap molasses, espresso, even a touch of almond. It's amazing- all of these really heavy duty aromas taking turns with each other, yet the sum of the parts never overwhelms. If there is a constant throughout, it's the bitter dark chocolate.

And on the palate it's smooth, rich, and surprisingly tightly knit. Again, an amazingly harmonious blend of flavors for such a powerful beer. Toffee and dark fruits provide a solid platform from where the other elements nimbly move about. The spices play an incredible role as a conductor, too, seemingly present whenever I get the chocolate, espresso, nuts, citrus peel. Bitterness and alcohol are exactly where necessity deems them to be, keeping the whole thing sharp and exciting, but even not coming close to stealing the show. Great jumping crawdaddies!: power and finesse going hand in hand. This is a freakin' masterpiece of a beer, and I must admit that it bests my greatest expectations.

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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.

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Photo of sordyl
3.56/5  rDev -19.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This was the 2013 Chicago distribution when Surly came into the market. Opened for a bottle share, smelled and looked great but the tastes really was not exceptional at all.

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Photo of MrFootstones
3.24/5  rDev -26.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

2010 Vintage

Appearance: Pours oily, dark, and menacing with a fat cocoa colored head which fades into a thin cap. Looks awesome.

Aroma: Boozy, hoppy, sweet, mildly roasty. Alcoholic esters. Dark fruit and baker's chocolate. Not tremendously appealing to be honest.

Taste: Dark dried fruit, alcohol, faint roast. Sweet and hoppy, significant but not overpowering bitterness. Smoothness mid palate. Dark chocolate.

Mouthfeel: Nice and rich without being heavy. Good amount of medium but not prickly carbonation.

Drinkability: My 1/3 of a bottle is a good amount. Not
loving it, but not difficult to drink by any means.

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Photo of NoLiberty
4.23/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours at EBF into a plastic sampling glass after a long wait in line. Hopefully it's worth the effort. Color is a beautiful thick dark, black. Wonderful thick, frothy, milkshake-like head.
The aroma starts with a piney hoppiness, followed by an all spice note, then leads into dark chocolate, come bitter cocoa, coffee and a strong roasted basement brings it all together. A warm alcohol presence heightens the flavor and invites more drinking.
The taste has a front palate of sweet malty chocolate cake, then moves to solid finish of hops and peppery spice from the alcohol.
The body is rather light for the depth and strength of the beer, and with a nice carbonation that creates a continuous agitation of flavors this has an overall soft and inviting feel. Well balanced and pleasing. The alcohol warmth slows down the drinking a bit but the flavors are so nice and the body so soft that this is definitely a keeper...if i could ever get another glass.

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Photo of AJacob81
4.35/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

After drunkenly trading a Dark Lord for this, and then this for an Abyss at DLD 2010, I'm finally trying Darkness. Poured fresh into a snifter at Jake Melnick's Corner Tap:

A - Black, with a little brown showing at the edges. Billowing beige head of 2 fingers is retained well and leaves elaborate lacing on the inside of the glass. Very unusual for an RIS, but it looks great.

S - Strong, assertive nose features fresh coffee beans, dark fruits, and molasses. A subtle hint of dark chocolate as well. I'd like a candle with this scent. Only Dark Lord and BCBCS smell better.

T - Everything from the nose, in delicate balance. A bit of anise in the aftertaste. Very very tasty.

M and D - Smooth, medium to full body, with decent carbonation, maybe a touch more than is usual for the style. A little syrupy but not cloying, this is one to sip and savor. Excellent brew.

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Photo of MPLS
4.83/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

After coming up empty glassed at 3 locations I scoured the forums and got another tap serving (had one at Darkness day in a plastic cup) of 2009 Darkness

A: The Bartender poured it marvelously, big 6 cm coffee colored head that slowly faded into Darkness...okay, a little cliche. The usual strapping black body was present too. I couldn't complain about the glassware, a brand new Darkness snifter glass that I used to own until I broke it.

S: Smoked chocolate, sweetness, alcohol masked in the nose.

T: Palate boner - delicious dark chocolate, roasted espresso beans, big citrusy hops. Seemingly much more balanced than the '08, though I question the evolution of beer geek palates. Oddly enough this serving fared better than what I had at Darkness Day. The complexity increases as it warmed and is good incentive to cup the snifter with my warm palms.

M: Thick and moderately creamy. It can keep up with the big boys without being oatmeal.

D: Oh man, deliciousness. I am tempted to find an excuse to drink another serving tomorrow, pending it's availability. It's more than just hype with the beer, a real pleasurable experience.

Watch yo ABVz

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Photo of iconoklaztor
4.56/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I couldnt resist it anymore! I would also like to say I had a pint of masala mama prior to this so take this review for what it is!

This brew pours into my official Darkness Snifter...a huge black body with a massive tan head. The head has amazing retention. But what does this beast smell like?

The smell is very sweet, boozy, and a slight woody smell. It is very very intriguing! It is very rich and complex and not at all hoppy IMO

I'm almost am afraid to try this. I'd hate for it to be a let down but also for it to ruin my guts! Fuck it...lets try it!!! Wow, my god. Its rich and sweet but not boozy. Its incrediably smooth! I cant believe its that drinkable! Holy hell! I must try more! It has a very nice cherry, plum, and slight vanilla flavor! Man this is good!

Its very drinkable and very dangerious! If possible I would drink this all the time! Now I only wonder what my 07 taste like???

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Photo of abfraser
4.39/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to waltonc for sharing a glass of this one. Cool looking bottle

A: Totally black with a smallish dark brown head.

S: This is some complex stuff. All the classic RIP aromas--roasted malt, chocolate, some coffee. But the real distinguishing factor here was a real dark fruit, almost like a fruitcake.

T/M: Deliciously creamy and full bodied. Great imperial stout flavors. Really like how the dark fruit flavors worked in here; it was very unique for the style. Everything was exceptionally well balanced, with nothing dominating or overpowering.

D: I could drink a lot of ton of this. Yet, I can barely get my hands on it, so it's gets a knock.

This was delicious, complex, and unique. Up there with the best of them.

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Photo of Trevor11
5/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I enjoyed the 2015 vintage at the Local Option brewpub on 1/22/2016. This Russian Imperial stout was incredibly rich with dark chocolate yet balanced with raisiny sweetness. There is a vampire bat on the front label to add to its creepy, dark aura.

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Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
4.42 out of 5 based on 3,772 ratings.
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