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Darkness | Surly Brewing Company

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855 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
2015 - Bat
2016 - Cerberus

Added by ryantupy on 10-08-2006

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Reviews: 855 | Ratings: 3,644
Photo of camil1mj
4.48/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2010 vintage received in a generous trade with Crushedvol.

Shared at the Kuhnhenn Winter Solstice party. Poured into my Bells Snifter.

A: Dark as night. I see where the name comes from. Some head and lacing present.

S: This one has the typical stouts smells: roasted malt, chocolate and anise.

T: Wonderful taste. Mild sweetness with notes of chocolate and anise.

M: A little bit thinner than I expected. Medium carbonation.

O: A great stout. Glad I got to try it. In regards to the Midwest brewery event stouts, I stil think Darklord is better.

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Photo of punkrkr27
4.05/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2008 bottle. Lots of rich sweet yet bitter black strap molasses character with a shot of espresso. There's some milk chcoclate that comes out in the middle and it finishes with a long bitter black coffee finish. There was a hint of soy I didn't care much for though. The body is sticky and full with moderate carbonation.

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Photo of edbeered
4.62/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Served in a tulip glass, this pours an opaque jet black color, with a small brownish head and scattered lacing on the glass. The smell is fruity and chocolaty. The taste is intense, with a peaty earthiness, a fruity plum flavor, a hint of grapefruit hoppiness, and a toasty maltiness. The flavors burst forth, yet this exceptional brew is smooth and balanced. The alcohol content is 9.5%, yet it doesn't feature in the taste. For me, the style makes this a "one and done" beer, due to the intensity of the flavors and the high alcohol content. That said, if any Russian Imperial Stout could tempt me into a second glass, it would be this one. An exceptional effort from the brewers at Surly.

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Photo of xpimptastikx
4.28/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

I think subconsciously I've been saving my lone Darkness for Halloween. 2008 bottle acquired in a trade.

A - Pours an almost pitch black stream that settles like tar in the glass. Not much of a head, just a thin sheet of mocha head that lasts forever.

S - smells pretty sweet, but not as bad as fresh Dark Lord. A small bit of roasted malts, chocolate, and a touch of dark fruit rounds it out.

T - Roasted chocolaty malts with a hint of prunes. Definitely less sweet than the smell, but any bit of hops is pretty much gone. Aftertaste of cigars and coffee.

M/D - This is thick and frothy beer. A great mouthfeel, but it is way to thick to be extremely drinkable. One bottle is going to take me a while to finish, but I'm enjoying every sip.

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Photo of jcartamdg
4.53/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a bruery tulip, this thing is blacker than black, darkness is the right name alright. Bouts a 3 finger head that sticks around for a while. Lacing is excellent, very sticky. Aromas of dark chocolate, hops, coffee an alcohol is in the background. Tastes unbelievable! This follows the nose with more intensity. This is a thick and chewy impy stout. Darkness is what I would dream about in a Russian imperial stout. It's like raspy on crack, amazing beer!!!

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Photo of garbercury
4.32/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Huge shout out to Beerwolf77...You da man Todd!!! Shared with Reed415, poured into snifter...

A---Dark, opaque with lacing and retention, like black ink...

S---Excellent aspect of this brew. Smell of roasted malt, hops, and chocolate, coffee, complex.

T---Malts and hops are really balanced. Hops really linger in the finish with some chocolate malt going on...

M---Silky smooth and heavy...nice.

D---To the dome homeboy, to the dome...

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Photo of Douglas88
4.9/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Oh the waiting was painful, this beer is amazing and I wanted to try it for years. 750 ml bottle thanks to footbalm, 2008 edition. Pours a pure black color with a large creamy brown head. The aroma was amazing; huge dark fruits, sweet molasses, caramel, chocolates and rich coffee. Sweet plums especially in the amazing nose. The flavor was amazing as well; initial dark fruits give way to a fizzy and bitter hops. The core of this beer though is a rich chocolate, roasted malt and super decadent coffee mix.The flavor is more than just balanced, you can detect tons of hops, tons of fruit and tons of sweetness. The mouthfeel is very creamy and full. The beer leaves a sludgy leg running down the glass. Amazing. One of the best things I've ever drank. Re-rate: had the 2009 edition at the massive Imperial Stout tasting in Boise. Just as good, rich fruits and aggressive flavors. Still, one of my favorites.

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Photo of boomer31
4.31/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Kind of dumb luck this happened to be review 100. I've had the '08, '09 and '10 versions. Review for '10 release.

A - Pours a rich viscous black with a deep tan head. The head is amazing, thick with tiny bubbles. No brown around the edges. Black

S - This vintage is probably my least favorite overall and it starts with the nose. I get roast and chocolate. Some sweeter fruit notes as it warms. No hops which I miss from '08.

T - Coffee, chocolate and some bitterness in the back, probably from the chocolate malts. As it warms the sugars start to coat your tongue and the fig and molasses come out. Hints of alcohol as it warms going down

M - Rich and viscous, much like it looks and tastes...very full bodied.

D - This is a sipper to be sure. There are a lot of flavors going on here and a 10%+ be carefull. This is very good, a bit sweet.

Overall I'd have to say this is not my favorit vintage but still very good. I miss the hops that the '08 version had. Again, a good beer, one I'll keep going back for

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Photo of mfavoino
4.32/5  rDev -2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Another shared bottle with Treebs. 2011 bottle with Zombie artwork.

A: Motor oil black with a lingering espresso head. Perfect stout appearance.

S: Bitter chocolate, alcohol, and dark roasted malts. A slight hop presence as well.

T: Sweet chocolate bombarded my palate and the roasted malts took over. Alcohol is there along with a very light coffee taste.

M: Thick, creamy, and smooth. Booze heat as it goes down.

O: A very good RIS, just isn't quite on par with some of the others that I've tried recently. I'd like to give a fresh one a try in the future.

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Photo of EwaldEichstaett
3.55/5  rDev -19.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2

Got a bottle of this beast and was extremely excited to try it out. Split it with a lucky buddy.

Pours pitch black with no light penetration what so ever. Average sized dark brown head.

Damn this beer smells good! and strong! As others have noted it is very sweet, roasted, fruity, chocolaty, smokey and generally dark and damn strong.

The taste is the same thing. It is almost overwhelming. The flavour is good, sweet chocolate, strong coffee, toffee, caramel and fig flavours abound. Overall, the beer is much too sweet. I think that is the major problem.

Feels nice and smooth on the tongue, coats your mouth nicely, the alcohol is also extremely well masked.

The aroma and taste go right into your head and assault your temples. I had a headache halfway through. I really wanted to like this beer more than I did... It is also way to expensive; I would not buy it again.

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Photo of ahalloin
4.47/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Found this on tap at Cafe Twenty-Eight. Outstanding find this holiday season.

Poured into a Darkness chalice. Almost pitch black with a very little bit of light getting in on the corners. The head was a tan color and clung to the glass as the beer disappeared.

Aroma is of dark molasses with a slight coffee roastiness.

Flavor is a molasses sweet nose breaking through to a coffee roastiness and slight hop bitterness. Notes of chocolate, figs, with slight hints of fermented fruits like raisins and plums.

Overall an incredible version of the style of RIS!

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Photo of JoeMayo
4.6/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

When reviewing beers of this magnitude, I try to ignore the hype behind them as much as possible. However, often they deserve their hype and Darkness definitely earned all of its hype.

A- Pours a very rich, viscous black. A thick fluffy head cascades down to a ring of foam around the glass. The name certainly suits the beer.

S- Wow! There is so much more hoppiness than I would have ever expected in a RIS. Sweet citrusy aromas of grapefuit and orange are accented by mild pine. Malty caramel notes hit the nose after the initial kick of the hops. A slight alcoholic scent and mild vanilla notes are also present.

T- This beer is extremely complex. Its slightly sweeter than I would have anticipated. The sweetess is noted in a citrusy aspect and is partially from the alcohol. Orange and a sweet creamy flavor bring out the best of the "stout part" and the "IPA part" of this beer. A mild pine flavor is noted without overpowering the other subtleties of the beer. Notes of bourbon, molasses, and vanilla are found in the heavy malty backbone of this wonderful beer. A slightly roasty caramelized sugar flavor is noted in the aftertaste.

M- One of the thickest stouts I've ever had. Its almost syrupy, while maintaining a good level of carbonation. The finish is sweet an lingering, yet has a nice crispness as well.

D- You need to sip on this one, but it is all things dark combined in this absolutely incredible brew.

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Photo of AdamGarcia
4.68/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2009 release. Decided to open this for no reason in particular. 750ml bottle served in Unibroue tulip.

A: Pours very dark, nearly black. A forceful pour yields two fingers worth of dark mocha colored head. Retention is strong. Leaves a little bit of lace. Very imposing appearance. No light getting through whatsoever.

S: Deep, rich scents. Dark fruit. Raisins, figs, plum, and red grapes. Hints of chocolate and coffee. Intense aromas.

T: Big and bold. Milk chocolate. Sweet coffee and cream. Lovely roasted flavors. Over-ripe fruits. Hops come through late and balance all the sweet flavors with a little bitterness. No discernible heat despite the abv. Quite complex.

M: Full bodied. Viscous and coating. Smooth as silk. Perfect.

O: Tremendous. Age was very kind to this one. I had high expectations and the were met, if not exceeded. This is an amazing beer that I would recommend trying at least once. Do what you need to do to track one down and you won't be disappointed. Surly continues to amaze me.

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Photo of PaulStoneAnchor
4.78/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

It poured a delicious black and had a pretty steady head on it. The taste was amazing, it had a nice fig, roast, and chocolate. The mouthfeel was quite thin but it did not take away anything from the beer. After being poured it smells of a really sweet dark chocolate w/ a slight fig and raisin. Overall for being 10.3% ABV, it is easily drinkable, almost way too easy. Darkness was probably one of the most amazing stouts I have tasted so far. I am amazed at how good the fig taste goes with the dark chocolate and roast. I wish I had a Fig Newton to try with it.

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Photo of squaremile
4.88/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

'09 pour at the Feb Portland BA tasting at Beer Mongers. This might be the most balanced RIS I've ever had. Hops are present in the nose and in the first part of the taste, with an amazing roaste, chocolate, and coffee synthesis immediately following. Incredibly unique and pleasurable. This absolutely delivers on the hype. Awesome beer.

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Photo of Schimms
5/5  rDev +13.4%
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 Ungertaker
4.43/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2011 vintage on-tap, poured into a tulip.

A- deep, opaque black with a tan, one-half finger head.

S- raisins, dark chocolate, plums, and a hint of espresso.

T- dried fruit is present from the start and remains to the finish. Dark chocolate and a faint espresso come in at the middle with the chocolate remaining through the finish.

M- Viscous, short of a motor oil-feel, but thick nonetheless. A slight carbonation presence accompanies the thickness.

O- awesome. Previous years have gotten much better with age, though. I had the privilege of doing a side-by-side of 2010 and 2011 before Darkness Day and the 2010 blew the 2011 out of the water, IMO.

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Photo of BZero007
4.21/5  rDev -4.5%
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 RushLimbmalt
5/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2012 vintage I have had every vintage of this brew. Every single one has been stellar. Do yourself a favor and find some. This is an awesome Russian Imperial Stout

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Photo of Hesscabob
4.73/5  rDev +7.3%
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.

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Photo of MissSmisje
4.61/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

L: motor oil with a thin tan head
S: chocolate malt, bitter chocolate, dried dark fruits, particularly cherries and raisins
T: roasted coffee, bitter coffee, fidgety, dried dark fruits - cherries, raisins, dates, gently fruity tartness in the finish.
F: good chewy thick feel
O: excellent. Intense flavor.

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Photo of tedpeer
4.5/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2008 Bomber poured into a Darkness tulip.

A - Pours a viscous dark black, with a huge mocha head that subsided to a thin layer. No lacing.

S - Strong dark fruits, sweet.

T - Intense flavor. Fruit. Coffee. Chocolate. slight alcohol warmth in the finish.

M - Thick, mouth coating. Smooth. Lightly carbonated.

D - Very balanced for such a large beer.

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Photo of beertooth
3.68/5  rDev -16.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

2009 vintage 22oz red and black waxed bottle with a red and white two color screen print of a mummy on it. I split this with Ben(madorb) while we carved pumpkins. I poured my portion into a Cantillon Belgian tumbler.

A pitch black oil slick in a glass. The head and retention are both amazing. It looks like melted coffee ice cream and is leaving the stickiest lacing I've ever seen.

The nose is full of burnt sugar, dark fruits soaked in simple syrup, roasted malts, bitter chocolate, piney hops, a little alcohol. Think sticky and sweet.

The first sip is tooth destroyingly sweet. Liquid bitter chocolate, coffee beans, burnt malts, syrupy dried figs and prunes. I'm not picking up on the alcohol, but I know it's there because I'm starting to feel it. I can taste the hops more as it warms, but it's also getting stickier and cloying.

Mouthfeel is thick and creamy with a low level of carbonation.

I'm really hoping the syrupy sweetness really mellows out in the cellar because otherwise this will turn into a sugary mess. I'm still happy to have tried this year's vintage.

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Photo of scifan
4.5/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

750ml bottle coutersy of NYCWheatFanSC. Pours like what you would exept from a big imperial stout. Thick black liquid pours from the bottle in a "gulb gulb" fashion. A very aggresive pour creates a large frothy head that is a very dark brown. Nice lacing appears as this massive brew settles down a bit.
Smells way different than any RIS I've ever smelled. Big juicy citrusy hops are the first thing to reach my nose. Very intriguing. They interact much better than expected with dark bakers chocolate, and sweet dark fruity malts. Just a light roasty lurks in the background.
The first sips reveal dark roasted malts, quickly followed by a big citrus hops. The hops have tropical notes to them mango, peach, and alot of orange is coming through. It's almost like a big black IPA in terms of the hoppiness. It has a nice roasty finish that leaves me wanting another sip. Mouthfeel is spot on for the style smooth and creamy with the perfect amount of carbonation. There's not a hint of alcohol in this if not for a slight warming sensation I wouldn't know if it was there at all. I don't think I'll have a problem finishing this bottle at all. Very imteresting and complex beer. Glad I had the chance to try it.

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Photo of zjungleist
4.6/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

First off... thanks Justin. Second vintage I was told, not sure on the year though. Red devil drinking from a skull on the bottle, so that vintage whatever that one is.

A: Poured into a Surly snifter. Looks seriously black and thick straight from the bottle. It is black. Did I mention how black it is? The truly noteworthy thing about it's appearance, however, its the mile high head and shimmery lace.

S: Immediately I smelled the hops. Slightly citrus, grassy hops, followed by some serious sweetness. There was certainly some chocolate syrup smells at points, and hints of caramel too.

T: The notes in the taste were harder to pinpoint. Sweetness was the dominating flavor, and milk chocolate was present at well. Bitterness was subdued largely by the sweetness, but there were notes of burnt toffee and a slight nuttiness, dates perhaps as well.

M: Rich and velvety. Certainly thick, and perhaps a tough cloying. Spot on for the style.

D: How drinkable can an RIS ever be? It is a huge beer. You'd be foolish to go for more than a few glasses, if not for the alcohol, then certainly for the sweetness. But this is certainly drinkable for the style.

Overall, great great beer. I wish some of the subtle flavors had been a little more prominent, but overall it packs a punch both in flavor and ABV.

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Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
4.41 out of 5 based on 3,644 ratings.
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