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:
3,774
Avg:
4.42
pDev:
9.28%
 
 
Wants:
3,316
Gots:
1,503
For Trade:
135
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Reviews: 875 | Ratings: 3,774
Photo of Shango42
4.95/5  rDev +12%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Serving type-tap poured into a tulip snifter.

A-Bold dense blackness. Dark tan head. Lots of lacing.

S-Chocolate sweetness, dark scotch-like malts, caramel, toffee. Absolutely delicious on the senses.

T-1st sip...speechless. So smooth, so sweet, so perfect. Dark chocolate and toffee, scotch-like malt with very light coffee notes. Wonderfully full body. The balance for this high octane, big stout is unparalleled. The alcohal is definitely present because it warms going down, but it is not overpowering. Some late hops make an appearance but it just continues to balance and compliment the brew. I've simply never had a better beer.

M-Thick, chewy, low carbonation, full bodied.

D-Could drink one of these every day and I would be in beertopic bliss. It sets the bar.

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Photo of pdoran10
4.08/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Served on tap at darkness day 2009 at Hell's Kitchen in downtown Minneapolis. Have procrastinated a long time on reviewing this beer.

When I ordered it, I was presented with a 10oz goblet of very dark brown beer, with a luxurious looking half inch of head. The smell is right away of toasted malt with dark chocolate, can't quite put my finger on some of the other flavors, but very complex. I was surprised when I tasted it, very thick and syrupy. I taste toasted malt right away, much like the smell. After that passes, I get an explosion of other flavors, chocolate, expresso, I might even taste some fig in there. It took me a few sips to get a grasp for all that was going on. Good taste, but a lot of toasted malt and a bit of alchohol taste are going on. I was not a big fan of the mouthfeel of this one. I'm all for thick imperial stouts, but somehow this one was much more syrupy than I liked, it felt a little to sticky sweet in my mouth. The drinkability is good enough. Some alchohol presense, and a bit syrupy, but it can't be all bad as I still had two and considered a third. Good beer, didn't live up to my expectations though.

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Photo of stouts4me
4.5/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

darkness 2011 straight from the gates of SURLY, on saturday October 23rd.
Pours a deep dark dark brown, not black, but surely no light gets through. 1/4" light brown foam on top.
The nose is very nice, smell is smooth if that makes sense.
first sip is awesome, just as u would expect from these pro's. Nice, smooth not overpowering ; cocoa, plum a little booziness, definitely not a bad or overpowering booze taste.
Mouthfeel is very good, smoothly flowing over the tastebuds.
Overall u expect this to be great and u won't cry foul, u will enjoy each delicious mouthful.

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Photo of Gfunk720
4.43/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2009 Bottle, black wax. Out of my SN XXX tulip.

A- Out pours a thick blackish liquid. The head is a dark Khaki color, and laces the glass quite well.

S- Rich roasted malts, dark chocolate, and alcohol are the first things that hit my nose. I get some nice hoppy notes, as well as some dark fruit and raisins.

T- An initial sweetness hits my tongue, followed by notes of chocolate and roasted malt. The beer is thick and creamy, with plenty of flavor. There is a nice hoppy profile on the back end, suits the beer very well.

M- Pretty much perfect for what I like in the style. Thick and oily, without going overboard. The flavor is complex, while melding very well.

O- I had some pretty high expectations for this beer after cellaring it for the last couple years. I have to say I am pleasantly surprised. An excellent RIS to say the least.

-GFunk

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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 ryantupy
4.52/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This was a great beer that was a definate sipper for sure. It was a warming beer perfect for Fall or Winter. It poured a jet black hue with a nice frothy brown head and stuck to the glass the whole way down. The roasted malt flavor with slight undertones of dark chocolate and burnt malts were great. This was a smooth and easily drinkable beer I hope to get my hands on this one again

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Photo of mcgwire756
4.36/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2010 Vintage

Poured pitch black with a nice 2 finger head. A great looking beer.

The smell of this beer is of dark fruit and molasses.

The taste is of smooth dark late but not overbearing. I thought it would be a little fuller than it was. Still great just not what I expected.

The mouthfeel was awesome. This beer does not taste like a 10.3% beer at all. It is without a doubt one of the easiest beers to drink (of this style) that I have ever had.

Serving type: bottle

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Photo of Avryle
4.38/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Finally found my notes from an RIS/Barleywine tasting session in January 2008 (Kudos to DrSeamus for bringing this one)

A: Solid black with no light penetrating. Dark tan head with some small lacing.

S: Hoppy nose? RIS? Citrus hops right up front on the nose then roast.

T: Bitter, roasted malt in the beginning. Mystery flavor in the middle that no one's able to put their finger on. Its there for only a brief moment but oh, so good. Its kind of a caramel-y burnt sugar, but that's not it exactly. There's a definite boozy appearance but appropriate for the style

M: Heavy bodied, slightly syrupy with a decent amount of carbonation.

D: This ran the RIS gauntlet against aged Stone, aged Avery Czar, and Siberian Night. While an excellent & distinctive RIS, I think much of the hype comes from the limited availability. Don't get me wrong, its REALLY good, but it wasn't the favorite of the night.

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Photo of zoso493
4.87/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 2009 vintage 750 ml bottle into a Dogfish Head signature glass.

Appearance: Right off the bat, I can tell that this is one of the thicker stouts I've ever poured. Immediately, the beer pours a viscous, compact motor-oil black that just sludges its way out of the bottle. Atop the beer is a bubbly two-finger head that loses its height quickly, but still retains a slight presence on top of the beer for awhile.

Smell: This is a stout? At first sniff, it seems not. The first thing you get out of the nose, at least in this 2009 vintage, is an immense and glorious whiff of hops. These are not just piny hops, however, as you would normally expect in a stout, but a whole array of piny, sugary, and even citric hops. It's tempting to just enjoy the beautiful scent of caramel-coated hops and forget about the rest of the scent, but there is even more to be found.

While the hops are blatantly the most prominent and intriguing facets of the smell, there is a delightful backdrop of syrupy, gooey dark malts lurking somewhere in the background. This dark malt is so good that if it were the only scent in the nose, I would consider awarding the perfect score. All in all, an absolutely breathtaking nose.

Taste: If the nose had somehow left you skeptical as to the quality of Darkness, the taste puts all doubts to rest. Again, the hops are the first thing I'll discuss, not because they are necessarily the mot obvious taste, but because they form the feature that make this beer like no other RIS. As in the nose, there is a wonderful citric and resinous pine sap taste that is quite unexpected but extremely welcomed by a hophead.

Enough about the hops, though. The impressive malt backbone deserves some attention of its own. Just in case you thought this was a black IPA (or whatever the hell they're called now), the malt reminds you that, yes, you're drinking an imperial stout, and a world-class one at that. The fudge-like malts are prototypical of an imperial stout, but still delicious all the same. Without typing too much, I think the taste of the malts can be summarized as a rum-soaked chocolate cake.

Mouthfeel: Upon first sip, I had reservation about awarding this the perfect score, but now I know that Darkness is well-deserving. Despite the appearance, this is not an exceptionally thick stout, though I will admit it is thicker than average. Where this beer stands out, however, is the silkiness of the mouthfeel. The flavors all tied together so beautifully that I'm certain this is one of the smoother RIS's that I've had.

Drinkability: For starters, there is absolutely no trace of alcohol in this beer, and for that, I applaud the brewers at Surly Brewing Company. Nevertheless, I've taken a good hour and a half to get through this bottle, which is the only thing keeping me from giving it the perfect score.

Surly Darkness is a magnificent beer without a shadow of a doubt. It is an immensely bold and extremely complex stout, but what sets it apart for me is the uniqueness of the flavors. I can comfortably say that this is without a doubt completely unlike any RIS I've ever had. The way the hops are incorporated into the massive malt-profile is truly a work of art, and for that I take my hat off to the brewers at Surly.

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Photo of westweasel
4.65/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Served in a goblet at Chef Paul's Barvarian Lodge in Lisle, IL.

The beer is very dark but clear, with about 1/3" tan head. Lacing was left all along the glass as the beer went down. The smell is filled with piney and citrusy hops, but it also contains some caramel and toasty smells. Very light roastiness - less than I expected. If you close your eyes and imagine the smell of their IPA "Furious" - you'll smell it. It smells like a similar mixture of hops.

The taste is filled with great hop flavor. Again nice pine and citrus hops provide a bitter bite. Also some raisin and date flavors.

The mouthfeel is nice and full. This beer is extremely drinkable for a Russian Imperial Stout. It is not too sweet - in fact it is loaded with bitterness (this keg is probably young) and quite a treat for a hop lover. The alcohol is very well hidden. I had barrel-aged darkness at the Great Taste of the Midwest - and was not that impressed. This is much better.

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Photo of mnstorm99
4.54/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

I finally was able to try this one last night, I am not the biggest fans of stout's in general, but I can certainly sit and enjoy one from time to time, and enjoy is what I did. Nice thick dark black color with a tan head that slowly fades but leaves a nice lacing. aroma of sweet fruits and cocoa. Taste is more of an initial fruity hop feel with a sweet taste of fruity hops and carmel. Mouthfeel is extremely thick and chewy that coats my throat all the way down. I will definatly be enjoying another one of these sippers when the next batch comes out.

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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 camil1mj
4.48/5  rDev +1.4%
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 -8.4%
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 +4.5%
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 -3.2%
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 +2.5%
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 -2.3%
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 +10.9%
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 -2.5%
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 -2.3%
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 -19.7%
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 +1.1%
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 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 JoeMayo
4.6/5  rDev +4.1%
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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Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
4.42 out of 5 based on 3,774 ratings.
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