Darkness | Surly Brewing Company

BA SCORE
98
world-class
869 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:
869
Ratings:
3,736
Avg:
4.42
pDev:
9.28%
 
 
Wants:
3,307
Gots:
1,478
For Trade:
128
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Reviews: 869 | Ratings: 3,736
Photo of Ungertaker
4.43/5  rDev +0.2%
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 -4.8%
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 +13.1%
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%
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 +4.3%
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 +1.8%
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 -16.7%
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 +1.8%
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 +4.1%
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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Photo of walshclimb
3.81/5  rDev -13.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Had a 3 oz pour at Firkin Fest, Minneapolis. Very interesting overall, but I think it needs to age more. Appearance is black with a thick tan head and continuous bubbly lace. Smells big and hoppy - pine and citrus. Big sweet malt flavor with a little less hop overtone than expected from the smell. Aftertaste is malty with hint of bitterness. Mouthfeel is very syruppy coating your tongue and keeping the sweet maltiness around. Overall, I am not sure. I enjoyed it, but I don't know how much more than a 3 oz pour I would want. Interesting, but needs to age maybe to mellow out. I would love to try it again in 6 months.

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Photo of jimmy82063
4.45/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2011 Version poured into a Brandy Snifter...

A) Pours a jet black, light is not getting through this. Thin head, medium lacing.

S) Chocolate, roasted malts, vanilla and a bit of bourbon, very nice....

T) The semi-sweet chocolate in the dominant taste here, supplemented by the hint of bourbon and vanilla. What is intriguing is that the coffee notes are very muted. What makes this enjoyable is that it is not a sugar bomb like other highly rated RIS's....well balanced.

M) Lightly carbonated and smooth.

O) Well deserved of its rating this is deceptively drinkable!

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Photo of Sparty1224
4.69/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Serving: 750mL bomber poured into a Founder's taproom snifter. No bottled on date, but this is probably 5 months old at this point.

A: Pours a moderately thick, pitch black body. Faint, light-brown head that sticks around.

S: Big anise, licorice, cocoa powder. Some vanilla, cinnamon, cherry juice. Even a little bit of brownie batter and sweet chocolate.

T: Huge chocolate, vanilla, dark fruits, raisin, licorice.

M: Rich, but not super thick. Great balance throughout, with a nice sweet finish that makes you wanna go right for another sip.

O: My first Darkness was last year's, which was uniquely barrel-aged. Without having the base beer first, I had an unusual first impression (and it wasn't that good). Getting back to basics this year, I was lucky to secure a (regular) Darkness, and it's way better than last year's partially BA version. This one is rich, dynamic, and delicious. It has a huge drinkable quality to it. Reminds me a ton of Dark Lord with the slick sweetness it carries. With BA Imperial Stouts getting all the spotlight recently, it's refreshing to get such a tasty Imperial Stout that can stand on its own.

Recommendation: Any beer that has it's own day is a must have.

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

2010 bottle. Thanks to my work friend who brought me a bottle since I couldn't make it. Poured into a pint glass:

A - Dark to say the least. Hard pour brings about a khaki head about an inch thick. No lacing really at all.

S - Kind of sweet like a milk stout. Sugary and a bit sweet. Tones of candy and a bit dark fruit. A bit earthy.

T - Wow! Roast but sugary and sweet. Chocolate and a bit coffee. I can't get past the sweetness though.

M - Syrup and thick. Creamy and velvety. A bit carbonated.

D - Even though its thick I can't stop drinking it. Very enjoyable. The sweetness suprises me. Good work, Surly!

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Photo of badboyrsl84
4.28/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours dark as a darkness should be poured. Nice 2 inch thick mocha head.

Smell - burnt malt, smoked wood, hints of chocolate. Milk chocolate and dark chocolate. Very smooth smelling brew.

Taste - not as much smoked malt in the taste and more chocolate. Smooth chocolate with a hint of bitterness from chocolate in the aftertaste. No hint alcohol in any of this.

Overall - it lives up to the hype some what and is a solid example of RIS

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Photo of DavidEddie
4.64/5  rDev +5%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Enjoyed on tap @ Chef Paul’s Bavarian Lodge.

Deep midnight black in appearance. Extremely thick dense brown head. Mega sticky lacing that hung around the entire time. Laid back mild aromas of chocolate, malt, and a hint of piney hops. Taste of rich chocolate, sweet roasted malt, coffee, some burnt toast, and a touch of smoke. Every sip starts off very chocolaty and semi sweet, then finishes piney and ever so slightly bitter. NICE! Mouth feel is thick, extremely creamy, and sticky. This is the thickest brew I have ever experienced. Overall drinkability was incredible. Did not detect the high ABV whatsoever. A fantastic flavorful blend of chocolate and piney hops. A real gem to make out to the Chicagoland Burbs. Well done Surly Brewing Company! This RIS lives up to the hype. Highly recommended!

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Photo of hellbilly
3.92/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

someone opened this at bill and wendy's though i'm pretty sure everyone in the room had one with them!...

2008 with a bitchin' label... pours just lighter than black with a light tan head which lingers and leaves an abundance of spotty lacing. pine-like hops hit the nose first but soon turn to sinus numbing citrus peel... secondary scents of chocolate, malt powder, nutty/coffee, grass and leafy green hops.

the palate is quite sweet... almost to cloying but the power of the hops make it a bit easier to enjoy. the flavor shares the characters of the aroma but also has some woodiness and a distinct savory note. there is a long lingering aftertaste of malted chocolate malted milk with pine needles in it. medium to medium/full bodied with a creamy almost oily mouth feel. pine-like and leafy hops keep it really easy to drink and bring it back from the brink of sticky...8/4/7/4/17/4.0

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Photo of 0110x011
3.66/5  rDev -17.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.5

Pours pitch black into a Darkness snifter. One finger, dark tan head lasts a good while, with spotty lacing. Nose is an interesting mix of chocolate, earth, plum, raisin and piney hops. Surprisingly sweet and fruity on the palate. A bit of chocolate and vanilla, and pine from the hops, but the overall flavor is dominated by an almost cloying, sugary sweetness. Mouthfeel is very nice, creamy and soft. ABV is nearly invisible. The sweetness makes one glass enough for me.

If this were available for $6.99 at BevMo, I'd say it were a tasty, unique beer. But considering the acclaim and rarity, I think it strays too far from the style.

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Photo of tarheels86
3.52/5  rDev -20.4%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

750mL 2010 vampire ed courtesy of beeranddogs. Pour pour is clear ruby to deep brown looking opaque black in the glass. A massive mocha head erupts with infinite retention and bit webby, sticky lace. Aroma isn’t all the massive or even pleasant: salty olives, brine, lots of wood. As it warms the only thing that comes through is oxidized red apple slices. The taste is dry oak, spicy oak, slightly hot alcohol, sweet molasses and prunes. Palate is very soft, not too syrupy, ending somewhat chalky and powdery. Comes across as very basic and mediocre. How this is in the Top 100 and Midnight Sun Berserker is not baffles me. There are just so many better imperial stouts out there. 12/12/2010 6/5/7/4/13=3.5

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Photo of BeerNutz324
4.35/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

bomber into 2 oversized wine glasses (split with my lucky wife)

Ap- pretty much completely black with a cinnamon colored head, great lacing for a stout and the head has good retention

Ar- chocolate, cherries, oak, molasses, figs/dates some other dark fruits

T- chocolate, raisins, dates, molasses, and coffee on the end. really gets awesome as it warms, the alcohol comes through as it warms too but not in a bad way.

M- thick bodied, alcohol warms your mouth after holding it for a while. good carbonation for this style.

O- a truly awesome stout. I wish this stuff wasn't so rare (and expensive) seek it out if you want a good one!

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Photo of ejquin
4.76/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2008 Vintage, just picked up today. Drove up from Chicago

A: Black wih a beautiful fluffy white head that fades and clings to the glass all the way down.

S: Chocolate, and coffee, you get the roasted malts of a stout with some cherries, but a really nice hop fruity spiciness

T/M: Mouthfeel is wonderful, smooth and creamy. The thing about Darkness is that for a RIS, everything is so clean, so crisp, so drinkable, yet loaded with flavor. Starts off with the dark chocolate fading to cherry liquor, and a nice dose of hop spiciness comes through right at the end, just enough so you know it's there and balances the beer perfectly

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Photo of Beerisheaven
4.57/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Feeling a little down in the dumps tonight after watching the Phillies cough up game 2 to the Dodgers in the NLCS. What better way to put a smile back on my face then to pull out this gem which has been nestled away in the cellar since Darkness Day 2008.

First off, huges props to maximum12 for passing this my way, and passing it along as an extra. Bet on your good deed being returned; however, I will be swimming upstream for some time to repay the world famous, earth shaking, legendary trading maximum12.

Pours nearly black with little light being able to pierce this lovely mixture. Not a big head.

The smell and taste largely follow each other. Big presence of bitter chocolate, a bit of smoke, dark roasty toasty malts and a huge hit of sweet fruit. I seemed to pick up a nice cherry undertone on the fruit profile. Sweet but after reading some of the ratings, I was actually expecting it to be even sweeter. I think it is divine and the other Phillies fans drowning their sorrow with me all enjoyed it as well.

Very luxurious mouthfeel, slightly slick and oily. Very pleasant.

The drinkability is also very good, but I am not sure that you can do much more than sharing a bottle with friends. Sweet profile makes you enjoy your fill, but it is more of a treat rather than something that you can drink a lot of during one session.

All in all, a great experience and I look forward to hopefully trying this one again. It is really good and thanks to Corey once again for his generous inclusion. I'll get you back, you wait.

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

In Honor of my 100th review, I've decided to raid my cellar for a bottle of (Vampire) 2010 Darkness.

A -- An immensely dark brew, black as sin with no light showing pours into a full four finger deep brown head and recedes slowly into a hefty froth with heavy tight bubbled lacing.

S -- Smoke and earth, countered by sweet, roasty malt and dark fruits. Hints of tobacco, brown sugar, and molasses.

T -- Hugely smoky, espresso and tobacco are heady in the front, backed by molasses and spiced rum soaked prunes with tones of black cherry and charred babies. Yes, babies. Notes of anise and clove. Finishes on the bitter end with a linger that really sticks around and a very mild alcohol burn.

M -- Definitely a big beer, heavy in body and on the palate. It has retained an excellent low - to - moderate carbonation in the cellar. Slightly creamy. A little sticky which I would expect from the style and slightly resinous.

D -- Excellent brew. I've had other vintages in the past and they stack up equivalently but this is the first time I've thought about reviewing it, and I'm glad I did. Happy 100 to me!

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

On tap over a few weeks in several locations, Mpls Nov 2008.

Thick, black, sticky. Got some on the outside of the glass, was sticking like syrup.

Sweet, spicy, fruity (in a good way) smell. Lots of dark fruit, dark sweetness. More sweet than spicy. Very inviting on the nose.

Did I mention sweet? Alcohol barely noticed. Smooth, velvety, perfect on the tongue. Is there a better mouthfeel than this beer? Hops are there too, for sure. Dark fruits work with the molasses type sweetness. Almost cloying in 2008, less so 2009 (and other years I've heard)

I really like this beer. First impression was it's too sweet, subsequent tastings I started to appreciate the sweetness more, didn't notice it as much. It is what it is. A sweet, flavorful monster of a beer, liquid velvet, and quite the feather in surly's cap.

2009: less sweet, more hops.

2010: May be my favorite of the last 3 years. Flavors all seem in the right place.

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Photo of schellsbeer
4.7/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Review from notes taken from sampling party early December 2008.

2008 vintage.

Thanks Greggy for the chance to taste this wonderful beer.

Sorry Surly Darkness....but Three Floyd's Dark Lord has you beat...just barely though.

A - Wonderful. Dark black with bitter dark chocolate covered cherry look. Fantastic. Swirl the glass...where the beer meets the top of the glass, a wonderful red color can be noticed. Incredible.

S - Fresh. Raisins. Molasses. Black Cherries. Chocolate. There is so many things going on in this beer, who can describe them all.

T - I think this beer needs to sit for about 1 year....that is why I have my own bottle cellaring under the stairs waiting for next November to roll around. Fruit. Strong Alcohol taste. Cherries. Chocolate. Much better when served at room temperature. Fantastic brew.

M - Thick. Filling. Creamy. I want this beer to last all night but...Dang it doesn't.

D - High Alcohol. Available once a year only in Minnesota...low point but only slightly.

One of my top five beers to date. Fantastic. Almost perfection in a bottle. Close. Will re-review next November.

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Photo of CheezyBlaster
4.78/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2011 batch.

This looks and smells . . . amazing! I don't even want to drink it. Perfectly toasted-to-lightly-burnt malts; let me be clear, this is the finest iteration of this characteristic I have ever encountered. Obvious bit of coffee/cocoa to go along and a small encounter of mingling dark berries/cherries.

But holy crap, this is unbelievable! Best mouthfeel ever. Perfect blend of velvet and viscous. Unbelievably creamy. I don't think the style could get better than this. Tastes like . . . wow. Just perfected; sweet, dark, whipped butter, licorice, malt . . . ohhh the malt. The malt.

I've got nothing left to say. I was lucky to get this from a friend in Minnesota. Haven't had better, can't really imagine better either. The only drawback might be the drinkability. I don't think I could have more than a bomber, maybe less . . . but that's not what I want from this style anyhow. I'll say it again: amazing!

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Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
4.42 out of 5 based on 3,736 ratings.
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