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
View: Beers | Events
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Reviews: 875 | Ratings: 3,774
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.

 933 characters

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.

 1,116 characters

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!

 926 characters

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

Smells of malts, raisins, coffee and chocolate.

Looks black with a deep tan head. Some lacing present. Beer is opaque, looks an amber brown color barely around the edges.

Tastes of chocolate, coffee and toffee, with earthy hops and dark fruits in the background.

Creamy smooth mouthfeel. Low carbonation, and full bodied.

Drinks pretty easy, didnt have a problem finishing this at 11AM. Could have had more of it too!!

 422 characters

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

2010 vintage poured into Dogfish Head signature glass.

Shared this one with Titosupertramp. A little back story...This one was given to me by a BA who I have never met. I started a thread on here about looking for beer spots to go on vacation. I got a BM from a BA that I had never (and still haven't) met, and never talked to. He left this at a local bottle shop for me out of sheer generosity and beer advocacy. Hoard not and share the wealth, basically. Anyways, a huge thanks to him for the chance to try this, and what a way to spend an afternoon. Not quite 'Darkness at the break of noon' as Robert Zimmerman sung, but only a couple of hours later.

A- Black. Black as Satan's soul. Darkness isn't just a clever name. Not even a tinge of red or brown on the edges. Just plain black.

S- Lots of dark chocolate. A bit of bourbon and oak. Not enough to confuse it with a barrel aged beer, but a nice touch. Some dark fruit.

T- Lots of dark chocolate. Roasted malts. Again a bit of an oak presence, but only slightly. Some dark fruit. Very clean. The alcohol only starts to really come into play as the beer warms near room temperature. Fantastic flavors, without too much of any one piece, or anything that doesn't belong.

M- Huge, coating the mouth. Sticky, lingering. It took a glass of water to clear the palate of this to move onto the next beer. For a stout of this size, that is a compliment.

O- I have been disappointed in the past by beers with this amount of hype (Dark Lord, I'm looking at you), but this was exceptional in every way. What a treat to be able to try, and one of the best stouts that I've ever come across. Just outstanding at every level.

 1,673 characters

Photo of THANAT0PSIS
4.75/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Surly Darkness 2012

Appearance: Surly’s most exclusive beer pours a midnight black. No light gets through this beer at all. The head is a massive three fingers, and is a great-looking khaki color. As it descends, the head leaves swaths of lacing intricate lacing. Alcohol legs are present, but that is to be expected at 10.3% ABV. Really, it just looks like an especially dark Russian imperial stout, but the crazy lacing and head really push it over the top.

Aroma: Huge, roasty coffee aromas flow out of the glass from across the room. They are followed quickly by dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and a fantastic creaminess. Amidst all the organized chaos, a molasses sweetness runs under the entire aroma. The alcohol just barely comes in at the tail end. This beer smells crazy good and enormous.

Taste: Follows the nose, except with huge chocolate notes taking the forefront completely. The roasty coffee comes in as an aftertaste, but cannot quite fight off the dominating milk, dark, and baker’s chocolates, and the burnt sugar sweetness that comes with it. Thankfully, hops come in at the very end and do their best to balance the taste. They cannot quite do it, but the effort is very much appreciated. The alcohol makes its presence known along with some dark fruits at the tail end of the taste. A little more balance would be great, but as it is, this beer is off-the-charts amazing.

Mouthfeel: This beer is silky smooth on the palate, and has a great, minimalist syrupy character that makes it a joy to drink. Unfortunately, the carbonation is extremely minimal. It would really benefit the beer to be a tad fizzier, which would help separate out all the complexity going on here. The alcohol also provides a very calculated warmth that remains exactly in the realm of pleasantness. The carbonation, though…

Overall: This beer was everything I could have hoped it would be. After the first two categories, I thought this might be my first perfect 20/20. Unfortunately, it was not to be due to the slightly imbalanced taste and the almost complete absence of carbonation. Still, this is worth the hype. I cannot wait to try the bottle I currently have aging in the cellar. Things can only go up from here, as I assume it will level out the sweetness. 19/20

 2,279 characters

Photo of JFresh21
4.68/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Had this on tap side by side with Abraxas.

Deep black, the head was less chocolate in color than Abraxas.

The thickness of this beer is incredible. It is so drinkable and smooth. It doesn't have the overly sweet flavor of a Dark Lord.

World class beer. One draft is not enough! Cheers!

 288 characters

Photo of Stardusthotel83
4.48/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Look was pretty standard, black with dark tan head. Smelled really good though, lots of chocolate and some coffee. Feel was also good, pretty heavy for non barrel aged which I really liked.

Tasted great, might be one of the best non barrel aged stouts I've had. Alcohol wasn't too strong and had a nice balance, lots of different flavor notes. Overall fantastic, definately worth the $20.l, or my case, part of a trade for some Fremont BA stuff.

 448 characters

Photo of drgonzo3705
4.3/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

A: Beautiful black with a small tan colored head that hangs out around the edge of the glass.

S: Very pleasant chocolate and oat filled nose. Not overwhelming or underwhelming at all.

T: Cocoa, chocolate, and a touch of oat make this a very enjoyable tasting brew.

M: Full bodied with ample carbonation with a nice stout slickness left behind.

D: Pretty damn good. Big tasty RIS here. Looking forward to the new batch.

 426 characters

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

2010 bottle. Big thanks to Cardinal79 for bringing this to the bottle share.

A - pours a pitch black, much like the namesake with a 1 finger pillowy head.

S - roasty and dry nose with espresso and bitter chocolate. Some hops as well.

T - very roasty, surprisingly much drier than I expected. Nice floral hops as well - fairly unexpected.

M - For such a sought after beer, its a little thin. It lacks a bit of complexity, but I did enjoy the dryness.

D - It's a big beer, but fairly drinkable. This isn't necessarily a dessert beer as it isn't cloyingly sweet, could actually pair with a sweet bbq.

 602 characters

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

Drinking my first of the darkness at Common Roots Cafe. I cant
bring myself to open any of my bottles yet. They even have darkness goblets to present the beer.

Pours pitch black with a small head, it would be more but the sever poured very gently. Leaves a good tan lacing all the way down the glass. It smells sweet, and of roasted and burnt malts, maybe even a little maple syrup. Taste is out the window, this thing taste too good to describe. It taste like it looks and smells, great. Chewy and smooth, it warms you as soon as it crosses your lips. This beer is a must for anyone who lives or is in the twin cities area, amazing, purely amazing.

 651 characters

Photo of 7ways
4.56/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2010 vintage.

This is a seriously black beer. Like buried underground black. Probably the best head retention I've ever seen on a stout, and pretty good lace as well.

Aroma of sweet heady hops in the background and chocolate cookies dominating. The smell of this beer makes me hungry. A little char, vanilla and caramel sweetness.

Perfect interplay of hop bitterness, black/roasted malt bitterness, and cookie dough sweetness. Notes of tobacco, tart purple fruit, molasses, and milk chocolate come and go in no particular progression. This does not exactly have the typical profile of an RIS. It goes beyond, and I wish it had more contemporaries/imitators. Siberian Night and Marshal Zhukov's come to mind.

Very creamy, chewy and smooth, this is what all RISs should feel like.

I was always told this was a hoppy RIS. Maybe when it's fresh, but not the case here. Good thing, because more bitterness would have ruined it for me.

 934 characters

Photo of biglobo8971
4.53/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I was lucky enough to be able to do a verical with the 07 - 11 being represented on Darkness Day 2011. There were several BA's that were present, and each of them had some what of a difference in opinion.
07 - this tasted like a different beer entirely from the others. Very dark and viscous, small hint of roast and bitterness in the nose, with a unanticipated smoothness betweeen all the flavors. A very accomplished balance of flavors.
08 - this was my second favorite of the night. Still a hop presence, with more of a chocolate sweetness which lent its hand to a taste of bitterness. The roast was present, just not over the top.
09 - my favorite bottle. Hop presence grew, this one had more of a spice to it, still present was the chocolate and malt sweetness, with a slight hint of roast.
10 - my favorite. I am a hop head at heart. This one had an aazing hop presence considering its age. A little sweeter than the older vintages, but not over sweet. Has obtained a great balance. Roast not as present.
11 - sampled this beer after having it multiple times over the weekend. Very tasty, I am waiting to have a bottle with just a bit of age on it. Tasted a little too sweet at such a young age, but the complexity of the beer was present. Made me extremely happpy I have several put away to enjoy later.

 1,310 characters

Photo of Peepskp
4.57/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

I had this beer along with two central waters reserve beers. This beer was very exceptional and I would be happy to drink again. I think the price would be more appropriate around 15, not 20.

 191 characters

Photo of BeantownBrews
4.6/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2016 bottle poured into a snifter:
Holy shit, a lot of carb for the style, coffee-creme head on motor oil
Smells fruit forward with some sweet molasses and chocolate coming through
Taste follows the nose with coffee and chocolate making more of an appearance and muting some of the sweetness from cherries and dark fruit flavors
Full bodied, chewy and delicious

 361 characters

Photo of LittleBreeze
4.03/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

1/26/08

Thanks for sharing this one, drseamus.

I'm not sure this one "poured". It more like gulped from the bottle. Tan head.

The hops surprised me. I don't recall ever smelling a RIS that hoppy. Other tasters commented that it was a Surly smell. But it smells like a Double IPA

A nice malt bitterness sets up the caramel and chocolate. Nice bitter bite.

Dandy mouthfeel. A little dance on the tongue but not too much carbonation.

This is a very nice RIS. It didn't "win the night" when lined up against a few other beers in this category. I'll admit to expecting...more.

 577 characters

Photo of crewfan16
4.3/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2011 vintage poured into a snifter. high hopes for this one considering how somewhat difficult it was to get one, even in the twin cities area.

a- deep dark ruby brown with no light shining through. little khaki head quickly rises and falls

s- lots of roasted coffee and cocoa. hints of hops are there at the end as well

t- incredibly complex and delicious. coffee and chocolate with roasted malt and a light hop finish. really, really tasty

m- thick and coating on the mouth. very little carbonation is right on for the style.

overall, a great complex imperial stout. im not certain it was worth the effort it took to get my hands on it, but it is certainly very good. glad I have a couple to age and see how good this can get.

 734 characters

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

One of my desert island bottles. Poured from a 2008 vintage into a snifter.

A: Dark black with a black one inch head. Sticky lacing and boiling bubbles. This is one amazing looking brew.

S: Toffee, raisins, chocolate, mild coffee aroma. Has really mellowed out since 2008. Has almost a musty after smell.

T: Smooth-- the sweetness has really settled. Still nice fruity, chocolate -- very smooth malt backbone. The hops are way in the back but still nice. Sad to see this bottle get empty.

M: Still a nice thick drink. This was a perfect for the style and abv. It drinks almost way too easy.

O: Every vintage is slightly varied, but the 08's are drinking like sweet god candy. Good thing I have few more of these.

~shiver~

 728 characters

Photo of Flyer
4.25/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Huge thanks to Lisalucy for the Chirstmas gift, for which she waited in line for five hours. Ah, I've raised her well. A delicious and decadent imperial stout, and yet surprisingly un-complex for the style. Malty, with molasses and chocolate notes. It was utterly lacking in that soy sauce-like quality that can detract from even the best imperial stouts, which made it smooth and drinkable and yet would have to be regarded as a by-product of that lack of complexity. Not the cascade of intensity I associate with the style, but a great beer nonetheless.

 555 characters

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

2008 Vintage and 2009 Vintage
Got 08 in a trade from Maltzilla. Thanks to pecorasc for opening the 09 for our 08-09 vertical. Poured into wine glass. Very cool looking 750ml bottle. Bright red wax for 08 and burgundy wax for 09.

A:Pours thick and super dark. Lots of bubbles around the edges. Light tan head. Really good head retention. The 08 reduces to a film, but that stays there till the last sip. The 09 does not have any film on top.

S: 08-Lots of dark fruit. Raisins and hint of prunes.
09-Much less dark fruit. I get some earthy tones in the 09 that have obviously faded in the 08.

T: 08-Wow. Not what I expected at all. Lots of dark fruit and sweetness. Then you get hit with a roasty finish. No coffee flavors, and just a hint of chocolate. Tons of raisins, prunes, and dates. Picking up molases and licorice as well. Might have a hint of soy though. Not what I expected, but still a great beer with very unique flavor.
09- I like this just a little better than the 08. Very different flavors. Get more alcohol and more complexity. Still get dark fruit, but I pick up more roasty, chocolaty flavors.

M: Mouthfeel is nice and smooth with just a little carbonation. Super creamy. Almost a 5.

D: very good drinkability. Alcohol lets you know its there, but doesnt hit you in the face. It is well masked.

Overall great beer, but I like the 09 a little better. The only score I would change would be to give the 08 a 4.0 for taste (A- overall). Very different flavors, but both good in their own way. Really enjoyed trying these side by side.

 1,560 characters

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

poured at cellar temp into a glencairn, received in trade from AdamU726.

A - almost opaque, very black with brown hints. very nice fluffy head formed thin and hung around a bit leaving tiny amount of lacing and a ring.

S - plenty of roast, dark chocolate, some hints of molasses, vanilla, slight sour cherry, coffee. odd tartness that isn't funk, but a bit acidic?

T - quite complex IS. stuff keeps developing as it warms, but mostly dark chocolate up from, little overbrewed coffee and vanilla following, with that slightest hint of sour dark fruit that cuts through the dark roasty notes nicely. became more sweet as it warmed but was still in balance with the chocolate and roast.

M - very nice. medium-full bodied for style, but great residual coating in mouth and appropriate carbonation.

D - quite drinkable. not too sweet or cloying, not too roasty, alcohol well blended. definitely recommended. with the body being so full but overall a little sweet this should age very nicely.

 991 characters

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

Enjoyed a '09 from a tulip glass.

A - Pours a dark black with a hunt of khaki. Head is decent 1 finger that falls to a nice ring around the glass.

S - Nice big sweet beer smell. Lots of roasted malt and dry dark chocolate.

T - The taste is a bit offsetting due to the large amount of hoppiness of this beer. The smells come through quite nicely. Plenty of dark fruits too. Wonderful.

M - Velvet smooth. Carbonation keeps the body light enough

O - Wonderful RIS, the hoppyness starts to detract from the flavor. Need to cellar a few.

 541 characters

Photo of gregy55902
4.52/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I always enjoy going to Darkness Eve at Stub & Herbs not for the darkness itself, but for all the other rare beers they would get (BCBCS, for example, and the unexpected free bottles of KBS last year). Nonetheless, I'm cracking this 2016 bottle to honor Todd Haug who recently stepped down as brewmaster at Surly.

A - Pours into my B&B XL snifter with a deep motor oil color and sexy tan head with oily-looking bubbles and lacing in the glass. Some of the foam glued itself to the side of the snifter, and it won't budge. Intimidating for sure!

S - A multitude of fudgey chocolates, anise, a hint of dark fruits (dates?), caramel sweetness and hops on the nose.

T - Follows the nose. Very good. It is a bit on the sweeter side and is definitely a dessert beer, but the nice fudge/anise combo makes for an excellent dessert. The earthy hops make an appearance here as well. I imagine that this stuff could be aged for years! Marshmallow candy aftertaste that can only be described as utter decadence.

M - Sweet but not cloying, thick but not sludge-like. Lower carb which is appropriate for the style. Alcohol is there but it is kept in check by the sweetness.

O - I think this batch is great. While I admit to passing over this beer for others simply because it is produced in my area, it is world class and would hold its own against any other RIS produced today. It is quite unique and definitely deserves the following it has achieved over the years. Thanks Todd (the axe man) and Omar for making it happen - let's see where the future takes this operation.

 1,566 characters

Photo of bbb099
3.96/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2009 vintage (Mummy). Thanks a bunch to scottfrie for sharing this with me. Reviewed on 12-18-2010.

A - Jet black color with a brown colored head. Appears to be quite viscous.

S - Strong burnt, roasted malt aroma.

T - Pure roasty flavor accompanied by some molasses and woody taste. Some chocolate and alcohol on the way down.

M - Full bodied. Very thick. Moderate carbonation.

D - Leaves some alcohol burn, but does have a great taste that keeps you wanting more.

 471 characters

Photo of Dawgboned37
4.99/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I love this beer! Poured 2013 (Brewcifer) vintage into a surly tulip glass. Moderate caramel head dissipated to thin layer of bubbles. The beer is very thick and viscous. The nose has complex scents of molasses, chocolate, roasted malts, licorice, and lingering vanilla. The taste follows the nose very well with pronounced dark chocolate, malt, and vanilla flavors accented by oak. Slight coffee bitterness, and even some hop flavors come through toward the end. Fantastic.

 474 characters

Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
4.42 out of 5 based on 3,774 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • BeerAdvocate Microbrew Invitational

    Join us June 2-3, 2017 in Boston, Mass. for beer, cider, mead, kombucha and sake from over 70 small producers.

    Learn More
  • Subscribe to BeerAdvocate Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.

    Subscribe