Darkness | Surly Brewing Company

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3,939 Ratings

Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.30%

Availability: Fall

Notes / Commercial Description:
This listing is ONLY for Darkness that is NOT barrel-aged, which excludes all of the 2014 bottles, all of which were aged in whiskey barrels. 2014 has a separate entry (http://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/13014/141724/). Any subsequent years that have barrel aged variants, indicated by gold wax and lettering, also have their own separate entries.

2007 - Grim Reaper
2008 - Devil
2009 - Mummy
2010 - Vampire
2011 - Zombie
2012 - Werewolf
2013 - Brewcifer
2014 - Harpy
2015 - Bat
2016 - Cerberus
2017 - Witch

Added by ryantupy on 10-08-2006

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Ratings: 3,939 |  Reviews: 896
Photo of VonZipper
4.5/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

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4/5  rDev -10.7%

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4.75/5  rDev +6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

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4.5/5  rDev +0.4%

Photo of mattycasey
4.75/5  rDev +6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Photo of JoEBoBpr
4.85/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Poured into a tulip glass from a 22oz bottle.
2010 Vintage.

A - Pours a dark dark brown almost black color that lets no light through. A vigorous pour generates a tan 2 inch head that is very dense and thick and has some medium sized bubbles mixed around.

S - Aroma statts off sweet with some burnt caramel notes. Slight raisin and prunes are also present. There is some boozy heat and sweetness as well mixed in with the caramel. Slight vanilla hints mixed in with some spicy cinnamon on the nose.

T & M - Wow. I can see how this beer is so beloved. Starts off with some sharp alcoholic sweetness that isn't too overwhelming or intense but just right. There are hints of burnt caramel and some slight raisin notes. All these flavors are well represented and crafted but not too intense or overwhelming. Seems pretty balanced for such a big beer. In the middle of this sweetness there are some slight bitter chocolate hints and espresso notes. The coffee hints give this a nice roasted middle and slightly dry finish. There is a nice sweet after taste though that is mildly sticky but not sickeningly. The beer is smooth and oily and goes down easily but surprisingly and in my opinion the body isn't too heavy. It is near perfection in terms of mouthfeel with good carbonation as well.

D - Although this beer gets a lot of press here on BA I feel that it is deserving. It is quite big in ABV and complexity of flavors but at the same time not overly sweet. Quite approachable and repeatable.

 1,497 characters

Photo of jacewg
4.5/5  rDev +0.4%

Photo of FreshZ
4.5/5  rDev +0.4%

Photo of crossovert
3.67/5  rDev -18.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 3 | feel: 5 | overall: 2.5

2008 Vintage. 750ml black and gold waxed and capped brown bottle. 55 degrees. Not my 1000th review but my 1000th beer tried!

It pours a thick black with a voluptuous tan head. The head is sandier and not as dark as most Russian Imperial Stouts. It holds like a marvel for a 2 year aged brew of this strength. It refuses to recede but as it does it coats my snifter with thick lacing.

The smell is absolutely wonderful. I was at a brewery today smelling the fest wort, and this one has a lot of that fresh wort smell, that honey-oatmeal like malt sugar smell. Also in there is chocolate, coffee, slight roastiness, rum, and that classic stout smell with a bit of fruitiness. There are raisins and dark cherries in it as well as some caramel and a slight nuttiness. The sweetness can be smelled though there is also a cutting bitterness and sharpness sin the smell. The alcohol is present merely as an addition to the complexity of this brew.

This one is pretty intense in the mouth, a sweeter, fruitier RIS. It smacks you initially with some caramel covered cherries and raisins, then another wave of vinous raisin/grape, and finally a bitter coffee/chocolate finish. The alcohol flashes itself, though not completely, it is a palate exhauster form start to finish.

Though a bit cloying, the mouthfeel is pretty epic for the style, it is smooth and thick with a present but not overbearing alcoholic burn. This is the "liqueur" beer as it holds a bit more sweetness and complexity tan your average Russian imperial stout.

Overall if they were to tone down the sweetness on this one it would reach epic levels of enjoyability, the nose is right on.

 1,651 characters

Photo of facesnorth
4.25/5  rDev -5.1%

Photo of CCutch
4.5/5  rDev +0.4%

Photo of Mike
1.96/5  rDev -56.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 1.25 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 1

Photo of wtkphoto
4.5/5  rDev +0.4%

Photo of Wayne17
4.5/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

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4/5  rDev -10.7%

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4/5  rDev -10.7%

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4.5/5  rDev +0.4%

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4.75/5  rDev +6%

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4.24/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Photo of deltatauhobbit
2.44/5  rDev -45.5%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 1.5

Thanks to mynie for the opportunity to try the infamous Darkness, 2008 750ml bottle, decided to have this one fresh as opposed to letting it age for a bit since I heard it's rather hoppy for a RIS.

Pours a dark brown/black color, some light being able to show ruby colors near the edge, very large tan head that fades slowly to leave some good lacing.

Smell is as anticipated, surprisingly (for a RIS once again) hoppy at first, some malt and smoke in the background, not quite to style but not unpleasant.

Taste takes the normal route and ditches the hoppiness that might have been expected after the aroma, instead it is cloyingly sweet, lots of chocolate and vanilla, also seems like there's other sugars that are added to make it much sweeter than it should be, very syrupy and sticky but not overly viscous.

An interesting take on the RIS, but I think I'd stick with Kate and Dark Lord for the top picks, I'd even reach for an Old Rasputin first. Glad I got to try it, but it doesn't even come close to the hype it has, maybe if it didn't taste like someone added a few cups of sugar to it it wouldn't have been as much of a chore to drink even a glass of it. Maybe a different vintage will change my mind down the road.

Edit (3/6/10): Remove Kate from top pick, 2010 was just as much of a cloyingly syrupy sweet mess.

 1,328 characters

Photo of HumanParaquat
4.5/5  rDev +0.4%

Photo of Ryan011235
4.11/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a snifter and an E&J Cask & Cream glass on 10/17/11

2010 Vintage

Much appreciation to PDXHops for the chance to try this critter

Scorched brown whilst being poured; not quite crimson brown. Pitch black in the glass. Massive two and a half finger head of layered shades of brown foam; it's like sedimentary layers, or something. The head eventually drops to a big patch of tightly grouped bubbles. I was planning on using my trusty E&J for the appearance score, since it usually holds better lace than the snifter. It isn't necessary here; there is a copious amount of lace for the style, starting where the head crested and crackling its way down.

Honestly, I don't think Darkness could look any better.

The aroma is gargantuan. Simply all-encompassing and intense. Layers of dark, burnt sugars and malts are blanketed by vinous and dark fruit notes. Tangy, roasted notions meander about, as well. Aromatic tones of port, prune, molasses, burnt chocolate and cocoa. This certainly smells on the sweet order of the RIS style. As it starts to warm, burnt chocolate emerges as the predominant factor in terms of sweetness. Subtle hints of toffee and, to a lesser extent, caramel.

One sip in and I'm ready to draw the conclusion that Darkness succeeds because it is bold and sweet, but remains free of the disgustingly sugar-addled sweetness to which some imperial stouts fall victim.

Burnt and roasted chocolate flavors wash over the tongue and, before they can subside, are joined by a rather sturdy hoppiness. The hops seem earthy and add a modest kick and subtle bitterness; really rounds out the flavors without going overboard. In all actuality, the hops provide a welcomed dry counterpoint to the otherwise sweet flavor profile. I mean, when you're cranking a bunch of burnt sugars a la chocolate and molasses, and a large spot of prune and dark fruits, what's wrong with some balance, huh? Heck, there even seems to be a dusting of cocoa and the most faintest notion of coffee beans on the finish.

The feel finds as much attention given it as does the flavor profile. For sure, this is full bodied and reasonably viscous but it stands aback of the sludgy and plodding. The feel is smooth, though simultaneously accented by modest, puffy carbonation that further tames over time. The finish boasts hefty residuals that linger long.

Ultimately, Darkness is pushing my threshold for sweetness in Imperial Stouts. That said, this is how you do sweet without it becoming a problem. My personal preferences for dry, roasty and ashy stouts aside, this is a well-constructed and really good.

And another thing. It sure is nice to see a proper vampire on the label. Old dude is a fairly menacing looking sort. Now, he's no Nosferatu; that's one supremely creepy vampire. But an angry, red countenance and vapid, white eyes? Yeah, that's a proper vampire. None of that team glitter and team other guy bullshit.

 2,927 characters

Photo of orbitalr0x
4.25/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Release night at the Bavarian Lodge. 11oz pour arrives a deep jet black with an inch of creamy head and some spotty lacing on the glass. Aromas start with deeply roasted dark malts colliding with chocolate cream. Mellow coffee moves into some dark fruits and hops.

First sip brings a big roasty dark maltiness upfront with notes of sweet milk chocolate, roasted coffee and some dark fruit edges. There's a smooth creaminess here as it flows down. The hops kick in on the finish and become quite noticeable with a good bitterness. The malts win in the end though, leaving a sweet aftertaste and a slight stickiness on the palate.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied with a mellow carbonation. Not nearly as thick as many imperial stout's at this ABV, but that makes it somewhat more drinkable as well. While this isn't my favorite RIS, I still thoroughly enjoyed it and the fact that it's quite hoppy as well. Glad I got a chance to sample this on tap.

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Photo of meanmutt
4.25/5  rDev -5.1%

Photo of Chris-1911
4.29/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
Beer rating: 4.48 out of 5 with 3,939 ratings