Darkness | Surly Brewing Company

875 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
2014 - Harpy
2015 - Bat
2016 - Cerberus

Added by ryantupy on 10-08-2006

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Reviews: 875 | Ratings: 3,791
Photo of Barnoloid
4.37/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A big big, dark (of course), eyeball piercingly black as night stout that threatens to take your very soul to the depths of the earth. Enjoyed this on draft, and was extremely glad to find it on the menu.

A truly dangerous beer, given that the high ABV really creeps up on you. This is such a drinkable stout, where the roasty malts and pleasantly solid amount of hopping comes together and makes this really 'more-ish'....as in, you won't struggle to take it down despite the powerful, amped up elements on display.

Raisin sweet lick on the back end melds with bakers' chocolate and cherry. A delight.

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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

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Photo of GuyFawkes
3.93/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2015 vintage; drank 1/28/16 @ Harvest Hop Haus.

Black/brown appearance.

Nice tan head; decent lace.

Strawberry, milk chocolate & candle wax notes in the nose.

Medium thick, creamy mouthfeel.

Strawberry, milk chocolate & candle wax flavors; no booze heat. Sweet but not cloying; an above average treat.

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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.

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Photo of SD-Alefan
4.96/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2015 bottle. Pours blackest black with a minimal dark tan head that quickly dissipates.
Aroma is roasted malt, dark chocolate, coffee, dark fruit and sweet milk chocolate.
Taste is huge. Roasted, char, dark chocolate, dark fruit, cherry, booze.
Mouthfeel is thick, creamy and rich.

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Photo of Dspader1
4.56/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A- dark.. darkness.. great head dark brown almost half glass of nice brown head
S-cherries, dark fruit, smokey, light chocolate, smooth hops
T- raisins chocolate and malt very interesting.. bitter
M- nice warm creamy slightly boozy
M- very good and complex beer

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Photo of OompaMentor
4.38/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

2013 Bottle poured into snifter; dark(ness), black with little head. Cocoa nibs, coffee and raisins greet the nose. Well balanced - the bitterness evenly coats the palate with the chocolate, raisins and coffee. A heavy medium body that does not disappoint!

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Photo of snaotheus
4.71/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

750ml waxed/capped 2016 bottle shared at @mr-jj's house, supplied by him through whatever means of acquisition he has. Thanks man!

Pours a very dark brown, with a very small brown head, not a lot of carbonation. Looks good, but not particularly special. Smell is rich coffee and chocolate, I swear some bourbon, vanilla flavors.

Taste is anise, balanced coffee and sweet, soft chocolate and vanilla. Extremely well balanced, excellent beer.

Mouthfeel is very dry, amazing for such a strong bomb. Overall, this is an excellent beer. We tasted this alongside 7 barrel aged beers, and this goes a long way to prove that you can make an incredible, flavorful booze-bomb stout without barrels. I'm sad it's gone, I'm happy I got to try it.

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Photo of BeerGuy8315
4.94/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

2016 Darkness

A: Pours jet black in color, embodying the name with its appearance. Small 1/2 inch khaki head with minimal retention. Thick, khaki colored lacing throughout.

S: Aromas consist of coffee, caramel, vanilla, cocoa, molasses, toasted malts, and toasted marshmallows.

T: Taste matches the aromas very well. Strong notes of coffee, toasted malts, cocoa, vanilla, and dark chocolate fudge. Milder notes of dark fruits and caramel. Mild lingering hop bitterness.

F: Full bodied. Thick and very creamy. Silky smooth. Mildly carbonated at a perfect level.

O: Overall, an awesome RIS. This is an extremely well balanced beer. The complexity that comes with balancing all of these flavor profiles is impressive. Surly did a great job with this batch. Can't wait to try some more of the vintages. One of my favorite RIS's.

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Photo of Sabtos
4.45/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Black body with a head that, after settling from it's suspended, speckled black dark tan cascading performance, is a floating, unmoving souffle.

Smell is really sharp, rich, dark roasted malt, with chocolate syrup, brown sugar, sweet roasted nuts, dark chocolate, and milk chocolate. Vanilla liqueur makes an appearance, with a hint of cedar and a lot of earthy yet bright piney hops.

Taste is dark chocolate, maple sweetness, blueberry-esque coffee, and vanilla! That wonderful fruity coffee just pops throughout. A slightly bittering nip of cacao runs along the background.

Feel is really smooth, slick and wet with a moderate yet substantial body. This is very well made and nearing liqueur territory, with a semi-dry finish to assist in cutting the sweetness. Darkness is still overall sweet, and slightly tart with all of its acidic and slightly fruity coffee.

2015 vintage

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Photo of WesMantooth
4.51/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

2015 "bat" edition 750ml bottle poured into a snifter

Fairly viscous looking black with a moderate dark brown head that retains a solid ring for quite awhile.

Outstanding aroma! It smells like rye, whisky, chocolate, dark fruit, tobacco, leather, and charred grains.

Spicy rye flavor and a bit of alcohol up front, followed by a bitter bakers chocolate, some sour cherry, raisin, oak, tobacco, ashy/burnt grains, some brown sugar, and a stong lingering rye bread and piney bitterness.

It has a very solid, almost oatmeal like, chewy body. Among the more viscous barreled beers I have had for sure. Reminds me of a Parabola.

My biggest knock is that this beer is a little too bitter. Not in the monent necessarily, but a very resinous, lingering hop flavor. Ofher than that, it is world class, and the best rye stout I have had.

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Photo of cokes
4.82/5  rDev +9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Absolutely jet black under a promontory rise of dark sandstone froth.
Wet rye bread, dark rum, molasses, canned fruit cocktail, and chocolate brownie batter aroma.
Densely dark chocolately as it initially assaults the tongue. Scrapings of char and espresso. Quells some with a broader glazed donut notion fills the mouth. Spiciness hits and it's like biting into a rye loaf, and equally as mouth filling. Fruitiness washes in with burnt peaches, grilled pineapples, bruised pears, blackberries, and blueberries. Backing notes of molasses and, vanilla give it a Caribbean dark rum aura, complete with vapors of heat. Rides out with touches of burnt fruit alcohol sourness and chocolate chip cookie dough batter.
It's thick as fuck. Crazy big. But somehow still never over sweet, over big, or over boozy.
I just needed to join the choir here. So many Whales don't deliver in full. I was glad to finally track down a bottle (and then was less pleased to drop $20 for it).
But I'd do again, and again, and again.

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Photo of Flounder57
4.45/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

750 ml bottle was poured into a goblet.

Appearance: A one mocha head was poured that reduced to a thin layer. It is a pitch black color with no vision of anything.

Smell: Milk chocolate, roasted, toffee, caramel, molasses, toasted, dark fruits, and nice subtle warm alcohol.

Taste: Very tasty, nice flavor, so smooth, some soy, light bitterness, and very enjoyable. Definitely a sipper.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, medium bodied, light bodied, silky, creamy, medium carbonation, slight warm booze, and light light bitterness.

Overall: Pretty solid RIS. Holding onto the other 2 bottles for several years down the road.

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Photo of Chizzlethespeez
4.95/5  rDev +12%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

My buddy scored this in a beer trade. Poured into three mini snifters.
Creates a small pale Caramel colored head that recedes quickly but leaves some lacing. Smell is dried cherries. Hint of chocolate. The taste is hard to pick apart at first. But once it warms up, You get the cherry, chocolate and raisin. The feel is unlike any other beer

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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 racerdave
4.89/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

First time with this one. Blown away. Pours thick. Surprising amount of carbonation with a medium tan head. (it could've just been a bad pour on my part) Mouthfeel was substantial and slick, although not crazy slick. Dark fruits, bit of coffee, some cherry... a lot going on. And it morphed often as it warmed.mThere was something new every few minutes. Super complex. Loved it. I'm normally a BA guy, but this beer is proof that BA can be overrated. This beer is brilliant as is.

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Photo of Tycoon5000
4.85/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Super dark appearance (as its name would suggest). Very smooth. A little hot to start but the longer you age it, the smoother it gets. Absolutely worth the wait and the hunt every year.

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Photo of daledeee
4.92/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

First time this beer came to Iowa in bombers(or at all). I got this by accident since there is a frenzy for this.

Poured into my normal glass and got a great light tan head and nose that shows it's colors. Chocolate, booze, malt. The color is very dark brown and "clear".

Taste is true to form. Lots of flavor with dark chocolate, some oakiness, hints of cherries and not overly bitter. I found this to be a very balanced stout. Not quite as thick and high gravity as others but i don't care because the taste is what really counts.

The mouth feel is perfect. Just enough carbonation and plenty of lingering taste. I suggest drinking this at about 50F, This is a top shelf stout. No wonder about 2000 people stand in line at the brewery for this. I walked right up to the register and forked over the cash. Then my kids bought me 2 more so I ended up with three bottles to relish. One of the best.

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Photo of Detlef90
5/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

As a pure Russian Imperial with no added ingredients I can't possibly imagine this example of the style getting better. Tastes better fresh than a three year old Expedition or Stone Russian Imperial (and both of those are mighty fine beers!) The mouth, the smell and the taste on this beer all are just magic. I highly recommend this for those that love pure Russian Imperials. There is none better than this one. Rating is based on the style.

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Photo of WadeBridgman
4.31/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Great velvety mouthfeel to this beer, a lot of people commenting on the "chocolate milk" aspect to the flavor and I would agree. I also think this beer requires a certain amount of aging to be fully enjoyed but overall very impressive, very enjoyable

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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.

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Photo of The-Adjunct-Hippie
4.18/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Inky black. 2 fingers of head.

Aromas of fresh peaches. Chocolate shell. Oatmeal. Lactose

Taste is more of the same. Dark chocolate covered peaches.

Feel is numbing. Thick. Raw.

Overall, this will kick your ass. It destroyed mine.

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Photo of Benish
4.12/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2016 release.

Appearance: poured a pitched black color with a beautiful rich brown head.

Aroma: almost mainly rich malted milk chocolate.

Flavor: very sweet and chocolatey-like. Could almost compare it to drinking chocolate milk but with a more roast character. It was slightly hoppy at the finish, leaving a somewhat annoying bitter aftertaste. The flavors are one dimensional, really not much more I could taste.

Mouthfeel: very thick and creamy. Full-bodied and rich.

Overall: everything was above par but the flavors could be way better. Not something I would ever buy again for $20.

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

One of Minnesota's nicest russian imperial stouts. This one is really thick with a heavy feel to it. Lots of chocolate with some creaminess. Rich with molasses and dark fruits.

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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.

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Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
4.42 out of 5 based on 3,791 ratings.
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