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Darkness | Surly Brewing Company

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BA SCORE
98
world-class
863 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
2015 - Bat
2016 - Cerberus

Added by ryantupy on 10-08-2006

BEER STATS
Reviews:
863
Ratings:
3,687
Avg:
4.42
pDev:
9.28%
 
 
Wants:
3,307
Gots:
1,453
For Trade:
124
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User Reviews
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Reviews: 863 | Ratings: 3,687
Photo of davedahl
4.85/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I've only had Darkness once - and it was the last 2oz from a keg at Binny's in Chicago's south loop. Talk about a tease.

The apperance was dark black everywhere - not even a hint of color at the edges. Thin layer of dark black rich head of tight bubbles.

Nose is a very complex combination of malt, spice and pepper.

Taste is lots of fruit and sweet malts, even some milky creaminess to it. Aftertaste of more dark cherries and chocolate.

Mouthfeel is amazing. Milky slick coating with a slight alcohol hint.

This badboy just went on my "wants" list. Yum.

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Photo of SurlyMe
4.85/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2010 vintage poured into snifter

Appearance - Pours like used motor oil; rich, dark and creamy. A semi-hard pour yields a nice cinnamon colored head which thins as you drink.

Smell - Notes of hops just as the bottle was cracked, once poured chocolate creamy stouty goodness fills the nose, little bit of coffee scent

Taste - chocolate and roasted flavors up front that lead to a very nice lingering finish, tiny bit of smoke flavor and some hops. The sweetness is always there but not too much.

Mouth - very full in body, perfectly carbonated, extremely velvety smooth, slides right down...

Drinkability - simply amazing, want to keep on putting it down which is dangerous with the ~10% abv...

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Photo of JoEBoBpr
4.85/5  rDev +9.7%
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.

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Photo of alexgash
4.85/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Picked up this dark, inviting growler at the brewery on the 23rd. Glad I got there early enough to get one of these, because this is a terrific RIS!

Decants a dark inky black with dark brown highlights. Topped by a very dense, glass-crawling, light cocoa brown head. Complex aroma of resinous hops, rich stewed fruits, sweet smoked meats, roasted barley, licorice, tobacco, and sugary espresso. Roasted bitterness up front. Followed by sweetish raisins, figs, coffee/chocolate liqueur, sweet smoked meatiness, molasses, and dark coffee. I really like the way the smoky/meaty flavors work with the sweeter, richer fruits and chocolate. Bittersweet finish of numbing hop resin bitterness and mocha chocolate syrup.

Amazingly thick and viscous mouthfeel and as full-bodied of a beer as I have ever had! Velvety smooth on the palate and dangerously drinkable. Complex and outstanding. Not just the best RIS made in MN (ha!) but one of the best I've had period.

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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 jsprain1
4.84/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

A- Perfectly black, with a quarter finger cocoa head. Retention is decent.
S- The aroma is so deep and complex. A touch of sweetness with some chocolate to it, but it quickly goes into coffee grounds, smoke, and licorice.
T- Really,really good. Sweet up front. Milk chocolate is quickly overtaken by coffee, smoke, and licorice. Really complex. Sweet undertones, provide a base for complex flavors.
M- Full body, actually fairly silky clean consistency to it. Low carbonation, just enough to keep it going.
I know I am buying into the hype, but this is a really, really good beer. Definitely a must try.

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Photo of bjohn84
4.83/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Reviewed a 2011 bottle.. cellered for 4 months.. poured into a darkness snifter

A - Jet black with a red hue towards the top. Thin tan head with excellent lacing

S - Cocoa nibs come first, berries and fruits

T - Chocolate covered fruits up front. Strawberries, cherries, Molasses, raisins. Bold burn from the alcohol numbs the tongue after the swallow, but doesn't overpower the robust flavor. Dry bitterness tends to come through on the back end

M - Fairly low carbonation and very full bodied. Quite a bit of stickiness in the mouth

O - Very complex RIS with new flavors coming through the longer I sip on it. Very filling, but drinks and goes down very smooth.

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Photo of tobin999
4.83/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

a: darkness sums it up black with a milk chocolate head

s: dark fruits, chocolate, roast/ burmt malt.

T: same as smell with some vannila and mild bitterness

M: nice creamy body not overly sticky

O: big fan of this local brew and I'm glad i have some more

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

After coming up empty glassed at 3 locations I scoured the forums and got another tap serving (had one at Darkness day in a plastic cup) of 2009 Darkness

A: The Bartender poured it marvelously, big 6 cm coffee colored head that slowly faded into Darkness...okay, a little cliche. The usual strapping black body was present too. I couldn't complain about the glassware, a brand new Darkness snifter glass that I used to own until I broke it.

S: Smoked chocolate, sweetness, alcohol masked in the nose.

T: Palate boner - delicious dark chocolate, roasted espresso beans, big citrusy hops. Seemingly much more balanced than the '08, though I question the evolution of beer geek palates. Oddly enough this serving fared better than what I had at Darkness Day. The complexity increases as it warmed and is good incentive to cup the snifter with my warm palms.

M: Thick and moderately creamy. It can keep up with the big boys without being oatmeal.

D: Oh man, deliciousness. I am tempted to find an excuse to drink another serving tomorrow, pending it's availability. It's more than just hype with the beer, a real pleasurable experience.

Watch yo ABVz

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

2011 vintage. About 11 months old.

This pours dark. And by dark I mean black. No light penetrates with a dark mocha head. Really a great looking stout. Leaves a nice lacing on the glass. Swirling the glass viscous motor oil appearance.

Smell is of dark fruits some roasted grain. Light Licorice. A little caramel sweetness as it warms.

Waves of flavors on this one. Tastes of Sweet malts. Burnt sweet cherries. Light licorice and I am thankful it's not too strong, just enough. Dark chocolate fruit notes on the finish. Slight chocolate cake batter. A nice residual sweetness on the finish. Alcohol is well hidden.

Nice creamy mouth feel. Is full without being too heavy.

Overall an impressive imperial stout. I can't think of a non-barrel aged imperial stout with more going on that this.

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Photo of SteveB24
4.83/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Look-color of the beer is jet black, beer pours a shocking two fingers of frothy, tan head. wonderful lacing left on side of the glass.
Smell- Roasted malts, caramel molasses, coffee, milk chocolate, Raisens.
Taste- Unbelievably complex yet super smooth, roasted malts, toast, raisins, plums, milk chocolate, coffee, pink peppercorns. so much sweetness but balanced by the toasted grain taste of the malts and some fruity spiciness.
Feel- Full bodied but not quite oily. perfectly creamy.
Overall- one of the best stouts, if not the best, that i've tried.

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

750 ml bottle with both red and black wax covering the cap, acquired in a trade with LeonTrotsky, one of the lucky people in Minnesota to get some of these, thanks a lot for giving me the chance to try this brew, review #475, 2007 vintage

Bottle #35, ironically drank while watching a pretty bad movie called "Darkness," took me about two hours to get through this bottle by myself, but I gave my roommate and girlfriend each about two ounces, took me a while as this is the first beer I have drank in a few weeks and I did not want it to hit me too hard, rather enjoy its distinct taste, less than six hundred were made in this first batch of bottling

Poured into my Dofish Head snifter with a pure black color and a very impressive 3/4 inch foamy mocha head that stuck around for four to five minutes, was not as thick as I would have liked but still not a thin or weak stout by any means, good retention and left sticky light brown lacing along my entire glass, appearance was nice because of the super dark color and creamy texture

Smell was pretty much perfect, dark chocolate, milk, floral hoppiness, several different varieties of fruit including citrus and berries, coffee, sweet cream, oak, wide variety of malty aromas, and a small amount of oatmeal and grains

Taste was great, the first instant of the first sip seemed like it was an india pale ale, it was such a hop bomb right off the bat that I could not believe it was a Russian imperial stout, it reminded more of Stone's 11th Anniversary with its color and taste, this was probably because I was drinking it too cold at first, the dryness of this beer was astonishing though nevertheless, once the hoppy character wore off after a few seconds, I got a lot of burned chocolate and espresso tastes, as it warmed more sweetness came to the surface that consisted of caramel, creaminess, milk chocolate, and some dark fruit, the hoppiness stayed there the whole time though, nice spiciness throughout and crazily smooth, strong oak tastes throughout to go along with the burnt tastes caused by the hoppiness and dark chocolate malt, this beer was very complex and had a lot of different things going on as it continued to get warmer and warmer, by the end it was so easy to drink, and the hops and malt were balanced out so well, very enjoyable overall

Body was thick but I expected it to be even more so, not comparable to Dark Lord in this sense, but that is not a bad thing, great mouthfeel with a perfect amount of carbonation, leaves a nice sensation on the tongue, taste lasted several minutes

Could have drank three bottles of this if I had all day to sit, and drink expensive and rare beer, very very drinkable, alcohol is hidden well and could definitely sneak up on you if you are not careful, over ten percent alcohol is strong stuff regardless, not too filling on the stomach because it is not overly sweet or strong tasting, goes down very easily because of its unparalleled smoothness

Very different from other highly rated imperial stouts I have tasted from this site, where Dark Lord is super thick and syrupy, and Kate the Great is sweet and warming, Darkness is soothing and surprisingly dry, making all of these beers very different overall, one thing they all have in common is that they are sippers or dessert beers that take a good amount of time to get through, and that they pack a serious punch as far as ABV goes, I cannot say any of these three are better than one another because they differ so much

This deserves all the hype that it has gotten and I feel honored to try a beer like this, especially after seeing how much it has sold in online auctions recently, I never would have been able to afford if it was not for this generous trader, awesome RIS that is very unique because of its in your face hoppiness, glad Surly bottled this masterpiece, I have not tasted a bad beer from them yet, Darkness was amazing and I hope to get some of next year's batch if it is available in bottles again, highly recommended if anybody wants to give up a bottle, fantastic drinking experience

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

2011 vintage.

A: 1/2" light brown head with a nice lacing over black liquid.

S: Pine hops and toasted malt.

T: Pine and citrus hops up front with caramel, chocolate and roasted barley flavours.

M: Medium to thick viscosity and a medium level of fine carbonation.

O: A beautiful beer: bitter yet semi-sweet, great mouthfeel and very tasty and enjoyable.

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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.

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

Appearance: Like the cover of a Spinal Tap record, it cannot be any blacker. Dense brown head that suspends liquid within it and lingers for the long haul.

Smell: Very rich character. Coffee and chocolate, rich malt and a decent hint of hops.

Taste: Chocolaty roast malt. Blasts of sweetness settle to a ripple with a great hop balance. There is so much under the surface that begins to reveal itself, and then disappears back into the Darkness. A Complex and challenging brew.

Mouthfeel: Rich, full body with a smooth oily finish. Very satisfying.

Drinkability: Extremely drinkable for such a big brew. Tasty from start to finish.

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Photo of bodhi185
4.82/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

On tap at Smallbar in Chicago.
A: Jet black with a pretty thin head for the heft of the beer.
S: Raisin, molasses, with a little chocolate and a little alcohol pickup.
T: Supremely bitter black molasses russian imperial flavor that drinks pretty dry and insanely balanced.
M: Actually pretty thin for the style in my opinion, but lingers for days.
O: Bitter, biting, big big beer. Worth the wait...thank you Minnesota for sharing with Chicago again.

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Photo of Scooter1027
4.82/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

A Surly gem. Reviewing the 2011 vintage. Poured into a snifter. Pours thick, viscous looking, light brown head is there, though not excessive. Smells incredible... toffee, caramel, chocolate, some dark fruit notes. Taste -- one of the best stouts I've ever had. After also trying the 2015 vintage, it's plain to see how well this one ages. Smooth toffee flavors, chocolate there too, and the dark fruit flavors shine and set this beer apart from other stouts (and from more recent vintages). Mouthfeel was smooth, a little sticky, dessert-like. Just a terrific overall stout, up there with the best of them.

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Photo of hoplover82
4.82/5  rDev +9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

I am so happy to have a bottle of this wonderful RIS. A friend of mine brought one down from MN. Thank you so much Sarah-Jane. This was the only bottle they had left in the store by the way.
A-This beer pours black with brown-ish/rudy highlights when held up to the light. The foam is huge and has amazing retention and lacing for a beer like this.
S-The aroma is huge with notes of mocha at first, yet VERY complex with toffee, chocolate, some earthy leather, some mild roastiness, woodsy, dark stone fruits, and man that sweet mocha really sticks out like no other RIS I've had. Truly an amazing aroma, (one of the most complex).
T-The flavor is just as impressive and complex with the mocha standing in the front lines. Fresh toffee follows along with prunes and sweet camamel. There is that earthiness woody-like note in the flavor as well as a mild earthy hop flavor note. Very impressive indeed.
M-The beer has such a slick, creamy sweetness but the bitterness level is just perfect to keep it from being cloying. Huge body and a long sweet, mocha like finish.
O- This beer that is called Darkness is most likely the best RIS I've ever had. I am once again so pleased to have had a chance to try this great beer. Thanks again Sarah-Jane

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Photo of jamescain
4.82/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Review #200

2008 vintage poured into a sniffer, another BIG thanks to Dajtai007 for sharing this one.

Appearance: Just as the name describes, Darkness, it pours a pitch black inky looking beer with a dark brown head about a centimeter thick that fades into a ring around the glass.

Aroma: Dark chocolate, vanilla, spicy notes, licorice and dark fruits, wonderful aroma, complex and not jumbled together.

Taste: Just like the aroma wonderfully complex, dark chocolate, dark fruit, prunes, molassas, coffee and roasted grains.

Mouthfeel: Silky smooth with minimal carbonation and a thick body, a sipper, yet still easy and pleasant to drink.

Overall: Time has done very good things to this beer. After trying this one and the 2009 vintage, I'm not going to touch my 2010 for at least 2 years.

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Photo of neorunner
4.82/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Blind Beer #5 - Thanks to Dougofthefuture in Round 6 of the Blind Beer BIF

Friend refurbished an old office and turned it into a man cave. Copper clad bar, recliners, two draft taps, and a flat screen TV. What better way to break it in than with a tasting. So I decided to grab a 22oz bottle from my stash of blind beers and cart it along with some other tasty for the event.

Eight participants total in this tasting and after a couple bottles we decided we should taste the blind beer before our palettes were too fatigued. Beer poured jet black with nice creamy dark tan head. Aroma is chocolate and malt with a slight fusel tinge. This is an imperial stout, no doubt about it. Pass the bottle around and everyone takes a pour. The aroma on this beer is great, I could sniff it all night long. Flavor is velvety chocolate deliciousness. I immediately start thinking its a bottle of Stone 12th Anni. I would have went with Darkness, but no wax on the bottle. Mouth feel is smooth and viscous in body and little to no hop acidity in the back of my mouth. Everyone unanimously enjoyed this beer.

The reveal: Darkness 2011! A want and a very tasty treat. I'm glad I was able to share it with a bunch of friends as I would have been under the table trying to drink that on my own. Not that I wouldn't have tried. Taking the wax off was a slick move and a great way to throw me off the trail.

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Photo of jera1350
4.82/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at The Blue Nile.

Used motor oil color and consistency. Cocoa powder brown head that is quite thick and has staying power.

Rich malt and stronger than usual hop presence for the style. Chocolate, lightly smokey with a bit of coffee. The hops are mostly grassy with just a touch of citrus.

Delicious rich chocolate malt with notes of coffee and smoke. Light vanilla presence and generously hopped. The hops are lightly citric and also add some grassy notes. Big and robust flavor all around. The sweetness is up there a ways, but it's not too much in my opinion.

Velvety feeling and full bodied. Just slithers down the palate.

I could have one of these every day for the rest of my life and die a happy man. This is surely a top notch RIS and one that I will consume as much as possible. Worth all of the hype.

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Photo of curtiswvu
4.8/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured in a sniffter via Fountainhead at their Exceptional Beers Night.

Appearance- Midnight black with a milk chocolate head, perfect looking RIS.

Smell: coffee, chocolate and maybe a hint of bacon.

Taste- Fantastic up front and on the finish. Very smooth ...scarry smooth...iii wannnntttt mooorrrreee.

Mouthfeel- Suprisingly not as viscous as I anticipated but a full monster stout. Could be heavier actually.

Drinkability- In a land of one and done RIS I might be able to session this one until I fell off my stool.

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Photo of MichaelNeelsen
4.8/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Drank a 2011 "Zombie" 750ml bottle after aging 3 years, 2 months.

L: Poured like liquid silk. Pitch black, no light penetration. Mocha brown head dissipates and then reappears with each sip. The beer is very reflective - you can see yourself in it.

S: Raisins. Dark chocolate. Brown sugar. Dates. Fig. Smells like bourbon even though it's not barrel aged. Dark cherries.

T: As my friend who drank it with me put it, "Rich and sweet and right down the middle. There's no smoke and mirrors here."

F: Like liquid Robert Patrick. If you could drink the liquid T-1000 from Terminator 2, it would feel like this beer. Feels like wine without the dryness or tack. Glides over the tongue. Thin in the best way.

O: A real treat. It's not my favorite Russian Imperial, but it's really damn good - and a very unique experience to drink. I'll look to get a younger bottle and drink it without aging to compare. Highly recommended.

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Photo of lurpy1
4.8/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A long time coming on this one, fortunate to get 2 bottles from Four Firkins. One is being saved for a rainy day in 2013, the other to drink post-haste.

The pour is darker than a Spinal Tap album cover, with a substantial, sticky ocean-scum head that just goes and goes.

Smell...ooh la la, a lot going on here, but raisins, cherries, malt, and oats come to the fore. Goddamn.

If anything, the taste runs to the excessive, so much malt, fruit, boozy backdrop. Absolutely delicious. Why not a 5.0 for taste? Because it's almost too much, completely hit over the head with flavor.

Mouthfeel is perfect a thick, glossy sludge of a beer that doesn't coat the tongue too badly.

Awesome beer. Totally awesome. Glad I was able to get my hands on it.

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Photo of JackieTH
4.8/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Darkness 2010; on tap at MN Brew Review. .

Appearance: Rich dark brown, opaque, with a nice cap of carmelly-mocha head.

Smell: Rich dark chocolate, vanilla and molasses punctuated heartily by bitter citrus hops.

Taste: Dark roasted malt, rich dark chocolate, dark fruit, molasses, subtle bitter espresso, smoke, and a helping of bittering hops. Goodness. Darkness.

Mouthfeel: Rich, creamy, syrupy.

Drinkability: It's big on flavor, very dark & rich...and high ABV...give me more. Right now.

Note: Although 60-some breweries were on hand...my friends found it was very hard to dislodge me from the Surly booth once I got a taste of Darkness 2010.

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Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
4.42 out of 5 based on 3,687 ratings.
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