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Darkness | Surly Brewing Company

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BA SCORE
98
world-class
864 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:
864
Ratings:
3,691
Avg:
4.42
pDev:
19.23%
 
 
Wants:
3,306
Gots:
1,457
For Trade:
124
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Reviews: 864 | Ratings: 3,691
Photo of orbitalr0x
4.25/5  rDev -3.8%
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 cwehr13
4.25/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2013 Bottle into a snifter glass.

The appearance was black but not as thick as I thought it would of been. It also had a off white head about 1/4 inch.

It smelled smokey with a hint of Chocolate and it had an alcohol smell as well.

It has kind of a bitter smokey taste, not as sweet as the 2012 that I had in the past. It coated my mouth and it was very good to drink.

Over all It was a great beer, I can not wait to try this 2013 with a couple years on it, hopefully it will get a little sweeter.

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Photo of thagr81us
4.25/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Big thanks goes out to beeruser for sharing this one with me! 2009 (Mummy) Vintage! Served from bottle into a Mikkeller taster flute. Poured pitch black with a half finger brown head that subsided to a minimal amount quickly. Maintained decent lacing throughout the glass. The aroma was comprised of roasted malt, dark chocolate, alcohol, and subtle vanilla. The flavor was of roasted malt, dark chocolate, sweet alcohol, dark fruit, subtle vanilla, slight smoke, and very subtle molasses. It had a heavy feel on the palate with mild carbonation. Overall this was a pretty good brew. The flavor and aroma on this one were quite complex and inviting. The booze was still present after all this time, but it was quite nice with the other notes in the flavor. I was really glad I got the chance to finally tick this one officially as I have only had very small samples in the past. A definite must try for any beer fan.

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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.

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

750 ml of Darkness is coming my way! I knew one day I would be able to get a bottle of my own, but I didn't expect it so soon. I got this in a trade back in November. From a 2009 Vintage, on to the beer:

The cap has been taken off, so there is no turning back. It is black as black can be, no amount of lighting is gonna get through. The espresso colored head on top has a finger's worth of thickness and retention, and it has good retention. Thing rings of lacing cling to the glass. It's a very resiny smelling imperial stout. There's a lot of it. Some of the pure hoppiness still exists, and among other aromas are molasses, unsweetened chocolate

Unlike other imperial stouts, Darkness is plenty hoppy. Not resiny like the smell, just hop juice. Yeah, hop juice. Sweet tropical juice, orange, some citrus tang. Quite honestly, it resembles more of a yummy DIPA than a stout. But around its edges are yummy notes of chocolate fudge. More and more malty imperial stout hit the taste buds are more beer is consumed. The alcohol is buried extremely well, and it's not thick or viscous, rolls off the tongue with ease...creamy. Mmmm. It's leaving some tasty hoppy-sweet nectar as it dries around my lips.

I'm not as huge of a fan of hoppy imperial stouts as others geeks, but I do like Darkness and its hoppy profile. Needless to say, I'm very happy to have called a bottle of it my own.

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

2009 Vintage. Thanks to Masterski.

Darkness. More than a word, it is often a chill. Associations come, for everyone a little different, but desolation is a recurring theme. The idea of emptinesss, or if there is something there, it's a nothing, a black hole, or a Presence that one does not wish to take mental hold of. So this. A monumental claim, to present oneself as a nonreality, an idea, a fearsome specter that holds the power to strike loathing into the hearts of men, for it is the Other. The Opposite. The Abssence. It does not truly exist, for it is the absence of something, the absence of The Light that creates it, and nothing else. So then this. It is not Darkness, not The Darknesss, and has little right to stake such a claim. It is, in fact, merely a quite dark brown beneath a soap-bubble and cream tan head... A head that leaves tiny spots on the glass after a swirl. It is a beautiful beer, but shows at once that it is merely a mockery, merely a distant shadow, of what it esteems itself to be.
And then of course, one must dive in to see what this Thing may hold, perhaps looks were decieving... and it hits you. There's no burnt rubber, or tar, or used oil, or the stench of something rotting, or breathing, or hissssing in the darkness, nothing to cast fear into your heart that this is a Monster to be reckoned with... Instead, it is the old standby, the familiar, the lovely grapefruit, the resin, some earthiness, perhaps from a graveyard, but could be just from a garden. That's the thing with this one... There are some soy sauce notes, some roasted grain, some few notes to remind you that this is, indeed, an imperial stout... But it is far from the normal, and also far from the Standard of true Darknesss in liquid form, for which there are two, in my estimation... Dark Lord 2007 and the original, the fresh Mikkeller Black.
And then it just gets relatively boring.... Big sweetness up front but with a huge, Dipa worthy hop profile, even lasting into the finish with grapefruit bitternesss. The underlying malt profiles are that of an excellent RIS, a sticky sweetness with a heavy chocolatey profile and some roasted grain in the finish combining with the hops to form a solid bitter finish and with a syrupy sweetnesss on the middle of the tongue. Blah, blah, blah. We've heard thisss all before. Oh sure, it'ss good... but really? How could you claim to be the abssence of Light itssself, and then be thisss.... Norrrrmality....
Ssss...
Sssssyrupy, mmmm, yessss.... and ssssticky, it warmssss the throatssss....
Itssss bubbles, they are fewsss, not sssso manyssss and thinss....
Itsss deliciousss... and sssmackssss of sssslitheringsss
ssensssouousssly ssliding and ssssnaking down the ssspinesss of the unfortunate onesss...
It iss not the besst sssstout, but there isss ssome delectabilitiesss in thisss... and it'ssss sssneaky...
ssshelpsss....itsssgotsssmesss...

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

my first darkness, as is common with many of my lucky rare beer scores, thanks to drlovemd87 for hooking this up for us last night. an impressive example of the style for sure, but a top 50 quality beer? I don't know. its rather straightforward as they go, excellent no doubt, but it reminds me of a great many other stouts like this out there on the market. rich creamy dark brown pour, sudsy mocha head, dense but not thick, attractive. the nose is muted dark roasted barley and unsweetened bakers chocolate. no alcohol at all, extremely impressive. the flavor, and I love this feature in this style, is all about the grain. I taste a few layers of varying roasted barley and chocolate malt, but no coffee, no vanilla, no bourbon barrel, no oak, none of that stuff. I do taste some dried cherry type notes in the finish, and as it warms even more fruit comes out, but this is a no frills example of the style, and I appreciate it for that. perhaps most impressive is that its massive alcoholic content is entirely absent from the smell and taste, its just not there. a real creeper, something to look out for when drinking darkness. I loved it with chocolate cookies, and could imagine a million other food pairings for it. expert quality stuff, but not different enough from some of the others for me to rate it off the charts. great beer though, they all are from surly.

edit: some age makes this epic, just cracked a 2011, and was amazed how much more mature and integrated and evolved the beer was from the fresh version, it really is one of the best in the game, with a chocolate and raisin complex coming to the fore. improving a few scores to reflect that.

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

Was part of a 08-11 Darkness Vert! I found the 09' and 10' were my favorites, 08 was still good, but slight oxidation was detectable during the tasting.

This review will be a combo of my two favorite years.

A: Single fingered head that exhibited solid retention that slowly reduced to a thin film leaving some lacing in its wake. As the name suggests, this brew is completely black.

S: The 10' still had a slight hop profile while the 09' was full of toffee and raison scents. Molasses follows on both and was fairly potent.

T: Similar to the scent, the 10' had some bitterness from the hops and was balanced well by the sweet molasses that followed. The 09' was sweet, not too sweet for a 6 or so ounce tasting, but I would definitely struggle drinking a whole bottle. As the scent indicated the flavor was primarily comprised of toffee and dark fruits. The alcohol was not detectable in any vintage.

M: Medium/heavy bodied, nice and creamy, well carbonated.

O: A fantastic brew from my home state brewery. I suggest others do a vert if they can, was surprising how much this brew changed over time.

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Photo of brewskifan55
4.25/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2012 version. Taster glass. Thanks for the share, Shannon!

A: Rich black with a half finger tan head that lingered.

S: Molasses, dark fruits (dates, raisins, plums) chocolate.

T: Dark chocolate and dark fruit flow in like a werewolf in heat, tearing your taste buds into a helpless victim of pleasure as a light hop bitterness and smooth cherry/vanilla rip out your throat. In other words, fuckin' YUM!

M: Thick, creamy and carbonated to full moon standards.

O: Only once in a blue full moon do you get to taste something this good. An RIS with teeth.

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Photo of JamesMN
4.24/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

2013 vintage.

Appearance: Pitch black body sits below tan foam.

Aroma: Alcohol warmth, toffee, dark malt.

Taste: Starts with light grassy bitterness mixed with sweet dark malt and currants. The bitterness never gets intense and the malt really shines here. There's actually nothing harsh about the flavor which is odd coming from Surly but genius in that it makes for an unbelievably smooth flavor. Effortless finish and hint of caramel liqueur on the back end. Aftertaste of dark malt and hops. I was expecting a lot of chocolate and coffee flavor but the real standout seems to be a deep caramel character alongside the roasted malt. Robust and yet subtly restrained flavor all around.

Mouthfeel: Full in body, nearing the point of syrup. Super smooth with good drinkability for the style.

Final Thoughts: Had all but given up trying to get a bottle of Darkness. Pricy at $25 a bomber but worth it for a once a year release. Great example of the style. Would I drink it again? Yes.

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Photo of vandemonian
4.23/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I had the 2011 Darkness (I guess it was about a year old) at ChurchKey in DC at their Surly event. Darkness is a delicious bourbon-barrel ages Imperial stout with notes for coffee. As good as most of the great beers of this style.

A: Black with a 2 cm head that lasts. 4.5

S: The smell was malty with some coffee. This is a very strong smelling beer. 4

T: A strong malty flavour with come coffee. There are also some sweet, dark fruit flavours from the crystal malt. Maybe some bourbon barrel flavour too. Some burnt sugar at the end. 4.5

M: Foamy. 4

O: 4

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Photo of TMoney2591
4.23/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served in a snifter at The Barley House.

Who'd've thought that one of my personal whales would beach itself 'round here? Hey, I'm not gonna argue. Its pour verifies its name, as nothing but straight darkness sits in the glass, a finger-thick tan chapeau sitting jauntily on top. The nose comprises raisins, rum, blackened oats, figs, chocolate-covered strawberries, roasted malts, light molasses, and a very slight fusel scent streaming from the base. The taste holds notes of roasted malts, chocolate syrup, molasses, maple syrup, figs, oak, brown sugar, light orange flesh, and a touch of Belgian yeastiness. Honestly, the last two were a bit surprising, but definitely can't be considered detracting, as they add a refreshing complexity to a usually brutish style. The body is pretty hefty, with a light moderate carbonation and a chewy feel. Overall, I was not at all disappointed by this, though the one thing I would note is that it's a tad lighter and fizzier than I expected. But this was a minor issue at best, smothered by the overall tastiness.

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Photo of nhindian
4.23/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

750ml bottle poured into a Darkness tulip. Bottle courtesy of brian23456, thanks Brian! Split with russwbeck.

2010 Vintage (Vampire)

A - A beer has never been so aptly named until this beer. It flows out, viscous and sucking in all light, and only yields a bit of color when it builds its giant, 2-finger head, dark mocha in color. Retention is great, lasting about halfway through the glass, and even when it fades, it leaves behind a magnitude of bubbles. The lacing is fantastic as well, draping a curtain of lace over the glass. Easily one of the better looking Russian Imperial Stouts.

S - On first smell, this reminds me a lot of Oak Aged Yeti in the fact that it has a good amount of wood and oak and hops, as well as some chocolate, dark fruits, alcohol, and perhaps a slight vanilla?

T - The taste is much more subtle than initially expected, bringing smooth tastes of wood, bitter chocolate, and almost rum-soaked fruits. Slightly roasty but overall everything comes together nicely. There's a noticeable hop taste as well. Finish is long and full of chocolate and a bit of alcohol.

M - Mouthfeel is moderately heavy with low carbonation. Given the big head, I was expecting more carbonation, but as it is now it has an appropriate amount. It's very smooth and the head adds some creaminess.

D - Drinkability is moderately high. The feel and taste are good, but was looking for something a little more given how talked up this beer is. I'd like to see a bit more complexity, but its a solid beer overall.

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Photo of Onenote81
4.23/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Huge thanks go out to monsterfat for this hookup in a trade long ago. Thanks so much for the opportunity, Jeff!

Vintage 2008. 500th Review!

Poured into a snifter. Wow, this is dense. Glugs out of the bottle thick and slow. This is the blackest beer I have ever seen. Held up to the light, nothing is coming through, not even at the edges. Oh man, what is this going to do to my stomach? Big warm chocolatey scents burst out of this beer. Wow! Slight sour note on the finish. Little soy sauce.

The body is my favorite part of this beer. I want to wrap myself up in this and go to sleep. This is the smoothest, creamiest beer. Carbonation is present, but it is overwhelmed by such a buttery creamy mouth. Man. The flavor reminds me of a melted chocolate bar in a drink. Seriously. This is pure chocolate. Mild tartness on the back end, but it is sweet and creamy. Bitterness is low. Slight smokiness in the aftertaste. Geez. This is good. Drinkability is very high as the alcohol makes itself a ghost in the flavor. I'm feeling its presence a bit, but I can't detect it in the flavor.

In all honesty, I didn't think I was going to like this beer. Even though it is so highly rated, I thought I would find it too much. It showed me a thing or two...

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Photo of MasterSki
4.23/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

For my 1000th review, I had to choose whether to go with something extremely rare or something nostalgic. Since my last few milestone reviews were Belle Vue Sélection Lambic, Kaggen! Stormaktsporter Rauch, and Cantillon Loerik, I figured it was time for a change of pace, so I picked the first beer for which I traveled to a release party.

This review is an aggregate of all four bottled vintages. Thanks to hoppymeal, northernbrews, and hophobo for supplying vintages '07, '08, and '09 respectively.

(And no, I've never had '06, nor would it be appropriate for this review as it was growler/tap only.)

A - All vintages of Darkness are essentially reference quality Imperial Stout when it comes to appearance. Pours yield a few fingers of dark tan/mocha foam over top of a pitch black body that reveals a sheen of brown at the top of the glass when held up to the light. The head slowly dissipates leaving behind a thin cap and splotchy fingers of lacework. Earlier vintages have slightly worse retention, but all look quite excellent and sufficiently evil.

S - On the other hand, the aroma varies markedly by vintage. The most hop-forward at this stage is '09, with some floral, earthy, leafy, and slightly citrus hop character still present after a year. You can tell '07 was similar when it was bottled as it also features some faded herbal hop notes. The '10 is far more understated in this area, with a floral character that is roughly as potent as the three-year old '07 vintage. Whatever hops were present in '08 are long gone (and they were there, as I remember them when I had it fresh on-tap). Malt character always features sweet dark fruits, figs & prunes, and baker's chocolate, but roast character ranges from fairly intense in '07 to almost non-existent in '08.

T - The taste mirrors the aroma fairly accurately, but there are a few unusual disconnects. '07 features present but well-attenuated hop and char bitterness, as well as dark chocolate and dark roast coffee. '08 tastes largely of cherry cordials, milk chocolate, and dates. '09, even with its still-present hop aroma, is surprisingly high in caramel, molasses, and dark fruits. There is some fairly potent roast character but this is sweeter than I remembered. '10 is most similar to (aged) '07 with roast espresso notes, earthy and herbal bitterness in the finish, and understated sweetness.

M - All vintages are quite similar in this regard. A smooth, creamy, medium-full body that is big enough for the circa 10% alcohol, soft medium-low carbonation, and some light warming alcohol after a few ounces.

D - This is a definitely a sipper, particularly with the sweeter vintages. The 750ml bottles are probably best shared 3-4 ways, and the sugar levels can reach critical after having much more. I find this more drinkable than Dark Lord, but significantly less so than something like Ol' Jack Frost.

It's quite interesting to chart the (d)evolution of the beer and the cautionary tale it can teach about transitioning from small-batch brewing to large-scale production. I'm actually fairly confident the malt bill hasn't changed significantly over the years - what DOES seem to change is the timing and size of hop additions. I wish I'd taken notes on fresh pours of each vintage on-tap, but I do remember that while '08 and '09 both smelled brutally hoppy when first tapped, the hop character vanished from '08 in only a few months. On the plus side, the cloying nature that the '08 displayed after a few months is largely gone, and while certainly sweeter it's actually quite pleasant.

The score is representative solely of the bottles as they tasted circa October 2010.

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Photo of NoLiberty
4.23/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours at EBF into a plastic sampling glass after a long wait in line. Hopefully it's worth the effort. Color is a beautiful thick dark, black. Wonderful thick, frothy, milkshake-like head.
The aroma starts with a piney hoppiness, followed by an all spice note, then leads into dark chocolate, come bitter cocoa, coffee and a strong roasted basement brings it all together. A warm alcohol presence heightens the flavor and invites more drinking.
The taste has a front palate of sweet malty chocolate cake, then moves to solid finish of hops and peppery spice from the alcohol.
The body is rather light for the depth and strength of the beer, and with a nice carbonation that creates a continuous agitation of flavors this has an overall soft and inviting feel. Well balanced and pleasing. The alcohol warmth slows down the drinking a bit but the flavors are so nice and the body so soft that this is definitely a keeper...if i could ever get another glass.

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Photo of craytonic
4.23/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2008 Vintage / 2011 Vintage (on tap at Churchkey DC).

Appearance: Motor oil black, decent head and lacing.

Smell: Roasted malt, dark chocolate, dark fruits - particularly prune juice, grape juice, and plum, dark rum, espresso, molasses, licorice, vanilla, and hops.

Taste: Slightly too sweet, lots of roasted malt of course, prune, grape, and plum juice, espresso, molasses, dark chocolate, dark rum, licorice, vanilla, tobacco juice, and hops.

Mouthfeel: It is a big beer, but not the thick oily syrup that is Dark Lord. Very well carbonated.

Drinkability: Good, the 2011 batch was a big improvement over 2010.

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Photo of Bosoxfan20
4.22/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Tasted in a mini-vert with 2010 and 2013 side by side. Review will be based on 2010 Vampire

A- Poured from a 750 ml bottle. Near black with a soft dark caramel head. Some light coming through. Decent legs

S- Aroma is quite intense. 2010 significantly stronger than 2013. Malty as hell, caramelized sugars, and generous amounts of dark cherries. A mix of other dark fruits and a hint of vinous notes.

T- Bold. Dark fruits again, maybe even some raspberries. Lots of sweetness of an RIS. Lots of malty goodness. Not getting the hop character the label speaks of, but very solid none the less.

M- Thick, chewy, and coating. Sweet without cloying. Alcohol present, but welcoming.

O- Terrific. The side by side proves age does this beer well. No signs of oxidation. Flavors only get taken up a notch.

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Photo of kemoarps
4.22/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Based on a google search of the label artist, this must be a 2013 bottle. Thanks to Dominique for including this in his predraft box. The only good thing to be associated with that league this whole year as far as I'm concerned...
Pours that beautiful obilisk-black that gets us all a titter in a good big stout. Finger or so of brown head settles relatively early into a thin film with disparate colonies of soapy bubbles. Surprisingly little lacing.

The nose fluctuates depending on how far from the glass I am. Sitting a ways back I get an undeniable hit of fresh hand made bread dough as it's rising. Yeasty dark grains. In passing past the glass there can be hints of dark fruit with sweet plums and prunes and boozy black cherries. But stick your nose intentionally into the abyss and you get blackstrap molasses and sin.

Initially sweeter than I would have expected. And not a bittersweet, no, this is more fructose and juice. The finish carries this through to its logical conclusion of candy sweet peaks. Far from one note, though layers of chocolate and cold pressed coffee give way to the aforementioned sweet peaks balanced by the coffee's bitter close.

Initially, the alcohol overwhelms a bit, but as the glass warms it mellows in to a nice complementary role. Fine carbonation steps aside and lets the smoothe if a bit... thin. Not thin thin, but medium where I was looking for thick and chewy as toffee... anyway, sweet and smoothe and incredible. This is my assessment. Too bad so sad this is the only bottle I've got.
Thank you @domvan for sending it along!!

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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 jdklks
4.21/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Thanks to Steve (fbm115) for the opportunity to try this. I've been waiting to mark it off my list. It doesn't disappoint.

This is a good looking brew: dark with amber edges, and a light fluffy brown head that graces the surface as softly as silk. The smell is, well, different; different, that is, in terms of imperial stouts. The big standout here is HOPS! Hops in a major way. They mix interestingly (not badly, but not necessarily well either) with your typical RIS characteristics: dark, roasted malts, with a dark fruit sweetness (cherries), chocolate, and alcohol. The hops add a citrusy "flair" that is, as before, interesting.

The taste is as interesting as the smell, but better. It takes a little getting used to, but all the complexity of a good RIS is here. It's sweet and majorly chocolatey, with a just a little roastiness. There are hints of caramel, brown sugar, and molasses. overall, very sweet. To throw excessive amounts of hops in the beer almost seems stupid at this point, but it somehow pulls it off. there is a citrus hop flavor up front that is immediately subdued by the more traditional stout flavors mentioned above. The hops do remain present throughout, though, and are most notable in the oily mouthfeel and the bordering-on-hop-bitterness finish and aftertaste. I taste DIPA, and I taste RIS. This is a beer experiencing an identity crisis, something that perhaps a little maturation could help. overall, its very intriguing and very interesting; on top of that, its actually pretty damn good.

The mouthfeel is silky smooth and extraordinarily well-carbonated. nice and thick as well.

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Photo of HuskyinPDX
4.21/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2011 Zombie bottle.

A - Pours a very dark brown with a one finger light brown head. Great retention.

S - Milk chocolate, slight oak, slight bourbon and vanilla as well.

T - Vanilla milk chocolate, with a slight bourbon and oak finish.

D - Sweet and Oily. Average body and carbonation.

O - Very good. Smooth and delicious.

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Photo of Pecorasc
4.21/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Vintage 2008, split two ways with Boothbeer into wine glasses. 750mL red waxed bottle with a great looking demonic character holding a skull. Not the typical Surly artwork, but impressive.

A- Pitch black at center with ruby to brown highlights when held to light. Latte colored head with large bubbles that reverse gravitate into a thick and creamy collar. Intricate lacing is formed as the heavy foam dissipates. No signs of carbonation are visible through this murky sludge.

S- Restrained licorice, dark fruits, a medley of boxed chocolates, and heat from the alcohol. Underneath these different aromas is a persistent sugary sweetness. While complex, this is lacking in intensity; I expected more.

T- Up front- intense sweetness accompanied by various dark fruits: prunes, dates, plums, and figs. There is a gradual progression that leads to a combination of roasted barley and dark fruits. At the end there is a only the roasted aftertaste balanced by a sugary sweetness- a combination reminiscent of molasses. Leaves a good amount of sugary residue on the mouth and lips. Moderate alcohol burn. Intense... more than made up for my disappointment with the aroma.

M- Very viscous and milky with little carbonation. The consistency reminds me of a warm glass of Ovaltine. If there was one aspect of this beer that I would equate with the name "Darkness", it would be the mouthfeel.

D- This is a sipper, but not because of the alcohol. The sweetness and viscosity make this one to be consumed in limited quantities.

Notes: Drank this side-by-side with the '09, but did not review that vintage. The intensity of the dark fruits and sugary sweetness in the '08 separated that year from the '09. Additionally, the '09 had a hop bitterness than was not present in the '08.

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Photo of Jmoore50
4.21/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Sparklepants for this awesome brew.

The appearance of this one is superb. Super high SRM, like pushing the limits on this one, dark as night. The head is caramel colored and sticks around for some fun. Great small bubbles, head foam is dense. The legs on this one are beautiful, alcohol residue as well as heavy lacing. Great look on an epic brew.

The smell is hoppy, interesting. Molasses and licorice, with HUGE roasted grains. Some ABV is present, also some burnt coffee smells as well. What is going on with the hop character in the smell? I am not liking it, gives off a citrus-grapefruit characteristic that kind of clashes with these darker fruit smells. Toffee and caramel, sweet dark candy is very present as well.

The taste is good, but not blended very well. There are very strong characteristics of roasted and black malts. There are also roasted coffee flavors as well, but not coming from actual coffee, most likely coming off of the malt. This coffee malt gives it an earthy flavor as well. Black licorice and a lot of the ABV are noticed. The ABV is nice because it brings out the roasted malts more and also some chocolate. Why are hops coming through so strong?!? Citrus bitterness is such a strong characteristic in this one that it stands out from everything else. I went to the Surly website and they say that they 'add a touch of hops to make it tastier'. NO! It makes it a totally confused RIS. Chocolate is strong in the brew as well as caramel and toffee. I cannot believe the hops in this, really misunderstanding the direction the brewers wanted to go with this one. Starts on such a good direction and the hops throw a wrench in the clogs. Weird.

The mouthfeel is great and creamy. Lots of hot ABV flavors help you out as well as the roasted malts. Perfect carbonation, really great.

The drinkability is really good for a few bumps in the road. This is still a really good beer but. . . overrated. Maybe it is just me and how I like my RIS', but this much hops in a RIS? Sure you add them for bitter aspects, but if they dry hopped this with a bunch of hops then they are very brave in doing so. I think that the hops bring the beer down and distract from the other great flavors in this beer.

Thanks again to Sparklepants for sending me this. Knocked out another 'big RIS' that I have always wanted to try.

J

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Photo of ZombiesAteMyDog
4.21/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

REVIEW # 666 - Darkness 2011 (Zombie)

A - The body appears thinner than I expected; the glass is not "stained" as I move the zombie molasses around the glass. Opaque black with a small, warm tan head that lasts.

S - Hmmm... rum raisin, some slight char/smoke, bakers' chocolate, and coffee... All of the somewhat usual suspects, but it seems a bit fruitier for an RIS, which I like.

T - First off, this reminds me of Black Albert a lot due to the dark fruitiness I am picking up. The taste follows the noise quite well, but the char flavor lingers on the tounge for a bit longer. Not overly sweet, and the alcohol is well hidden, but then again, this is not even hitting 11%... I'm used to having 14-15% stouts lately, so this is a nice change of pace.

M - Not overly heavy or syrupy, which is quite pleasant. Too many sought after stouts get overly thick and syrupy. Don't get me wrong, I generally like that in my stouts, but in moderation.

O - A great stout, and I'm glad I was able to trade for it. Thank you to whoever traded this to me back in the last part of 2011.

***I had CBS on Canada Day '13, and now I've had Darkness as my 666th beer... I am a beer nerd.

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Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
4.42 out of 5 based on 3,691 ratings.
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