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: 3,774
Photo of Hootie159
4.5/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pitch black. Nice dark head that keeps pretty well. Classic RIS smell. Roasted chocolate. Sweet. Some dark chocolate bitter as well to balance. Like the smell, very good; classic. Nice mouth coating with a thickness. Strong carb.

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Photo of wulfie85
4.42/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

One of the great non-barrel aged stouts around. Very chocolately on the palate with roasted and bitter chocolate aromas as well. Great, thick mouth feel and black look as well.

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Photo of Rimbimhoot
4.44/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Very dark brown with light brown head
S: Roast, sweet dark fruit, dark chocolate, cherry, licorice, coffee
T: Dark chocolate, cocoa nibs, roasty, cherry, dark fruit, caramel, hop bitterness, orange
M: Full and creamy
O: Probably a top 10 non BA stout

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Photo of Zoomslowik
4.41/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

L- Nearly pitch black, a couple of fingers of tan head.

S- Chocolate. Dark fruits, some vanilla and molasses. Seems like a hint of hops as well.

T- Similar to the nose. Chocolate early, sweet fruitiness on the finish. Nice balance.

F- Very thick, coats the mouth well and lets the flavors linger.

O- Very good stout with a unique flavor.

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Photo of rodbeermunch
2.92/5  rDev -33.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3

Well it pours black, so the Darkness name is fitting. Aroma hits all kinds of dark fruit booziness and bitterness.

Taste was also quad like, all that dark fruit booze. Take Dark Lord, thin it out, swap sweetness for bitterness and rotting dark fruit, you get Darkness. Roasting of the malt no doubt contributes to the bitterness here, but things like coffee and chocolate malt are just obscured to the max here.

Frankly Surly makes a lot better beers for way cheaper.

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Photo of Beginner2
3.88/5  rDev -12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Sorry, guys.
There are things to like about this beer.
But, is it possible that your ratings are have been bamboozled by the alcohol?

While Darkness has all the smells and initial sensory attack of a barrel-aged very strong stout, it loses me when the alcohol hits me in the face. (I kept this plugged for 4 days and it was not as bad on the 4th, but my buds remember an extreme event.)

Fortunately, someone gave me two bottles and I will keep the second for, say, 2018 and will be glad to revisit this review then.

Until then, beware of purveyors who play to our lesser instincts.

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Photo of Scott17Taylor
4.29/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Pours black with small head that dissipates quickly.
I get aromas of dark chocolate, roast, fig, and piney hops.
Delicious, dark fruit, chocolate, and a pleasant hop bitterness. The dark fruit dominates with the chocolate comin throw mid palate. The hops play really nice. Just an incredible beer.
The mouthfeel is fairly thick with a nice warming as it goes down.
Overall, this is a very good, not worth $20 but good.

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Photo of TongoRad
4.87/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Right off the bat- dear lord, this is gonna be powerful; I can smell it as I'm pouring. Immediate sniff: holy crap, this is a hoppy stout! I love hoppy stouts!

Aroma is multi faceted with lots of complexity; I seem to get a different angle with each smell. Initially I get lots of dark chocolate roast, citrus oil and pine resin. This immediately begins morphing into prune, toffee, tobacco, smoke and ash, spices (nutmeg and vanilla), blackstrap molasses, espresso, even a touch of almond. It's amazing- all of these really heavy duty aromas taking turns with each other, yet the sum of the parts never overwhelms. If there is a constant throughout, it's the bitter dark chocolate.

And on the palate it's smooth, rich, and surprisingly tightly knit. Again, an amazingly harmonious blend of flavors for such a powerful beer. Toffee and dark fruits provide a solid platform from where the other elements nimbly move about. The spices play an incredible role as a conductor, too, seemingly present whenever I get the chocolate, espresso, nuts, citrus peel. Bitterness and alcohol are exactly where necessity deems them to be, keeping the whole thing sharp and exciting, but even not coming close to stealing the show. Great jumping crawdaddies!: power and finesse going hand in hand. This is a freakin' masterpiece of a beer, and I must admit that it bests my greatest expectations.

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Photo of SebastRain
4.79/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Serving: 750mL bottle from 2015 (bat), poured into a snifter glass. Aged approx. 5 months.

A: Pours thick, dark black body. Faint, light-brown head with excellent head retention.

S: Big nose with notes of licorice, rasins, cocoa powder, vanilla, cherry, sweet chocolate.

T: pretty darn sweet with huge chocolate, vanilla, raisin, licorice, plum, excellent complexity. 

M: Rich & thick. Sweet finish, lasts and lasts. Really pleasant. Very little boozy feel.

O: the best non-barrel aged stout I have ever had.

This beer is a must have.

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Photo of Taybeh
4.61/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

from old notes...i try to make sure to track Darkness down on tap every year, and though imp stouts aren't my favorites, this one, many years, is a killer. I still remember finding the '11 version at 11:30 pm at an Uptown bar of that year and wondering if it could get any better.

This is the non-b/a/ '14 edition (not the one available in bottles which is aged in rye whisky barrels), on tap at the Lyndale tap, into a snifter with a thin khaki head that subsides after a minute. Nose is a little elusive, but a lot there and it works well for me...suprisingly juicy, with cherries, and some leather, and some dark chocolate and espresso. Great waves and layers of flavors on the tongue, especially as it warms. The end is really great...ties everything together with a earthy and grassy hoppy kick...sticky and very substantial but also a lively mouthful.

Also had the 2015 non-b/a, but I preferred the 2014.

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Photo of majorbase2
4.27/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Pours a dark brown, nearly black color with a large, thick, dark brown head. One of the darker heads I've ever seen. Good retention, with moderate lacing.

Licorice, chocolate, and roasted malts.

Big, huge roasted chocolate notes that literally seem to melt on the tongue. Quite a terrific sensation. Licorice and dark fruits start to creep in as it warms. Cherry, prune, raisins. Definitely some bite from the alcohol. A chewy, viscous dark fruitiness coats the tongue following each sip. A good touch of bitterness on the back end. Very complex yet balanced.

Full bodied with the perfect amount of carbonation. The definition of a sipper. A good amount of bite from the alcohol renders this difficult to chug. The chocolate flavors work well with the beer's thick, chewy mouthfeel. Creamy, and goes down smooth. In looking at some other reviews, they comment on alcohol not coming through, which I disagree with. I feel alcohol makes itself known here.

Another excellent brew by my favorite home state brewing company. If you are a RIS fan, this is an absolute must-have.

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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 Kevinpitts
4.4/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Had 2015 edition on tap. Very "stouty" beer. Coffee notes present, but not dominant. This beer gets exceedingly better at warmer temperatures. More so than other beers. Imagine this would age gracefully in the bottle.

Had again from bottle (2015) with about 7-8 months age. Same taste as above from tap. Very good.

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Photo of larryarms847
4.3/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Pours a rich a viscous tar black with a thin layer of light brown foam, minimal carbonation.

Sweet Bakers chocolate, dark chocolate, roasty, and surprisingly big fruity notes.

Fudge, sweet and bitter chocolates, vanilla, roasted malt, but a little heavy on the fruit.

Medium-heavy bodied, low carbonation, unfortunately thin.

Overall, while in appearance this pours thick and rich, it leans heavy on fruitiness rather than the roasty goodness I usually look for in a stout. Additionally, the mouthfeel is where this totally falls off, thinness does not match the appearance profile. Okay, but not world-class.

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Photo of Sparty1224
4.69/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Serving: 750mL bomber poured into a Founder's taproom snifter. No bottled on date, but this is probably 5 months old at this point.

A: Pours a moderately thick, pitch black body. Faint, light-brown head that sticks around.

S: Big anise, licorice, cocoa powder. Some vanilla, cinnamon, cherry juice. Even a little bit of brownie batter and sweet chocolate.

T: Huge chocolate, vanilla, dark fruits, raisin, licorice.

M: Rich, but not super thick. Great balance throughout, with a nice sweet finish that makes you wanna go right for another sip.

O: My first Darkness was last year's, which was uniquely barrel-aged. Without having the base beer first, I had an unusual first impression (and it wasn't that good). Getting back to basics this year, I was lucky to secure a (regular) Darkness, and it's way better than last year's partially BA version. This one is rich, dynamic, and delicious. It has a huge drinkable quality to it. Reminds me a ton of Dark Lord with the slick sweetness it carries. With BA Imperial Stouts getting all the spotlight recently, it's refreshing to get such a tasty Imperial Stout that can stand on its own.

Recommendation: Any beer that has it's own day is a must have.

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Photo of NizzleEGizzle
4.9/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2015, poured from bottle into a snifter.

L: thick, black, and viscuous. Pretty. Little head.

S: gadzoiks! brownie, chocolate, vanilla. fudgy and intoxicating.

T: vanilla, and complex notes normally associated with aged stouts (prune/plum, raisin, tobacco).

F: extremely full-bodied. Lacks a creaminess I want to make this a 5/5.

O: exceeded my expectations! probably the best not BA stout I've ever had. by a long margin.

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Photo of wellsnb
4.37/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

2012 bottle consumed on 1/30/16. Has held up very well. Haven't had a fresher version so I can't say if it's better aged or not. Has an unexpected fruitiness that is very nice. Sweetness reminds me a lot of dark lord. Would love to try the BA version.

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Photo of Gobearswalter34
4.93/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Finally had at brrrfest yesterday in Coralville, IA. This and Todd TAM were the best beers there. Just the perfect smell, taste and feel for an imperial Russian stout. Chocolate, raisin, cherry, hop...perfect goodness in a bottle. The alcohol burn was nothing but pleasant. Surly keeps growing as a personal favorite.

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Photo of spacecake9
4.71/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Darkness 2015, tasted on tap at Surly.
A - Pours dark brown with a beautiful tan head. Lots of lacing
S - Aroma is sweet, molasses.
T - Flavor is Muted chocolate, raisins and a bit of cherries. Wow.
M - Thick mouth feel, more carbonation than expected.
O - This was fantastic. And I was lucky enough to find a bomber of it later in the day.

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Photo of Trevor11
5/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I enjoyed the 2015 vintage at the Local Option brewpub on 1/22/2016. This Russian Imperial stout was incredibly rich with dark chocolate yet balanced with raisiny sweetness. There is a vampire bat on the front label to add to its creepy, dark aura.

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Photo of Kbierle
4.27/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2015/2014 darkness side by side comparison

Both poured in surly tulip shaped snifters glasses purchased from the brewery. One taster did not know which was which. 2014 cellared in our basement cellar with temps that range between 50-65 degrees seasonally throughout the year. Poured at cellar temperature.

Both inky black in color. Thin lacy head on the 2014. The 2015 had better head retention - medium with fair amount of lacing. Both were a creamy tan color.

2014 lots of dark fruits, cherry, raisin, dark chocolate overlay. Toffee and caramel.
2015 malty, coffee notes. Bourbon vanilla

2014 starts how it smells with the chocolate covered cherries. Develops in the mouth and more of a mocha. Booziness and coffee notes come out more as the beer warms. Lingering (long) mocha, chocolate finish. Big body and chewy mouthfeel.
2015: caramel and vanilla hit the palate first. Roasted malts, a slightly bitter dark chocolate hit next. Body is more medium. Does not have the booziness feel like the 2014 (is that from cellaring? Will compare next year). Medium to long finish with the vanilla coffee notes.

2014 is a fantastic example of a big bold boozy Russian imperial stout. Hard to find any fault in it. 4.75/5.
2015 is a good beer in its own right but next to the 2014 falls slightly short. Palate significantly different without the fruity flavors. Don't know how much added complexity is due to a year in the cellar, but for drinking now about 4.25/5

We have a 2015 bourbon barrel aged darkness too that we have not yet opened. Excited to see what notes the bourbon barrel adds to the beer.

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Photo of tapperm
4.59/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

L: Dark coffee color. Mocha colored thick finger of head from a semi agressive pour.
S: Slight sweet oaky smell.
T: Chocolate, malt, coffee notes.
F: Smooth and think. slightly silky
O: Great RIS. Personally liked Dark Lord a little better. Seems slightly off balanced compared to the DL. Still an amazing beer that I am trying to collect a verticle of. Have had 2012 and 2013 back to back. Letting the 14 and 15 age a little.

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

2013 rendition. Was a little suspect when it was pouring out...but this beer is as dark as they come. Held up to the light, and there is nary a hint of amber or pale. Nose is sweet toffee, rich medium roast coffee, cacao, smooth. Damn...this beer is a mouthful. Thick, chewy, lingers for a while. Smooth...so smooth. Light roasted undertones, toffee, maple syrup...ripe figs. This beer does not disappoint. Amazing.

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Photo of Kraj30
4.5/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a real nice black with light mocha head.. head dissipates fast.. smell of Raisins and vanilla.. taste is very smooth with slight raisin flavor and nice vanilla/chocolate.. mouthfeel is very nice... a real winner here...

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Photo of mschrei
4.59/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Outstanding beer. Tastes more like a barrel aged than some barrel aged beers I've had before. Boozy, thick, and flavorful. Well balanced between sweetness and slight bitterness. Really mellows out after a few hours, still a very tasty sipper.

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