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 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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Photo of Beers-es
4.75/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

On tap at the brewery. Pours classic RIS: opaque black with a dark tan head. Smell is amazing, with a rich combo of chocolate and coffee, and tons of cherries and other ripe, dark fruit I can't quite place. Taste is complex progression of what's on the nose, and is just super delicious. Many layers of flavor. Fairly sweet, but with an offsetting bitterness that is nearly perfect for the style. A huge, rich beer that is masterfully constructed. One of the best RIS beers I've ever had.

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Photo of boilermakerbrew
4.47/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

2013 bottle from notes from yesterday's share.

This beer was probably the most gorgeous pour of our share, with a thick and pitch black pour that turned into a small to average sized head quickly. The head was a chocolatey brown in color with good retention and very good lacing. When I took a sniff of the beer, the hops were definitely still in there. Upfront, the hops very still mildly bitter and melded with the dark and burnt malts. The back half of the scent was mostly semi-sweet, fudgey chocolate. When the first sip hits the tongue, the same flavor arc that happened in the scent starts, with a mild hop bitterness that transitions into a sweet, chocolate flavor in the middle of the drink. On the back half of the drink, the primary flavor is a chocolate-hops combo platter with a touch of dark fruits. The mouthfeel of this one is thick and smooth with a certain amount of creaminess. The carbonation is very low and the alcohol is very well hidden.

Overall, this is a phenomenal beer. In this case, ~2 years in the bottle has turned it from a hoppy stout into a delicious mix of hoppy and chocolate flavors.

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Photo of hophead7117
4.49/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

The bourbon sticks out in the first glass, but after that it is almost non-existent. Second glass, as it warmed, became much more hoppy/fruity. This was pleasant. Final pour, much of the roasted malts of chocolate and notes of coffee became much more apparent. Even though this is a big brew, it was very smooth and didn't feel heavy.

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

Straight 5s for a reason. It was good enough that I decided to sign up solely to make this review.

I had the pleasure of trying a 2009 (mummy) version that my roommate's friend wanted to share and it was amazing. After 6 years there was a very strong prune flavor that definitely added to the flavor in a positive.

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

Thanks Aimee.
This was poured into a snifter.
The appearance was a black color with a dark tan head. The head took its time as it dissipated. Light lacing ran around the glass.
The smell had a smooth dark chocolate, vanilla, dark dried fruit, sweet bourbon, milk chocolate and molasses.
The taste was mainly sweet with an ample amount of the dark chocolate showing some roasty and bitter edges. The aftertaste was mainly sweet through the previously mentioned flavors of the aroma. Nice quick finish.
The mouthfeel was about heavy on the body as the ABV made a big effort in affording my tongue the price of admittance. No joke with this one. Malts lay down the gamut and produce a decent stickiness.
Overall, one of the heaviest feeling beers I've ever had. I wonder if this thins out with age, hopefully my trader will get me another. Extremely good.

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

Very complex flavor highlighted by a rich caramel/coffee/fruit flavor. Finishes very smooth and warm. Well worth the hype! I cannot wait for the next release!

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Photo of Umdrunner
4.77/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

This is for the 2015 release:

Definitely worth the hype! Rich dark flavors of chocolate, coffee and raisins. Hits with a little crispness, goes down smooth and velvety, finishes with a lingering flavor of a 12% ABV beer! I can't wait to try the BA version!

The 2015 offering is 12% ABV

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Photo of floridadrift
4.53/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

A big stout that seems to change year to year.
2014 was chewy with some initial roast with sweet malt and big chocolate notes through out, really enjoyed this one. Smelt like chocolate malt and prunes.

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Photo of mwilbur
4.77/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Poured on-tap into tulip.
A: Pours a thick black with 1/2 inch dark mocha head with good retention and lacing.
S: Smooth dark chocolate, vanilla, dark dried fruit, sweet bourbon, and a hint of cream.
T: Dark chocolate milk, bourbon, dark cherry, vanilla, heavy cream, raisin and other dark dried fruit, molasses, and bitter coffee and chocolate finish. The more I get into this, the more I appreciate the hop elements (citrus, bitter note, etc).
M: Velvety smooth, creamy, and sweet. Bitter note becomes apparent in the mid-palate and stronger in the finish. Moderately heavy body. Drinks lighter than the hefty ABV would suggest. Amazing balance of super heavy malt notes and yet the hops shine through (although still playing second fiddle).
D: Definitely an exceptional brew...well done Surly! Outstanding for style and lives up to the hype (which isn't always easy to do...especially since I've been waiting a few years to try this one). One of the best beers I've had with excellent complexity and drinkability.

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Photo of Wer34truh
4.46/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.25

Had on tap, both at the brewery and at a local bar.

Comes in a silky black color, with a dirty-white head. Definitely lives up to its name.

Taste is marvelous, and besides subtle tones of roasted coffee beans, it also includes plum, raisins and cranberries. Despite being an incredibly dark beer, it's surprisingly fruity - without ever becoming unbalanced. The feel is delightfully thick, while never being combative.

All-in-all, a most fantastic beer, and well worth its reputation.

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