Darkness | Surly Brewing Company

BA SCORE
98
world-class
3,816 Ratings
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
2014 - Harpy
2015 - Bat
2016 - Cerberus

Added by ryantupy on 10-08-2006

BEER STATS
Ratings:
3,816
Reviews:
878
Avg:
4.42
pDev:
9.28%
 
 
Wants:
3,312
Gots:
1,521
For Trade:
137
View: Beers | Events
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 3,816 |  Reviews: 878
Photo of starrdogg
3.58/5  rDev -19%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Served on tap at ChurchKey. 2011 vintage. Thanks to the folks over there for bringing in all of the great Surly beer!

It pours black with a pretty significant brown head and nice lacing. The smell isn't quite what I expected, there is very little roast or coffee and instead the aroma is more sweet and chocolate with a little bit of alcohol. The taste is also much sweeter than I was hoping for. Chocolate is the primary flavor here and there even seems to be a hint of dark fruit. For my palate though, it's just a little too sweet and could've used some more roast to balance it out a little. Mouthfeel was medium bodied, not as full as your average RIS, but very smooth. I was really hoping that my second experience with Surly Darkness would be more impressive than the first, but this beer and I just aren't on the same page. It's not a bad beer, but I really don't understand why everyone goes crazy over it, it's too sweet and doesn't have a whole lot else going on.

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Photo of ffejherb
3.58/5  rDev -19%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2008 bottle consumed on 11/16/08, courtesy of Deuane.

A - As the name implies, this RIS boasts a pitch black body with an attractive milky tan head that receded into a bubbly ring of patchy retention that left lots of lace around the glass.

S - Lots of milk chocolate malty goodness with hints of black licorice and mild coffee. There also a bit of smoked meat in the backend, giving the aroma an almost gamey (ie. foul... as in chicken) character. It's a bit subdued, but it's still quite odd.

T - Dark fruit and chocolate up front, with a bit of a smoked character resembling meat or gravy. Some coffee and licorice notes are also present.

M - Full bodied, thick and rich with a slick, oily texture and minimal carbonation. Alcohol presence is pretty mild for a RIS. Finish is moderately bitter on the palate.

D - Complex RIS with an interesting flavor profile. I'm still trying to wrap my head around this style. I tend to gravitate more toward oatmeal and coffee stouts, personally. I found this one to be slightly over-rated.

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Photo of Desp59
3.59/5  rDev -18.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Photo of JoeMarinello
3.59/5  rDev -18.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Photo of BS68280
3.59/5  rDev -18.8%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

Big thanks to Joseph for opening this one up (finally getting the review up here). Poured into my DFH signature glass. I had this after DL and I have to say they are two different beasts, but i was fairly underwhelmed by this one.

A: Pours just as black as I have seen, with a foamy khaki tan head.

S: Way more hops than i was expecting out of an RIS. Earthy hops, with hints of dark fruits behind it. It smells alot more like black IPA than an RIS.

T: Right along with the smell. No surprises here. The earthy hops lead the way and kind of took away from what otherwise was a great RIS. Dark chocolates, and dark fruits follow, but i can't get over that much hops in my RIS.

M: Full bodied, thick.

D: Didn't really love this one, I don't think i could finish a bottle off myself.

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Photo of papat444
3.6/5  rDev -18.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

***2009 Vintage (Mummy)***

Big thanks to Masterski for getting me this rarity.

Poured from a bomber and split with my wife.

Appearance: Pours a thick body, kind of almost plops in with a thin ting that grows thicker as the pour intensifies.

Smell: Alcohol soaked nuts, raisins and figs. Whiffs of cocoa and chunks of chocolate but much more on the sugary, dark fruits side.

Taste: Raisins, figs, nougat, discreet chocolate and a tinge of black licorice. A bit of coffee as it warms but this resembles a barleywine almost. Not exactly what i'm looking for flavor-wise.

Mouthfeel: Boozy a bit, slight;y bitter and you eventually get in a groove but this doesn't feel like the strong RIS i'm looking for.

Overall: Have to say i'm a bit disappointed by this one. Compared to DL, this one is not as good. Flavors were good but for me, not worth the hype IMO. I'll take a DL instead.

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Photo of vissai
3.6/5  rDev -18.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

The 2010 Vampire
Poured into 3 ounce tasting glasses. Poured a very viscous black. Gave it a violent pour and it lead to a very faint, mocca head. It smelled immediately of cinnamon and raisins. The taste didnt hold any cinnamon but the raisins continued to shine, almost tasted like burnt raisins. Very sweet. The sweetness continued to shine and amplify with every sip. The barreling didn't really come through with this one for me, expected more oak. Mouthfeel is okay, very carbonated. I think a year of cellaring will make this one into a hell of a beast. Drinkability was nice, but again a little less carbonation and I could have drank a lot more. Looking forward to tasting some older vintages.

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Photo of onefiveseven
3.6/5  rDev -18.6%

Photo of QSugar2016
3.6/5  rDev -18.6%

Photo of Traquairlover
3.61/5  rDev -18.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

22oz bottle poured into a snifter. 2009 vintage. Thanks to bmanning for sharing this bottle with me. I had a hard time with this review. This beer was much, much different than I expected (or indeed expect from any RIS). Although I can see why some BA's love it so much, I would be very put off if other breweries try to replicate the style of this beer. It really seemed like a DIPA that used roasted malts and a longer than usual boil to simply be darker than usual, but still remain essentially an IPA like drinking experience. It wasn't different enough from expectations to give it bad scores exactly, but I did not find it a great example of an RIS.

A = Dark mahogany, coppery tan medium sized head with a mix of foam, small bubbles and a few large bubbles. Decent retention.

S = Strong, strong citrus smells of grapefruit rind and lemons, hiding under that is some burnt coffee, very light smels of roasted coffee beans and cocoa powder, after a good swish I pick up uncooked bread dough. Even with those other scents though, the entire experience is one of floral "C" hops with everything else playing second fiddle. It seems like it must have been heavily dry hopped or something. Rather than simply using hops for their bittering properties and letting bitterness from hops meld with forceful malt flavors such as coffee, chocolate, tobacco, etc., this beer seems to simply be all about hops smells and flavors.

T = The tastes of this just continue the jarring mental disconnect I get between what this beer looks like, what I look for in an RIS and what I am in fact getting. There is just a crazy mix of flavors, though, it's like drinking a mocha coffee drink that has been randallized using Pacific NW piney/citrusy hops varietals, bringing flowers, grapefruit, lemons zest, light resiny pine. Hidden behind all this are more of the flavors I would expect to stand out more. There is definitely the coffee and chocolate notes one often finds and also some dark fruits. All in all it is kind of like a black IPA on steroids rather than a strong bitter stout.

M = Medium-heavy full body, decent carbonation to keep the beer interesting and flowing in the mouth, good mouthcoating.

D = This just wasn't all that drinkable for me. I enjoy both sweet imperial stouts and bitter imperial stouts. I really do not particularly care for extremely strong C hops flavors clouding up the issue though. I drank my glass, but really did not particularly want another one. I may see about trying this again if it has been aged some, but I do not think I will seek out a fresh bottle.

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Photo of zoolzoo
3.61/5  rDev -18.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2010 Vintage

A: Extremely oily black pour. Im really surprised by the mocha head that quickly forms, and climbs to the top of the glass. Some activity from carbonation, head dissipates into nothing.

S: Wood, smoke, caramelized sugar, milk chocolate... burnt aromas, maybe a bit over charred. Some underlying hops here as well.

T: Initial chocolate and charred malt dumps right into some serious dark fruit. Deep purple, dark red flavors...the core of this beer is sweetened dark fruits and weird piney hoppage. Secondaries include licorice and roasted coffee. Pretty good, somewhat complex... unfortunately as I feared, too sweet.

M: Carbonated heavy cream

O: A worthy stout, though it doesn't measure up to its own impressive looking bottle art.

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Photo of veinless
3.61/5  rDev -18.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Last of the big Surly box I got from KeefD in our trade, thanks again man.

Vintage: 2010 (vampire)

Pours jet black with a large three-finger foamy mahogany head...impressive. Big curdled yogurt-like bubbles on top retain for a long time too. Lace is decent and spotty.

When I opened the bottle I thought I smelt spoiled milk and got nervous, but that scent is now completely gone. Deep milk chocolate is the dominant aroma with toasted malts behind it. The toasting is very mellow and not nearly to the point of charred or anything like that. Light fruit lingers behind everything, with only a bit of dark fruit present at all. I like it, but expected more.

Boy is this beer sweet, almost cloyingly so. It tastes like sugar water on first sip, with some lemon or citrus notes at the start. The taste is light and summery almost at the start, and I enjoyed it after a couple sips considerably more than I did at the start. The lightness eventually moves to a once again mellow toastiness; light coffee notes that weren't present in the nose come out here. Abv is hidden completely, and isn't noticeable even as a warmer.

Mouthfeel is fluid and sticky, but thinner than you would think. Definitely not a thick, syrupy beer. Carbonation isn't really present in spite of the large head. Drinkability is tough to gauge - the start and finish don't really go together well, and it feels like a jolt to the system with each sip, but the beer is definitely tasty and well crafted. I thought the hiding of the abv was well done, as booze added to the sweetness present would have been unpleasant. Overall I wasn't blown away, and I much prefer Surly's IPAs, but this was a more than solid offering from a very impressive brewery.

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Photo of HopHead84
3.63/5  rDev -17.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

2009 batch shared by Alex on 12/19/2009 and poured into a snifter. The beer pours black with a two finger light brown head.

The nose is aggressive green, piney, and grassy hops with light citrus notes. Beneath the hop onslaught I find a fairly standard RIS, with a moderate roasted quality and notes of dark chocolate.

The flavor is pine resin hops with an upper moderate level of bitterness. I detect chocolate and a light roast, as well as some astringency. The hops are very aggressive, and they seem to clash with the traditional RIS flavors at every turn. This is a return to the hoppiness of the 2007 vintage, but the hops seem to clash here, where they melded nicely in the older vintage. What I have before me is a rather strange beer that isn't particularly drinkable or enjoyable, apart from the hoppy novelty factor.

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Photo of jbahma
3.64/5  rDev -17.6%

Photo of Mikeluzzjr
3.65/5  rDev -17.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Photo of BattleRoadBrewer
3.65/5  rDev -17.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Zombie 2011, as part of an Imperial Stout tasting on DL day 2012.

Appearance: Nice pour with persistent fluffy dark tan head. Colored the glass nicely with a faint yellow sheen, but didn't leave any notable lacing.

Nose: Very vinous, loaded with dark fruitiness, black currants, cherry, raisin. Bump because it's a clean fermentation, big alcohol is not evident.

Flavor: Fruity, not nearly enough roastiness, reminiscent of very high cacao content chocolate bar.

Mouthfeel: Way too watery for an imperial anything.

Overall: Tonight's tasting pitted Darkness and Dark Lord against half a dozen competitors and found these two wax topped whale beers sadly lacking. Instead of standing in line at Darkness day, skip the line and grab a Furious or Bender to enjoy great Surly brews, and an Oskar Blues Ten FIDY for an awesome RIS in a can.

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Photo of DaveJanssen
3.66/5  rDev -17.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

2010 version split three ways. Reviewed 14 January 2011.

Ar: Mild smoke, full malt, dark caramel, brown malt, burnt but clean, hop bitterness

Ap: Thick and creamy, large dark tan head, great retention, black with brown edges, light lace hints

T: Unique caramel, dark but smoother than aroma, light alcohol, full but slightly indistinct, smooth burn/heavy toast, sweet and full reasonably hoppy, mild fruit, mild alcohol

M: Creamy and full, low/medium carbonation, chexy, smooth alcohol

O: Appearance and mouthfeel are the best parts of this beer, good but indistinct and lacking direction, sort of like ten-fidy and lagunitas imperial stout in sweetness

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Photo of 0110x011
3.66/5  rDev -17.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.5

Pours pitch black into a Darkness snifter. One finger, dark tan head lasts a good while, with spotty lacing. Nose is an interesting mix of chocolate, earth, plum, raisin and piney hops. Surprisingly sweet and fruity on the palate. A bit of chocolate and vanilla, and pine from the hops, but the overall flavor is dominated by an almost cloying, sugary sweetness. Mouthfeel is very nice, creamy and soft. ABV is nearly invisible. The sweetness makes one glass enough for me.

If this were available for $6.99 at BevMo, I'd say it were a tasty, unique beer. But considering the acclaim and rarity, I think it strays too far from the style.

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Photo of trevorpost
3.67/5  rDev -17%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Photo of crossovert
3.67/5  rDev -17%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 3 | feel: 5 | overall: 2.5

2008 Vintage. 750ml black and gold waxed and capped brown bottle. 55 degrees. Not my 1000th review but my 1000th beer tried!

It pours a thick black with a voluptuous tan head. The head is sandier and not as dark as most Russian Imperial Stouts. It holds like a marvel for a 2 year aged brew of this strength. It refuses to recede but as it does it coats my snifter with thick lacing.

The smell is absolutely wonderful. I was at a brewery today smelling the fest wort, and this one has a lot of that fresh wort smell, that honey-oatmeal like malt sugar smell. Also in there is chocolate, coffee, slight roastiness, rum, and that classic stout smell with a bit of fruitiness. There are raisins and dark cherries in it as well as some caramel and a slight nuttiness. The sweetness can be smelled though there is also a cutting bitterness and sharpness sin the smell. The alcohol is present merely as an addition to the complexity of this brew.

This one is pretty intense in the mouth, a sweeter, fruitier RIS. It smacks you initially with some caramel covered cherries and raisins, then another wave of vinous raisin/grape, and finally a bitter coffee/chocolate finish. The alcohol flashes itself, though not completely, it is a palate exhauster form start to finish.

Though a bit cloying, the mouthfeel is pretty epic for the style, it is smooth and thick with a present but not overbearing alcoholic burn. This is the "liqueur" beer as it holds a bit more sweetness and complexity tan your average Russian imperial stout.

Overall if they were to tone down the sweetness on this one it would reach epic levels of enjoyability, the nose is right on.

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Photo of Arbitrator
3.67/5  rDev -17%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

Chilled bottle, 2009 vintage, into a glass. Shared at a tasting. Received in a generous trade from KeefD. Thanks, Keith!

I was a little concerned about this beer being awful, since largadeer compared it to Dark Lord, which I can't stand. I expected a drainpour.

A: Pours a perfectly pitch black in the glass, letting no light through, even at the edges. The bottle is well-chilled, and a vigorous pour yields no head, but as it warms, swirling and agitation produce a nice, frothy mocha-colored head that rises to a finger in thickness. Sadly, it falls quickly into a light collar and a swirl of bubbles on the brew. No lacing.

S: Barry (bring) made a comment that this smells like stir-fry and sesame oil, and as the beer warmed, I saw great hints of that. It also had a strong burnt (not roasted, but burnt) malt flavor that imparted elements of smoke and a light ashiness. Chocolate was also quite strong. There were no hops in the nose.

T: The beer goes through oscillations as it warms. When cold, it is mostly charred and smoky. At a little higher temperature, it is burnt and acrid, with a little citrus in the finish. Slightly higher, and it develops a soy sauce / stir fry profile. As it approaches room temperature, the flavors meld into a nicer combination. Yes, there's a soy sauce / sesame oil flavor to it. Yes, there's still an acrid / burnt ash flavor in there. It's also strongly sweet, with chocolate, molasses, and a dark fruit variety (currants? Maybe figs). There is an underlying hop bitterness throughout, and it's more apparent in the finish where it manifests as a citrus burst and some earth. At room temperature, these seemingly clashing flavors merge into a pretty enjoyable profile. It's not the best imperial stout I've had, but it's quite well crafted. I have to say, though: no one in the room understood why people kept saying this beer is very hoppy; this bottle was not.

M: Full body with a velvety feel from its low carbonation. It's slightly warming, but there is no real booze to it.

D: As I said above, it's not the best imperial stout I've had, but I think it's solid. I expected it to be awful, and it turned out to exceed my expectations. I seemed to be the only one at the tasting who enjoyed it even this much, which surprised me. Normally I'm the Negative Nancy at these tastings.

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Photo of beertooth
3.68/5  rDev -16.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

2009 vintage 22oz red and black waxed bottle with a red and white two color screen print of a mummy on it. I split this with Ben(madorb) while we carved pumpkins. I poured my portion into a Cantillon Belgian tumbler.

A pitch black oil slick in a glass. The head and retention are both amazing. It looks like melted coffee ice cream and is leaving the stickiest lacing I've ever seen.

The nose is full of burnt sugar, dark fruits soaked in simple syrup, roasted malts, bitter chocolate, piney hops, a little alcohol. Think sticky and sweet.

The first sip is tooth destroyingly sweet. Liquid bitter chocolate, coffee beans, burnt malts, syrupy dried figs and prunes. I'm not picking up on the alcohol, but I know it's there because I'm starting to feel it. I can taste the hops more as it warms, but it's also getting stickier and cloying.

Mouthfeel is thick and creamy with a low level of carbonation.

I'm really hoping the syrupy sweetness really mellows out in the cellar because otherwise this will turn into a sugary mess. I'm still happy to have tried this year's vintage.

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Photo of LilBeerDoctor
3.68/5  rDev -16.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

1200th rating! Draft (08 version). Pours black with only a small ring of head. Aroma of sweet malt and some bitter hops as well. Rather indistinct aroma actually. Flavor is very sweet and malty, but not the roasted malt that I'm used to in imperial stouts. It was a very odd experience, and I thought this seemed more like an ASA to me. Overall it was alright, but certainly on the sweet side. I would like to try this again though.

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Photo of phishphorce
3.69/5  rDev -16.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Photo of smutty33
3.69/5  rDev -16.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
4.42 out of 5 based on 3,816 ratings.
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