Darkness | Surly Brewing Company

DarknessDarkness
BA SCORE
4.49/5
3,845 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:
This listing is ONLY for Darkness that is NOT barrel-aged, which excludes all of the 2014 bottles, all of which were aged in whiskey barrels. 2014 has a separate entry (http://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/13014/141724/). Any subsequent years that have barrel aged variants, indicated by gold wax and lettering, also have their own separate entries.

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
Ranking:
#123
Reviews:
881
Ratings:
3,845
pDev:
8.91%
Bros Score:
4.5
 
 
Wants:
3,311
Gots:
1,529
Trade:
139
HISTOGRAM
 
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User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 3,845 |  Reviews: 881
Photo of Eiwatts9
4.21/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Photo of Jmoore50
4.21/5  rDev -6.2%
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

 2,361 characters

Photo of ZombiesAteMyDog
4.21/5  rDev -6.2%
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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Photo of peacemakers48
4.21/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Photo of Bosoxfan20
4.22/5  rDev -6%
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.

 800 characters

Photo of mbbransc
4.22/5  rDev -6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Photo of Keffa
4.22/5  rDev -6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Photo of kemoarps
4.22/5  rDev -6%
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!!

 1,582 characters

Photo of SmangTown
4.22/5  rDev -6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Photo of A_Rad
4.22/5  rDev -6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Photo of DanGeo
4.23/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Photo of vandemonian
4.23/5  rDev -5.8%
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 -5.8%
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.

 1,056 characters

Photo of NickyDee21
4.23/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Photo of Pearlstreetbrewingco
4.23/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Photo of nhindian
4.23/5  rDev -5.8%
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.

 1,523 characters

Photo of Onenote81
4.23/5  rDev -5.8%
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...

 1,252 characters

Photo of NJB145
4.23/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Photo of MasterSki
4.23/5  rDev -5.8%
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.

 3,660 characters

Photo of NoLiberty
4.23/5  rDev -5.8%
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.

 955 characters

Photo of kylehay2004
4.23/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Photo of Ryannel24
4.23/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Photo of craytonic
4.23/5  rDev -5.8%
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.

 616 characters

Photo of JamesMN
4.24/5  rDev -5.6%
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.

 988 characters

Photo of dymmig89
4.24/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
Beer rating: 4.49 out of 5 with 3,845 ratings
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