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Darkness | Surly Brewing Company

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848 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
2015 - Bat
2016 - Cerberus

Added by ryantupy on 10-08-2006

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Reviews: 848 | Ratings: 3,633
Photo of Gobearswalter34
4.93/5  rDev +11.8%
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 +6.8%
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 +13.4%
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 -3.2%
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 +4.1%
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 +2.3%
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 +2%
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 +4.1%
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 +7.7%
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 +1.4%
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 +1.8%
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 +13.4%
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 +6.8%
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 +13.4%
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 +8.2%
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 +2.7%
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 +8.2%
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 +1.1%
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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Photo of Boto
4.49/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Draught @ Brewery: 2015 edition. This one pours a deep, dark inky brown color. There was just a bit of a beige head that didn’t leave much lacing. The aroma was good. Complex and a lot going on. Molasses, dark fruit, chocolate, bready, a touch of alcohol. Some faint hops in there too. The taste was very good. Similar characteristics to the nose, with some raisins, licorice. Limited sweetness with some bitterness in the finish. Full mouthfeel. Very Nice!

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Photo of rudzud
3.78/5  rDev -14.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Well, a belated Halloween beer. 2013 Brewcifer bottle.

A - Poured into my Duvel tulip a dark oily black with a fat two finger mocha head that fades to leave a creamy blanket and light lacing.

S - Aromas of hickory, licorice, roast malts, chocolate, vanilla, very light dark fruit.

T - Taste is similar to the to the nose, hickory, licorice, anise, roasty almost charred malts. Fair amount of sweetness, both in malt and in dark fruit juice. Raisins and prunes. The finish has just a little bit of hop bitterness on the finish, but still, once the licorice and char is gone all you're left with on the tongue is sweet dark fruits.

M - Mouthfeel is slick and a bit oily. Bit smooth and syrupy too. Alcohol is hidden very nicely though.

O - Overall, this beer was a rather standard RIS. I can see why when it first came out the beer was great, however, 8 years later there are loads of russian imperial stouts on the market. For the money, I'd go with nearly any readily available RIS.

Serving Type: Bottle

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Photo of Lochnessmonster
4.49/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2013 bottle. A very big stout with a heavy alcohol presence and a surprising amount of hop flavor. Comparing it to others in it's league, I'd put it a step above Dark Lord, but not quite as good as Black Note. Made for a great Halloween beer though.

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Photo of kemoarps
4.22/5  rDev -4.3%
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 maedhros09
3.99/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4

Look: opaque black with creamy tan head that retains well
Smell: At first I thought is smelled kind of soapy, then I realized it smelled almost exactly like drying paint. This sounds unpleasant but the aroma was ok. The resemblance to drying paint was somewhat distracting .
Taste: What was most noticeable was the alcohol, which is on the same level as a wine. Powerful and spicy. There was some roastiness but it tended to be overpowered by the drying paint again. At some point I realized this was kind of a resinous hop aroma, but again the resemblance to drying paint was distracting
Feel: Very full bodied, thick, syrupy mouthfeel with perfect fine carbonation. This might have been my favorite part of the beer.

Overall: Well, I had high expectations for my first Darkness. Honestly it was OK until I realized it smelled exactly like drying paint, at which point it became a somewhat less pleasurable experience. Still, it is worth a try, and who knows, maybe my palate was messed up from something I ate.

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Photo of Evilyak
3.92/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

pours black as midnight, with a tan head that doesn't last. smells of coffee and that stupid dark fruit nonsense that covers every stout ever. it's cloyingly sweet, with a roasted aftertaste that doesn't make me want to finish the bottle.

in terms of a RIS with a great reputation, it fits the mold. in terms of a great beer, i could ask for more.

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Photo of SpanishUnicorn
4.58/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Enjoyed on tap at Surly Darkness Day 2015. Pours pitch black, with a nice head (my girlfriend thought it was a nitro pour at first). Amazing aroma of espresso, chocolate, raisons, figs, and dates. It's thick but goes down smooth. Taste follows the nose with a nice hoppy kick on the back end. I'd put this right up there with Ten Fiddy and Old Rasputin for best RIS.

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Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
4.41 out of 5 based on 3,633 ratings.
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