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Darkness | Surly Brewing Company

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863 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: 863 | Ratings: 3,687
Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.78/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle #211. 2007 release. Necrosis black that crowds the sides and bowl of the glass so completely that light doesn't stand a chance in hell. Nothing is visible except... Darkness. The coffee colored cap looks as though it won't fade completely until sometime tomorrow, and there's a surprising amount of lace that can only be described as eye candy. I'm well aware that glassware shouldn't be taken into account when assigning an appearance score, but Darkness in a Darkness snifter is perfection.

Believe it or not, the hops can still be appreciated in the nose after almost a year. I guess that means they were added with a heavy hand back in '07. They're far from numero uno, though. As expected, ridiculously roasted malt is a rompin' and a stompin' all over the joint. Dark chocolate is at least twice as strong as black coffee. I've smelled better, but the nose is good. Damn good.

Believe the hype. My first impression is that Darkness tastes like no other RIS. I'm not sure I'll be able to explain why that is... but it is. My second impression is that a tremendous amount of green hop flavor and bitterness has survived. This stuff just might give Old Crustacean a run for its money when fresh.

Even though the malt backbone is massive, this beast isn't anywhere near as thick and syrupy as Dark Lord (which might make it more drinkable). Some of the bitterness could also be coming from barley that has been fire-roasted to within an inch of its life. The result is a flavor profile that includes chocolate liquor, blackstrap molasses and large splashes of Sambuca and espresso.

If Darkness was limited to those flavors, it would still be exceptional beer. The fact that candied citrus peel and resiny pine sap are added to the mix puts it over the top for this hophead. I can see how some might not like the emphasis on the little green cones, but then this is Surly... what the hell did you expect?

With each eager gulp, I am making Darkness prove every one of the final three scores. Believe me, it more than lives up to the challenge of a critical palate, especially since the flavors become even better integrated as the beer picks up a few degrees. The alcohol provides warmth (not heat) and plenty of power. This is massive beer for massive beer lovers.

My first inclination was to give the mouthfeel a less than perfect score. However, as the middle portion of the bottle approaches, it will not be denied. The melted ice cream-like viscosity that was almost there initially is now there in spades. Carbonation is on the generous side, but it's so soft and so well-buried that it adds just the right amount of energy and lift.

Darkness is a masterful creation from a masterful brewer. I allowed a few doubts to creep in prior to cracking the crown, but I doubt no more. In an amazingly short period of time, Surly has entered the upper echelon of craft breweries with such all-out masterpieces as Furious, Bender and CynicAle. Darkness is simply the shiny, juicy cherry on top. A huge thanks to feloniousmonk, the consummate BA, for the best extra in the history of extras.

*originally reviewed on 10-08-2008

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Photo of capra12
4.33/5  rDev -2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Reviewed with new friends in Minnesota Mark, Dan, "Mo" and Robin at The Day of Darkness on tap.This brew marks my 100th review with more to come.

Appearance: Pour Jet black with brown head into a plastic cup.

Smell: Dark chocolate and piney almost simecoe hops, hint of licorice.

Taste: Opens with rich dark malts that last till the very end. There is a piney/ licorice that comes into the flavor profile with hints of vanilla from the middle to the end leaving dark malty and barely hoppy aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, smooth, with absolutely no cabonation

Drinkability: Would definitely have this again regardless of its popularity. I would recommend this to those who like a dark malt and roasted brew with subtle hints of black licorice and vanilla.

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Photo of jjayjaye
4.35/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap Darkness Day '09 at Surly then again with lunch at Stub and Herb's. Pours opaque with a shallow foamy dark brown head that fades slowly leaving stringy patterns of Belgian lacing behind. The smell is timid. Some hints of dark chocolate, cherry and roasted malt. The taste has a nice complexity to it. A slight bitterness of dark chocolate and hops along with the roasted malt and a hint of cherry. Lightly carbonated, the mouth feel is full bodied and smooth with a tanginess from the alcohol. The texture coats some but is not super dense or oily. It cleans up quicker than i anticipated that it would. A really nice drinker, the 10.3% ABV is well integrated.

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Photo of alcstradamus
4.26/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.5

My original review was deleted due to the system crashing. I don't remember exactly what I said, but here are my general thoughts. I had the '08 a few months ago and wasn't necessarily liking it a whole lot. Thought it had a lot going for it but in the end was just too sweet. The '09 is a completely different beast though. Big and very hoppy, with the sweetness merely adding complexity rather than dominating. My original rating was a 3.9 B+, but I have updated it to reflect the '09

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Photo of joepais
4.68/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2008 vintage bottle split three ways in tulip glasses. It was nice and viscous coming out of the bottle. A small tan head rose form each pour then settled to a thin lace but a simple swirl of the glass would bring it back. The body of the brew was a midnight black with light maroon highlights.

The first aroma I got was a slight oxidation which was to be expected with the age. Then I got some wonderful aromas of molasses, brown sugar and some slight dark fruits.
The brew was towards the sweet side again I would expect it was from the age but it really made for an enjoyable sipping experience. Again I got the molasses, a hint of vanilla and dark fruits. I must say the roasted malts were showing up more as sweet chocolate than a roasted coffee note, Which added a bit uniqueness to the flavor. The brew was thick and viscous in your mouth with a slight carbonation for the tongue. Just the way I like a stout.

A great stout I would stand in line for it. The glass went down dam easy. I didn't get any hint of the alcohol seeing it was a 10%brew. I would gladly drink it again. big thanks to Packforever1976 for hooking me up

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Photo of Beerisheaven
4.57/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Feeling a little down in the dumps tonight after watching the Phillies cough up game 2 to the Dodgers in the NLCS. What better way to put a smile back on my face then to pull out this gem which has been nestled away in the cellar since Darkness Day 2008.

First off, huges props to maximum12 for passing this my way, and passing it along as an extra. Bet on your good deed being returned; however, I will be swimming upstream for some time to repay the world famous, earth shaking, legendary trading maximum12.

Pours nearly black with little light being able to pierce this lovely mixture. Not a big head.

The smell and taste largely follow each other. Big presence of bitter chocolate, a bit of smoke, dark roasty toasty malts and a huge hit of sweet fruit. I seemed to pick up a nice cherry undertone on the fruit profile. Sweet but after reading some of the ratings, I was actually expecting it to be even sweeter. I think it is divine and the other Phillies fans drowning their sorrow with me all enjoyed it as well.

Very luxurious mouthfeel, slightly slick and oily. Very pleasant.

The drinkability is also very good, but I am not sure that you can do much more than sharing a bottle with friends. Sweet profile makes you enjoy your fill, but it is more of a treat rather than something that you can drink a lot of during one session.

All in all, a great experience and I look forward to hopefully trying this one again. It is really good and thanks to Corey once again for his generous inclusion. I'll get you back, you wait.

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Photo of corby112
5/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Pours a deep dark blood red burgundy brown that almost black and completely opaque with a thick frothy 2.5 finger dark chocolate coffee colored head that has excellent retention, lasting throughout and leaving large chunks of soapy lacing.

Roasted malt aroma with sweet bitter dark chocolate and hints of molasses, honey, burnt toast, caramel, oatmeal, coffee bean, toffee, licorice and sweet alcohol. Possibly the best aroma I've experienced yet.

Thick chewy viscous mouthfeel with some slight carbonation and a huge roasty malt flavor. Soooo smooth with a full viscous mouthfeel. The ABV is so well masked that it's almost undetectable. Slightly dry finish with some slight alcohol warmth. Extremely quaffable with awesome raosted malt profile. Lots of sweet bitter dark chocolate, coffee bean, toffee, molasses, honey and caramel sweetness that balances out the deep roasty and burnt toast characteristics. Very subtle hops in the finish as well as some slight alcohol warmth.

This is one of the most complex, flavorful and drinkable Imperial Stouts I've ever had and possibly one of the best beers I've ever had the pleasure of sampling. All I can say is WOW. Highly recommended.

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Photo of Mistofminn
4.8/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Had this on cask at the 501 club with the guys from Surly to celebrate the Bronze medal at the GABF for Coffee Bender, which I also had.

Pours an opaque pitch black color with a one finger dark brown head. Retention of the head is much better around the outsides, as it shrinks in the middle but stays clinging to the glass. Nice lacing also.

The nose is dark coffee, roasted malts, bitter hops, toffee caramel and vanilla, bitter chocolate, dark dried fruits...and so much more. Extremely complex and it's a treat to drink this in.

The taste is just as good as the nose leads on. Dark roasted malts, sweet and bitter chocolate, bitter earthy hops, dried dark fruits, sweet caramel and vanilla, roasted coffee...the combinations of flavors seem endless and they just keep coming. I'm not kidding when I say I get a different taste with every sip.

Mouthfeel is thick, rich and creamy. Has an appropriate carbonation level. Had a significant bitter aftertaste.

Drinkability is amazing. This is a great brew and one I can't wait to have again. I can't wait for Darkness Day to purchase my limit in bottles. I would love to see how this is a couple years down the road, maybe even one day do a vertical. Surly does it again, but was there ever any doubt?

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Photo of kirok1999
4.32/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a mildly dark black, just a hint of ruby around the edges of the snifter. Thin off white head.
Smells very sweet and malty. Mildly spicy with a bit of alcohol.
Very nice sweet taste, milk chocolate and caramel. Slighty bitter and dry with some noticable hops. Lingering alcohol in the aftertaste in the form of mild bourbon.
Feels dense and creamy and very sticky.
Very smooth to sip. A really well made beer worthy of the hype.

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Photo of Gtreid
4.38/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Vintage 2008. 750 ml bottle poured into my Cigar City tulip. I think thanks go out to ditmer for this brew, if I'm mistaken, sorry.

A: Pitch black, not a hint of light shines through. Huge two fingers of mocha head appear, retains nicely, and leaves great spotty lace.

A: Super sweet. Big molasses, raisin, fig, bittersweet chocolate, and cherry. Great chocolaty and roasty malt flavor is put in balance by the earthy hops.

T: Magnificantly complex. The molasses, dried fruit, chocolate, and cherry are great. But I am really diggin the sweetness of the malt. The earthiness gives it a balance that is supurb. The perfect amount of hops give it a smooth dry finish.

M: Super viscous, velvety smooth. I can't say anything more. Just perfect.

D and overall impression: Drinkability is great. This one is about a year old, and the flavors have melded perfectly. Would really like to compare this to a fresh bottle, but couldn't wait to pop it open. Just a great example of the style. Skal.

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Photo of rhinos00
4.3/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Finally found a moment to open up this gem. Big thanks to Eric and Russ for giving me this opportunity. Poured from a 750 mL maroon wax-topped bottle into a snifter. 2008 vintage.

A- Imagine the contents of an oil drum being poured into your glass. Dark as night, absolutely no visibility. Produced two fingers width of cocoa colored head. Reduced to a ring. Minimal lacing left on the glass.

S- It's there, just not distinct enough...too neutral and restrained, especially for a beast like this. Getting some sweetness from chocolate malts with an underlying scent of oats. A bit of alcohol is also detectable.

T- Took a while to get used to, but once I let it warm up to room temperature, this beer was spot on. Upfront there was a nice amount of bitter chocolates. From there a rich chocolate flavor comes forth with an undeniable sweetness that builds and lasts to the very end. Did notice a hint of charred character as well.

M- This is what I'm talking about. Absolutely perfect. This beer has what I call the double V's...viscosity and velvety smoothness (yea, I just made that up). Slick and oily. I really can't complain here.

D- The sweetness brings it down a little bit, but by no means was it overwhelming. Did not notice the alcohol whatsoever.

Overall, really happy with this one. Definitely didn't disappoint. The mouthfeel was spot on and the taste was close behind. Highly recommended.

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Photo of drgonzo3705
4.3/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

A: Beautiful black with a small tan colored head that hangs out around the edge of the glass.

S: Very pleasant chocolate and oat filled nose. Not overwhelming or underwhelming at all.

T: Cocoa, chocolate, and a touch of oat make this a very enjoyable tasting brew.

M: Full bodied with ample carbonation with a nice stout slickness left behind.

D: Pretty damn good. Big tasty RIS here. Looking forward to the new batch.

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Photo of nickd717
4.49/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2008 bottle, beer geek tasting at The Bruery. An excellent R.I.S. reminiscent of Dark Lord more than anything else.

A - Black, thick, and oily. Fairly small tan head.

S - Roasted malt, coffee, and chocolate, with a hint of dark fruits.

T - Really excellent: roasted malts, coffee, cherries, raisins, other dark fruits, molasses, and chocolate. Complexity is high. Pretty sweet overall so it may not be for everyone, but it is most definitely for me.

M - Sweet and syrupy with low carbonation, which some people think is a bad thing, but I like this in extreme RISes.

D - Well, the consistency is similar to oil, but the fact that it's so tasty increases the drinkability quite a bit.

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Photo of fiver29
4.28/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2007 Bottle number 082. Pours pitch black into a schott zwiesel glass with a dark tan head at 51-52 degrees fahrenheit. Smells like alcohol, hops, earth, and a slight roasted malt sweetness. Has a medium mouthfeel with some carbonation. Taste has a chocolate character, is hoppy, sweet, smooth, creamy, coffee, licorice, with a side of dark fruit. This beer looks good in my schott zwiesel glass. Overall, a nice brew all around. I think I had this one built up in my head to be something more than it was. It was still a great brew to try.

2008 Bottle was just like 2007 bottle except it had a lot more dank hops in the aroma and taste. This doesn't change my overall review. Solid brew.

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Photo of madtowndmb1
4.67/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured a very dark brown/black with a tan head. Smelled of chocolate, toffee and coffee. The Taste was great! This stout is very drinkable. The chocolate malt doesn't over-power the beer. And the Coffee and toffee flavors round it out perfectly! Very easy across your tongue and I could put down a bottle of this for sure. Not too much at all!

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Photo of Sean9689
4.43/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2008, 22oz black/gold wax-dipped bomber into snifter.
Split several ways with some friends at FFF's.
Poured a enough to make a nice review, but not pass out.

A - Jet black, coffee/cream colored head, sticky lacing along the side of the snifter. Pretty much similar to all other top-notch examples of this style.

S - Sweet chocolate, molasses, raisins. Smells so good I would like to eat this beer instead of drink. One whiff and I'm ready to dig in to my dessert! Nothing overly complex, but damn good nonetheless.

T - Chocolate cake with chocolate cream filling topped with chocolate sprinkles and chocolate syrup. In other words, lots of chocolate here! No real alcohol burn present and when compared to Dark Lord, almost zero (I realize DL is 13% though). Very sweet, no real hops/bitterness at all. It's like drinking chocolate syrup (in a good way).

M - A little more thin then what I was expecting but oh-so smooth. It just covers your mouth in sweet goodness!

D - Very easy to drink for the style. I will revisit in another six months or so to see how it's coming along. All in all, a great RIS, worthy of the rating and hype.

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Photo of FtownThrowDown
4.1/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Bottle courtesy of PWoods.
Pours a very dark brown, nearly black in color. Very nice mocha colored head and frothiness around the edges.
Smell is slight hops, and some mediciny alcohol as well. Taste is very smooth and full. The taste is much better than the smell. More of the piney hops in the flavor. I was expecting a more full mouthfeel.
This is the creamiest, smoothest mouthfeel that I have encompassed. Very interested to see what some more time will do to this. Glad I got the chance to try it. Interested to see where this goes.

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Photo of Shango42
4.95/5  rDev +12%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Serving type-tap poured into a tulip snifter.

A-Bold dense blackness. Dark tan head. Lots of lacing.

S-Chocolate sweetness, dark scotch-like malts, caramel, toffee. Absolutely delicious on the senses.

T-1st sip...speechless. So smooth, so sweet, so perfect. Dark chocolate and toffee, scotch-like malt with very light coffee notes. Wonderfully full body. The balance for this high octane, big stout is unparalleled. The alcohal is definitely present because it warms going down, but it is not overpowering. Some late hops make an appearance but it just continues to balance and compliment the brew. I've simply never had a better beer.

M-Thick, chewy, low carbonation, full bodied.

D-Could drink one of these every day and I would be in beertopic bliss. It sets the bar.

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Photo of barleywinefiend
3/5  rDev -32.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured a deep black with decent carbonation and a small brown head. Nose is rather funky here. Dried fruits, alcohol, roastiness, cocoa. taste is dried fruits like prunes, raisines, figs and some cocoa with a subtle roasted malt. Mouthfeel is thinner than expected and I have no idea where th high ABV is? Not feeling this brew at all.

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Photo of schroederm
4.58/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

In a snifter:

it looks like there's a frappacino on my beer. There are seriously four fingers of thick, soapy light chocolate brown head. It had a jet black body, no light getting through on the first pour. Sheets that stick for days on the glass. This looks nothing short of fantastic. Deep dark chocolate aromas hit like a freight train and little notes of grapefruit and cherry join in. Tons of hoppy character: citrus and pine are obvious. A hint of alcohol is there, but not much. Essentially, this smells like a double imperial ipa stout.A strong malt backbone of chocolate goodness supports a ton of fruity citrus bitter. Alcohol is not obvious in the least. Notes of cherry and plum. There are no words for this mouthfeel. Well, that's a lie, there are: its like a mouth full of cream. Light, fluffy; but yet thick and velvety. Carbonated to a d. Its wonderful just to keep in your mouth. it would be guttonous to drink a gallon of this. But if I could get a gallon of this, I would drink a gallon of this. Still, it has
tons of flavor and the ABV will get to you.

This beer is just full of soul. No demonic connotation implied, but this thing has character. If you can get your hands on it, do so.

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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 zjungleist
4.6/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

First off... thanks Justin. Second vintage I was told, not sure on the year though. Red devil drinking from a skull on the bottle, so that vintage whatever that one is.

A: Poured into a Surly snifter. Looks seriously black and thick straight from the bottle. It is black. Did I mention how black it is? The truly noteworthy thing about it's appearance, however, its the mile high head and shimmery lace.

S: Immediately I smelled the hops. Slightly citrus, grassy hops, followed by some serious sweetness. There was certainly some chocolate syrup smells at points, and hints of caramel too.

T: The notes in the taste were harder to pinpoint. Sweetness was the dominating flavor, and milk chocolate was present at well. Bitterness was subdued largely by the sweetness, but there were notes of burnt toffee and a slight nuttiness, dates perhaps as well.

M: Rich and velvety. Certainly thick, and perhaps a tough cloying. Spot on for the style.

D: How drinkable can an RIS ever be? It is a huge beer. You'd be foolish to go for more than a few glasses, if not for the alcohol, then certainly for the sweetness. But this is certainly drinkable for the style.

Overall, great great beer. I wish some of the subtle flavors had been a little more prominent, but overall it packs a punch both in flavor and ABV.

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Photo of jwinship83
3.93/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

taken from notes. served 2 9oz pours at two brothers "for the love of hops." plastic cups both times. moderately priced at 6$ each.

A- this one pours a viscous black colored body with a very small coffee colored head which lasts only a second. it might be the plastic cups, but none of the beers served that day left any decent lacing to speak of. this one was no exception.

S- dark roasted malts and a lot of sweetness. sweeter than most stouts. reminds me of raisins and plums. some coffee/hops at the end. milk chocolate throughout.

T- the taste was as sweet as the smell. kind of off putting to be honest. lots of chocolate and raisins. more hops at the end than the average stout. that was kind of cool.

M- thick and full bodied. chewy and palate coating. a nice low level of carbonation really works in this one's favor.

D- easy enough to drink but i dont think i could have had more than two without wanting to switch to something else. nice to see this one on tap again in this area. it had been a while. not the greatest stout of the fest, but nothing to pass on either

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Photo of ThePeskyDingo
4.57/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Smells of malts, raisins, coffee and chocolate.

Looks black with a deep tan head. Some lacing present. Beer is opaque, looks an amber brown color barely around the edges.

Tastes of chocolate, coffee and toffee, with earthy hops and dark fruits in the background.

Creamy smooth mouthfeel. Low carbonation, and full bodied.

Drinks pretty easy, didnt have a problem finishing this at 11AM. Could have had more of it too!!

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

Thanks to PHawk for this one in a trade way back. Been cellaring it for a while, but tonight is the night, for feeling alright, we'll be making love the whole night through. 2008 Vintage. Please read the following review with Vincent Price's voice in your head.

Darkness falls into the glass, a blood letting ooze coats the side of the glass and your vision like the very dense breath of Satan himself. Thick, deep, dark, black, likes the eyes of the souless worms that feast on your flesh.

The foulest stench from the darkest depths of hades invade your brain. Chocolates, coffee, roasted breadiness with earthy hoppiness and fruits dried by the foul breath from the hounds of hell.

With every thickening taste a demonic possesion overcomes your body and soul. A ghastly haunting of malted chocolates, dried dark fruits, milky, with hops creeping up on you all the more like the bleak december, wroughting ghosts on the floor....

This beer fills me with fantastic terrors I never knew before. I hope it raps and taps on my chamber door, forever more...

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Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
4.42 out of 5 based on 3,687 ratings.
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