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Darkness | Surly Brewing Company

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855 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: 855 | Ratings: 3,644
Photo of Wasatch
4.5/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks goes out to Buebie for this brew.

Red Waxed Cap/Gold Wax
2008 Vintage

Poured into a chalice a deep black color, nice carbonation, nice one-finger creamy tan head, which leaves some nice oil slicks and some sticky lacing behind. The nose is sweet, malty, lots of chocolate/toffee, some roastyness, vanilla. The taste is pretty sweet, malty, very nice touch of chocolate/toffe, with some slight roasty note. Medium body, the ABV is hidden pretty well with this one. Very drinkable, this is an awesome brew, glad to finally get a chance to try it.

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Photo of Jwale73
4.03/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2008 vintage, courtesy of DbHog (an awesome trader). Beer #5 in the "Motha of all Stout Tastings." Pours two shades shy of black with rubye highlights around the edges. Half inch mocha-colored cap embedded with ringlets - generous head recedes into a swirl. Glass was coated with delicate strands of lacing during the tasting. Nose is hoppy - enough said. Taste is really interesting and was difficult to tease out - a full malt bill mixed with citric acid, artificial sweetener, grapefruit and some booze towards the back. Mouthfeel is medium-bodied and slightly viscous. A complex and interesting beer, but a bit off-style in my opinion.

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Photo of Larrytown
4.53/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Had to seek this one out on tap, but it was worth it. Between the style and the name of the beer, you obviously knew it would be dark, but man, this thing is black as black gets with a pleasant brown cap. The aroma is unique. Sweet and dark with more than a tad of fruitiness.

The taste follows suit. It's sweeter than I expected, but it works. Mouthfeel is great: smooth and goes down easy.

Delicious beer and it's not hard for one to become two. The sweetness holds me back a bit, but still a damn good beer.

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Photo of paulthebeerguru
4.18/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: As dark as night. tan/creamy brown head. great retention rate with some decent lacing.

S:burnt malts. chocolate, toffee, light coffee notes. some bitter berries.

T: rich roasted malts, raisins, figs, chocolate and toffee. nice burnt malt flavor. light hints of coffee.

M: velvety. mellow carbonation level. full bodied.

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Photo of illidurit
4.85/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Pitch black color with a cascading cocoa colored head. Tons of sticky lace and retention like mousse. Aroma is extremely hoppy with monstrous fresh cut pineapple notes. Not really any stout character, but it works. Flavor is decadent chocolate covered candied pineapple with a light roasted finish. Palate is very dry and smooth. Perfect carbonation. The body is not overly thick and there's not alcohol at all. Insane drinkability.

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Photo of StoutsnIPAs
5/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

An amazing beer.

Many enjoyable hours sharing beers on Darkness Day with many wonderful people waiting the opportunity to buy this beer.

I've broken into my very limited supply twice, once to do a combined tasting, put on with BRDC, for a sampling group done in a bookstore with a fireplace, (thanks Jeff and Kim). We had a collection to be envied, Darkness, Dark Lord, Abyss, Expedition, Stone Imperial, Alesmith Speedway, Peche Mortel, Founders Breakfast, Ten Fidy and others. Darkness and Dark Lord were the consensus favorites. I was somewhat surprised, as Expedition and Stone are my favorites, but I liked the Darkness and Dark Lord even better.

Today I am sitting alone, savoring an entire bottle of Darkness as I type, (decadent and selfish, I know; I beg your forgiveness).

This beer is something special, even in the company of special beers. When we had the sampling, I was standing next to another home brewer, and the two of us were intrigued by the malt profile. It is unique and different from any other Imperial I've tried. My guess is higher Lovibond crystal malts and other rich malts were used, (?Special B), rather than depending on only the traditional roasted malts.

This beer was brewed by an artist and a master, no surprise as its from Surly. Just so you know my judgements, I think Furious is the best IPA, and I've had and love Masala and Sculpin.

On to reviewing:

Sampled in my favorite tulip. I have Darkness 2008. The label depicts a pagan diety or demon, (depending on your perceptions), presumably enjoying Darkness drunk from the skull of an enemy.

Appearance - rich, dark, opaque brown. The head is a rich deep creamy tan with small bubbles, large and persistent with a vigorous pour. Lacing is lovely.

Aroma and nose - enticing, rich, dark chocolate, roasted caramel malts. The hops are both obvious and subtle, enticing you to decide what they are, or just to shut up and enjoy.

Taste - follows the nose - rich, cholatey, (is that a word?), caramel. Enchanting, enjoyable, enticing, exquisite, exceptional.

Mouthfeel - rich, (a word that recurs in this review and when you enjoy this ale), creamy, marvelous carbonation - small bubbles like a bottle or cask conditioned ale, (although I saw no yeast in the bottom of the bottle).

Drinkability - a concept I've always found odd. It is wonderfully drinkable for its style. Warming, inviting on this cold, dreary, snowing day, (yeah I know, its April - I live in Wisconsin).

Its big drawback, like Dark Lord's is that you can buy it once a year in one place only, in limited quantities. Expedition and Stone Imperial should get additional points because they too are works of art, much more readily available and reasonably priced.

Having said that, I treasure the opportunity to try Darkness. If you should get the chance, judge it on its own merits, and savor the moment. Skol.

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Photo of wcudwight
4.78/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Thank You Jeff!!!! The epitome of what a BA should be, you keep raising the bar.
Served in a Darkness snifter, also included in the trade.
The beers name describes the color perfectly. It just doesn't get any more dark. Huge thick mocha milkshake head, both in texture and color. Head will outlast the beer. I'm sure I'll be washing the sticky lacing off of the glass when the Heels' game is over.
Wonderful aroma. Rich roasted charred smell is what stands out first. On further review I get rich over-ripe dark fruits, and a unique rum aroma.
I've never tasted any other RIS like it. Rich dark roasted malts give a coffee flavor. Fresh ripe dark fruits. Blackberries. Huge hoppiness for the style. A bit of alcohol warmth. Flavor coats the mouth and last forever.
The mouthfeel is thinner than other big RISs, but imo that's a good thing. It's still thick, syrupy and smooth.
Great beer. I'm priviledged and grateful that I had the chance to try it.

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Photo of alovesupreme
4.38/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a Maudite Snifter yeilded an extremely dark liquid that has a beautiful head that was stubborn and stuck around for a while.
Lots of hops. Next to Smuttynose Imperial stout this is probably the most hoppy RIS I have ever had. Pine and grapefruit dominate the hop character with Chocolate and a hint of coffee dominating the Malt aspect, with some cherries in the mix as well.
Chocolate, dark berries, prune and coffee. A very hoppy beer with some bitterness coming from both the hops and the roasted character. Alcohol is hidden very well but still contributes a warming character.
Next to Darklord this is the most viscous mouthfeel I have ever experienced.
A fantastic RIS that I will seek out again in the future. I would be curious to see how age mellows the hops and changes this brew.

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Photo of bennetj17
4.1/5  rDev -7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Silky black appearance, semi-viscous. Nice 1/2 inch deep tan foam, holds a minute leaving some decent lace. Smell is quite hoppy, with mix of roasted malt. Almost reminiscent of Stone 11th.

The first sip feels very smooth, with a subtle chewiness. The grassy hops are strong in the flavor also, with the bitterness creeping in slowly. This is not much of a typical RIS, as the burnt roast is downplayed by the heavy hand of IPA-like hops. The malt tastes quite sweet and chocolatey. With hops being the focus, perhaps I should have drank this thing fresher?

This beer did not live up to the hype. There is something missing in the balance here. I don't mind a really hoppy stout, but the overt sweetness was too much. There needs to be more of a dry roasted character, and beyond that some more complexity. Again, this was alot like the Stone 11th Anniversary, althogh I would say that was balanced more perfectly than this. Worth a try, but otherwise overrated...

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Photo of supercolter
4.73/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Oh baby, finally you and I meet. Had this on tap at a Surly get together at Stub and Herbs in Minneapolis.
Appearance is well, I don't think it can get much better. Blacker than coffee, nice head and a bit of lacing. Smell and Taste are pretty similar. Lots of dark fruit, fig is most prominent, but side notes of cherries, raisins and plums. Taste is a bit more pronounced and a bit of the hops come through on the back end. Mouthfeel is thick and creamy- like drinking a cappucino. Drinkability is really good for the style.

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Photo of hellbilly
3.92/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

someone opened this at bill and wendy's though i'm pretty sure everyone in the room had one with them!...

2008 with a bitchin' label... pours just lighter than black with a light tan head which lingers and leaves an abundance of spotty lacing. pine-like hops hit the nose first but soon turn to sinus numbing citrus peel... secondary scents of chocolate, malt powder, nutty/coffee, grass and leafy green hops.

the palate is quite sweet... almost to cloying but the power of the hops make it a bit easier to enjoy. the flavor shares the characters of the aroma but also has some woodiness and a distinct savory note. there is a long lingering aftertaste of malted chocolate malted milk with pine needles in it. medium to medium/full bodied with a creamy almost oily mouth feel. pine-like and leafy hops keep it really easy to drink and bring it back from the brink of sticky...8/4/7/4/17/4.0

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Photo of Mauerhan
4.48/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

So about time I got my hands on a bottle of this.

Pours black with a fucking sexy three finger head off a very aggressive pour. lacing is some of the best i have seen. period. they called it the darkness for a reason. light couldn't get through this if it was held at gun point.

smell is complex. surprisingly hoppy. slight sweetness. this smells completely unique. like no ris that i have ever had.

taste follows right behind smell. rich and complex. smooth. nice malt that is countered by a nice earthy hop character. rich chocolate, vanilla, molasses. this flavor is incredible. seriously. rad...yes im bringing rad back.

mouth is creamy. thick. delicious.

this beer is extremely well made. I couldn't manage more than one of these in a night. it is a silent ninja. sneaky mother fucker has kicked me in the face. well done sirs well done.

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Photo of sonicdescent
4.56/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Thanks to NOBama for this one! 2008 vintage, the coolest looking bottle I have seen that wasn't Gratitude.

Pour is just perfect, black and thick as used motor oil with a thick tan head. Not a highlight in sight.

Scent is of strong sweet molasses over chocolate and an earthy aroma. Dark fruit is present as well.

Taste is incredibly sweet. Lactose, molasses, bitter chocolate. It's like nestle quick that wasn't stirred enough, and that's a good thing. This reminds me more of a milk stout than your typical ris.

Mouth is full and creamy, as thick as it looks. Low carbonation. Just perfect.

I know I may never have this again, but damn I hope I do. Well worthy of it's status and hype. Amazing beer. If this is the crappy vintage, I don't think I could handle a good one
For fear of nothing else coming close.

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Photo of craytonic
4.23/5  rDev -4.1%
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.

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Photo of Bitterbill
4.79/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I got this bottle in a trade with incutrav. Thanks Travis!

This pours from the 750ML waxed bottle, close to room temp, as dark as dark can be. Pitch black and no highlights of any kind when I held the glass up to a light. I poured it rather vigorously and am rewarded with about a one finger head of tan foam. Head retention was good and there was some lacing.

The smell has all sorts of things going on. Lots of sweetness on the nose with big caramel, big notes of sherry and roasted malt, and lots of chocolate with some vanilla, maybe a touch of some dark fruits like raisin and plum. This is a great "smeller"; one of the best I've encountered to date.

The taste...can it live up to what I just experienced with the smell? We shall see.
First sip and I'll be...danged. No dryness here at all. Lots of caramel malt sweetness starts the session off followed by lots of milk chocolate, a touch of dark chocolate that adds just the right amount of bitterness, and big sherry notes along with that roasted malt goodness. The vanilla shows up mostly near the finish as does the dark fruitiness which gives me a light bit of tartness that's a plus for this RIS...man, this is one hell of a complex brew bordering on the over the top in complexity but there is nothing in the flavour that I can say detracts or is overused. It's just outstanding, plain and simple, and the abv is *very* well hidden.

It definitely has a fullish mouthfeel and the carbonation is lightly but rightly done. Silky smooth.

Drinkability? 1 at a sitting would be all that I can handle but that *1* is turning out to be a disappearing act that most magicians would drool over. I kid you not!

Big thanks again to Travis for giving me the chance to try my first Surly in a bottle. What a treat!

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Photo of brdc
4.85/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Thanks to stoutsnipas, his brother, and myself for this one.
Notes come from both a blind tasting and a later personal tasting.

Poured into a snifter, the pitch black brew, thick but not truly "motor oil" produces by some reverse cascade a frothy, nice looking cocoa colored head that lasts reasonably well for the ABV, and creates sticky lacing on its way down.
The rich aroma has predominant cocoa notes, but also roasted malt and smoky notes, coffee, some acidity, butterscotch, molasses, licorice, mint.
Creamy as it gets, and amazingly drinkable, with little alcohol to be noticed other than the chocolate liquor notes. Some butterscotch, caramel, mint, licorice, herbal hops, but still predominantly sweet despite some hop and roasted grain bites.
Goes down incredibly easy, and I have to say it was well worthwhile standing in that freezing line. Believe the hype.

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Photo of waughbrew
4.14/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Black black black with a medium brown head that is small and only stays as a little fuzz. Laces medium well. Smells like mangos, chocolate syrup, and molasses. Bright, complex, and fun. Silky smooth body, sweet, stale coffee, and cocoa. A little heavy and sweet on the tongue, and the flavors fail to challenge me or stand out from others of this style. Overall this is an enjoyable beer, but it lacks that special something that makes it stand out from the rest. It's smoothness is pleasant, but is not what I look for in an imperial stout.

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Photo of user0317
4.87/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

I tried this on tap at Winterfest 2008, in a 4 ounce snifter.

Pours black as night with little carbonation and 1/2 a finger of head. The beer smells amazing and complex, with notes of roasted grain, coffee, chocolate, pine and hops.

I always find it hard to describe the taste of a good RIS, as there is so much character in them. Both sweet and bitter chocolates hit my palate along with subtle smoke flavors, dark grains, molasses, and a bit of hops and alcohol to finish it off.

Darkness seems to coat your mouth and throat with on the way down, and the mouthfeel is viscous and smooth. It would certainly be hard to polish off a lot of darkness in one short sitting, but when put into perspective of ones expectations for imperial stouts, this is an easy drinker. I only wish that I could have taken a little more time to enjoy darkness, but alas there were many fine beverages to sample at winterfest.

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Photo of TexIndy
3.29/5  rDev -25.4%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

400th review! 2008 Edition. Poured from a 750ml wax dipped bottle into a pint glass. Cool label. and wax job. Was pitch black in color even against a light. Amazing lacing. It had a large brown head that ever so slowly settled into a constant thick foam.

The aroma was surprisingly sweet. It wasn't the dark fruit sweet that you find (and I don't like) in most RIS's. Rather it was more like an amped up milk stout. Also heavy on liquid dark chocolate aroma. Some hops hidden way in the back but overwhelmed by the sweetness. So glad it wasn't dark fruit aroma but the aroma could have used some more hops to offset the sweetness. The taste was very similar to the taste. Completely unexpected to be so sweet. Almost cloying at first and then completely cloying by middle. Slight bitter at the end but not nearly enough to offset it. Alcohol is felt by warm stomach but completely hidden in the taste. That is an area where most (I'm looking at you Dark Lord) RIS's fail. They are too dominated by alcohol where this one hides it perfectly. Mouthfeel is thick and creamy. Good carbonation. Too sweet of an aftertaste.

Overall, a disappointment especially when factoring what I traded to get it. For me, it was WAY too sweet. Even after it really warmed up, it was still off the chart. It's only 4 months old so can't be over-aged and can't imagine further aging would cut the sweetness any more. No real hop presence as-is and that would fade over time. Really disappointed in this one. Love all the Surly's that I've had but this one is a miss for me. Still can't get over that it's because of being too sweet - like sugar water. If you'd said too raisiny or too much alcohol I'd have believed that but not this. May try another batch in the future but probably one and done for me unless a unique circumstance applies.

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Photo of NoLiberty
4.23/5  rDev -4.1%
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.

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Photo of poopypine
4.16/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

I love this beer. Talking about the 2008 edition. This is a simple review from a simple man.
The appearance is jet black as night inky tar pit. Wow.
Smell is nice but and mellow.
Taste is just divine, I give it a 4 because I feel the sweetness comes a little strong.
The mouthfeel is smooth thick goodness. A heavy beer to say the least.
Drinkability is a 4 instead of 5 because in my mind it is not intended as an all-nighter. This is a finishing beer. Like a fine port. The strong willed can put down a bottle and will feel the part. But for me it is a wonderful strong ale that is complex in all aspects.

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Photo of SykDoc
4.62/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Had this at a stout event courtesy of brdc and company, much thanks to them.

Poured from a bottle into a flute. It pours a very thick deep brown that is opaque when held to the light, except at the edges. A 1-2 inch mocha colored head forms and is short-lived with minimal lacing.

The aroma is assertive and complex with sweet components of caramel and molasses and something that seemed to me like cotton candy/corn syrup. The usual chocolate culprit is also present as is a later coffee note. Very unique and very good.

The taste also highlighted a sweet caramel taste which includes molasses and chocolate. The bitter coffee and hoppy components were not as intense to me but still present and a nice balance.

The mouthfeel seem to have a medium carbonation and significant thickness that was quite smooth. There was a sticky finish that lingered with some of the bitter tastes.

Overall, this is an extremely drinkable beer and one of my favorites from the night. I will continue my search for me and hope to make it to the Darkness event next time. This was at the top with Dark Lord at our event.

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Photo of Oxymoron
4.11/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

There are few years that get as much hype. Pours a midnight black color with some decent viscosity. Very dark with a chestnut brown colored head. Good retention and lacing through the whole tasting.

Nose to the floor, the aroma has a mostly sweetness to it. The malt comes out with some stronger coffee and roast aromas. Some stronger astringency notes that gives a harshness to it. Some coffee and lactic/milky notes as well. The lactic may be a bit much and giving that sweeter aroma. Some lighter honey notes with a mild spiciness. The yeasty notes are noticeable as well. Some prunes and cherries really come out but mix with a odd hoppy earthiness to it. Some fusel notes as well.

The taste is similar. Very sweet upfront if not more so than the nose. This hides some of the nice astringent roast flavors that come out. Though as it warms, the roast does come out. The coffee aspect backs off but there as the lactic/milky side comes out. Almost like a oatmeal thing but too sweet. Some bitter dark chocolate notes that balance nicely. The hops are really noticeable and lend more of an earthy and citrus mix. Really distracts from the beer. Would have liked more bitters to help with the sweetness. Noticeable yeasty notes and alcohol, but not necessarily fusels. Nice sherry and cherry/fig notes as well. Some peppery notes. A little bit of butyric on the backend as well. Overall good but super sweet.

The body is a bonus. Very thick and chewy. A lot of depth overall with a creamy texture. So do you buy the hype? Not really. The sweetness is a huge distraction and the finishing hops are too strong. But one thing I will give this beer though, it will age nicely. See you in a few years.

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Photo of ATLbeerDog
4.73/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2008 Three months old - Pours a beautiful pitch black that is completely opaque. A heavy two inch dark tan/caramel head proudly crowns this masterpiece. The large head very slowly and reluctantly recedes. Smells of chocolate, coffee, licorice, alcohol and hops complete the nose. Tastes of dark chocolate, coffee grinds, raisins, tobacco and "licorice...yeah black licorice" add to the amazing complexity. One of many amazing aspects of this beer is the mouthfeel which I can only describe as complete milkshake. An intense hop presence separates this puppy from the other top RIS's in the world. It does not get any better than this. Big, bold, beautiful...if this beer doesn't make your pecker hard, you are likely gay and need to go back to wine.

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Photo of tjthresh
4.9/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Pours midnight black with plenty of brown head. Nose of soy sauce, and all of the hops that I have been told that are in this beer. The flavor is different to say the least. It starts of with some maple, then slips into a big date or fig finish. I get all the hops in the finish as well. Full body but it seems to be easily drinkable. Gosh...believe the hype.

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Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
4.41 out of 5 based on 3,644 ratings.
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