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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 Sean9689
4.43/5  rDev +0.5%
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%
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 +12.2%
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%
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 +3.9%
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 -16.6%
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 +4.3%
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 -10.9%
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 +3.6%
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 +2%
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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Photo of Yesac
4.52/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Got on trade from jwinship83. Thanks

A- Black, light brown color layer of head.

S- Complex dark fruits. Smoke and earthy notes.

T- Along with the smell.. very heavy on the dark druits. The ABV is no where to be found.

M- Thick bodied, so smooth and silky.

D- Complex, smooth and damn tasty.

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Photo of HopDerek
4.75/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to BrooHa for this bottle.

Pours a thick syrupy dark brown/black with 2 fingers of thick mocha tan head into a large snifter. Great retention and lacing. Smells of citrus hops, dark fruits, chocolate, anise, roasted malt, and leather. Tastes of pineapple, chocolate, and dark fruits like plums, figs, and raisins, cocoa powder, caramel, vanilla, roasted malt, leather, and anise with a hint of coffee and herbal in the finish. Full body with low carbonation. Thick and syrupy, sweet with lots of dark fruit and chocolate flavors. Smooth and creamy with a nice bitterness but not too potent. Pretty unique even amongst the other big Russian Imperial Stouts. Very drinkable and a great sipping treat.

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Photo of katan
4.01/5  rDev -9.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

On tap at busters

A- pours dark as motor oil black. Head formation is about 1 cm in size and well retained. Mocha in color.

S- dominated by a bittersweet chocolate and just a hair of noble hops. Very light on the roasted smoked or coffee scents

T- starts off reletively light with only a light malt hit. Builds with some bitter background and only a hint of hops. wow that finishes sweet, with a load of caramel, toffee and vanilla flavors. I really taste the hops in the aftertaste.

M- extremely thick and creamy. Very sticky and clingng. A feel of molasses.

D- I could only have one of these at a time. Very potent and a flavor profile so intense that having another would be wasted.

Truly a RIS. Up there with dl or speedway stout.

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Photo of soccerman7
4.7/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into snifter glasses. Shared with Gregc and Calise1122.

A - Gorgeous black with a healthy tan head. Bottle is fantastic with the double dip wax and devil holding the skull upside down (don't know which year)

S - Chocolate, coffee, and leather. Faint touch of smoke.

T - Truly fantastic. This was the BEST Russian Imp Stout I have head. Coffee, Chocolate, Tobacco, and Roasted notes. This just got more complex as it lingers warmer and warmer. Hops present yet compliments the flavors.

M - Not as thick as the Dark Lord, but much more of a flavor blast. Really a gem. Lingers worth the different notes.

O - Simply amazing. The most balanced and complete beer I have had. Thanks to Gregc for opening this. It was fantastic.

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Photo of bulletrain76
4.48/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

75cl bottle shared by illidurit. Pitch black with a thick, dense tan head. The aroma is a burst of tropical pineapple hoppiness. There is some underlying chocolate malt as well, but the pineapple runs the show. The flavor has some bittersweet chocolate countered by tons of fruity mango and pineapple, finishing dry and hopy, but with a very smooth and restrained bitterness. Full and decadently smooth texture, but not overly thick or sticky. This is just an amazing stout. Awesome chocolate covered tropical fruit synergy.

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Photo of Reagan1984
4.55/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to CAS for providing this in a recent trade. This is one of the beers that I spent more time with at our recent tasting for this review. I rated this just behind Dark Lord and right with KTG. Excellent beer

Thick tan head and a smidge of sticky lacing. Obviously very dark brown.

Aroma is more hoppy then the other RIS.. Sweet as well.

I enjoyed the balance of this beer. Very sweet, but also very hop heavy. Quite a bit of fruit. More of a candy sweet vs. a coffee. Like a dark chocolate. Molasses and dark caramel.

Very thick and almost totally sticky. Fully bodied.

One to savor and enjoy slowly. You couldn't kill a bottle of this if you tried.

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Photo of Thorpe429
4.55/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks for Jerk44 for hooking me up with some of this at Dark Lord Day 2009.

A: Very dark with a dark head to go along with it.

S: Roasted malt and the sweetness of dried fruits. Some molasses and brown sugar to go with dried cherries mixed with some espresso.

T: Similar to the nose, with more of the espresso/dark cherry tarnish.

M: Some alcohol, but a good, warming amount. Very full bodied.

D: Excellent beer, though not quite as drinkable as Dark Lord. Very, very deserving of its high place of honor. I cannot wait for this summer to get out to Minnesota and sample all the Surly I can find.

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Photo of AKBelgianBeast
4.35/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

HUGE thanks goes out to leftmindedrighty for hooking this up in a fat BIF box(es)

Pours a sickly thick black impenetrable darkness with a large and in charge tan ice cream head that lingers forever and leaves great lacing.

Nose is chock full o roasted malt. Some chocolate makes its presence known along with some hops. Smells like this is going to be quite roasty and bitter. I don't smell the same hop power i got out of the 2007 batch, but its still there.

Wow. A fantastic imperial stout once again. Roasted malt is defenitely the dominant presence out of the gate. Wow. Roasted malt continues as some chocolate flavors begin to emerge. Both continue as some very dark sweet flavors begin to rise toward the finish. Some good crisp hoppiness mixes right in without being too strong or rivaling the roasted malt action. The finish has a nice crisp bitter lick, but also keeps the sweet thick chocolatey flavor going, along with the constant roasted malt, both of which linger on in the aftertaste.

The mouthfeel is not for the faint of heart. Im pretty sure i can feel my arteries clogging right now. This bitch is nearly milkshake status. which is...awesome. the carbonation is where it should be.

Drinkability is pretty damn good considering the nature of this beast and the abv. Nothing amazing in this category, but certainly above average.

Overall an amazing imperial stout from Surly. Im not sure which batch I like better, but they both are killer beers. If you like big thick monsterous viscous collosal ultra galactic beast stouts, this will be right up your alley. Thanks again to Aaron for hookin a brotha up with this oft desired brew.

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