Darkness | Surly Brewing Company

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BA SCORE
98
world-class
844 Reviews
DarknessDarkness
BEER INFO

Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States | website

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/

Labels:
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

BEER STATS
Reviews:
844
Ratings:
3,602
Avg:
4.42
pDev:
9.28%
 
 
Wants:
3,309
Gots:
1,394
For Trade:
111
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Reviews: 844 | Ratings: 3,602
Photo of tectactoe
4.45/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Thanks to Mike for sharing this one with me! 2011 version. Pours a midnight black color, only the very edges show some dark brown hints; thick, dark, and opaque. The head is a deep tan color, comprised of very fine bubbles and appears to be creamy as hell. It hangs around for a while before it complete vanishes, and it's pretty hard to bring any of it back by just swirling the glass. No real lacing left behind.

Right out of the gate, the aroma is super sweet. Dark currants and fruits, black licorice, toasted brown sugar, and bits of bittersweet chocolate. Some small, extra hints of vanilla reside in the back as well. Not much coffee on the nose (though there is a little bit) - the sweet fruits, sugar, and chocolate kind of steal the show. Booze is apparent, but masked well enough from the barricade of other flavors.

Many other people are calling out a big hop profile in the aroma, but I'm just not getting it. Some very faint char/ashiness that may be from the hop, but I'm grasping at straws, here. I'm just not picking up a big hop character on the nose (barely any at all, actually). This aroma reminds me quite a bit of Dark Lard, but lighter on the brown sugar and not quite as sweet.

A similar thing could be said about the taste. Darkness hits you with a sweetness first and foremost, just like Dark Lord did, but it's a little more tamed in this one. Sugary, burnt caramels, bittersweet cocoa, syrupy molasses, licorice - quite a lot going on here. There were actually a few sips that would remind me of the syrup used in fountain machines to make cola. Less dark fruit on the palate than in the aroma, but some currants and dates are there, sugar coated and sweet as hell.

I'm finally picking up a touch of hops, but still nowhere near enough to combat the sheer malty sweet intensity of this beer. The coffee comes out a little over halfway through and ride well into the aftertaste, leaving a nice roasted coffee bean flavor in my mouth. The sweet brown sugar also hangs in the aftertaste, probably for a little too long. Thick, heavy mouth, though not incredibly creamy or chewy, with lower end carbonation. Lacquers the mouth with a sticky, syrupy coating.

This is a damn fine brew, and I enjoyed it a little bit more than Dark Lord. But unfortunately it suffers from the same flaw of still being a bit too sweet. Darkness does a little bit better of a job taming the sweetness than Dark Lord, however. Lots of different flavors and aromas going on here, and this is a nicely crafted RIS - but the relentless sweetness (in my opinion) is holding it back from being "top of the list" for me.

EDIT: 7/19/2013

2012 Vintage shared thanks to Kevin R... Thanks! I liked this one even a bit more than the 2011 that Mike cracked with me earlier this year. Sweetness was evident, yet more controlled. Hoppier, with a better balance of ashy bitterness. More roasty, more drinkable, and even more enjoyable, even though I already like it in the first place. Great brew.

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Photo of papat444
3.6/5  rDev -18.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

***2009 Vintage (Mummy)***

Big thanks to Masterski for getting me this rarity.

Poured from a bomber and split with my wife.

Appearance: Pours a thick body, kind of almost plops in with a thin ting that grows thicker as the pour intensifies.

Smell: Alcohol soaked nuts, raisins and figs. Whiffs of cocoa and chunks of chocolate but much more on the sugary, dark fruits side.

Taste: Raisins, figs, nougat, discreet chocolate and a tinge of black licorice. A bit of coffee as it warms but this resembles a barleywine almost. Not exactly what i'm looking for flavor-wise.

Mouthfeel: Boozy a bit, slight;y bitter and you eventually get in a groove but this doesn't feel like the strong RIS i'm looking for.

Overall: Have to say i'm a bit disappointed by this one. Compared to DL, this one is not as good. Flavors were good but for me, not worth the hype IMO. I'll take a DL instead.

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Photo of mynie
4.66/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle art looks like a D&D handbook from 1983. Maybe a zine from some kids who really, really like the old Heavy Metal books. Not to say that this kind of stuff affects my review, but already this RIS takes a distant fourth behind Kate, Abyss, and Dark Lord (which at least looks like a Magic: The Gathering card).

Pours brilliantly into a long-stemmed chalice, though. Perfectly opaque blackness (like the soul of a really evil dude) with an amazingly large and retentive head.

I was told that this was the hopheaviest of all American RISes, and even with the glass two and a half feet away from my face right now I can smell some firm, dry hops. Closer to my face, the beer smells strong and gigantically raw. Maybe this should have been left to age for a few months? (I *will* try another in early 09, and update if necessary.) Anyhow, there's an alcohol burn in there, nodes of thick red wine, tons of ultrasweet malt. Espressoish, fresh cacao, with some hints of vanilla. Really nice, lots of complexity, but the alcohol strength is just a wee bit overwhelming and it'll probably only get better with age.

Tastes perfect. Just perfect. The hoppiness is what jumps out at you, since it's so unexpected. It does such a great job of complimenting the beer's huge sweetness that it almost seems to be a part of a the sweentess. Can this be? Can black be a part of white? Can love be a part of hate? Of course. I guess.

The overall effect is less like a traditional Impy stout and more like some kind of combination of deliciously harsh alcohol and a mocha cappuccino with like ten shots of espresso in it.

You know what it's like? It's like Big League Chew. It doens't taste anything like the gum, no, but it's similar to it in that it just tastes too good that you don't let yourself enjoy it properly. I always swallow Big League Chew, since it tastes so good for some weird reason I want to swallow, and then I get a stomach ache. No stomach ache, here, but it's been like 7 sips and I still am slurping it down, unable by the force of this strange compulsion to hold this in my mouth long enough to savor it. I want to consume it. I want to pound this like chocolate milk.

The body is creamy, thick and fizzy. Never quite come across a body like this in a bottled beer. Delicious. Tastes like something that could be healthy. I--if I didn't know this had alcohol in it I could almost see myself giving it to a kid.

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Photo of rlee1390
4.45/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Cracked open the other night to celebrate getting into a PhD program.

A-Deep black, two finger creamy brown head, some lacing.

S-Chocolate coffee, roasted malt, mollassas, somehow smells like it came out of a bourbon barrel.

T-Chocolatey goodness, coffee, some roasted malt, once again the bourbon-like flavors sneak in, great overall balance.

M-Medium bodied, some carbonation, not as creamy and a little thin.

O-A wonderful RIS. Was a great way to celebrate. Makes me wish the grad school was in MN so I could go to Darkness Day every year.

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Photo of BMMillsy
4.64/5  rDev +5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Got in trade. 2012 version with a wereworlf and red wax cap. Pours deep black with a big frothy light brown head. Big hop aroma with plenty of roasty notes to go along with a bit of sweet molasses. Flavor is very much molasses with unexpextedly strong hop flavor. Wow the balance here is excellent. Cherry and fig mixed with bittersweet chocolate coming in. Medium mouthfeel with thickness that goes with the impy. Relatively easy drinking for the style. This is unique and really good!

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Photo of Brenden
4.62/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Super-rich, heavy, thick, viscous, oily-looking; this is looking like one big beer. It's as black as darkness itself. The beer raises up a heavy medium-brown head that looks like it may be almost as thick as the liquid. It takes lots of time to recede and ends up a chunky patch resting on top and, while not clinging to the sides, is still maintained at half a finger for the entirety. Patching is almost beastly.
Every bit as robust and rich as I'd hoped it would be, this beer just pours out so much deliciousness it's scary. Working off a deep roast with just the right note of char to it, coffee grounds and chocolate come through. It's not enough just to say chocolate, though; there's every note in here from cocoa powder to nibs to baker's chocolate to creamy milk chocolate. Not to go too far, it's accompanied by some very ripe sweet/tart currant notes as well as contributions worthy of the especially rich, near-perfect Doppelbocks in thick molasses and almost anise-like notes, just for added depth. This is truly one of the best aromas one could smell from an RIS.
The taste follows suit; again, it's all about richness, depth and complexity. Robust malts contribute their drying char along with coffee grounds and the chocolate, which holds almost all the same complexity as in the nose with the exception that the milk chocolate and sweeter notes come out more strongly. Molasses and anise make their appearances as char kicks into the finish, some leafy hops as well as a boozy note running alongside.
Rich, thick, full-bodied with an appropriate heaviness, this beer hits the mark. It has just enough alcoholic heat to warm without thinning with a viscosity coating the tongue. The finish is semi-dry, some leafy hops and ultra-smooth chocolate easing the finish to linger beautifully.

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

On tap at Cafe Twenty Eight. Served in its very own Darkness goblet, which I hope is a sign it will be returning year after year. It arrived at my table as black as black can be. The head is thick, and brown. It never fully goes away, and leaves a half inch of foam in the bottom of the glass when all of the beer is gone. The aroma is of chocolate, vanilla, graham cracker, plums and other dark fruits. The taste is a perfect balance of roasted malt, chocolate, and vanilla. The mouthfeel is full bodied, creamy, silky and nicely carbonated. I really like how it is so full bodied without being overly chewy and sticky. Overall, this is one of teh best beers I have ever had. I am sure I could not drink more than one or two of these at a time, but I could drink one a night for eternity and be very happy.

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Photo of jera1350
4.82/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at The Blue Nile.

Used motor oil color and consistency. Cocoa powder brown head that is quite thick and has staying power.

Rich malt and stronger than usual hop presence for the style. Chocolate, lightly smokey with a bit of coffee. The hops are mostly grassy with just a touch of citrus.

Delicious rich chocolate malt with notes of coffee and smoke. Light vanilla presence and generously hopped. The hops are lightly citric and also add some grassy notes. Big and robust flavor all around. The sweetness is up there a ways, but it's not too much in my opinion.

Velvety feeling and full bodied. Just slithers down the palate.

I could have one of these every day for the rest of my life and die a happy man. This is surely a top notch RIS and one that I will consume as much as possible. Worth all of the hype.

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Photo of cosmicevan
4.77/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Shared a 2010 bottle with speedwayjim, capra12, billyshears. Thanks to speedwayjim for sharing!!!

Poured a stunning thick black with a thin tan head into a Darkness glass. This brew smells of vanilla, hops, and even licorice or good and plenty. The hops really add a nice element to this RIS. The beer is thick and wonderful, pretty sweet but the hops add such a nice element. Has a nice tingle to it, this one was my fav of the tasting.

--- edit --- 2012-01-01
vintage 2011: 4.5 - 4.5 - 5.0 - 4.5 - 5.0
decided to pop open my first 2011 bottle for the giant game. pried open the waxed cap and filled my 2010 surly snifter. poured a silky shiny black with a generous frothy mocha frappacino like head that hung out for a while after it built like a guiness. the head was milky and chunky and bubbled away slowly, but was there for the duration. looks awesome. much like last year, i get a bit of a hoppy vanilla. some roastiness, but milked over. the hops give it an almost charred smell. BAM - there's that flavor. what a fricken beer. i forgot how much i love this beer. a bit on the sweeter side than i had remembered, but the hopping gives the roastiness some balls. really enjoyable.

--- edit --- 2012-11-18 (fresh!!!)
vintage 2012: 4.5 - 4.5 - 5.0 - 4.5 - 5.0
removed the wax, decapped and filled my new darkness snifter. brew poured a deep dark ominous, yet slightly watery black. as the beer settled in my glass it embodied the name of the beer. a finger and a half of off white-acino looking head appeared on the surface. as the head dissipated it left thick foamy lacing on the glass. inviting and menacing! wonderful black malt with a solid amount of roast and a great hop to balance things out. some bitter coffee and chocolate notes on the nose as well. nice hoppy stout (actually kind of reminds me of hoppy stout from greenport harbor). a bit of char. really just a phenomenal beer. big bold and roasty with a slight amount of char on the feel. overall, one of my favorite stouts. great year after year.

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Photo of thagr81us
4.25/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Big thanks goes out to beeruser for sharing this one with me! 2009 (Mummy) Vintage! Served from bottle into a Mikkeller taster flute. Poured pitch black with a half finger brown head that subsided to a minimal amount quickly. Maintained decent lacing throughout the glass. The aroma was comprised of roasted malt, dark chocolate, alcohol, and subtle vanilla. The flavor was of roasted malt, dark chocolate, sweet alcohol, dark fruit, subtle vanilla, slight smoke, and very subtle molasses. It had a heavy feel on the palate with mild carbonation. Overall this was a pretty good brew. The flavor and aroma on this one were quite complex and inviting. The booze was still present after all this time, but it was quite nice with the other notes in the flavor. I was really glad I got the chance to finally tick this one officially as I have only had very small samples in the past. A definite must try for any beer fan.

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Photo of AgentZero
4.01/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

On-tap at the Darkness release part at Sheffields in Chicago.

A - In a heavy glass chalice, looked thick like oil in the dark bar. A small tan head which was barely present by the time I got to mine. Nice lacing throughout the course of the drink, very attractive beer.

S - I think this is the strangest smelling stout I've ever smelled. I half thought I had the wrong beer for a while. Get some deep coffee and chocolate, with some undertones of vanilla and a touch of raisins. The strange part of all of it was the distince hops smell on the end of the nose. Very odd.

T - Is this really an RIS? It's either a really interesting take on one or it's just not. Don't get any of the classic stoutish taste on this. Very creamy and chocolatey with a nice splash of vanilla in the middle. Faint IPA-ish taste at the end due to the hops, how very different. I like it, but not at all what I was expecting.

M - Smooth and creamy, leaves the mouth cleanly with a mild hoppy bite at the end. Full bodied, but not heavy like I would expect a heavy stout to be.

D - Can't believe it's 10%+. Way too easy to drink, sessionable stout. Even those who have a hard time drinking stouts could get this one down with no problem.

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Photo of scottfrie
4.08/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750ml bottle into Delirium Noël snifter. 2009 vintage. Split with mjyoung and bbb099. Huge thanks to thecaptain073 for trading me this one.

A: Pours jet black with a thin, dense, dark brown head that faded into a bubbly collar and left a web of thin lacing down the glass.
S: Big roasted notes of dark malts and molasses. There is a fair amount of alcohol vapor. I pick up sweet notes of dark fruits as well.
T: Very sweet and sugary with big notes of molasses, brown sugar, and chocolate covered berries. There is a sweet fruitiness to this beer that I just can't tack down. Finish is syrupy and sweet and the aftertaste is lightly roasted and bitter.
M: Alcohol adds some warm viscosity to the mouth. Body is full and thick, but not as thick as possible. Goes down sweet and smooth and is even a little spritzy in the finish.
D: Don't get me wrong, this was an amazing beer and deserves a very high score. It's one of the better RIS I've had, but I was actually expecting a little more given all the hype around it. I would drink this as often as I could if I was able to, but I think even something like Ten FIDY in a four pack off the shelf is pretty damn comparable.

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Photo of tavernjef
4.56/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

On-tap at the Blue Nile: Dark pruney brown. Thickly puffed and creamy milk chocolate browned topping that stays for a good stint. After a time, a sandy skim is remaining with a firm collaring and thinnly placed sheets of lace coats the glass with immense sticking power.

Aroma is a lofty yet mild with an array of sweet dark fruity skins and juices of plum, pineapple, banana, and fig, all mixing with a dollup of chocolate cake and frosting. Ethanolic heat gets in the way as it sits and becomes the everstanding presense after a while, but stay fairly tropical and cocoa covered.

Taste is a brigade of sweet, dark flavors; at first, as this Imp. Stout changes its way some as it goes. But this has a tropical, yet dark, sweet front side that has a good slice of dullish pineapple, some slimming banana, dried plums and figs, and a scant of spicey molasses. Then chocolate comes in and covers it all up with one creamy cake filling smoothness and slight bitterness. The palate is soothed over with a delightful stand of bold chocolate tone in a fluff of dark cocoa bitterness. Slight hints to the spice and fruits lingering in the corners. A mighty nice taster of a stout. The front part starts bright and tropical, but fades as it warms. This was served pretty darned chilly for an Impy, but patience pays off by letting it sit about 10, 15 minutes.

Feel is smoothly silken and thickly set in a grand tone of wonderfully delightful chocolate malt and brief, slippery Doppelbock dark fruityness. Firm and strong with only a slight hint to higher ABV type warmth that's not really evident in any fashion other then the aroma. It reminded my of a chocolate silk pie. Kinda fluffy with that certain texture thats melting and coating. Quite nice. The finish is lengthy in chocolate tone and blended well in dark set bitterness.

Surly have done themselves well with this treat. A true winter sipper that can be easily enjoyed fully and with more in mind once the glass has emptied.
Beware: Darkness has set across the Land of Minnesota Beerdom. Close the door and lock it behind you. It's time for drinkin' some Darkness!

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Photo of rjp217
5/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2012 bottle poured into a couple taster snifters....

Pitch black pour with a beautiful one finger head and perfect brown head with a sticky lace retention. So much chocolate and cherry in the aroma and taste. There's a beautiful coffee and caramel finish in the taste. Full body and low carbonation with a silky smooth finish. This beer is absolutely sublime. It's a chocolate coffee marshmallow dream. The 2 years created a perfect symmetry. Epic!

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Photo of jaxon53
3.73/5  rDev -15.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Ah, Surly Darkness. Second time around. Wasn't really a big fan of the '08 and '09, but trying to keep an open mind. Served this chilled, in a sniter, from a 750 ml bottle. I allowed this to warm a bit before sampling.

Appearance: Darkness pours out a deep dark black hole black. This is one black beer! You could hold a flash light to this thing and not see through it. The name fits it perfectly. A rather gentle pour yields about three quarters of an inch of coffee brown head. Head lasts for a bit. Head slowly faded into a thickish gob of foam. A rather generous amount of webby lace was left behind.

Smell: A beast of a brew. Alcohol hammers the nose first and just about clears the sinuses. Slight hints of chocolate, cofee, and molasses. Dark fruit- Prune? maybe some fig and raisin. Some hops are noticeable. Smells like it is sweet.

Taste: Here we go. Taste somewhat mimics the smell. Alcohol seems a bit more subdued. Again, a bit hoppy. Chocolate is there, coffee isn't. Hints of raisin and prune. Somewhat sweet. Finishes with more alcohol.

Mouthfeel: Mouthfeel is chewy and thick. Full bodied with lower carbonation.

Drinkability: Notthe most drinkable beer I've ever had. Alcohol and sweetness are a bit much. Give me a Kate over this any day!

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Photo of morimech
3.71/5  rDev -16.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2009 Vintage

Appearance- Not quite black but a dark brown during the pour, appears dark black in the glass. A large brown head with excellant retention. Moderate amount of spotty lacing is left on the glass.

Smell- A large hoppy nose. Resiny and citrus fruit mostly. A little dark malt in the background. Smells more like a DIPA than a RIS.

Taste- Again this is dominated by the hops. Sticky and fruity. Bitterness is high even with several months on this bottle. Malt is a secondary player giving some roasted and chocolate notes. Alcohol does not really play a major role in the taste.

Mouthfeel- Not as big and thick as other RIS's. Still has good carbonation and texture.

Drinkability- With each passing year it seems Darkness becomes less of a style dominator. More of a Black IPA at this point. Hope Surly goes back to the 2007 recipe for 2010. I would take an Old Rasputin or Storm King over this.

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Photo of gford217
4.45/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Review #400 so let's make it Darkness. Bottles courtesy of a couple of super generous traders in Surly country poured into a snifter.

Not surprising, it's dark...pours jet black with hints of mahogany as it comes out of the bottle. The head is tan and three fingers high before receding to an inch-thick cap that lingers throughout with tons of lacing.

While not typical of the style, I found the aroma fascinating. The first smell was of floral hops, especially pine, along with some citrus. As it warmed, some of the dark malts and chocolate came out, but still with a heavy hop presence. It smells damn near like a DIPA. Crazy.

The taste steers back toward an RIS, but not all the way there. The initial taste is a quick citrus hop kick that tingles the tongue before the dark roasted malts and bakers chocolate melt the tingling away to a thick malty coating. The finish is a tad dry with a slight hop bitterness as well. The sweetness of dark fruits comes out much more as it warms, but again this is probably the hoppiest tasting RIS I'be had.

The mouthfeel is truly exceptional. Very, very creamy but with the perfect amount of carbonation to help the flavors pop.

Well, this may not be the best RIS I've had, but it is probably the most original. I'd heard it was hoppy, but I just had no idea. Big thanks again to Brian and Brent for opportunity to try this gem.

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Photo of Dope
4.4/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: Midnight black with a large thick medium brown head. Fades very slowly, leaving an almost solid layer of lacing.

S: Loaded with molasses, toffee and dark fruits. Lots of fig and raisin. Plenty of anise too. Roasted malt peeks through with a bit of chocolate and coffee but it's not the dominant aroma here.

T: Super fruity. Raisin, fig, lots of cherries. Maybe even currants. Toffee and caramel up front with it. Molasses in the middle with the roasted malt that starts to kick in with char and heavy chocolate mainly. Bitter roast in the finish with a bit of anise.

M: Thick and heavy. Low carbonation.

O: Interesting RIS. Very fruity, almost over-the-top compared to most. You don't even get any roasted malt until the second half of the taste. It is very tasty and I enjoyed it, but I tend to feel that the root of a great RIS is a major roasted malt aspect, and this one is more of a minority. Otherwise it is a complex, balanced and flavorful beer so I have to give it credit where credit is due. If you're a fan of sweet, fruity RISes, this one is for you.

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Photo of DavoleBomb
4.03/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a snifter. 2010 vintage.

5.0 A: Pours black. About three fingers of thick, mostly creamy, secondarily frothy medium-brown-colored head. Very good retention and lacing covering most of the glass.

4.5 S: Mighty chocolaty is my first impression. This has a great mixture of roasty and sweet aromas with the sweet being moderately stronger. Hops are readily apparent in the form of herbal and citrus. Sweet caramel, a touch of smoke, and some toastiness to cap it off. Very nice.

4.0 T: Taste is pretty good, though somewhat disappointing based on the nose. This isn't nearly as sweet as the nose suggests. Rather, hop bitterness is apparent and hop flavor is nearly as strong as the malts. Hop flavor comes in the form of citrusy orange, herbalness, and a touch of spiciness. Malts contribute milk chocolate, caramel, molasses, anise, a touch of smoke and fruitiness in the form of plum, prune, and parsimmon. The malts aren't big and powerful like I like, but this is still pretty tasty.

3.5 M: Heavier medium body. Not the thick, rich imperial stout I was looking for. Moderate carbonation is a bit "dead" leaving the beer limp and heavy on the touch. However, this has a good creaminess to it and it otherwise smooth.

3.5 D: Gave this a 3.5 because the taste was a borderline 3.5. This is easily the best hoppy imperial stout out there, but I'm not that big of a fan of that approach to stouts. I like big malty flavors and low hop contribution. Still, this is a pretty tasty and I think this will be damn good once the hops have time to fade.

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Photo of illidurit
4.85/5  rDev +9.7%
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 francisweizen
4.8/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I just recieved this one in a trade today, and was pretty excited to try/and review this very hyped brew from Surly Brewing Company.

This is a 2007 vintage that has been cellared/aged for one year since its original release on halloween of last year. Served at about 60 degree fahrenheit ambiant temperature. Slightly chilled in my trusty fridge and given time to settle so that the yeast has redistributed itself to the brown glass bottle floor.

P=5: The Blood red and black ink double wax dipped 750ml (Nice, those extra ounces come in handy, and I often wish more breweries would bottle in 750ml bombers as opposed to 22oz [660ml] bombers) bomber bottle is very cool looking indeed. Sturdy brown glass with a bitchin' label with the surly logo and a grim reaper on it. The bottle states that this is bottle # 264 although there is no further information about the beer stated except for the bottle size (750ml)

A=5: With a hard pour into a 20oz Imperial Pint Glass this beer is a real beauty to behold. Ink black with no light penetration and a massive espresso coloured head of foam that lasts and lasts with excellent retention, sheeting, and lacing

S=5: When I cracked the top off of this the smell instantly penetrated my nasal cavity. Deep rosated malts, dark russian rye bread, chocolate, dark black unsweetened coffee, condensed milk, earthy green hops, and a melange of other 'dark' flavors

T=4.5: The taste is awesome and smooth as hell. A great blend of green earthy hops, fresh russian rye bread, chocolate syrup/chocolate milk, toffee, with a bit of coffee, vanilla, sweet condensed milk and caramel thrown in for good measure. The yeast is a nice one here with some very English buttery undertones and the front palate and back palate combine nicely to make this a real cigar sipper of a brew. The burnt coffee, and dark fruit/currant flavors really build up when this one warms up to room temperature. I am now beginning to see that the hype is justified. However, the taste profile is not quite Courage 83' or 2004 Dark Lord. Perhaps it's a bit better, fresh, on tap, or on cask, or maybe even from a can [one can wish]. However, this is near perfect for a russian imperial stout. Alcohol is muted and melded, but it makes itself known in the intense, acrid dry finish. Kind of like day old cold pressed espresso discards

M=5: The mouthfeel is extremely satisfying. Thick, chewy, and coating with an exponential warmth about it as well. However it is not quite the beast in the mouth that dark lord is. It could be a bit thicker with more mid body depth, if I am to be completely honest. Still, thick and rich, this is the epitome of a great imperial stout

D=5: This is where this one really shines. This is a big RIS for sure, but the flavors are melded together very well and in the end the drinkability is really excellent for a 10%+ abv brew. Th e fantastic aroma, interesting flavor profile, and satisfying mouthfeel really all pull together to make this a greatly drinkable RIS.

O=4.9: Overall this is pretty much a 4.9 brew. It is one inch away from a 5 in either taste or mouthfeel and it really fires on all cylinders. I can't wait to try this fresh, as even though I did not sample the 2007 batch fresh in the bottle, on tap, or on cask, I can tell that the hop flavors have been somewhat muted and mellowed, and the mouthfeel may have thinned a bit as well. I can see this being a 5 under the right circumstances, and I may have to take the flight over to MN this halloween to find out for myself.

PC: Surly is probably my favorite new brewery (I only discovered them earlier this year). They make interesting limited seasonals like this (as well as One, Two, etc), Great regular seasonals (such as Cynic, Fest, Bitter Brewer, etc), and killer year round brews (such as furious and bender). I look forward to trying more of their beer be it in cans, bottles, on tap, or on cask. I also look forward to trying the Smoke and some of their more obscure tap/cask only products. Whilst hardly life changing, or the best beer that I have ever had, this is an incredibly solid product, and considering that this brewery has only been open for a few years they really have quite the winner here. I look forward to toasting them on many occasions in the future. In the meantime a BIG thanks to Akorsak for hooking me up with this beauty. The check (or the cable car) will be in the mail this week.

This brew really reminded me why I love Russian Imperial Stouts so much...Probably my all time #3 Imperial Stout after 2004 Dark Lord and 1983 Courage Russian Imperial

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Photo of Domvan
4.73/5  rDev +7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

Poured a dark thick syrup and had a medium head
Smelled of sweet chocolate and molasses
The sweetness was overpowering of the bitterness by most RIS'
A medium bodied mouthfeel
Darkness 13

Darkness 14 - Had a very similar experience, but the barrel enhanced everything that much more, the minor whiskey addition was perfect.

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

Review is from the February 2007 issue of Beeradvocate Magazine.

Only 12 barrels were made, and we've been blessed with a 1/2 gallon, sent directly from the brewery on ice packs. Kickass!

Aptly named, this is one hell of a black brew. Its dark crown is rich, creamy, tightly formed, and coffee colored. Looks like a freshly frothed coffee. Blackberries, strong sherry, velvety dark chocolate, perfume of soft dried fruits. Thick, viscous, chewy, round, smooth and creamy. Semi-spicy alcohol is caught in the center, surrounded by char and smoke, and grasped by a fi st of sweetness. Malty sweet, but not cloying; molasses, dark brown sugar, charred raisins, juicy, ripe black cherries in a sharp, dark berry middle, and an exotically acrid dark-roasted coffee bite. Hop bitterness rises from the depths, along the sides of the tongue, stabbing at the palate here and there with some leafy and oily notes. Smoky-char linger in the fi nish, with a residual, deep, dark sweetness. Alcohol creeps, lurks and eventually strikes a warming blow to the skull.

Dark Lord Imperial Stout, kneel before Darkness! All hail Darkness! The best American-made Russian Imperial Stout we've ever had!

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Photo of woosterbill
4.2/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

08 vintage into a Weyerbacher tulip.

A: Black body with a thin, but present, brown head. Nice enough for me.

S: Hugely oaky, very sweet, and boozy. Good, but not quite as transcendent as I might have hoped.

T: Sweet, boozy, and very, very tasty. Maybe a bit of hop bitterness, but the emphasis here is on the chocolatey malts and fruity alcohol. Again, it's very, very good, but not great.

M: Full bodied with lots of alcohol burn. I wouldn't want it to be any other way.

D: Somehow, I can't get enough of drinking this beer - even though it doesn't live up to my hopes.

Notes: What a beer to act as the capstone to a truly epic
afternoon/evening/night of beer wonderment. While I stand by my assessment of it, I will definitely rereview whenever I get a crack at a bottle that I can take my time with (and can be more sober for). Huge thanks to the Matt for pulling ths crazy beer out of nowhere. Awesome.

Cheers!

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Photo of MattyG85
4.92/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Poured from 750 ml bottle into a Surly Darkness chalice glass. 2011 bottle with a great looking zombie label. BRAAIIINS!

Appearance: Pours very dark and black with only a slight tint of dark brown. Decent three finger deep tan head that settles into a thin patchy layer. Decent amount of lacing on the glass.

Smell: Very rich and darkly sweet. Dark roasted caramel malts with toffee. Big aroma of dark chocolate. A pretty bold presence of dark fruits with raisins and dark cherries. Has some notes of coffee and oak chips lingering around. Also some hints of grassy hops underneath the sweetness. Smells great.

Taste: Just as dark and tasty as the smell leads. Big taste of dark chocolate with dark toasted caramel and toffee malts. Solid presence of coffee and a strong kick of dark fruit sweetness from raisins and dark cherries. Has a hint of oak chips. Finishes with a solid presence of grassy hops adding some balance to the sweetness. Everything comes together perfectly. This is quite delicious.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with a moderate level of carbonation. Very roasty, thick, and creamy. A little heat is felt but this is pretty smooth.

Overall: An incredible Russian Imperial Stout. Very robust, complex, and tasty. A perfect blend of sweetness and bitterness. Well worth the hype. This is heaven.... or better yet hell in a bottle. :)

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Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
98 out of 100 based on 844 ratings.
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