Darkness | Surly Brewing Company

Log in or Sign up to start rating.
BA SCORE
98
world-class
845 Reviews
DarknessDarkness
BEER INFO

Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States
surlybrewing.com

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:
845
Ratings:
3,614
Avg:
4.42
pDev:
9.28%
 
 
Wants:
3,316
Gots:
1,394
For Trade:
107
View: Beers | Events
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Reviews: 845 | Ratings: 3,614
Photo of mnredsoxfan69
4.75/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

10 oz. tap pour at the brewery. Magnificent! One of the truly great beers in the world. This is what others want their RIS to be. Black as night with a thin, tan head. Aromas of coffee, cocoa, roasted malts and molasses with more of the same in each sip. Viscous mouth feel, low carbonation and warming alcohol on the palate. Very malty, sweet but not cloying. Legendary.

 371 characters

Photo of MrFootstones
3.24/5  rDev -26.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

2010 Vintage

Appearance: Pours oily, dark, and menacing with a fat cocoa colored head which fades into a thin cap. Looks awesome.

Aroma: Boozy, hoppy, sweet, mildly roasty. Alcoholic esters. Dark fruit and baker's chocolate. Not tremendously appealing to be honest.

Taste: Dark dried fruit, alcohol, faint roast. Sweet and hoppy, significant but not overpowering bitterness. Smoothness mid palate. Dark chocolate.

Mouthfeel: Nice and rich without being heavy. Good amount of medium but not prickly carbonation.

Drinkability: My 1/3 of a bottle is a good amount. Not
loving it, but not difficult to drink by any means.

 623 characters

Photo of NoLiberty
4.23/5  rDev -4.3%
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.

 955 characters

Photo of AJacob81
4.35/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

After drunkenly trading a Dark Lord for this, and then this for an Abyss at DLD 2010, I'm finally trying Darkness. Poured fresh into a snifter at Jake Melnick's Corner Tap:

A - Black, with a little brown showing at the edges. Billowing beige head of 2 fingers is retained well and leaves elaborate lacing on the inside of the glass. Very unusual for an RIS, but it looks great.

S - Strong, assertive nose features fresh coffee beans, dark fruits, and molasses. A subtle hint of dark chocolate as well. I'd like a candle with this scent. Only Dark Lord and BCBCS smell better.

T - Everything from the nose, in delicate balance. A bit of anise in the aftertaste. Very very tasty.

M and D - Smooth, medium to full body, with decent carbonation, maybe a touch more than is usual for the style. A little syrupy but not cloying, this is one to sip and savor. Excellent brew.

 872 characters

Photo of MPLS
4.83/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

After coming up empty glassed at 3 locations I scoured the forums and got another tap serving (had one at Darkness day in a plastic cup) of 2009 Darkness

A: The Bartender poured it marvelously, big 6 cm coffee colored head that slowly faded into Darkness...okay, a little cliche. The usual strapping black body was present too. I couldn't complain about the glassware, a brand new Darkness snifter glass that I used to own until I broke it.

S: Smoked chocolate, sweetness, alcohol masked in the nose.

T: Palate boner - delicious dark chocolate, roasted espresso beans, big citrusy hops. Seemingly much more balanced than the '08, though I question the evolution of beer geek palates. Oddly enough this serving fared better than what I had at Darkness Day. The complexity increases as it warmed and is good incentive to cup the snifter with my warm palms.

M: Thick and moderately creamy. It can keep up with the big boys without being oatmeal.

D: Oh man, deliciousness. I am tempted to find an excuse to drink another serving tomorrow, pending it's availability. It's more than just hype with the beer, a real pleasurable experience.

Watch yo ABVz

 1,153 characters

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

I couldnt resist it anymore! I would also like to say I had a pint of masala mama prior to this so take this review for what it is!

This brew pours into my official Darkness Snifter...a huge black body with a massive tan head. The head has amazing retention. But what does this beast smell like?

The smell is very sweet, boozy, and a slight woody smell. It is very very intriguing! It is very rich and complex and not at all hoppy IMO

I'm almost am afraid to try this. I'd hate for it to be a let down but also for it to ruin my guts! Fuck it...lets try it!!! Wow, my god. Its rich and sweet but not boozy. Its incrediably smooth! I cant believe its that drinkable! Holy hell! I must try more! It has a very nice cherry, plum, and slight vanilla flavor! Man this is good!

Its very drinkable and very dangerious! If possible I would drink this all the time! Now I only wonder what my 07 taste like???

 903 characters

Photo of abfraser
4.39/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to waltonc for sharing a glass of this one. Cool looking bottle

A: Totally black with a smallish dark brown head.

S: This is some complex stuff. All the classic RIP aromas--roasted malt, chocolate, some coffee. But the real distinguishing factor here was a real dark fruit, almost like a fruitcake.

T/M: Deliciously creamy and full bodied. Great imperial stout flavors. Really like how the dark fruit flavors worked in here; it was very unique for the style. Everything was exceptionally well balanced, with nothing dominating or overpowering.

D: I could drink a lot of ton of this. Yet, I can barely get my hands on it, so it's gets a knock.

This was delicious, complex, and unique. Up there with the best of them.

 728 characters

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.

 775 characters

Photo of pdoran10
4.08/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Served on tap at darkness day 2009 at Hell's Kitchen in downtown Minneapolis. Have procrastinated a long time on reviewing this beer.

When I ordered it, I was presented with a 10oz goblet of very dark brown beer, with a luxurious looking half inch of head. The smell is right away of toasted malt with dark chocolate, can't quite put my finger on some of the other flavors, but very complex. I was surprised when I tasted it, very thick and syrupy. I taste toasted malt right away, much like the smell. After that passes, I get an explosion of other flavors, chocolate, expresso, I might even taste some fig in there. It took me a few sips to get a grasp for all that was going on. Good taste, but a lot of toasted malt and a bit of alchohol taste are going on. I was not a big fan of the mouthfeel of this one. I'm all for thick imperial stouts, but somehow this one was much more syrupy than I liked, it felt a little to sticky sweet in my mouth. The drinkability is good enough. Some alchohol presense, and a bit syrupy, but it can't be all bad as I still had two and considered a third. Good beer, didn't live up to my expectations though.

 1,144 characters

Photo of stouts4me
4.5/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

darkness 2011 straight from the gates of SURLY, on saturday October 23rd.
Pours a deep dark dark brown, not black, but surely no light gets through. 1/4" light brown foam on top.
The nose is very nice, smell is smooth if that makes sense.
first sip is awesome, just as u would expect from these pro's. Nice, smooth not overpowering ; cocoa, plum a little booziness, definitely not a bad or overpowering booze taste.
Mouthfeel is very good, smoothly flowing over the tastebuds.
Overall u expect this to be great and u won't cry foul, u will enjoy each delicious mouthful.

 574 characters

Photo of Gfunk720
4.43/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2009 Bottle, black wax. Out of my SN XXX tulip.

A- Out pours a thick blackish liquid. The head is a dark Khaki color, and laces the glass quite well.

S- Rich roasted malts, dark chocolate, and alcohol are the first things that hit my nose. I get some nice hoppy notes, as well as some dark fruit and raisins.

T- An initial sweetness hits my tongue, followed by notes of chocolate and roasted malt. The beer is thick and creamy, with plenty of flavor. There is a nice hoppy profile on the back end, suits the beer very well.

M- Pretty much perfect for what I like in the style. Thick and oily, without going overboard. The flavor is complex, while melding very well.

O- I had some pretty high expectations for this beer after cellaring it for the last couple years. I have to say I am pleasantly surprised. An excellent RIS to say the least.

-GFunk

 856 characters

Photo of ryantupy
4.52/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This was a great beer that was a definate sipper for sure. It was a warming beer perfect for Fall or Winter. It poured a jet black hue with a nice frothy brown head and stuck to the glass the whole way down. The roasted malt flavor with slight undertones of dark chocolate and burnt malts were great. This was a smooth and easily drinkable beer I hope to get my hands on this one again

 385 characters

Photo of mcgwire756
4.36/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2010 Vintage

Poured pitch black with a nice 2 finger head. A great looking beer.

The smell of this beer is of dark fruit and molasses.

The taste is of smooth dark late but not overbearing. I thought it would be a little fuller than it was. Still great just not what I expected.

The mouthfeel was awesome. This beer does not taste like a 10.3% beer at all. It is without a doubt one of the easiest beers to drink (of this style) that I have ever had.

Serving type: bottle

 478 characters

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

Finally found my notes from an RIS/Barleywine tasting session in January 2008 (Kudos to DrSeamus for bringing this one)

A: Solid black with no light penetrating. Dark tan head with some small lacing.

S: Hoppy nose? RIS? Citrus hops right up front on the nose then roast.

T: Bitter, roasted malt in the beginning. Mystery flavor in the middle that no one's able to put their finger on. Its there for only a brief moment but oh, so good. Its kind of a caramel-y burnt sugar, but that's not it exactly. There's a definite boozy appearance but appropriate for the style

M: Heavy bodied, slightly syrupy with a decent amount of carbonation.

D: This ran the RIS gauntlet against aged Stone, aged Avery Czar, and Siberian Night. While an excellent & distinctive RIS, I think much of the hype comes from the limited availability. Don't get me wrong, its REALLY good, but it wasn't the favorite of the night.

 904 characters

Photo of zoso493
4.87/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 2009 vintage 750 ml bottle into a Dogfish Head signature glass.

Appearance: Right off the bat, I can tell that this is one of the thicker stouts I've ever poured. Immediately, the beer pours a viscous, compact motor-oil black that just sludges its way out of the bottle. Atop the beer is a bubbly two-finger head that loses its height quickly, but still retains a slight presence on top of the beer for awhile.

Smell: This is a stout? At first sniff, it seems not. The first thing you get out of the nose, at least in this 2009 vintage, is an immense and glorious whiff of hops. These are not just piny hops, however, as you would normally expect in a stout, but a whole array of piny, sugary, and even citric hops. It's tempting to just enjoy the beautiful scent of caramel-coated hops and forget about the rest of the scent, but there is even more to be found.

While the hops are blatantly the most prominent and intriguing facets of the smell, there is a delightful backdrop of syrupy, gooey dark malts lurking somewhere in the background. This dark malt is so good that if it were the only scent in the nose, I would consider awarding the perfect score. All in all, an absolutely breathtaking nose.

Taste: If the nose had somehow left you skeptical as to the quality of Darkness, the taste puts all doubts to rest. Again, the hops are the first thing I'll discuss, not because they are necessarily the mot obvious taste, but because they form the feature that make this beer like no other RIS. As in the nose, there is a wonderful citric and resinous pine sap taste that is quite unexpected but extremely welcomed by a hophead.

Enough about the hops, though. The impressive malt backbone deserves some attention of its own. Just in case you thought this was a black IPA (or whatever the hell they're called now), the malt reminds you that, yes, you're drinking an imperial stout, and a world-class one at that. The fudge-like malts are prototypical of an imperial stout, but still delicious all the same. Without typing too much, I think the taste of the malts can be summarized as a rum-soaked chocolate cake.

Mouthfeel: Upon first sip, I had reservation about awarding this the perfect score, but now I know that Darkness is well-deserving. Despite the appearance, this is not an exceptionally thick stout, though I will admit it is thicker than average. Where this beer stands out, however, is the silkiness of the mouthfeel. The flavors all tied together so beautifully that I'm certain this is one of the smoother RIS's that I've had.

Drinkability: For starters, there is absolutely no trace of alcohol in this beer, and for that, I applaud the brewers at Surly Brewing Company. Nevertheless, I've taken a good hour and a half to get through this bottle, which is the only thing keeping me from giving it the perfect score.

Surly Darkness is a magnificent beer without a shadow of a doubt. It is an immensely bold and extremely complex stout, but what sets it apart for me is the uniqueness of the flavors. I can comfortably say that this is without a doubt completely unlike any RIS I've ever had. The way the hops are incorporated into the massive malt-profile is truly a work of art, and for that I take my hat off to the brewers at Surly.

 3,281 characters

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

2010 Vintage

Pours black with a creamy brown head, it looks rich. Lots of lacings on the sides of the glass as I swirl it. Smells of roasted dark chocolate, sweet, but not overly. Tons of roasted malt, then creamy chocolate, dark cherry favor, and some traces of hops on the finish. The mouth is creamy as this beer is very well balanced. The flavor hides the alcohol perfectly. I would drink this beer again (it is a sipper) due to it's well balanced flavor. Not too dry, bitter or too sweet, this was an excellent RIS.

 521 characters

Photo of westweasel
4.65/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Served in a goblet at Chef Paul's Barvarian Lodge in Lisle, IL.

The beer is very dark but clear, with about 1/3" tan head. Lacing was left all along the glass as the beer went down. The smell is filled with piney and citrusy hops, but it also contains some caramel and toasty smells. Very light roastiness - less than I expected. If you close your eyes and imagine the smell of their IPA "Furious" - you'll smell it. It smells like a similar mixture of hops.

The taste is filled with great hop flavor. Again nice pine and citrus hops provide a bitter bite. Also some raisin and date flavors.

The mouthfeel is nice and full. This beer is extremely drinkable for a Russian Imperial Stout. It is not too sweet - in fact it is loaded with bitterness (this keg is probably young) and quite a treat for a hop lover. The alcohol is very well hidden. I had barrel-aged darkness at the Great Taste of the Midwest - and was not that impressed. This is much better.

 957 characters

Photo of mnstorm99
4.54/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

I finally was able to try this one last night, I am not the biggest fans of stout's in general, but I can certainly sit and enjoy one from time to time, and enjoy is what I did. Nice thick dark black color with a tan head that slowly fades but leaves a nice lacing. aroma of sweet fruits and cocoa. Taste is more of an initial fruity hop feel with a sweet taste of fruity hops and carmel. Mouthfeel is extremely thick and chewy that coats my throat all the way down. I will definatly be enjoying another one of these sippers when the next batch comes out.

 555 characters

Photo of sordyl
3.56/5  rDev -19.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This was the 2013 Chicago distribution when Surly came into the market. Opened for a bottle share, smelled and looked great but the tastes really was not exceptional at all.

 174 characters

Photo of camil1mj
4.48/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2010 vintage received in a generous trade with Crushedvol.

Shared at the Kuhnhenn Winter Solstice party. Poured into my Bells Snifter.

A: Dark as night. I see where the name comes from. Some head and lacing present.

S: This one has the typical stouts smells: roasted malt, chocolate and anise.

T: Wonderful taste. Mild sweetness with notes of chocolate and anise.

M: A little bit thinner than I expected. Medium carbonation.

O: A great stout. Glad I got to try it. In regards to the Midwest brewery event stouts, I stil think Darklord is better.

 552 characters

Photo of Trevor11
5/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I enjoyed the 2015 vintage at the Local Option brewpub on 1/22/2016. This Russian Imperial stout was incredibly rich with dark chocolate yet balanced with raisiny sweetness. There is a vampire bat on the front label to add to its creepy, dark aura.

 248 characters

Photo of punkrkr27
4.05/5  rDev -8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2008 bottle. Lots of rich sweet yet bitter black strap molasses character with a shot of espresso. There's some milk chcoclate that comes out in the middle and it finishes with a long bitter black coffee finish. There was a hint of soy I didn't care much for though. The body is sticky and full with moderate carbonation.

 321 characters

Photo of edbeered
4.62/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Served in a tulip glass, this pours an opaque jet black color, with a small brownish head and scattered lacing on the glass. The smell is fruity and chocolaty. The taste is intense, with a peaty earthiness, a fruity plum flavor, a hint of grapefruit hoppiness, and a toasty maltiness. The flavors burst forth, yet this exceptional brew is smooth and balanced. The alcohol content is 9.5%, yet it doesn't feature in the taste. For me, the style makes this a "one and done" beer, due to the intensity of the flavors and the high alcohol content. That said, if any Russian Imperial Stout could tempt me into a second glass, it would be this one. An exceptional effort from the brewers at Surly.

 691 characters

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

I think subconsciously I've been saving my lone Darkness for Halloween. 2008 bottle acquired in a trade.

A - Pours an almost pitch black stream that settles like tar in the glass. Not much of a head, just a thin sheet of mocha head that lasts forever.

S - smells pretty sweet, but not as bad as fresh Dark Lord. A small bit of roasted malts, chocolate, and a touch of dark fruit rounds it out.

T - Roasted chocolaty malts with a hint of prunes. Definitely less sweet than the smell, but any bit of hops is pretty much gone. Aftertaste of cigars and coffee.

M/D - This is thick and frothy beer. A great mouthfeel, but it is way to thick to be extremely drinkable. One bottle is going to take me a while to finish, but I'm enjoying every sip.

 744 characters

Photo of jcartamdg
4.53/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a bruery tulip, this thing is blacker than black, darkness is the right name alright. Bouts a 3 finger head that sticks around for a while. Lacing is excellent, very sticky. Aromas of dark chocolate, hops, coffee an alcohol is in the background. Tastes unbelievable! This follows the nose with more intensity. This is a thick and chewy impy stout. Darkness is what I would dream about in a Russian imperial stout. It's like raspy on crack, amazing beer!!!

 467 characters

Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
4.42 out of 5 based on 3,614 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • Extreme Beer FestĀ® Cometh

    February 3-4, 2017. Boston, Mass. Limited tickets available. Prepare for epicness.

    Learn More
  • Free Trial Subscription

    Reside in the US? Interested in a free 1-month trial subscription to the print edition of BeerAdvocate magazine?

    Yes! Sign Me Up!