The cap and neck were encased in thick wax, which was a pain in the ass to remove. However, I assume these bottles are meant to be aged. I probably opened this bottle two or three years too early.
The color is opaque black. Two fingers of dense, dark cappuccino-colored head dissipates slowly. The aroma is dominated by chocolate and black licorice. A lot of dark fruit is in the play, too. It is roasty but not coffee-like; it smells more like roasted chocolate, if chocolate can be roasted (can it?). There is a touch of foreshadowing booze. The mouthfeel is full and creamy. The flavor mirrors the aroma, but some other characteristics begin to emerge. There are flavors of chocolate, roasted malt, molasses, black licorice, maple syrup, burnt sugar syrup, and dark fruit. Each sip is silky smooth and the alcohol is not even noticeable. Raisins and toffee are also present (thanks, brewery description!). Well, the alcohol is noticeable — but it is far from overpowering; it is minimal and lets the other flavors shine. The description on the back of the bottle also mentions a “piney resinous hop character,” and it is there on the tail and on the taste buds after each sip.
Fun facts about Darkness:
• Style: Russian imperial stout.
• Price: I’m unsure because this bottle was a surprise that arrived at the LV. It is a 750 ml bottle, though.
• Alcohol content: 10.3 percent ABV.
• Surly began offering a barrel-aged version of Darkness in 2014. This is the regular version. I am pretty sure the recipe remains the same every year.
• I believe that each edition of Darkness features a different “twisted nocturnal creature” drawn by a Twin Cities artists. Here is what is written on this year’s bottle:
Our 2015 vintage bottling of Darkness features a screeching bat-nightmare by local artist Brandon Holt.
No creature is more adept at navigating in the Darkness than a bat. Emerging from a deep and ancient cave, this year’s twisted nocturnal creature has evolved a set of adaptations well suited to detecting and devouring uncommon nourishment.
Notes of chocolate, coffee, dried tart cherries, and raisins emanate from his lair. If you can evade the talons and teeth, the thick body of this Russian Imperial Stout finishes sweet, with a piney resinous hop character.
• Darkness is released every October on “the darkest day of the year” — Darkness Day. It is quite an event, apparently. Beer lovers descend upon Surly, enjoy loud music, food, and beer, all while waiting in line to purchase up to three bottles of Darkness.
The Quiet Man’s grade: A-.