Nov 9, 2018

Surly Darkness 2018

Last year, I was able to check Surly’s Darkness off from my list of bucket list beers. It was a transcendent moment for me personally and one that I fully savored to the very last dregs remaining in that Baba Yaga adorned bottle. The beer’s combination of coffee, chocolate and dark fruits was stellar to say the very least. And, now that my Darkness dream had bee fulfilled, would the 2018 version of the big Russian imperial stout be able to match?

For the most part, yes — almost. Like many Facebook statuses, it’s complicated.

In 2017, the big stout was packed with luscious chocolates, roast coffee/espresso and molasses as dark fruit notes swirled smoothly in support. This time around, Darkness feels like it’s presenting that combination of cherries and raisins as the main feature, setting up the dark coffee and cocoa notes as the support team. It’s not a complete swap in terms of presence, but this year tastes fruitier, more decadent than last.

While the cherries and raisins get more of the spotlight, the dark roastiness and coffee notes are still in play with a bit of anise and hint of vanilla. That fruitiness and a solid amount of sweetness are partially tempered by the astringent dark coffee — keeping the beer from becoming cloying — as everything fades slowly into the lasting and warming finish. The beer feels slick on the palate and lightly drying.

Both opportunities that I’ve had to enjoy Surly’s annual Halloween release have proven to be wonderful for different reasons. It’s easy to get stuck in the trap of comparing vintages of a beer and I’ve sort of gotten caught here. However, on its own, the 2018 bottle is still an amazing beer, though I personally would have liked a slightly less emphasis on the fruitier side and more on that rich, robust Russian imperial stout base. At any rate, Darkness continues to be an outstanding brew and I was thoroughly thrilled to have the opportunity to enjoy once again.

This is a review of a promotional sample.