This is a beer that was so, so hyped and persued 15-20 years ago, but that I had almost forgotten about completely until a couple of weeks ago when I made this impulse purchase at Horrocks, Battle Creek, MI, USA. God, the lengths people were going to 15-20 years ago to get ahold of Darkness. All kinds of money exchanged hands, and all kinds of trades took place.
I first acquired the beer about 15 years ago but made no notes. That bottle was not screen-printed like this one, rather it featured a paper label, and I’m pretty sure in was the 2008 vintage. The older version did feature the black wax. I then opened it in April of 2020.
I first believed that this was a fresh offering, i.e., the 2023 vintage, but there’s no information on the bottle regarding vintage or ABV – annoying – but thanks to comments below it appears that this is more likely a 2020 vintage. This bottle features the same black wax as prior.
Dark tan, large head above a jet-black body.
The nose is hoppier than the tastes ultimately are. Nose seems fairly green in terms of hops. Tastes are that of only a slightly hoppy RIS. It feels hot (in terms of alcohol) at first), but evens out to a sweetish, alcohol bomb with good bitterness on warming. Classic, American take on a RIS. Still, after all of these years kudos to Surly (a brewery that honestly I haven’t cared for much over the years) for remaining true to the beer, and being consistently dedicated to producing it.
Mouthfeel is pretty medium in as much as it isn’t ‘light’, but nor is it a cloying, difficult RIS. In terms of the style, pretty easy going. The back end does push in a little more bitterness (which I am fine with, this is an American RIS after all), but again isn’t really too much. Slick in the mouth a times, and plenty of roasty, simple elements but never with any great complexity, This is a simple beer and I like it for that reason. Surly are to be commended for at least keeping the base beer simple.
This is a real throwback beer for me. There’s a green hop element up front in the beer that I always thought had absolutely zero business being in a RIS but was quite often found in American versions. I haven’t encountered that profile much lately, and although I still don’t care for it a great deal, it feels less abrasive than it once did.