Surly – Darkness 2016

I want to take the first part of this write-up to congratulate all of the folks who work so diligently to put on the Winnipeg Brew Bombers Pro/Am brewing competition each year. It’s quite astounding the amount of work and effort that is put in by all the volunteers. The competition went out incredibly well this year. With over 400 entries from around the country. One of my friends, Jeff Stacey, went up against Surly and won. That’s impressive. So, congratulations to all the participants, winners, volunteers and organizers. Well done.

For those of you not familiar with Surly, I did an in-depth write-up of them <here> when they first announced their coming to Manitoba. This is big. They have a waiting list for expansion and have chosen to come to Manitoba. What’s more, we are going to be seeing some of their seasonal offerings, including Furious Black IPA, Damien, and both the 2016 and 2017 vintages of their Russian imperial stout Darkness.

The beer I am reviewing today is their 2016 Russian Imperial Stout, Darkness. This beer is currently available at Liquor Marts and some beer vendors around the city. Before I get into the style, I wanted to make a couple of comments about Darkness. The price point on this beer is a bit steep for some people. I recognize that. The beer itself isn’t cheap even at the brewery. With exchange, the beer comes in at close to $25 Canadian if you drove to Minneapolis to get it. Getting this beer here in Manitoba for $29.95 is actually a very fair price for the beer.

Darkness has become an event as much as it is a beer. Every year for the release of the new vintage of Darkness people drive from around the United States and Canada to merge on the brewery in Minneapolis. Darkness Day, as it is called, bring beer lovers together with bands and special beers and the opportunity to share and trade beers you’ve brought with you for the occasion. There is a group of people from Winnipeg who go down and tweet about their experiences. I love following their trip and am jealous as I always work the weekend of Darkness.

Surly dday-line

Living vicariously through these folks you can see that while the event is centered around the release of the new vintage of Darkness, it’s become much more than just a beer release. What’s more, Surly always partners with a artist to develop the label for the bottles of darkness. Each year is different. 2016 was Cerebrus the three-head dog who guards the underworld while the 2017 vintage will have Baba Yaga and her chicken-legged hut. Both are awesome.

Stouts are a dark beer made using roasted malts or roasted barley, hops, water and yeast.  Traditionally the term stout was used to describe the strongest (most alcoholic) porters, typically around 7-8%, produced by a brewery.  The reason for the name ‘stout’ was because these strong porters were often sold in stouter bottles than the standard porters.  This gave them the nickname ‘stout’ which eventually became the term used to describe the style of beer.

There are numerous styles of stouts ranging from Dry Stouts, to Porters, and Oyster stouts and my favorite Imperial Stouts.  Russian Imperial Stouts are a style that I’ve really started to enjoy and appreciate.  These beers age incredibly well and change over time.  This style of beer was originally brewed in the 1800s by Thrale’s brewery in London England for export to the court of Catherine II of Russia. This same beer is brewed today now under the Courage brewery name and is called Courage Russian Imperial Stout (RIS).   Ranging between 8%-12% alcohol with strong malt notes of coffee, caramel, chocolate and dark fruit (plums, prunes or raisins for example), it is a perfect beer for a winter night.

ABV – 12%
Appearance – Dark. The beer is named “Darkness” and it pours black as the depths of the earth. Light cannot escape from it’s darkness.
Smell – Deep roast malt notes with hints of chocolate and coffee.
Taste –I’d describe this as a chewy beer. It is rich and deep with roast malt and a sweet caramel, raisin character. There is subtle hop bitterness in there but it is overwhelmed by the richness of the malt. Finish is toasty malt.
Mouth Feel – Creamy and smooth with a chewy characteristic. The way the alcohol comes through is subtle with only a slight bite and warming sensation.
Overall Thoughts – This is an excellent example of a Russian Imperial Stout. It brings ample malt and flavour. This beer lives up to the hype and is incredibly tasty.
Do I like it? – Yes. I know that the price point is a bit on the high side for many, but if you like the style of beer, deep roasty malt and high ABV, this is one of the best you can get. I love this beer and while I can’t drink many of them due to ABV and cost, I’m happy to have the chance to get it here in Manitoba.

There are still more beers coming our way from Surly. We’ve got Furious Black IPA on November 9th followed by Damien, son of Darkness, coming on November 18th. Finally, we will be getting the 2017 vintage of Darkness on December 2nd. Watch for those.

Surly - Embrace the Darkness

As well, anyone who is interested in the Craft Beer Advent Calendar it comes out at liquor marts around the city and Quality Inn Craft Beer Store on October 27th (this Friday). I’ll see some of you in line.

– Beer Winnipeg


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