I was told by friends in California that I was fortunate to have some of the best craft beer in America available to me in Minnesota. Specifically they wanted to try the Surly Darkness. It is billed as a “Russian Imperial Stout”, which might be a way to distinguish it.
Imperial stout, also known as Russian imperial stout or imperial Russian stout, is a strong dark beer or stout in the style that was brewed in the 18th century by Thrale’s brewery in London, England or export to the court of Catherine II of Russia. In 1781 the brewery changed hands and the beer became known as Barclay Perkins Imperial Brown Stout. When the brewery was taken over by John Courage and Co. Ltd., the beer was renamed Courage Imperial Russian Stout. It has a high alcohol content, usually over 9%. Today the Courage brand is owned by Wells and Young’s Brewery, which does not have an Imperial Stout among its offerings.
The Surly Darkness, as I found out, only is offered for sale during a short period once yearly. They have a release party known as “Darkness Days”. This year, I put it on the calendar and planned to obtain some. The rules were that 1,500 wristbands were to be given out in the morning. This would get one a purchase time. After that, the beer would be sold first come first served beginning at 3:30. I did not get a wristband and I did not get in to buy the beer.
I was able to try the Surly Darkness on tap, which may be more of a reward than actually purchasing it in a bottle.
It is quite dark. It is not overpowering with hops, but has just a tiny fruity taste to it. The aftertaste lingers for a long time, as it seems quite thick and viscous.