Straight out of the bottle, Surly Barrel-Aged Darkness 2017 commands attention with its clear sepia hue, appearing black as midnight in the glass. The absence of yeast sediment in the bottle sets the stage for a visually refined experience. The head, a thick tan foam, impressively lingers, creating an enticing presentation for a barrel-aged beer.


The aroma of this barrel-aged beauty is immediately assertive, showcasing a robust rye whiskey barrel character reminiscent of bananas foster. The interplay between buttery vanilla, fumey dark liquor, and caramelized sugar creates a captivating bouquet. As the beer warms, the base beer emerges, offering savory notes of black olive and marmite, along with a hint of burnt sugar and molasses. The aromatic journey is nothing short of fantastic.


Surly’s Barrel-Aged Darkness 2017 addresses the critiques of its non-barrel-aged counterpart. The higher sugariness and lower bitterness are skillfully rectified through the three-month aging process in Woodford Reserve Rye barrels. The result is a flavor profile that has dried out, accompanied by a subtle tannic bitterness from the barrel component. The mouthfeel is notably improved, featuring a delicate balance between warming alcohol, silky chocolate dessert, and drying woodiness. Despite the increased ABV from 10% to 12%, the beer remains remarkably drinkable and balanced, a significant enhancement from the base beer.


The mouthfeel of this barrel-aged concoction is a delightful interplay of elements. The warming alcohol, velvety chocolate, and the drying influence of wood create a nuanced texture that elevates the drinking experience. While some enthusiasts might miss the heftier mouthfeel attributed to the reduced sugar content, the overall result is a beer that defies expectations, firmly embracing a dry profile within the style.


Barrel-aging has wrought a profound transformation upon Surly Barrel-Aged Darkness 2017. Beyond merely infusing dark alcohol nuances, the beer has undergone a fundamental evolution, achieving a better-balanced, drier, and more accessible character. The creamy mid-palate, adorned with notes of dark chocolate and buttercream frosting, adds an element of decadence. This rendition not only meets but surpasses expectations, standing as a testament to the artistry of barrel integration. While it may not satisfy those seeking a robust, sugar-laden experience, it undoubtedly captivates with its newfound finesse. Just like its non-barrel-aged counterpart, this barrel-aged gem secures its place as a crowd-pleaser.