Eight Ale | Surly Brewing Company

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Eight AleEight Ale
Eight AleEight Ale

Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States

Style: American Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 12.00%

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes / Commercial Description:
None provided.

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

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User Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 39 | Ratings: 324
Photo of GuyFawkes
3.5/5  rDev -16.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2014 vintage; drank 3/11/15 @ Harvest Hop Haus.

Hazy orange rust appearance.

Khaki head; nice lace.

Sweet pickle, oats, caramel & booze heat in the nose.

Medium mouthfeel.

Fresh oak, sweet pickle & booze heat flavors. Odd; drinkable but tough to enjoy.

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Photo of Sabtos
2.87/5  rDev -31.2%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.75

I don't get it, is this supposed to be a sour or a Belgian ale? This hazy copper-brown brew with a fuzzy khaki top exhibits semi-tart notes of pineapple, Belgian yeast and orange peel with a frothy light body. Infected? Intentional? No one seems to be able to decide. It appears I'm not a fan of mystery beer styles though. Either way, this definitely is NOT a Barleywine.

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Photo of garymuchow
3.83/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

Not sure how long I've been sitting on this, but I'm sure it's been awhile.
Anyway. Aroma starts with a sweet rye whiskey with alcohol and a bit of vanilla. Big full head that is sticky lacy. Mostly clear amber with red prominent.
Not quite as complex as I would expect. Wood becomes more prominent in time and it shows vanilla later.
On a bigger side of moderate feels. Smooth and nicely carbonated. Some dryness on the finish.
This is only okay. Nothing that makes it stand out in any particular fashion.

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Photo of StonedTrippin
4.06/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

i love this series, and i think its wonderful they revisited a few of the beers, i know i missed this the first time it came around. a barleywine or old ale type as a base, brick red in color, very thick and hazy with some sediment visible under the inch of tan fizzy froth. it smells heavy like the high west rye barrels it was aged in, complex, spicy, sweet, honey, molasses, some hops, english ale yeast, warming alcohol, lots going on. the flavor shows quite a bit of dried fruit, very autumnal, apple, cherry, subtle currant, with lots of wood, the rye whiskey for sure and a little sweetness, brown sugar notes to that, rock candy, and again more hops that it seems like it would have, but a balancing bitter component that comes on late. smooth and huge, not as boozy as it smells, and not overly sweet for the style. the barrel influence is huge, liquid lumer aspect to this, some milkd carbonation, enormous body, a perfect beer for fall, especially as it warms up and becomes more and more layered. i liked this a lot, but how it ages has me intrigued, i could see get this getting stupidly smooth with the barrel being even more accentuated. love the high west ryes, and they come through well here, whichever of them they have used. surly rules!

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Photo of stevoj
3.71/5  rDev -11%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Bottle share at Steve’s. Not too warming, nice malt flavors, caramel toffee. Not overly sweet. This was quite a hit with the others, but I wasn't getting it.

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Photo of Umdrunner
4.27/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Cellared bottle poured into snifter. Dark murky burnt orange pour with one finger white head that had good retention and lacing. Scent was sweet malt, oak and whiskey. Flavor is dark fruit, sweet malt, oak, toffee, and boozy whiskey. Moderate carbonation and mouthfeel. Very complex and enjoyable beer!

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Photo of jzeilinger
4.13/5  rDev -1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Pours a cloudy hazelnut color with a dense white, creamy thin lacing ring.

S - Oak, vanilla molasses, sweet aroma.

T - Sweet roasted toffee, bourbon, some spice, vanilla, and a little shot of citrus on the back end.

M - Medium body, no carbonation, silky liquid.

O - Diggin' on this beer.

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Photo of WesMantooth
3.37/5  rDev -19.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

It is a murky reddish brown. Little to no head. Looks like a typical barleywine

Smells pretty acidic and sour and a little bit boozy. Some sweetness and a little bit of pepperyness.

There is some definite rye spice, caramel, and dark fruits. It is fairly sour. Kind of like a red wine, but balanced with sweetness.

Body is nice. It softens some of the harshness of the flavors

The 3 people I split this with all agreed, not offensive in any way, but not one we need more of either. Ok, not great by any means

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Photo of BEERchitect
3.83/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Barleywine is easy. Anyone can do that- its such a well-documented style. But an oatwine? Now that's unique! And to build a recipe that takes in consideration the maturation stages in used rye whisky barrels from High West and the complexity, charm and uniqueness keeps growing.

Deep golden and solidly amber, the ale pours with a creamy off-white pillow of froth. As the malt sweetness is deeply caramelized, nutty and toasty, it does so with an aggressive pep of booze. And to taste, the creamy caramel, toffee and caramels seduce the senses ahead of its spicy balance.

As the sweetness coats the mouth evenly, it works to ease the brunt of the barrel that comes charging in over the middle palate. Light char, chocolate and oak bridge the gap between malt and barrel as the spice of rye adds its earthen and husken grit. Bitter, peppery and woodsy, the beer's balance is all barrel with a cinnamon-like pep.

Yet in finish, the beer's oat influence keeps the textures soft and creamy; seemingly of pulled candy. But there's no mistake, the strong booze character is spicy, peppery and its effects pang away at the soft tissues of the mouth is prickling, numbing fashion. With a playful coconut and vanilla aftertaste, the bourbon kicks the taste out of balance.

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Photo of KVNBGRY
4.24/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

the color of sweet tea, with a lingering off white head. Aroma is definitely whiskey forward. Almost corn and honey like. Taste is vanilla, marshmallow, oak, malt. Unfortunately the flavor drys out and stops almost instantly. I feel the rye barrels dried it out too quickly. This could be incredibly good with rum, bourbon, or brandy. The added sweetness/depth would make this near world class.

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Photo of BucannonXC5
4.04/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Type: 750ml (25.4-oz.) bottle
Glass: Karl Strauss 26th anniversary snifter
From: My cousin Sam
Price: N/A
Purchased: N/A; Received July 24, 2015
Consumed: Aug. 26, 2015
Misc.: Original art by Josh “Jawsh” Lemke; White waxed on neck of bottle

Thanks, Sam!

Poured a caramel, auburn, hazy color with 1-to-2 fingers of khaki, fizzy head. Above average uneven lacing on the sides of the glass. Average retention. (Sight - 4.00)

Smelled whiskey barrels, boozy rye, Jim Beam, caramel, toffee, oak, dark fruits, faint cherry tart, Nugget, light coconut and honey. (Smell - 4.25)

Taste followed the nose nicely, although not quite as good. Got rye whiskey, Jim Beam, cinnamon spice, caramel, toffee, dark fruits, woody Nugget, oak, honey, faint vanilla, toasty coconut and lingering booziness late. (Taste - 4.00)

Medium body. Oily-to-creamy texture. Lively carbonation. Boozy whiskey finish. (Feel - 3.75)

This really had its moments and overall was a good beer. A bit boozy at times, but really delicious at times. Would have it again for sure. (Overall - 4.00)

4.04 | 90 | A-

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Photo of Houser
4.41/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

look: pours a murky orange brown. miminal head.

smell: smells like toffee, vanilla, oak, barrel, caramel.

taste: taste is much the same as the smell. im really liking this. extremely smooth for 12% as alcohol, while noticeable is very smooth. i get no hops, so surprised this is an american barleywine.

mouthfeel: much better than expected given the minimal head.

overall: really nice job surly.

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Photo of BrewMehr
4.12/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 2.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Red in the glass like a wine. One finger head that quickly fades. Minimal carbonation. I didn't get a lot on the nose but a deliciously smooth and sweet apricot with a rye spice and definite whisky notes on the tongue. Not as much whisky as the one I had 8 months ago. A great beer. Final Gravity reads a surprising 1.012 considering the sweetness.

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Photo of GreesyFizeek
2.68/5  rDev -35.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 1.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.75

Bottle shared by Barry last night, thanks man.

This one pours a clear medium-dark brown, with no head or lacing.

This one smells pretty funky, and pretty bad- sweaty socks, mainly, with no aspects of the barrel or base beer coming through. A bit of poop, too, honestly.

The taste is luckily better than the aroma, but the apparent infection has affected the taste as well. There's a bit of tartness, some caramel, and some astringent woodiness. It's not entirely unpleasant, but this is very clearly not what Surly intended for this beer.

This is fairly thin bodied, too light, with a lower level of carbonation. The drinkability is fairly low.

Meh. I'd like to try a good bottle to see what this was supposed to taste like.

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Photo of OStrungT
4.51/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

This beer pours a murky orangish brown color, and sports a thick and fluffy light brown head. The head fades slowly, leaving a nice lace.

This beer smells much more mellow than I expected. I detect some oak and vanilla, the standard for a barrel aged beer. I also get some whisky as well but it is ever so slight. Some caramel sweetness also.

This beer tastes of vanilla and toasted coconut. Some oaky flavor mixes in. Mild whisky as well.

This beer is really smooth. It leaves an aftertaste of vanilla.

Overall this beer is pretty good. It isn't overly aggressive, and that is nice. I could drink a lot of this, if it wasn't for its high, but well, hidden alcohol content. Thanks Sarah for this one. I think I'll put a little time on the other bottle.

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Photo of kkleu357
4.43/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Dark caramel body. Odd smelling. Slightly musty"?", but with a touch of oak. Pretty darn tasty. Haven’t had many oat wines, but it does lend a unique taste that is hard to describe. Smooth beer. Not an overpowering rye whiskey taste, just a good touch of it.

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Photo of feloniousmonk
4.43/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: utter opacity, dark, rugged, rustic burgundy coloring, under a lush, off-white, creamy-toned head.

Aroma: comes screaming out of the glass…. whiskey all over the place. Vanilla, coconut, oak, …huge, vast, immense, …all the adjectives. The richness wraps over all other flavors, but that's alright, I don't mind.

Taste: yeah, let's…mmm, bright, bold, vibrant, and incredibly complex. Whiskey tones (more vanilla, more sweetness, still some coconut) are king of this jungle, standing tall above all, …and making me wish I could get a taste of the original, pre-High West barrel-aging to compare them. An oat barley-wine, rich, fruity, delicious, and strong. But, not too strong. Some have been reporting this as "hot", but having tasted it, I am here to declare them to be positively pussies. "Waah, wah, it's 'hot'!" Get over it, it's a barley-wine, it's supposed to be strong, be a man, and drink a beer! (Or be a woman, too, either way. How about this one: "person up!" Okay, I'll keep searching for the politically correct term.)

I'm barely halfway into this and it's tasting better and better, and feeling stronger and stronger. Pro-tip: share this one. Not wise to drink it alone. But, that's what I'm here for, taking it for the team.

An oat wine. How many of those are there? The wheat wine is a thing, sure, but Todd has always been pro-oat, and mostly anti-wheat. Smooth and supple and utterly delicious. Once the whiskey barrel-aging effects wear away, the brew below shows it's stuff, and it's goddamn gorgeous.

We're getting towards the end, and I'm close to surrender. This is the best way to enjoy this beer (screw sharing!)…late at night…got nothing to do tomorrow…let the time pass away, and accept every beautiful moment.

Here's where I read the label to you: First off, Omar: "When it's done is a phrase we've used to describe release dates for our beers for many years. When you're putting the beer first, it just makes sense. Our anniversary is technically in February, but this unique Oat Wine style ale needed to age in High West Distillery Rye Whiskey barrels until well…until it's done. Here's to eight great years, and we'll all be celebrating soon in our all-new Destination Brewery. …The idea behind our anniversary line-up of beers was to give Todd, Surly's Head Brewer, fee rein to use whatever ingredients and methods he wanted to brew the beer. This year's bottle artwork is a one-of-a-kind illustration collaboration between Todd and local artist Josh "Jawsh" Lemke." …and then, Todd: "This beer was designed for barrel-aging, so it's been a great opportunity to work with our friends at High West Distillery, in Park City, Utah. Brewed with Golden Promise and Aromatic malt, and milk sugar fermented in stainless steel, then aged in high West Distillery rye whiskey barrels, this golden-hued Oat-Wine style ale summons notes of spicy vanilla marshmallow and aromas of honey and whiskey."

Wait, there's information missing…why can't I find the ABV? Odd…well, I heard that it's 10.7% ABV. It's got to be on there somewhere….nope, nowhere…oh, well, worse things have happened.

Okay. This is incredible now. And it could be different later. I say get as much as you like, but drink it fresh, then stash some away and break it out on special occasions, but don't freak out about aging it. Probably the best advice anyone can ever give you about beer: don't freak out about it.

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Photo of zeff80
4.2/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

22oz bottle. Poured out a clear dark amber color with a small off-white head of thick foam. It smelled of sweet caramel, toffee, vanilla and oak. It tasted of toffee, caramel, spicy rye, vanilla and whiskey.

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Photo of hardy008
3.74/5  rDev -10.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.75

Hazy amber with a one finger beige head. The aroma has caramel, toffee, oak, rye whiskey, and vanilla.

Has a sweet taste with caramel and toffee up front. There is also rye whiskey, and some vanilla. The alcohol is not as well hidden as I had hoped. There is some booziness in the taste. Maybe a little too much oak as well.

On the light side of medium bodied with mild carbonation. There is a oak and alcohol aftertaste, which is not what I would have hoped for. A good beer overall, but there are some areas which could have been improved upon.

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Photo of Alieniloquium
3.47/5  rDev -16.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

750 mL bottle poured into a snifter.

Appearance - Hazy deep amber body. Medium khaki head. Medium collar.

Smell - Oak and vanilla. Caramel. Very intense caramel. Mild whiskey.

Taste - Lots of caramel and nutty malts. Oak. Whiskey is mild again. A little fruity. Boozy in the back end. A hint of that rye in the finish.

Mouthfeel - Tastes boozy. Heavy. Medium carbonation.

Overall - As usual, big beer from Surly. A little rough, but decent.

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Photo of larryi86
4.47/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Big thanks to Stillyman11 for this one!
750 ml bottle poured into a teku

A- A murky reddish brown with a two finger off-white head.

S- Bourbon, sweet dark fruits, cherries, brown sugar, caramel, some oak, barrel heavy.

T- Damn, this is good, pretty sweet but balanced, dark fruits, oats, vanilla, bourbon, oak, brown sugar, molasses, very nice complexity.

M- Smooth, creamy, full body.

O- This is an awesome Barelywine that is sweet but still balanced. Very happy I got to try this beer. I would love to get another bottle or two, worth seeking out. Love the label and love this beer, another great beer from Surly!

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Photo of SpeedwayJim
3.9/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

A big thanks to Jeff for this novelty. 750ml waxed and capped bottle into a Founders snifter. Shared with schen9303.

Pours a luxurious, 2 finger light cream colored head with outstanding retention. Beer is a dark, clear mahogany. Lacing is thick and spotty with excellent stick. A really nice looking beer.

Nose is sap hop bitterness, peat, lightly tart wet wood, molasses, mass, caramel and brown sugar. Very deep and clearly a barleywine. The tartness worries me a little though.

Opens boozy. Notes of hazelnut, peat, wet wood, tobacco and molasses. Grainy brown sugar in the middle with a healthy does of caramel and semi-ripe purple plum. A bit hot on the finish with more dark fruit and rich syrup flavors. Same aftertaste. Pretty good.

Full bodied with low carbonation. Thick and rich in the mouth and goes down super smooth. Semi-dry on the finish with an oily, slick, lingering aftertaste. Really nice.

Surly's anniversary series beers have really spanned the spectrum from awful to decent to very good. Eight lies somewhere in the middle though it is a very good representation of the American Barleywine style. Certainly a sipper.

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Photo of dropbombs25
1.58/5  rDev -62.1%
look: 4 | smell: 1 | taste: 1 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

I'm not sure if any of these truly got infected, but I definitely got a bad bottle. It smelled like used band-aids, rubber, motor oil and feet upon opening the bottle and letting sit to room temp did not help at all. Taste was not far off of the smells. I got the tiniest oat taste but more of a bad wheat wine flavor. As I couldn't get past the bad taste of the beer on its own, I added a shot of templeton rye whiskey which did not help in the least and the templeton was even lost in the mess. I then poured a separate 6 oz snifter and tried a shot of sailor jerry rum - fail as well. The remaining half of the bottle was a drain pour. Best thing about this one was the bottle art/design. Based on other reviews it sounds like I got a bad bottle, which I hope is the case with these running nearly $25/per.

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Photo of zeledonia
4.36/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

I've had Surly's anniversary beers going back to the Four release, and they're always interesting. Tasted 13 December 2014.

Pours dark rusty amber, murky and opaque. One finger of yellowish off-white head, good retention and lacing.

Smell is really nice. I'd heard rumors of infection, and my first whiff relieved my concerns about this bottle. It's a delightful warm sweetness, what I often get from sweet barrel-aged barleywines. But there's more behind that, a fullness that I think will show up more clearly in the taste.

Taste is excellent. So many things going on in here, and they all blend well. Soft whiskey notes, the candy-like sweetness that whiskey barrels sometime impart, and a whole lot of unidentifiable but delicious flavors from the base beer. It all flows together into one smooth, sweet, powerful deliciousness.

Feel is outstanding as well. I'm amazed how much the oats come through; don't remember having an oat-heavy non-stout beer before, but I dig it. It's fluffy, mouth-filling, with carbonation that's like light foam.

Yum. This is really tasty. It's unique, and a typically creative Surly creation. The oats, the rye whiskey barrels, the sugar... it's an odd combination, but it really works.

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Photo of emerge077
4.03/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dark brownish copper, spotty lace, wispy surface skim.

Super woody aroma, the rye comes through in a big way. Slightly sweet and sticky.

Rich taste at first, though it has a pretty dry finish with a moderate bitterness. Body is somewhat thin with some dimension from the oats. Rye taste is dominant, and clear in the mix. Personally I really love High West, though the whiskey more than the rye. It's good though I'm not sure it's worth $25 really.

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Eight Ale from Surly Brewing Company
Beer rating: 4.17 out of 5 with 324 ratings