October 21st, 2010 beckel
So we have the infamous Wet from my local Surly Brewing. Though only the 2nd year they have brewed this Fresh Hopped IPA and the first year they have canned it the hype surrounding it is as intense as everything else Surly and limited. Surly Brewing is unquestionably one of my favorite breweries though I rarely get around to writing about their beers. Coming in at close to $17 a 4-pack this is no cheap brew but you get what you pay for with craft beer and a brew like this is not cheap to produce. Brewed with hops that were harvested 3 days prior to boiling this is one brew that any fan of serious hops can appreciate. I have had this brew a number of times since its release, even being lucky enough to sample Wet – All The Way, their very limited unblended version of the brew that was available at the Autumn Brew Review. While I find theÂ distributedÂ version of WetÂ fantasticallyÂ more balanced and much more palatable it was fun to try the insanely hoppy unblended brew that contained an intense 20 lbs of hops per barrel. Canned 10/11/10.
Pours an attractive completely translucent copper hue. Producing about two fingers of bright white head that lingers for a few minutes leaving a nice amount of lacing and a fewÂ millimetersÂ of residual head. Smells of massiveÂ tangerine,Â MandarinÂ orange, grapefruit, passion fruit, lemon, intense bitterness and a myriad of other citrus and fruit esters. Flavor starts with rich caramel malt, solid bitterness, vibrant and diverse fruit esters obviously from the serious amount of Citra Hops used in this brew. Mild herbal hop esters compliment the fruit notes and an oat like grain character adds to the relatively full but clean mouthfeel. Body is meduim and at 7.5% you better be careful because your mind will tell you to drink this brew all night long. After taste is a bit grassy as you will often see from the use of fresh hops but the lingering flavors are still quite nice encouraging you to take sip after sip. If only harvest time could be more than once a year I would be a happy man. Any fan of IPAs will be all over this one but unfortunately your time is running out to get some. If you are luck enough to already have some in your possession drink it quick as this is not a beer to be aged. If not I’m sure there are still a few places to grab some. If this beer could be produced year round and at a slightly more economical price I would drink it on a regular basis. Though last years was only available on draft I’m pretty sure I like this balance of this years better. If you enjoy fruity hops and aren’t afraid of a nice dose of bitterness you will be in heaven. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
January 25th, 2010 beckel
I tend to avoid posting much beer news as there are plenty of other sites (MNBeer & Beer News are my favorites) that do a wonderful job of informing the world about craft beer happenings and I feel redundant. Regardless today I have the wonderful opportunity to inform you the exciting news that Surly Brewing will be re-releasing a snazzy ale that was originally referred to as 16 Grit under the name Surly Abrasive Ale in cans. For those of you that are unfamiliar 16 Grit was brewed as a treat to Surly Nation at the end of 2008 when Surly was forced to stop off selling growlers on their premise due to foolishly restrictive Minnesota State Liquor Laws. While I’m sure the brew will taste a bit different this time around here is my review from the original production if your curious. Additionally Surly’s new bottling line will be getting a nice work out as they plan to bottle Surly Smoke and this years anniversary ale Surly Four in the near future in 750ml bottles. Since were talking news I may as well mention that the Surly Four release will be at The Blue Nile on February 23rd where the friendly bar manager Al who wrote the Surly Smoke label text works. Also Surly’s Mild will be released this year Feburary 2nd at Grumpy’s NE @ 7 pm.Â Last but not least Surly has just redesigned their web page and it looks pretty darn snazzy, but it seems their still having some hosting difficulties as of the moment. I’m sure they’ll get it worked out though.
No More Growlers 🙁
August 26th, 2009 beckel
Hazaa! A good excuse to whip out the SurlyFest mug. I was in the neighborhood so I figured I would wander over to the MGM off of Lake Street to explore their new building and see what they had to offer. First off I must say I really dig it. With their move and expansion they now have tons of cooler space along over half of their walls which is about a third full of Craft Beer. Further they have done a much better job organizing all of their Craft Beer offerings onto one large shelf instead of scattered about as it was before. The prices seem to be about the same, most average, a few things a bit over priced but their selection of Craft Brew has unquestionably grown and I am all for that. But on to the important part. Half of the reason I went was hoping, just hoping I might just find some of the newly canned product from our beloved local Surly Brewing out of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. All I can say is Hell yea. It seems Surly did a very limited canning run for their first batch and I am very pleased to have been able to secure some.
The simply named Hell is a Munich Style Helles Lager and keeps to the roots of the style but as always has a little extra Surly goodness. As the owner Omar Ansari writes on the back it’s a Surly beer his German mother actually enjoys. The beer pours a light golden straw hue that is very translucent and produces a few fingers of crisp tight white head that loosen and dissipate relatively quickly after you pour. Smells of sweet Pilsner malt and a gentle lemon citrus note. Tastes of clean Pilsner malt sweetness and has a light bread quality which adds to a nice fuller mouthfeel as well as gentle caramel notes. Subtle citrus hop notes are present to compliment the malt but are not dominate at all, particularly for a Surly brew. Body is light. As many of you know I am not the biggest fan of Lagers, particularly light ones but I would happily drink this beer all night long (as I did during their release at Moto-i) particularly with it’s ~5% ABV. An interesting twist on the style that still stays relatively traditional but like SurlyFest contains a bit more hop and rich malty flavors than one may typically expect from the style. On a side note this years brew seems a bit more full flavored and balanced than it did last year when it was first released on tap. You can see my previous review here. I don’t know how much the recipe changed but as always good work Todd. If you are into lagers but are looking for something that shows what American brewers are doing with classic styles this might just be the beer for you. 16 ounce cans for the win. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
May 22nd, 2009 beckel
On Tuesday I made it over to Acadia Cafe located on Cedar & Riverside in good ole Minneapolis for their 6 Shooters event. For the low price of $10 patrons were presented with six 5 ounce pours of some very delicious India Pale Ales. Though I didn’t really consume these beers in the “proper” order I started with the beer I was most excited to have the opportunity to sample, Victory Wild Devil which weighs in at 6.7% ABV. This beer pours an interesting redish orange hue and unsurprisingly smells almost identical to the Hop Devil who’s wort this beer was fermented from, quite hoppy with a bit of sweet malt that is further balanced by a subtle tart hint from the Brettanomyces used in this special brew. Flavor is again the same as the Hop Devil with just a bit of tartness that adds a nice extra layer to contrast the intense hop profile of this beer. I expected this beer to taste a bit stranger and more sour but the tartness is all around mellow making for a very nicely balanced beer. I hope to find a bottle of this brew sometime in the future to give it a more in depth review than 5 ounces could provide.
Next I sampled our very own Summit IPA that was cask conditioned and dry hopped with Amarillo. As the least heavy beer of the night with a 6.4% ABV it probably should have been my starting point but I doubt any beer could have masked the intense Amarillo notes of this brew. Appearance was an interesting reddish amber that was somewhat hazy. Head was pure white and surprisingly retained for quite some time as this picture was taken a good 15+ minutes after pouring as well as leaving a good amount of lacing. Smells strongly of oranges and something like passion fruit or similar sweet citrus or melon. The same melon like sweet citrus is very present in the flavor and frankly completely dominates the flavor. It was a clean easy to drink brew but I felt the massive flavor from the Amarillo was a bit over the top and one dimensional.
Then came the most balanced but least hoppy brew of the evening, Sprecher IPA. Like Summit Sprecher brews in the English tradition and this brew is a beautiful example of the great beers that it can produce. Color is a reddish amber that is very translucent. Aroma is largely of caramely malt and subtle orange citrus notes with just a hint of alcohol though it rocks a solid 7.5% ABV. Flavor is relatively sweet and of caramelized malt with a wee bit of citrus hops. The more I drank this brew the more the hops became apparent and I started to notice a nice bitterness in the finish. Not nearly as hoppy as I am normally looking for in an IPA but very traditional, well balanced and tasty.
Then from d’Achouffe Brewery out of Belgium we have their very interesting straw colored Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen Belgian IPA Tripel. Aroma is largely of Belgian Yeast and some light malty sweetness. Taste is very similar to other malty Blonde Tripels with the yeast playing a major role in creating herbal notes and malty sweetness as well as candi sugar sweetness that is often associated with the style but with the addition of some nice bitterness and floral hints in the finish. A tasty and unique brew with a whole lot going on and a solid 9% ABV.
Then it was time to enjoy some 16 Grit [review] from our local Surly Brewing and Iniquity IBA [review] from Southern Tier out of New York. You can see my full reviews of these delicious beers by following the above links. Cheers to Acadia for putting on this event and including delicious beers at a reasonable price. Keep up the good work. Now go have a beer ride your bike, safely please.
February 16th, 2009 beckel
Though I was forgetful and spaced the release on Wednesday a few friends and myself stopped by the Blue Nile on Thursday to enjoy some Surly Three, this years annual brew from our beloved Surly Brewing Company straight from Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. Three is brewed with 50% German Dark Munich malt, 50% honey, fermented with a Belgian yeast, aged on toasted white ash and is being called a Black Braggot by Surly which is somewhat like a mix of mead and beer, being made with both malt and honey, so it was sure to be an interesting experience. Poured for me in a lovely Darkness glass this beer is incredibly dark black but is uniquely hazy with a purplish red shine when held at an angle, completely opaque. There was no head but that isn’t uncommon in bars so it is hard to pass judgment, though I doubt this is a highly carbonated beverage based on its style and mouthfeel. Aroma is slightly of plum and sweet but very flat at the same time. It was very hard for me to get much aroma out of the glass, that is until I drank more than half of it and was able to get my nose well down into the glass. At that point many more aromas came to my nose, largely wine like aromas and a bit of watered down brandy. Flavor is very ineresting. Sweet with dominate fermented fruit flavors largely plum and grape with a tootsie roll like chocolate hint here and there. Very sweet and fruity. One of my friends first impressions was that it “Tastes like flat grape soda left in the car on a hot day but it’s cold”. Though this was just a first impression and perhaps a bit critical it is relatively on point, and doesn’t mean he didn’t enjoy the brew. There is lots of malt in this brew but there is so much sweetness and fermented fruit flavors it is hard to pick up much else. Mouthfeel is uncarbonated and a bit sticky but not too much considering it is made from plenty of honey. Body is medium but oddly light at the same time being quite drinkable though very full flavored. Not exactly what I was expecting, but I also didn’t really know what to expect with this release and it definitely keeps to surly’s tradition of making sweet big brews. Beer Advocate suggests this ale is 10% though Surly has not posted any official numbers and if this is true they did a wonderful job masking the content. Not really a beer I could get into regularly though I wouldn’t be opposed to having another glass sometime. Somewhat reminds me of a barleywine but less complex. If you are into sweet malty beers that have some pitted fruit flavors you may very well enjoy this brew.Â This is a limited release brew on tap only so get it while it lasts. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
January 23rd, 2009 beckel
There may not be justice in this world, but at least there is beer. Today I have decided it would be appropriate to tap into my fifth and last growler of Surly’s commemorative 16Grit and share my thoughts with you. Surly brewed this beer to commemorate its dedicated fans’ last opportunity to purchase growlers from their brewery in 2008 because our wonderful state of Minnesota has some silly liquor laws. One being an arbitrary limit of less than 3500 barrels of production to be allowed a permit to off-sell growlers and alcoholic products in other forms. Cheers to Surly for supporting their fans and coming up with something creative to share with them in a troubling time. Hopefully we can work on getting the laws changed before we miss out on too many Surlyfests and Darkness Days. This ale pours a lovely bright reddish amber color that is completely transparent [Edit: though the last glass out of the growler had lots of sediment and was completely opaque and more muddy in color. I didn’t think to give the growler a gentle mixing though I should have. Regardless after helping my friend finish his last growler of 16Grit off last night I can say the color is traditionally darker and more opaque, but the flavors are pretty much the same, just a bit more on the bitter characters I remember from my earlier samplings] Head was about two fingers and cream in color dissipating after about five minutes. Aroma is marvelous and noticeable as soon as you pop the cap. The intense hops produce an array of scents from sweet cherry to wonderfully floral bitterness, alcohol isn’t completely hidden but is not overpowering. Caramel sweetness from the malt is also noticed in the nose, very nicely balanced. I simply want to eat it up. Perhaps its because this brew has been in my fridge for almost a month but the floral and fruity notes seem to be a bit more pungent in this growler. Flavor is intense but well balanced. Citrus and floral hops are noticed first with some grapefruit flavors similar to Surly Furious presumably from Cascade hops. Then sweeps in the bitter wave across your palate which is quite dominate but none the less subdued reasonably by the sweet malt flavors that finish this ale. The body is medium and the mouthfeel is a bit on the sticky side with someÂ bitter residue but still very drinkable and reasonably smooth. Previous times sampling this ale I feel like the bitter characters were more intense and the malt less sugary but this time around it really reminds me of candy, very hoppy flavorful candy. Though this ale rocks in at 9% ABV the combination of hop bitterness, malty sugars and even the floral hints completely hide this. This is certainly one heck of a Imperial India Pale Ale and not for the faint of heart, though I must add my mother enjoyed it. You will not be able to acquire any of this ale currently but I hope Surly decides to brew itÂ again or at least continue to experiment with Imperial Ales and share them with me. If you have the opportunity, give it a shot and ride your bike.
November 8th, 2008 beckel
So today we have the lovely session topic sent in by Matt C. of A World of Brews: What is your favorite beer and why? When initially reading this topic I as I’m sure many others did simply said; Fuck. With all of the great beers out there in this world, I have to choose one that is my favorite? As I rattled through my favorite beers I also had the conundrum that I have wrote about many of my favorite beers already, what was I to talk about. Then it came to me. My favorite beer is a beer that I haven’t had yet. I enjoy nothing more than walking through a liquor store and finding a craft beer or even a brewery I have never had the opportunity to sample. Furthermore any day I can find a brew that was obviously brewed with heart and an adventurous spirit all the better. Isn’t this why we love good craft beer? Conveniently I have just the brew sitting in my fridge. Lagunitas is a brewery from Petaluma, California that has recently returned to distributing to Minnesota. I have read about this brewery a number of times and they seem to be fun spirited, creative and straight forward and I have been awaiting the day I would find some of their brew on the shelves. So when I saw a bottle of their IPA Maximus I knew the time had come as Imperial IPA’s tend to be my favorite style. As you pour this beer it appears hazy as the carbonation cascades but once it settles this beer ends up completely transparent and a reddish copper in color. Off white head is relatively minor producing just under an inch, with most of it settling rather quickly. The aroma of this beer is wonderful, hoppy goodness is all over this beer, robust and bitter but still smooth with a few sweet scents. I’m glad I chose to open this beer today, it is immensely flavorful. Bitter flavors hit the tongue first and fill the mouth with a well rounded hop taste but malt flavors slip in adding a nice sweet balance to this brew. This is a full flavored beer but its mouthfeel is reasonably light as is the body. With a 7.5% ABV a few of these would be a delight any time of the year if you enjoy a good hop filled Imperial IPA, I will certainly have to purchase a some more. Now if I really have to answer the question of my favorite beer I currently can’t help but say Surly Furious. Of course as a Minnesota brew I can’t help but have a bias for it but Surly Brewing is a wonderful company and their Furious needs no bias to be enjoyed. My review of this wonderful IPA can be found here. Any hop love who doesn’t mind some nice bitterness will enjoy both of these beers. Give them a shot and ride your bike.
October 8th, 2008 beckel
So the day has come for me to explain to you the wonder that is Surly Brewing’s take on an Oktoberfest beer straight from Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. Surlyfest is dry hopped with Summit hops and brewed with German malts and Crystal Rye and then aged 11 weeks. To get the bias out this is my favorite Oktoberfest and is delightfully unique so lets get to the beer. This 16oz can pours a beautiful dark amber color that should inspire anyone to want to drink it. Head tends to be a few inches and cascades gently creating firm white head that dissipates after a few minutes. Aroma is marvelous, heavy on sweet malt aromas but countered by a nice bitter hop scent. In the first taste of this beer you will notice the rye and nice bitter hoppyness that is then countered by a sweet malt flavor that you may have been expecting initially. There is really nothing traditional about Surlyfest aside from the fact it uses some German malt. As you continue to drink this beer you will notice how marvelously balanced it is, some sweet, some bitter and over all simply something amazing. This is certainly beer. Though malt produces the primary flavor in this beer the dry hopping of this beer gives it a unique twist you will not see in any traditional Oktoberfest not to mention the nice rye flavor. The mouthfeel of this beer is medium but it does not have a heavy body. With aproximately 6.3% ABV this is a solid brew but you will likely not notice the alcohol. If you are looking for a sweet light Oktoberfest this isn’t for you. However if you are looking for a unique American interpretation of an Oktoberfest that has amazing hop flavor and malt to balance you should absolutely drink think beer. Bare in mind this is a seasonal beer and will only be around for as long as Surly can keep it stocked so go out and enjoy some, just get some for me too. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
September 9th, 2008 beckel
What better way to release a grand beer than a festival by our very own Surly Brewing from Brooklyn Center Minnesota. I will do a proper review of Surly’s great take on an Octoberfest lager when I have a can of Surlyfest in hand but let me say now this is one grand flavorful and drinkable beer. We arrived to the event a good 20 minutes early after a lovely bike ride from Minneapolis along the Midtown Greenway over to the Kenilworth trail around Cedar lake and over to North France Avenue finally ending up at the wonderful Surly Brewing Company. There was only a small line when we got there which was nice, but bike locking options were limited, luckily there were many fences lining the perimeter that made due. After a number of minutes of salivating for some Surly and enjoying a bit of water (yea I actually remembered my water bottle thank you very much) a SurlyFest staffer with her awesome green volunteer t-shirt came to the head of the line and ushered the herd of Surly lovers in. We exchanged our kick ass tickets (surly can tops with a little sticker) for a bright green bracelet with 4 tabs and what I was most excited to see (aside from the beer) our SurlyFest German made .5 liter steins. After getting in we of course made a b-line straight to the beer truck where they were serving everything wonderful that is Surly. The standard affair of Furrious, CynicAle and Bender were available as of course was SurlyFest, additionally they were offering to fill your glass with Hell which was nice to have the option but as I had already tried it I declined to do. So after filling my glass with the wonder that is SurlyFest we proceeded to a table to enjoy our brews. As we waited for the music to start we observed our food choices, Chicago dogs and brats to the right and falafels and gyros to the left. Simple but solid and reasonably priced. The brewery was open so we stopped inside to grab some swag and take a quick look around. As this was my first opportunity to look around it was quite fun, particularly to see the stacks of thousands of unfilled cans ready to be filled with beer for you and me including many lovely blue and white ones, not to meantion Surlys new tanks to keep us properly supplied. The weather was rather nice but just under 2 hours after ariving I snapped shots of the sky that shows heavy dark clouds to the northwest but a bright clear sky to the southeast. After it started raining most people retreated to the tent they had setup or went inside short of I believe 4 people who sat under their makeshift umbrellas and the wonderful SurlyFest staff that was pouring beers for the brave who would leave the tent for a few minutes to get more beer. After sitting under the tent for a few minutes my friend informed me he had purchased a Surly disc golf driver. Like the crazy idiots we are we ran into the rain and played catch. The disc didn’t throw the best but it was still a blast. I shouted at people encouraging them to join us, but I guess that just adds the the crazy factor, so I suppose I’m not surprised no one took me up on the offer. As we played we got a few people passing by to throw the frizbee but that was about it. After retreating to the tent for a minute someone offered to let us use their normal frizbee, Surly branded again that was much easier to throw and catch. After our fun in the rain we decided it was time for more beer and as Omar had already informed us the next band would be playing inside we decided that was the place to be. The music was entertaining and I had some good conversations and meet some friendly people, overall a really great time. Time wore on and as it was time to go and my 4 liters of Surly were settling in my belly I grabbed my bike to headed home. I’m not sure exactly how but I managed to loose track of my group and decided to just bike home alone (not the best decision but I guess I forgot about the fact I have a phone, oh well), a couple of falls later I am still rather sore and scraped up all over but I made it home so it’s all good. A grand day with a sore ending and no regrets. I can’t wait to get my hands on pack of SurlyFest but it should be in stores soon. Hopfully you can enjoy some and don’t fall off your bike like me.
September 6th, 2008 beckel
So this month The Session is hosted by Jim over at lootcorp and he has come up with the wonderful topic of Deutsches Bier. Now German beer is not something I am particularly familiar with so this was a hard topic for me. Germans have done a lot to influence the way beer has been made in various parts of the world, by encouraging others to follow their “reinheitsgebot” or German purity laws which state beer can be made of only water, hops and barley (they didn’t know about yeast at the time), but have also discriminated against most beer that is made outside of Germany in the same breath. Regardless any country that allows its citizens to freely enjoy good beer as long as they can get on the bar stool is OK with me. Not to meantion they are only surpassed in breweries by the United States. Any how I rattled my brain for a while deciding what I should drink yesterday and it was so close to my nose I almost missed it: Surly Hell. Surly Brewing from lovely Brooklyn Center Minnesota recently brewed a single batch of a Munich Helles lager that they are serving at a few bars in the city. So I made my way to Mackenzie to see how Surly might interpret light German lager, Helles literally meaning “light colored” or “pale” in German. Unintentionally I managed to pick a style that fit what Jim had encouraged when fielding the topic. Helles is a Bavarian lager that they appear to be very proud of, they even claim to know the exact date the first batch of the lager was shipped by the Spaten Brewery of Munich: March 21, 1894 all the way to the port city of Hamburg where it was received well and so brewing continued. Surly doesn’t make light beers so when I sat down waiting for my beer I knew this was going to be a different experience. The appearance of this beer is a golden straw color that is very transparent. Head was a bit over a quarter inch off the tap and very white in color that remained for a few minutes. The aroma is full of immense sweet malted barley with some bitterness and alcohol present, reminding me a bit of a more grain filled pilsner. Grain is the first thing I taste when I sip this beer. Flavors of wheat, barley and even a bit of corn, I am curious what they actually brew it with. Sweet malt is detectable occasionally but the aftertaste can be a bit bitter and taste somewhat like a pilsner. The mouthfeel of this beer is medium even though it is quite drinkable you can tell your eating a lot of grain. This beer was OK and I’m glad I tried it but few lagers seem to hit the right spot for me. If you like lagers and light grain flavored beers you may very well enjoy this beer. Give it a shot and ride your bike.