Tag Archives: Surly Brewing Co.

Beer Event: Darkness Day 2012

29 Oct

Brew Event: Darkness Day 2012

When: October 27th 2012

Where: Surly Brewing Co. (Brooklyn Center, MN)

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending Surly’s annual release party of their Russian Imperial Stout Darkness at the brewery.  There was a lot that happened in the span from Friday morning to about 2pm on Saturday afternoon, I will try to recap in as few words as possible.

9am Friday the 26th, I woke up not feeling my best after trying to drown out the sorry excuse the Vikings called a football game they had attempted on Thursday night.  Got a text message from a buddy in Chicago that he wasn’t going to make it today since he has a kid on the way now (congrats) and is buying a house (congrats again) and is therefore a little busy at this time.  Didn’t blame him but I still put out the obligatory, ‘dude, you’re missing out’ message back to him and a picture of all the beer I was planning on bringing to the event laid out like an offering to an ancient God at Delphi.  Needless to say that text might have made him change his mind and about an hour later he was on his way.  Now this was a great turning point because he was planning on bringing some beers that we can’t get a hold of here in MN and I was excited to try some stuff that you can only find down there.  More on why this was a huge pick up later on…

So with the knowledge that he was coming up I rallied the other 2 guys who were going to go with me and we got everything ready to go for the night of trying awesome beers and camping out.  So we rolled up with the trailblazer packed with 4 guys and all our stuff at about 7 o’clock on Friday evening expecting to be fairly close to the beginning of the line, needless to say after some weird guys telling us where we were in the line we figured we were about 500-600 people from the front.  Not as close as we expected but we felt pretty safe on getting at wristband, of which there was only 1,500 so we settled in, cracked our first beers and fired up the grill for some delicious sausages and chips.  Classic camping foods.

So we cracked out first beer, and I will try to give a rundown of what I remember drinking at the end of the story, and ate and probably 2 hours later our buddy from Chicago gets a call.  Turns out that he is a manager at a liquor store in Chicago, pretty sweet, and his distributer buddy is also coming up for the event and he was going to show up in like 45 minutes.  this was the 2nd blessing of having this certain buddy from Chicago make that trip up on a text messaged picture whim.  Not only does he has access to tons of beer as a manager but this buddy of his had a whole distribution network at his finger tips along with all the people he knows from the business.  Our collection of cool beers was now looking pale in comparison to what he and his crew were rolling up with.  So about 30 minutes after that phone call, 5 guys roll up with like 3 or 4 coolers full of beers I have never even seen let alone think about drinking because of how rare they are.  I will try to get to those at the end like I mentioned.

So we now were rolling in a crew of about 8 or 9 guys and trying and sipping what amounted to some of the most ridiculous beer I have ever tried.  Needless to say I was very pleased with this development, it was an added bonus that everybody in our little circle now were pretty cool dudes and everybody was feeling good.

That night we tried plenty of beer, made some cool friends from not only these new Chicagoans but also just the people standing around us in line who were totally into sharing beer and swapping stories, it was a good time.  We hit the hay in the tent around 1 or 1:30 I would guess, I really didn’t check the time when we went to bed.  All I know was that it was freezing and I had a hard time really falling asleep.  Then out of the blue at 6:50 am we get the worst wakeup call of our lives.  We had to have our tent down by 7am so basically we had to get up and get all our crap down and ready to go in 10 minutes.  not fun.  It was still freezing and I had just started to get comfortable in that sleeping bag.  So we packed up, almost started breakfast and then we realized that everybody was compressing the line and walking towards the front.  Thankfully a few of us had the right state of mind to remember to bring a cooler of beers for the eventual wait in the line.  So finally when we stopped compressing we got to stop, play with an awesome golden retriever that was next to us in line and try some more insane beer.

Eventually they passed out the wristbands, which we got with no problem of course, and headed back to camp to try more beers and make some much needed food.  We had bacon, eggs, one leftover sausage and hash browns.  It was pretty jumbled together but that might have been one of the best breakfasts of my life.  The sun had come up and we were finally starting to thaw out as well.  Once about 12:30pm rolled around we packed up the remainder of our stuff and headed into the actual event to sample a couple beers and purchase our 6 bottles of 2012 Darkness.  After trying a couple beers, buying some t-shirts and grabbing our 6 bottles we headed home to take a nap that was long overdue.

To sum it up I got to try some of the most unreal beers ever, stood in line from 7pm to 12:30pm the next day, froze my feet and my nose and my fingers, ate some amazing food, met some really cool people, tried even more crazy beers, woke up far too early and went to bed far too late and had an amazing time doing it all.

Alright now I am going to try and remember all the beers I tried I am going to headline them by where I was or what was happening at the time.  Note – I had more than just these, however these are the only ones I can remember from a continuous string of beers being tried.

When we got there setting up camp and eating dinner:

Founders – Harvest Ale

Indeed Brewing – Day Tripper Pale Ale

Brux- Sierra Nevada and Russian River collaboration

Les Trois Mousquetaires Grande Cuvee Series 2010 Porter Baltique – cant get it in the US and it was one of the highlights of all the beers I had

Stone Russian Imperial Stout – 2012

Bells – This One Goes to 11 Ale

3 Floyds – Rye of the Tiger

Founders – Frangelic Mountain Brown

Founders – Furniture City Stock Ale

3 Floyds/Mikkeller Collaboration – Risgoop

Port Brewing Co. – High Tide Fresh Hop IPA

Walked up the line to the front and some tables where people were sharing whatever they had:

Steel Toe – Before the Dawn

New Glarus – Cranbic

Weyerbacher – Twelve anniversary ale

Fulton – The Worthy Adversary

New Glarus – Black Top

New Glarus – Old English Porter

Back at our campsite with the new guys from Chicago:

Left Hand – Smoke Jumper – Smoked Imperial Porter

Jackie O’s – Funky South Paw

Alaskan Brewing – Perseverance Ale (25 Years)

 Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen – Armand’4 Zomer (Summer)

3 Floyds – Baller Stout

O’Fallon Brewery –  B.D.S. Belgian Style Dark Ale 

Sierra Nevada – Estate Homegrown Ale

Founders – Nemesis (2010)

3 Floyds – Broo Doo

**note –  these guys loved sour beers so there were plenty I had never heard of as I am not a sour beer aficionado which makes them tough to remember**

In line waiting for a wristband:

Russian river Supplication batch #8

Darkness 2010 vintage, 2011 vintage

Founders Bolt cutter – this isn’t even released yet, like I said these guys were awesome

Why Winter – Two Brothers Brewing (this was in a huge 3L bottle that was passed around like the town bicycle, it was awesome)

Half Acre – Thunder and Son

Homebrew sour from the man with the nice dog we got to meet. Dogs name was Dude.

Back at camp for breakfast and wait to go into the actual event:

Dark lord – 2012 vintage, 2008 vintage

Darkness – more 2010 and 2011

Russian River – Pliney The Elder – bottled in the first week of October so still pretty fresh

Goose Island – Bourbon County Stout – 2005 vintage (maybe the best beer of the whole event)

Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout – this bottle had gone bad which was very disappointing

Arcadia Brewing Company (Arcadia Ales) – 15

Mikkeller – Black

AleSmith Brewing Co.  – Speedway Stout

Shorts Brewing Co. – Anniversary Ale

3 Floyds/Mikkeller – Ruggoop

Rogue Ales – Voodoo Doughnut Maple Bacon Ale (really gross)

Goose Island – Vanilla Bourbon County Stout 2010 vintage

3 Floyds – Zombie Dust

Once we got into the event:

Surly Darkness 2012 – straight from the keg, can’t wait to see how it develops in the bottle

Surly Brett Liquor IPA – IPA fermented with Brett yeast

So that is all I can remember at this time.  I will consult some sources and see if I can get any more on here and update accordingly.  Pretty much I can sum this year’s Darkness Day as awesome.

Brew Review: Smoke

21 Sep

Brew:  Smoke

Brewed by: Surly Brewing Co. (Brooklyn Center, MN)

Style:  Smoked Baltic Porter (8.3% ABV)


Smoke, a limited release that shows up in the early part of winter, usually November or so.  This one is different in that it is bottled instead of canned like the rest of Surly’s lineup (with the exception of Darkness).   Described on their website as such:  “Ebony-hued, Smoke wafts out of the bottle and into your senses, borne on the wings of European traditions, wrapped in American innovation. Lager-brewed, like any true Baltic Porter, with smoked malts from Bamberg, Germany, the home of Rauchbiers, then mellowed by oak-aging.”  So they are taking a classic style from Europe and giving it a touch of American originality.

Smoke pours out a thick and black.  The Baltic porter is very evident in the way this beer looks.  Deep dark and heavy.  There is a little tan head that pops up but this was a bit cold when I poured it out so warmer it probably would have produced a larger head.  This beer looks like a robust or Baltic porter, not much light escapes, but there are hints of ruby red around the edges.

The first sniff at this brew and you can tell that this is a smoked beer.  The smoked grains come up right away and give you that charred, ashy or fire feeling.  Not as dominant as some other brew (see Otto by Victory) but still very noticeable. Further past the smoke there is some chocolate and blackened malts that pop up and lend some sweetness to the fiery start.  

The first sip is greeted by the fact that this brew looks like it should fill you up with one drink but its surprisingly light on the tongue.  Much lighter than I was expecting even with lagering for a while and aging on oak.  The smoke is also prominent right off the start.  However, this is not an overpowering smoke taste.  It is lighter than expected and pleasantly wafts throughout the sip.  Within the smoke there is some chocolate and chocolate bitterness that cut through the smoke well. 

This brew was a few months old at this point, probably 5 months, so the smoke will probably continue to fade and mellow out as it gets older.  I like that the smoke smell and taste don’t overpower and find their place within the brew.  I wanted some more roast and chocolate flavors but I think those will also come out with time.  Great brew for the style.  Most Rauchbiers are totally smoky and feel like your drinking a campfire.


Final Grade: A-

Brew Review: Abrasive

20 Sep

Brew: Abrasive

Brewed by: Surly Brewing Co. (Brooklyn Center, MN)

Style: American Double IPA (9.00% ABV)


This is one of my favorite beers.  I will start off and say that right now.  Every winter is exciting because I know that Abrasive will soon be back on the shelves and I will get to enjoy the intense hoppy-ness of this delicious brew.  I will also start off this post by saying, it’s not cheap.  A 4-pack of this stuff usually runs me about 16 bucks or 4/can.  That’s definitely not cheap but it’s one of those beers that I will splurge on each year and buy 2 or 3 4-packs throughout the run just because I like it so much.  On to the beer.

Abrasive pours out a marmalade orange color with some yellow and light hints of red.  Basically looks like an autumn day in a glass.  Beautiful.  On the top rises a decent white head that leaves solid lace down the side of my glass.  In a dim room this brew looks like a ruby glittering in the soft light. 

The aroma is outstanding.  You can smell this beer from across the room.  Tons of grapefruit, apricots and mango.  The tropical storm that this beer contains is one I would gladly get caught up in any time.  The hops are all you can detect from the aroma, a hop-heads dream.  A wonderful dream at that.  A hint of piney hops also shines through which just makes smelling this beer a treat that lasts longer than 1 or 2 breaths. 

The taste follows the aroma perfectly, like jelly follows peanut butter or peanut butter follows chocolate.  The balance of the intense amount of hops with the malts is constructed so perfectly that Mozart would approve if it were music.  The bitterness of the hops explodes out of the gate but in no way is this too hoppy or over the top.  The malts are right there every step of the way to make this so wonderfully balanced that I am glad it only comes in 4-packs otherwise I would be taking a lot more days off of work when this beer comes out. 

This double IPA is so well balanced, especially at a time when bigger is better for IBU’s and hops and IPA’s that some breweries (see Devil Dancer) have gone off the deep end.  Surly has hit the nail on the head with this one.  On a side note they just released that Hell was becoming a year round beer and I for one was not happy that this beer was not chosen for that year round slot. 


Final Grade: A


Brew Review: Surly Darkness 2011 (10-28-2011)

23 Jan

Brew: Darkness (2011)

Brewed by: Surly Brewing Co. (Brooklyn Center MN)

Style: Russian Imperial Stout (10.3% ABV)


One of the heaviest hitters in the American craft brewing scene. I acquired this bottle, plus 6 others, via Darkness day at the brewery on Oct. 22nd. I opened this bottle on Oct. 28th with some friends, one who is from out of town and now owes me big time for it. I will give you a little background on this one as well. I went to Darkness day and therefore got to try this one on tap as well as a barrel aged version. I will say that I liked the regular ‘on-tap’ version the best that day. After waiting 6 hours in the cold it was well worth the wait and the first sip was heavenly. I didn’t take any notes that day as I was busy enjoying myself but I opened this bottle about a week later so I got to take some notes, I was interested to see how this matched up to the tap version and the fact that it was pretty fresh in the bottle at that point.

Darkness, what a great name for a beer of this magnitude. It poured out black, not much else. Dark and thick and black-hole like, not much light got away from this one. A very nice mocha-tan head rose up from the brew and stuck around perfectly. Couldn’t ask for a better looking RIS. Dark as night, darkness like Wesley Snipes.

The smell was good, raisins, dark fruits and some alcohol drifted up at me. The roasted grains had some play in there but it was a mostly sweet dominated smell.

The taste was thick, chewy, big. Think of a meal in a bottle and this one is the 3 course version of it. Syrupy with the big sweetness from the aroma translating into a sweet taste as well. Raisins, plumbs, and lots of chocolate came out at me. Once again a very light booze taste comes out at me. Its hard to mask a beer the clocks in at 8% so I would say they did a pretty darn good job seeing as how they were working with over 10% with this one. For some reason I also picked up a taste that reminded me of plastic. Don’t know why or where it came from but I detected it a couple times.

I think overall this is going to get much better after a while in the bottle so the flavors can mellow out and blend together. I liked the tap version better than the early bottle version but I think with some age this will be exceptional in the bottle as well. Still a great RIS and not a whole lot to complain about, maybe only having 6 bottles instead of 60, but I think I made out pretty well. And with all those bottles I will get to see how it ages here for the next couple of years…stay tuned for that.


Final Grade: A+


Brew Review: Surly Wet

17 Jan

Brew: Wet

Brewed by: Surly Brewing Co. (Brooklyn Center, MN)

Style: Fresh Hop IPA (7.5% ABV)


The seasonal from Surly that comes out in the fall or should I say harvest time. They ship fresh picked hops straight from the vine to the brewery and brew this IPA 3 days later. They try to capture the essence of the hops in their freshest form. Surly has a great track record with hoppy brews (see Furious and Abrasive) so this one is coming from a great family.

Wet poured out a clear amber color, something like a regular IPA might. There is obviously some malt to back up all the hops that were squeezed into this beer. There was plenty of visible carbonation that produced a half inch off-white head that stuck around for a little bit but in the end was gone.

This was an amazing smelling brew. Great hop profile right off the top. Pine, citrus, a bouquet of floral and juicy hop smells met my nose. As the brew warmed up a little the malts began to show but the freshness of the hops really strut their stuff in the aroma, you could tell that this beer was brewed only about a week before it was opened and the hops were pretty much straight off the truck.

The taste was a little bitter, but not as much as you would expect with so much hop aroma coming off of the brew. Apparently most of the hop additions came at the end of the boiling and only a few lent their bittering oils. It is a very floral/fruity beer with pronounced notes of grapefruit and citrus flavors. There were some malts there to counteract all the hops in the brew but they were just there to be the balance on this terrifically crafted beer. They played just a big enough role that they added everything in small amounts and didn’t detract from the main course of the beer, the fresh hops. The freshness of the hops is unmatched, ‘wet’ is a great terms since it seems like these hops didn’t even get a chance to dry even a little before they were pitched into the brew kettle.


Final Grade: A

Brew Review: SurlyFest

15 Dec

Brew: SurlyFest

Brewed by: Surly Brewing Co. (Brooklyn Center, MN)

Style: Rye Lager (6.0% ABV)


The autumn seasonal from Surly. Well one of two actually, they also have a fresh-hop beer that comes out about the same time. This is a beer from Surly so naturally I am expecting a pretty good brew. I especially enjoy the labeling on this one, the classic crazy Surly packaging comes with the traditional German fest type background. A good spin for an up and coming brewery.

The beer poured out a clear caramel somewhat amber color. There was also some red thrown in there as well. There was a big thick rich looking head right off the top but that died down in a few minutes to leave a thin cap of what foam on the brew the rest of the way down. A solid looking beer, the clarity of it all was impressive.

The aroma was not what I was expecting. There were a fair amount of hops that were present. Citrus and fruit were present but not over whelming just simmering under the surface. Knowing this was a Surly beer I could have guessed they would have found a way to get some good smelling hops in the brew. Following the initial reaction to the hops there was some classic German malts that I detected as well as some of the lager type bread and yeast smells.

Upon the first sip, the big malts present in this traditional fest-type beer were very present. However, and I don’t think I mentioned this before, the dry-hopping also was noticeable. The bready grains and yeasts took their share of the glory in the taste and that kept the beer within its style which was nice. The hops were the unique factor in the beer. If you have tried any traditional marzen-fest type beers there is really no distinguishable hops presence. There is enough to keep the brew from sticking to your teeth but not anything that plays a decent part in the actual flavor and aroma of the beer. Surly changes that with this beer. They have dry-hopped a lager that is traditionally one you don’t dry-hop or even consider dry-hopping. They made it work perfectly, as the big rye taste is almost balanced dead on and makes the beer a big heavy lager fest-beer but also one that doesn’t weigh you down as some others might.

I love the use of the dry-hops and the way that all the ingredients had their place and fit there like puzzle pieces. Nothing to complain about with this beer.


Final Grade: A

Brew Review: Surly Cynic Ale

15 Feb

Brew: Surly Cynic Ale

Brewed by: Surly Brewing Co. (Minneapolis, MN)

Style: Belgian Style Saison/Pale Ale (6.5% ABV)

Here we go with another yellow bubbly beer that comes from a can, good thing Surly tells us right on the top of that same can that this is “beer for a glass, from a can.”  Right away after pouring this into said glass, I can tell that this is not the yellow/clear piss that Grandpa James drinks and tells me that anything different is a “lady drink.”

The thing that really grabs my attention on this beer is the aroma.  This smells peppery and for some reason I can’t get the idea of a can of corn out of my head.  I think that’s the saison style coming through with the smell of the farm and the fields after a hard days work in the French speaking Belgian countryside.

The flavor is not as intriguing as the aroma but it has its good qualities.  The peppery flavor continues on here and it as easy drinking as it looks.  Good thing it only comes in pint cans because it went down almost too smooth and I found myself wondering how I only had a few sips left after only 10 minutes.  I can see why those farm workers/slaves used it in place of water.

This is a beer that is solid all around, I have not tried many saison style beers but of the few that I have had this ranks as the top.  The aroma can’t be beat and when I run out of water here in the land of the free and home of the brave (St. Paul) and the lakes are all frozen I can easily grab one of these and it works just the same.

Final Grade: B+