I’m super psyched to be back at writing and getting back into the brewing community. Sadly, I’m still working the nights of the Winnipeg Brew Bomber meetings so I don’t get to attend those, but if you have any interest in learning about home brewing or connecting with a group of incredibly knowledgeable and talented individuals, I’d recommend considering this group.
For those of you not familiar with Surly, I did an in-depth write-up of them <here> when they first announced their coming to Manitoba. This is big. They have a waiting list for expansion and have chosen to come to Manitoba. What’s more, we are going to be seeing some of their seasonal offerings, including Furious Black IPA, Damien, and both the 2016 and 2017 vintages of their Russian imperial stout Darkness.
Today I’m going to write about three beers from Surly that have arrived in Manitoba and are currently available. Two which will be consistently available along with Todd the Axeman, Xtra-Citra, a Citra centric American pale ale, Furious IPA and a seasonal release Surlyfest. These are all available at Liquor Marts and many beer vendors including Quality Craft Beer Store, Econolodge and St. Norbert Hotel.
Xtra-Citra Pale Ale
Xtra-Citra is an American style pale ale that uses warrior hops for bittering and then a load of citra to bring big tropical citrusy notes to this highly drinkable beer.
American Pale Ales (APA) are, obviously, pale, refreshing and well hopped but with the right amount of malt backbone to balance the beer. The opportunity to select from hops can give this beer a range and either reflect classic hops or new world hops. Generally, an APA is more accessible than an IPA while still providing a hop forward flavour.
The APA is a modern American craft beer adaptation of the English pale ale. These beers tend to reflect ingredients that can be sourced by the brewery locally. While these beers are an American craft beer invention, the desire to source locally means that this Italian version will hopefully have a little bit of that old world flare.
Prior to the explosion of popularity of the IPA, the American Pale Ale was the most well-known and popular of the American craft beer styles. Without further ado, time to taste the beer.
ABV – 4.5%
Appearance – Pours a slightly haze pale golden yellow with a nice white head.
Smell – Citra hops notes are the most prominent on the nose. Lots of grapefruit and orange notes, passion fruit, some funky wet-hop notes and some cattiness on nose as well.
Taste – You get notes of orange-peel and lemon, faint resinous grapefruit a bit of malt sweetness. The taste on this is dialed back a bit leaving a softer hop bitterness and Citra-centric flavour.
Mouth Feel – Light body with a nice carbonation and a soft bitter finish.
Overall Thoughts – Despite being a bit of a softer hop centric pale ale, the flavours that it brings are nice and, if you like Citra, this beer brings those notes. Overall an enjoyable and easy drinking pale ale.
Do I like it? – Xtra-Citra a nice quaffable beer that still brings nice hop notes. I do like this beer and it’s a good balance to the higher more hop forward offerings from Surly.
IPAs or India Pale Ale, have a storied history. The first known use of the term comes from the Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser in 1829. At this time, they were also referred to as a “pale ale as prepared for India”, “East India pale ale”, and “Export India Pale Ale”. These types of IPAs were widely popular amongst the East India company and, while considered very hoppy, they were not much stronger than other beers brewed at this time. Hops are used as a preservative of sorts, to help keep the beer fresh. If you were preparing a beer for a long trip from England to India, you’d need to add a lot of hops. So, while the IPA if consumed in England before shipping would be quite hoppy, at the other end it likely would not. Today, the tradition of hopping beers continues, but we don’t have as far to send them, and the goal is to make a hoppy beer. If you’re curious about IPAs check out Wikipedia, the BJCP Guidelines (Page 37) or IPA Beer.
While IPAs are part of the pale ale family, they are strongly hopped and often highlight the variety of flavours and complexities that can come from the simple ingredients used to brew beer. Many will say the IPAs are an acquired taste, and they are rather unique, the bitterness brought using a large quantity of hops is not for everyone. On most IPAs you’ll see an IBU (international bitterness units) number that gives you an idea of how bitter it might be. For comparison, Torque’s American Pale Ale (Foundation) comes in at 30 IBUs, Half-Pints little Scrapper comes in at 50, and Barn Hammer’s Saturday Night Lumberjack at 75 IBUs.
Surly Furious is an amber hued IPA using a variety of hops working in tandem with a sweet malt backbone to balance against the pretty intense 99 IBUs of hop bitterness.
ABV – 6.6%
Appearance – Pours a slightly hazy amber with a nice foamy head that leaves lacing on glass.
Smell – Definite citrus notes as well as some more prominent piney notes and caramel malt.
Taste – Bitterness from the hops brings a nice citrus note on front that is quickly blended with the sweetness from the malt. The finish brings nice pine and resinous notes that leave a lingering bitterness on tongue.
Mouth Feel – Medium bodied with good carbonation and a lingering bitterness.
Overall Thoughts – Well balanced IPA bringing good aromas and flavours from the hops. The pine notes combined with the citrus bring a nice hop bitterness that makes this beer a nice IPA that is still drinkable.
Do I like it? – Yes. I think this is a nice IPA that brings a different take on the style from Todd the Axeman. This one brings a bit more variety in hop notes and will certainly be on my IPA list.
Surlyfest – Dry-Hopped Rye Lager
Proving that they like to do things differently, Surlyfest is Surly offering for the Oktoberfest season. This is a beer that is now in its 10th anniversary and is a really unique offering for the fall beer season.
Surlyfest is a lager that has been brewed using three types of rye malt and then dry-hopped with a single variety of American hop (Sterling in this case) to bring some really nice spice flavours along with the floral hop notes of sterling.
This beer falls under the category of a Märzen. Before refrigeration, it was nearly impossible to brew beer in the summer due to the hot weather and bacterial infections. Brewing ended with the coming of spring, and began again in the fall. Most were brewed in March (Märzen). These brews were kept in cold storage over the spring and summer months, or brewed at a higher gravity, so they’d keep. Märzenbier is full-bodied, rich, toasty, typically dark copper in color with a medium to high alcohol content.
While certainly not a traditional Märzen, Surlyfest brings an interesting interpretation on the style and provides something different.
ABV – 6%
Appearance – Pours a clear deep copper colour with a tan head.
Smell – Interesting aroma. You get some dark bread and caramel along with some subtly spicy and peppery notes a floral note from the hops.
Taste – Nice notes of bready malt, caramel and that subtle spice and pepper coming through from the rye. The hops bring a touch of citrus and bitterness that doesn’t really overtake anything but provides another layer.
Mouth Feel – Medium bodied with good carbonation and a nice dry finish.
Overall Thoughts – While not the traditional Märzen that we see around Oktoberfest, we knew that going in. This beer is a delicious take on the traditional and the use of three different rye malts really brings an interesting character.
Do I like it? – Absolutely. This beer really makes use of the rye malt and sterling hop to bring an interesting and tasty take on the traditional. Not your dad’s Märzen, but it should be.
Thanks for reading as usual folks. I’ve got plans to get back into Get to know a brewer soon. I’m also looking to sit down with those breweries open for one year to get their insights starting with Torque. Also hoping to sit down and get some follow-ups done with breweries yet to open their doors.
Keep following along, it should be a fun year.