Category Archives: Surly Brewing Co

Surly Three-Fer

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.

Surly - Xtra-Citra.png

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.

Surly - Furious - IPA

Furious IPA

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 Wikipediathe 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.

Surly - Surlyfest

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.

-Beer Winnipeg

 

Surly – Todd the Axeman

It’s been an amazing summer. I’ve gotten to spend every day with my daughter and, while it has been incredibly busy and exhausting, it’s been incredibly rewarding and fun. As my holidays end, I am looking forward to the routine of work and getting back to writing, but I am not very excited about my girl going to daycare and not getting to spend every day with her.

This summer has also been a great one for beer. Starting with Flatlanders, movements towards opening by Stone Angel, Trans Canada, and Oxus, Barn Hammer’s and Torque’s first Anniversaries, Half-Pints 11th anniversary, the first ever Winnipeg Beer Festival, and the arrival of Surly on a go forward basis.

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.

Surly - Embrace the Darkness

They’ve begun by sending us X-Citra, a pale ale loaded with citra hops, Furious Red IPA and the focus of this write-up, Todd the Axeman, a west-coast style IPA.

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 now. 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.

Todd the Axeman is a West-Coast IPA that comes in at 65 IBU. The west-coast variation on the IPA is typically higher on the alcohol range usually coming in between 6.8% and 8%. The reason it is called “west-coast” is largely due to the use of hops available on the west-coast. In the case of Todd, it uses exclusively Citra and Mosaic hops. These hops are balanced on the back of a 100% Golden Promise grain bill. This beer is being sold for $6.99 in Liquor Marts and, while this is on the expensive side, Golden Promise, Citra and Mosaic are probably the most expensive ingredients you can find for a beer.

Golden Promise is an early-maturing spring barley, is the Scottish equivalent of Maris Otter. Though brewers north of the English border claim that its sweet, clean flavor is superior to Maris Otter. Golden Promise malt has a depth of flavor that makes it the ideal base malt for both UK and USA-style IPAs. Golden Promise is also used extensively by premium whisky distilleries such as The Macallan. Golden Promise is floor malted which means that it malted by creating a thin lair of malt on a heated tile floor and constantly moving it around. You can read more about the traditional process here. Onto the beer.

Before we get to the beer, it’s important to note that this beer was created in collaboration with Danish brewery Amager Bryghus and is named for Surly’s original brewmaster, Todd Haug.

ABV – 7.2%
Appearance – Pours a hazy orange colour with a nice beige head. The first can I had was reasonably clear while the second had some sediment (No effect on beer review, just a note)
Smell – Citra and Mosaic hops bring fantastic tropical notes of grapefruit, passion fruit, piney notes, cattiness and some nice dank hopness.
Taste – This is a juicy beer. Solid malt sweetness followed by nice big notes of pineapple, grapefruit and passion fruit and a lingering hop bitterness. The hops bring a nice resinous finish that balances well with the almost honey-sweetness of the malt.
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 hops bring fantastic tropical notes and a beautifully balanced honey-sweet malt backbone.
Do I like it? – Yes. I like this a lot.  This is a very good IPA and I enjoy it immensely. The balance between the hops and malt is beautifully done. This is a beer that I’m going to be happy to drink regularly. Even with the price point, this beer will be stocking my fridge.

I plan to review all of the beers we will be getting from Surly so be sure to follow along. There is a lot of stuff I am looking forward to doing this year and a lot of new breweries on the verge of opening. Keep following along for all your beer needs.

-Beer Winnipeg

Surly Comes to Manitoba

Surly Logo

So, Surly Brewing has come to Manitoba. I’m sure people have probably heard this as it’s been widely promoted through social media, the liquor marts, and even in the news. Now here I am writing a post about this one brewery making its way to Manitoba. Well, it is a pretty big deal.

Surly Brewing Company was founded in 2004 by Omar Ansari. Omar was an avid homebrewer and decided that he wanted to get involved in the brewing industry. He proposed converting his parents Abrasives factory into a brewery, and with their go ahead, hired accomplished local brewer Todd Haug  and got to work building a brewery.

Omar and Todd - Surly Brewing

In 2005 Surly Brewing Co. brewed it’s first batch of beer. It took over 14 hours as the fermenter controls weren’t working and Todd’s heavy metal music soundtrack made things a big difficult to communicate, but they accomplished the goal and were officially on there way to becoming one of the top breweries in the United States.

It wasn’t until 2006 that Surly sold it’s first kegs of Furious to local bars. Omar had made various sales calls to bars and had bartenders spit out the samples of the beer. Only 16 months after selling the first kegs of Furious, Rate beer named Surly Brewing the best brewery in America and named Surly’s Russian Imperial Stout (Darkness) the best American beer in the world.

In 2011 Surly realized they needed to build a new brewery to meet the demand for their beer. They wanted to be able to sell their own beer on site. They faced a similar problem to Winnipeg where a prohibition-era law prevented breweries from selling pints of their beer at their breweries. Omar set out to change this law and with the help of Surly Nation standing behind him and a heck of a lot of work, they managed to get legislators to make the change. Surly’s Destination brewery is now a fantastic site to visit with food, a huge variety of beers, a state of the art brewing facility and many events for folks to enjoy.

In 2016 Todd Haug left Surly to go work with 3 Floyds Brewing Co in Munster, Indiana. I’m sure he is missed, but he has left the brewhouse in the capable hands of co-lead brewers Jerrod Johnson and Ben Smith.

Surly’s Philosophy: Our philosophy? Make great beerHave funGive a Damn about your community. Be independent. Don’t be a dick.

One of the most amazing things for me is how Surly involves the community and how involved they are in the community as well. Always doing what they can to give back. The annual release of their Russian Imperial Stout, Darkness, has become an event that people travel from across North America to join. There is music, food, beer, and eventually the release of the beer. Only about 10,000 bottles are brewed each year and each person is limited to six. I’ve been lucky enough to get some, but these beers are coveted. Surly partners with artists each year to design the label for Darkness and it’s always super impressive. Surly produces dozens of beers each year from year-rounds to seasonal brews. Every beer I’ve had I’ve enjoyed.

Surly has chosen to expand across the border into Canada and have chose Manitoba as their first foray beyond their own borders. This is a big deal. Surly’s beers are considered top notch in each of the categories they brew. Them coming to Manitoba is not only a huge boon for Manitobans, but it’s a big push to the local brewing community. It can only raise the quality of beer we have access to here in Manitoba. Many of us in the beer community would make treks down to North Dakota to pick up cans of Surly. Now, we can put them in our fridge along side our favorite locals.

While Surly is initially starting with Kegs, they do have plans to start sending cans to Manitoba in the Fall. There is some work to do in getting the cans “Canadianized” (adding milliliters, putting Biére Forte, etc.…) but we will be able to stock our fridges with cans of Todd the Axeman or Furious at some point down the road.

In conversation with Rick and Omar from Surly, Rick shared that Surly is in Manitoba because of the work of Cheryl Thompson at Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries. Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries wanted Surly in Manitoba and helped make the logistics side of things work. So, I want to give a big shout out to Cheryl and everyone else who worked so hard to get Surly into Manitoba.

So, check the Liquor Marts website here to see where you can try something from Surly and add them to your list of beers alongside your local and other craft favorites. While I know that I’ll be stocking my fridge with many Surly items, it’s not going to stop me from supporting my favorite local and craft folks. I think everyone in the beer community, including local breweries, would join me in saying “Welcome to Manitoba Surly. We’re glad you’re here”.

Flatlanders Surly Brewing
Surly Crew at Flatlander’s Beer Fest – 2017

-Beer Winnipeg