Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Surly El Hefe Negro Imperial Dunkel Weizen

surly el hefe negro

In my last entry, yesterday, I tried to find which Summit beers that I had not entered notes for into this blog, at least the ones it's still possible to find and drink.
Today, I'm looking at Surly, and I've covered a lot of ground there, except for "tea-bagged", oak- and barrel-aged cask offerings, which I never take notes on, and what else? Dampfbier, the German steam beer originally made for a sausage fest (no, really), and only on tap at rare events and at the tap room. Dumpster Fire, the pepper IPA, which I haven't taken notes on for the same reasons. Oh, and Misanthrope, the sour-ed Cynic. Wish I could get a keg of that one. (I'll try, I'll try)
There's something showing up on BeerAdvocate called "SYX variant" that I've never heard of, oh, well. That's it for the beers listed under "current" on BA, I'm not even going to think about "retired". That's it, except for this one, El Hefe Negro, which I just tapped today, and am taking notes on right now…

But first, here's the first take of a menu description for the Blue Nile, to fill you in on it, just a little...

Surly El Hefe Negro Imperial Dunkel Weizen (Surly Brewing, Brooklyn Center, MN)
After nearly eight years brewing, Surly is still a newcomer when it comes to brewing with wheat malt. But they have to do everything with their own style, so this one is a bit bigger than normal, hence the imperial, and is in the less-explored dunkel weizen (dark wheat) category. The name is also a typically Surly-ish puzzle, as "negro" is black in Spanish (and though the color isn't exactly black, it's close), and "el jefe", Spanish for "the boss" sound a like like … ("like like"?)

I abandoned that draft for a terser version that explained the name in tidier fashion. Imperial refers to it being 7.5% ABV, bigger than a normal dunkel weizen, and the Spanish words refer to the Mexican cone sugar, or "piloncillo", added. And the joke is also that "hefe", the German word for yeast, as in "hefe weizen", sounds like the Spanish "el jefe", or "the boss/chief/ big man on campus/quarry foreman, etc."

Enough of that, let's get to the beer. It ain't black, but it's very dark brown, with reddish highlights, nearly impenetrable. Small, but staying cocoa-tinged head atop.

Aroma: bittersweet cocoa notes first, then toffee, caramel, followed quickly by banana and cream, with a little bit of spice on the side. Dark fruits, like dates, are suggested, as well. It's a nice, measured Bavarian dunkel nose, without going over-board. The Surly signature move of dry-hopping probably has something to do with that.

Taste: Banana hits big at first sip, but muffled by modest hop bitterness. Creamy tone in the mouthfeel, very smooth on the palate. All the great hallmarks of a dunkel waxen. Second sip, we're getting the cocoa tones, the chocolate, the dark fruit, the banana, the spices, yeah there's traces of clove, spruce. It's an interesting mix, and it goes down wonderfully. Interesting and wonderful, I like that combo. The sweetness of the malt is kept in check by the hops, but neither side dominates. Despite what it's detractors have said over the years, there's a lot of balance going on the beers of Surly. This one is never too much of anything. Rather, it's a whole lot of right on the money.

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