Monday, January 25, 2016

Minnesota Breweries One By One #4: Surly Brewing Company, Minneapolis, with Stout, One, and Hopshifter 3.


(Note: I began writing this on Wednesday, and finished it Saturday.)

How my heart filled with joy and soared up among the clouds when I saw the weather forecast, with the news that today, Wednesday, the 20th of January would have temperatures in the 20's. Twenty-plus degrees above zero! Oh, frabjous day, calloo, callay! I could spend this day off going to visit another brewery and not freeze to death while waiting for the bus. It's a freakin' miracle, y'all.

You know they put this sign up for a reason.
I picked Surly for #4 today for various reasons, beginning with the appearance, reported in beer-related Facebook pages, of the first straight-up stout from Surly, not coffee, not cranberry, and not Russian Imperial. Also, One, the initial anniversary beer,  was re-brewed and was currently on. Got to have 'em. Secondly, doing a new beer based on a visit to Surly would mean taking notes at the bar, something I don't normally do. Surly can't fill growlers by law, because they're too big and Minnesota law don't allow that. No reason, just 'cause. But on the other hand, I don't think they would want to, though, even if they could. The brewery, bar and restaurant is busy enough as it is, without the added work of filling and selling growlers. I remember way back, nine years ago when they released the first cans at the same time they got the growlers going. Omar didn't actually want to do both, and they were glad to quit the game at the end of 2008. I would love to take home growlers from Surly MSP, with all the great stuff on tap there, but that the way it goes.

I posed for a self-portrait photograph with a mural
last summer. And yes, I always look this serious.
So, on this visit I would take notes and not buy a growler to bring home, and that is fine, because you know what? I have 27 different cans, bottles and growlers in the fridge at home waiting for me to review for this blog, and I don't need to add to that collection. No new growlers until some of those other beers go away.

I arrived around 6 pm, with the place bustling as always, and managed to find a single seat at the bar. On close inspection, of the 20 beers on tap (You have to ignore the presence of Bender int the lineup, they only served cans of it.), a full half were beers that have never been packaged in any form, only appearing at the taproom or in select bars or at festivals. There's a great reason to keep going back to Surly. They know how to bring us in.

The first beer I chose was the third in the Hopshifter series, where the yeast and malt of an India Pale Ale remains the same, but different hops are used in each iteration. For #3, the hop employed was Chinook, with brings the citrus to the party. Vibrant, bold, assertive citrus hop aromatics. Enticing, long-lasting bitterness on the palate. Light to medium bodied, with a lush, nearly delicious, sweet malty base, providing beautiful balance to hopheads like me. Long, bitter, grapefruit-y finish. I was fairly in love with this one.

Next up, time for One, a beer I haven't had in nearly nine years, and never thought I'd ever drink again. I had it on tap at the Blue Nile in 2007, of course, where it tasted all the world like a doppelbock, but Todd insisted it wasn't one. This new version is 11.5% ABV, versus the 9% beer they released in '07. And just for kicks, here's the review of the old one that I added to BeerAdvocate.com on January 10, 2007 (Can it be that the anniversary beers used to come out before the actual anniversary?)

"One", an anniversary lager. ("But don't call it a doppelbock.")
Brewed July 2006, with a blend of 7 different malts and candi sugar. 9% abv, 28 IBU.

(this was hard to categorize, as it's not a double pilsner, not a malt liquor,...I thought I'd err on the safe side and just enter it as an all-malt lager.)

Sample bottle poured into a wide-mouth Belgian chalice.

Deep mahogany hue. ("Tawny brown", says the brewer, but we're both right.) Slim whitish head.

Aroma: nice and malty, lightly spicy, with prominent notes of raisin and plum. Molasses isn't far off, either. Delicate sweetness.
And, though I tried not to copy the brewer's notes, yes, there's vanillla and licorice in there, too, can't deny it.)

Taste away: Mmmmm. That's all I'll say: Mmmm

...

...

...okay, seriously, this is quite a slick, delicious treat, and they're right it's not a doppelbock, it's unlike anything I can think of at the moment, and I think it's brilliant.
Those dark fruit flavors ride on top, coated with a candyish sheen and it's jostles the realm of the syrupy, but not quite. It grabs hold of the palate with each new sip, drips this sweet concoction all over the tongue and it splashes the roof of the mouth, coats the senses, then softly fades back, though the beautiful flavor never quite quits.

Alcohol is not as forward as you'd think, going into a 9% lager, but I still would advise against tippling too many!
Finish is long, body is medium to full, and the taste is well-tempered, very sweet, but not too much so, at least not to me. Those who can't stand a touch of sweetness may not like it. Their loss.

Surly One. It's back!
Happy 1st Anniversary Surly!
Here's to many more!

This new One is a clear, reddish brown, with a hefty head. A rich, lush malty nose, prevailing sweetness. Tastes of vanilla, oak, molasses, other undefinable goodnesses. Plenty of caramel and toffee coming through. I'd end up repeating the earlier notes from nine years past, it's remarkably
close to it. More bock than quad, but I suppose this term is suggest that it's bigness is much more than "doppel", though it's not like a Belgian quadrupel, except in comparison to strength. Full bodied, with a clean finish, alcohol really coming through in the end. One is a delicious treat that should be re-brewed again, and packaged so that we can savor it at home, and cellar for years to come.

By the way, here's what the the brewery says: "A re-brew of our 1st Anniversary beer. Intense malt flavors of toffee, bready malt, and a warming smooth, yet dry finish. Loosely based on a German doppelbock, ours is bigger, so we call it a Quad-Bock." They serve it in 4 ounces for $3, or 10 ounces for $6.
I did not have a One Time Sour Cranberry
Gose on that visit,
 but here's a picture of Jason having one with me
 back in October. Just because. 
I did not have a Darkness on this visit, but
here's a self-portrait photograph of me doing
 so in late summer, with Joe in the background. 

Surly Stout. It's new!
I closed out my session with the new one called, simply, Stout, and once again I emptied the glass with satisfaction. My notes went like this: "Utter blackness. Deep, smoky, malty aromatics. Beautiful roasted malt character coming through in the nose. I wondered if there was oats in it, as Todd is fond of that, but no, crystal malt is used to balance the roasted malt. Classic dry stout mouthfeel, finishing clean and dry. Class, straight-up stout."

After 10 years of coloring outside the lines, they do a stout by the numbers, and it is damned good. There ain't nothing wrong with that. Although. I don't want to see them throwing out Bender or messing with Cynic or tossing out their boundary-breaking history now that they've hit the big time. I recently noticed that Bitter Brewer has been retired after 8 years or so, but if sales are what sales are, what can you do? Personally, I think the name "bitter" needs to be retired in general in the beer world, unless you're really speaking to the hop freaks.

It's been almost 10 years since my first taste of Surly's first two beers, a special invitation to the brewery on Monday, January 31, 2006. I ordered my first keg of Bender for the Blue Nile the next day, and hooked it up that Friday. It was a different beer world, then, no doubt about it. Surly was the first new local brewery in years, and the first one to succeed since Summit. In the next 5 years, they started to slowly collect company, but the last few have been just about insane with the explosion of breweries around Minnesota. It's hard to conceive of this sort of expansion happening ten years ago. Someone had to get the ball rolling, and it was Surly. Say what you will of your opinions on their beers, or their fans, or the "hype", or whatever, but you cannot deny the effect they've had, how they turned palates around here, and made this a beer-friendly culture. Yeah, I'm a Surly fanboy. They are the #2 most tagged local brewery on this blog, 55 once I post this, and I've had a storied past with them over the years. But there's a reason for it. Just go through these past five years of posts, chronicling ten years of this brewery, and you'll get a sense of why I have such an attachment to them. As for the new brewery, skip ahead to this post, where I wrote at length about my first visit.

2 comments:

ryan said...

Bitter Brewer retired?! Nooooooo...

Todd gave me a growler of barrel-aged One as a birthday present at Gitchee Gummee of all places years ago. A great gift.

AL MCCARTY said...

He gave me a 750 ml bottle of bourbon barrel One for my 40th birthday. I guess that means he liked you more than me.