Sunday, December 4, 2011

Surly Bender

The last of the beers donated to the show from Sean in Minnesota. This beer is a oatmeal brown ale with plenty of hops. Without giving too much away, I thought this was more of a brown IPA. But how GOOD is it? Watch and find out.

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 17/20
Chad9976 (580) - Albany, New York, USA - DEC 4, 2011
I received a 16oz can in a donation from a fan in Minnesota (thanks, Sean!). I poured it into Geordie Schooner glass.

Appearance: Dark brown color, completely opaque but with a lot of carbonation bubbles sticking to the glass. Forms a dark khaki, creamy head which retains and laces very well.

Smell: Slightly confectionary notes of the typical brown ale variety (caramel, toasted malt) with distinct flowery hop fragrance as well.

Taste: Where the line is drawn between a very hoppy brown ale and a Brown IPA proper is for the beer nerds of the world to decide and I think Surly Bender would be the apex of that argument. Really, this beer could go either way. It has a nice floral character and dry hoppy bitterness that complements the traditional brown ale qualities.

I was surprised when the first thing I noticed about the first sip was an overt, sharp bitterness. It’s crisp, a tad fizzy, and a molecule or two of pine is detectable as well. The palate turns on a dime into a brown ale with some stout or porter-like qualities. Baker’s chocolate, light caramel and nuttiness impart a sweet (but not cloying) balance to the palate. It finishes with toasted malts and returns to the original hop bitterness it started out with. It’s really impressive how these flavors can work so well together.

My only complaint would be that the hops seems to outshine the brown ale qualities. Surly Bender, in my opinion, might be more accurately classified as a brown IPA than a brown ale. The candy bar-like taste of the second half fades away a little too quickly. Still, the palate remains very satisfying until the end.

Mouthfeel: Perfectly medium-bodied with noticeable carbonation fizz. Hops linger for a moment or so, but is otherwise a clean aftertaste.

Drinkability: I’m shocked that Surly Bender is only 5.1% ABV as it has the sheer energy and weight of a stronger brew. Not that one drink will fill you up or gets you drunk, just that it’s amazing it’s able to do so much on a lighter scale. Not sure if I would session this as the hops would become annoying, but it’d be a great choice to have with a hearty meal.
Grade: 8/10

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