Blue Collar Brew Review – Surly Furious

SurlyTankI was down the road in Minooka on Friday for a visit to Route 6 Liquors, a small bottle shop in a strip mall just outside a big subdivision. I was looking for some of Avery’s The Reverend quad and I knew they always had it on the shelf, where it’s nonexistent in Morris about 10 miles away. Mike, the owner of the store is a guy who really knows his beer. He pays attention to beer news and always has some great selections on his shelves in spite of the small footprint. They have a rather big sign in the front window of the store: BEER GEEKS WELCOME! Gotta love it.

On this day they were out of The Reverend. I’d have to search for a good substitute. I asked Mike if there was anything new. He led me down to the end of the short aisle and presented his new selection of 3Floyds beers. There it was and I couldn’t believe it… Zombie Dust! I snatched that bad boy right off the shelf.

“How did you get this?” I asked him. He explained that the new distributor he signed on with was able to get limited quantities of 3Fs beers at least to Minooka. Sure enough, on the shelf were also Alpha Klaus, Gumball Head, Pride & Joy and more. I may have hit a goldmine here in this little beer store.

Furious fourWith a sixer in hand, I strolled past the cooler and noticed that there were a couple of new members tucked away inside. I had heard that Surly Brewing out of Minneapolis was finally coming to Illinois and here it was, 10 miles down the road. I grabbed a 4-pack of Surly Furious and paid the man.

During the monetary exchange a conversation ensued.

“Ya know, they don’t offer this in Morris yet.”

“They won’t get it.”

“Why is that?”

“The distributors that I have won’t go there because they don’t think it’s worth it.”

“Ah, I thought it was the taxes.”

“No. It’s just that they didn’t buy the rights to distribute there.”

Beer Distribution 101 is perhaps a class that I will have to take online next. I still don’t understand why those guys can’t drive the extra ten miles.

With 10 beers in a bag tucked under my arm, I made the way back home on the 2-lane blacktop past the naked corn and beanfields and steaming chemical plants.

Darkness Day

I’ve heard a bit about Surly on the forums and their legendary Darkness Day (above) which rivals that of 3Floyds’ Dark Lord Day. Crowds form, tickets are sold, beer is drunk. Bigger or smaller, I don’t know. I’ll have to go sometime and find out for myself. Surly has developed a reputation in small circles because of their beer.

Surly def

According to Wikipedia, Surly is, by comparison, a rather small craft brewery.

The Surly Brewing Company is a Brooklyn Center, Minnesota-based craft brewery. Surly had a projected production of over 15,000 barrels in 2010. As of June 2010, Surly was only available in and around the Minneapolis–Saint Paul metropolitan area.

The brewery’s reputation belies its size.

So what about this Furious IPA that I bought? The Surly website gives the same description that’s printed on the can: A tempest on the tongue, or a moment of pure hop bliss? Brewed with a dazzling blend of American hops and Scottish malt, this crimson-hued ale delivers waves of citrus, pine and caramel-toffee. For those who favor flavor, Furious has the hop-fire your taste buds have been screaming for.

That’s some big words.

Tonight we partake of new brew in Illinois, one that I will write honestly about and you can take it from there. I’m sure I won’t be disappointed. Hell, it’s got hops in it. A lot of ‘em.

Furious foamThe first glassful poured up with big foamy, tightly knit head of white. The beer was an orange-red color and was crystal clear. Micro-bubbles slowly rose. The aroma was that of citrus hops. Not overwhelming, but obvious.

The first sip delivered a medium body with a decent maltiness and a nice bitter hop flavor at the swallow. The specific hop flavors were obviously hard to identify because there were 4 varieties used in the recipe. The taste was quite bitter, but still laid back a bit from being a big imperial IPA.

Of course, the most prominent taste is this beer is the hop taste. It’s a muted punishing of the tonsils with boxing gloves. Bitter but quiet. The middle malt flavor was tasty and slightly sweet. The overall finish was a bit dry. This was easy drinking personified.

The hop flavors are definitely on the citrus side of the spectrum with a bit of pineapple sensed every so open. Sometimes pine be in there. Nothing outlandish though. It’s a nice blend of 4 different hop varieties that gave the beer its unique flavor. No caramel-toffee, though.

This beer is in the same vein as Zombie dust. Their ABVs are real close. But where ZD is brewed with a ton of a single hop variety, Citra, Furious is brewed with Warrior, Ahtanum, Simcoe and Amarillo, 2 for bittering and the other two for aroma. If you want to dissect the hops ever further, here’s a comparison chart of hop varieties. Or visit the Brewer’s website to get more more details of the ingredients in this beer. (Hover over the middle picture and click Year Round Beers.)

ZD calls itself a pale ale, while Furious admits to the IPA moniker. ZD is intensely hopped with high alpha acid hops, while Furious (I’m sure) uses the high alphas for bittering and lower alphas for flavor and aroma. Still, it’s nice take on an IPA for Surly.

Furious stands at 6.2% alcohol and has 99 IBUs according to the label. At least you know what you’re in for when you buy it. The beer is sold in 16-ounce cans in plastic-ringed four-packs with a built-in carrying handle at the top. Similar to Oskar Blues only their’s had the handle on the side. Each can has a “canned on” date on the underside, this one being 11/11/13. I’m not to fond of silver typeface on a shiny red-orange background. Makes it hard for us old guys to read it without constantly turning the can to get the best contrast.

A couple of things I’d like to point out. This beer is good enough to drink a lot of. The ABV isn’t that high and it would be an easy feat to plow through a whole sixpack of this beer. However, as it is, the beer is 8 ounces shy of a sixer. I’d like to see Surly can this beer in 12-ounce cans and sell them by the sixpack. And I’d venture to say that if they bumped up the ABV to over 7%, that’d almost justify the 16×4 price.

Furious glass

Overall, Furious is a delicious beer, an easy drinker and a beer that a brewery can build its reputation on. I would be very easy to get involved in something, a football game, computer app or other project and suddenly find out that you’ve run out. They go down that easy.

Not necessarily a session beer by definition, but it could be. Yeah, I’d say that this was Surly’s Zombie Dust and I hope they make and sell a billion batches. They hit the nail on the head with this one. A real winner.

Furious labelThe SixPackTech summary for Surly Furious:

Style: American IPA
Taste: Delicious with a bit of a raspy swallow.
Smoothness: Smooth yet challenging.
Drinkability: They trickle right down. More, please.
Bang for the buck: Worth it for the taste, not the quantity.
Amount paid: $11.99 per four 16-ounce cans.
Get it again? Oh yes, indeed.
ABV: 6.2%
Brewer’s website
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: (Sniff) What’s it smell like? Can’t place it. (sip) Oh, it’s bitter. I get the orange peel. (sip) Not a lot of flavor just bitter. (Maybe her tongue needs another coat of taste buds.)

Surly Brewing Company [7:24] – from the Basic Brewing guys, James Spencer and Steve Wilkes.



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