Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Whale A Week: Surly Four




Well folks, time again for A Whale A Week!

The Surly Anniversary beers have been quite a mixed bag over the years, but I appreciate the brewers stretching their brewing chops to try new things.  One was a Quad/Doppelbock concoction that I never got to try.  I assume it was good.  Two was a cranberry milk stout that I first tried at a charity benefit--very tasty and tart.  That one made it to a small bottling run, but I've never actually seen one in person.  If anyone has one they want to share, I can make it worth your while!  Three was a braggot, made with half honey and half grain.  I did not like that one fresh, but a year later it was much more balanced and mellow.  I'd love to try this again now!


Elsa helps to eis our bottle of Surly Four...



Surly Four

Surly Four was the first of the anniversary beers that I loved from the get-go.  It was released in 2010, making this one a classic here in 2015!  I remember it as a thick and creamy Imperial porter/stout with espresso.   I know that they added dark roast coffee to the end of the boil process, resulting in a more burnt/roasted character than is seen in their "dry coffee" technique used for Surly Coffee Bender.  I believe that while talking to Omar about this beer, he mentioned actually eising it slightly, which increased the mouthfeel and concentrated a lot of the flavors.  For those who put stock in ratings, the beer currently has a rating of 96 on BeerAdvocate and 100 on RateBeer.  The beer clocks in at about 10% ABV.

This particular precious bottle was raided from the cellar of fellow Jack Of All Brews member Bryce Ehrman.  Dipped in blue wax, the bottle hosts wonderful artwork from fantastic and friendly local artist Adam Turman, known for his work with Surly as well as murals at Butcher & The Boar and 612 Brewery.  Bryce and my wife Sj joined me in the basement bar for the tasting this past Wednesday night after work.  I served these into Surly Darkness snifters for that added bit of appropriateness.  I've broken our comments up where we differed a bit.  Sj was verbose in her descriptions as usual.

Aroma:
Eric: Sweet maltiness with a milk chocolate character.  No hop aroma.  Some dark roast espresso as swirled.  Reminds me of the wonderful chocolate gelato from Paciugo in the Mall of America.  Slight vegetal zip as it warms.  This just smells rich and decadent overall.
Bryce:  Almost smells like it is barrel aged--vanilla and tannin.  Rich cacao and roast.

Appearance:
Eric:  Opaque and nearly black.  Large dark tan head with medium sized bubbles that persist for ages.  Some legs on the edge of the snifter.
Bryce: Deep brown mahogany with medium tan head.

Flavor:
Eric:  Sweet maltiness and almost caramel notes at first hits you with near cloying sweetness.  At the middle of the taste I get a strong smokiness that trails into a semi-burnt espresso bitterness.  That finish is strong and almost like coffee grounds, leaving you with a astringent and dry finish.  Thick and coating mouthfeel.  Balance to the sweet side, but the finish actually saves this from being cloying.  Some alcohol warming, but not burning by any means.  No hop flavors discerned.  I get some cacao/bitter chocolate as it warms.
Bryce:  Excessively sweet tasting like sugar and toffee.  More to the caramel side of sweet than to the chocolate.  Medium to heavy body and slick mouthfeel.  Slight alcohol warmth on back end.  No oxidation at all.

Overall:
Eric:  Most coffee beers I've aged have quickly lost their coffee mojo, but this one is amazingly strong despite being over four years old!  I think the astringency in this is a combination of too much dark roast malt and the coffee being added to the boil.  The smokiness is a surprise, and this almost reminds me of a milder aged Alaskan Smoked porter.  The beer improves as it warms for sure.  Overall this reminds me of chewing on a dark chocolate dipped espresso bean.  I give it…appropriately a 4!
Bryce: This beer has one of the most unique differences between the aroma and the flavor that I have come across.  This seems almost like a barrel aged Russian Imperial stout.  I also give it a 4.
Sj: "I like it!" 4




This week I'm starting to use a free link tool on each week's entry to encourage any other budding beer reviewers or bloggers to play along with me.  Just hit the button below and add a link to your page/blog and it will post in the area below.  I'll leave the link open all week so if you decide to dig one of these beers out of your cellar and try it out you can still post here.  I welcome folks to try that or even just comment here on the blog to tell me what you think of the beer!



Next week we will continue our Surly run on A Whale A Week with Surly Five!  I plan to work my way through all the Surly Anniversary beers before moving on to some other bottles I have stored away in the cellar.  Stay tuned!

video

Oh, and here is a quick easter egg outtake from our tasting...

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