Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Whale A Week: Surly Seviin

It's time again for A Whale A Week!  Last week we continued our series on Surly Anniversary beers with the misunderstood  and much maligned Surly Syx.  This week we move forward in time to last year's Surly Seviin.

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.  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!  Four was the first of these that I loved from the get-go and is reviewed HERE.  Five was their first sour and is reviewed HERE.  Syx was a 15% multi-wood aged monster, and is HERE.

Surly Seviin

Confessions of a geek: I painted this little guy back in junior high school.  

Seviin was Surly's seventh anniversary beer and was released only once in 2013.  Brewed with rye, oats, and wheat, this was the first Surly beer to ever use wheat in the grist.  It was also dry hopped for added hop aroma and finished with Brettanomyces yeast.  The beer comes in a yellow wax dipped bomber bottle with quasi-religious art by local artist Brent Schoonover.  The beer clocks in at 12.5% ABV.

I first tried a preview of this beer at a Happy Gnome beer dinner before it was released.  Having just been to Belgium not too long before that, I was very impressed with the beer at the time.  Strong in alcohol like a Quad but lighter in color, it had a flavor and mouthfeel that reminded me a lot of Westvleteren 12 (and yes that one is on my future AWAW list).  I tried it later in the bottle and noted a mild brettanomyces funkiness that was not really present in the initial taste at the Gnome.  At that point it seemed more like a strong version of fresh Orval (another place I visited while abroad).  It has now been well over a year since I've tried this beer and I've been looking for a good excuse to crack one and see where things stand.  Currently BeerAdvocate has Seviin rated at 89 and RateBeer at 88 making this the closest the two sites' ratings have been to each other since I've started doing this series.

We served this among a group of friends including Mike & Kristin Lebben and Keith Brady.  My pour was into an Alaskan Smoked Porter snifter glass since I was away from home and didn't have my Surly glass.  It hurts me!  We all tasted and took notes, and here are some highlights.

Aroma: Showing that aroma can be somewhat subjective, but elements certainly come through...

Eric: Floral, sweet honey notes.  Some orange citrus.  Spicy and slightly musty Brett character.  Very little Belgian yeast ester.
Keith: Picking up noticeable tart Brett, slight banana, cherry, dried fruit.  Malt and slight popcorn.
Mike: A little sour.  Boozy banana, citrus.
Kristen: Caramel, banana, citrus.  Slight unpleasantness to the overall aroma.

Appearance: Where we mostly agreed.

Deep copper to orange or amber color.  Very little off-white head, and what is there fades quickly. Light lacing on the edge of the glass.

Flavor:  In which we all sensed different but similar things.

Eric: Sweet orange blossom honey and maltiness up front.  Strong citrus orange peel with a residual bitterness like metal or apricot pits.  Some slight phenol clove, but very little banana to my taste-buds.  Light musty Brett tartness.  Mouthfeel is medium making the beer seem more thin than expected.  Carbonation is low which makes this more syrupy.
Keith: Metallic on first sip.  Bitter then slightly tart.  Bitter orange peel.  Citrusy as it warms.
Mike: Metallic!  Medicinal orange antibiotic from my childhood.
Kristin: Malty caramel.  Good mouthfeel.  Citrus at the front, but brown sugar and tinny/coppery at the end.

Overall: In which we all agreed on our overall enjoyment of this beer.

Eric: Not nearly as "Belgiany" as I expected, especially as compared to previous tastings.  I felt that the esters were very low (though my tasting compatriots got more banana than I did.)  Not as complex as I remember this either.  The tart Brett gives this a little kick, but not as much as I expected having tasted aged Orval.  The beer also lacked carbonation which hurt my overall enjoyment of this.  The metallic boozy finish hurts this a bit as well. 3.0
Keith: Pissed I bought five of these!  Completely different from trying it fresh.  Definitely will age longer. 3
Mike: Either it has gone bad or it needs to wait. 3
Kristin: I want to like it...but it isn't what I wanted it to be. 3

So there you have it!  According to my Untappd, I gave this beer a 4.5 when I last tasted it, so my full point drop is a notable decrease.  Having aged a lot of strong Belgian ales, I was expecting this one to be more complex and interesting.  I did not expect Surly Syx to beat out Seviin!  I'm actually tempted to open another one just to see if we got a tainted bottle or something.  Thanks to my tasting panel for helping me drink this big bottle of Surly!  If you have a Seviin and want to taste along post a link to your page/blog entry on the free link-up tool below.  Or you can just leave a comment to tell us what you think!

Mike, Sj, and I were hanging out whilst adding our Imperial stout collaboration into my rye whiskey barrel this weekend and I cracked a second bottle of Seviin.  This bottle had much more carbonation which improved the mouthfeel and aerosolization of the aromatics greatly.  I got more bright aroma and flavors from this version.  Everything we noted in the above descriptions was present, but the overall quality was improved and fresher tasting.  I noted a distinct similarity of some of the metallic apricot flavor between this and Syx as well.  We all agreed that we would give the second bottle an upgrade to 3.5.  So there Keith, maybe having 5 isn't so bad after all!

If you want to play along and post your review of this beer--use the free link tool below!

Next week we finish our Surly Anniversary series with the recently released Eight.  Tune in and play along if you still have one of these lurking in your cellar!

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