Cheers!: Nothing to Get Surly About


Of all the assumed attitudes out there, I think surly is my least favorite.

I have a good reason for this. A favorite place of mine was run by a woman who was known for her occasional surliness. Eventually, the place was discovered by the rest of the world, and the entire staff decided to adopt an air of surliness. Today, the surliness seems more like downright rudeness and incivility.

Surliness run wild becomes other things.

So it was with some trepidation that I first came to beers from the Surly Brewing Co. of Brooklyn, Minn. What does it mean to be a surly brewing company? Does it mean they don’t give a rip about the beer they brew and the people who drink it?

There’s only one way to find out – crack open a can (their motto is “Beer for a glass, from a can.”). I started with their brown ale, called Bender.

It’s brewed with oatmeal and a combination of British and Belgian malts. Surly doesn’t claim to be brewing a traditional brown ale, and that is what you get, a non-traditional and very tasty brown ale. It comes on strong with a coffee-flavored explosion, but it also rolls softly across the palate. The finish is a hoppy prickle down the center of your tongue, like a hoppy gutterball. A nice sticky, tawny head remains to the very end.

surly hellI followed that with Surly Hell, the brewery’s lager. It pours the very picture of beer – golden lager topped with a thick, white head. Oh, this is good. Lots of sweet malty goodness. Nothing at all surly about this delicious lager. If this is hell, let me in!

I thought I had a third Surly style to sample, but someone must have raided my beer stash. But I will return to more Surliness in the very near future.

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