Monday, December 16, 2013

Rare Midwestern Beer Round-Up: Surly Darkness, Surly Smoke, and New Holland Dragon's Milk

Greetings! Once again, I've returned from a prolonged blogging absence to share some thoughts on beers. Wow, it's been since August? Good grief. Practically missed a whole season. Lots to get caught up on, starting with a bit of a hodge podge post centered around some rare Midwestern beers I've enjoyed lately.

The photo above is the incredible haul I received for my 30th birthday (yuck!) in November from my generous Minnesotan in-laws, The Dufresnes. Jim did the legwork of acquiring the beers and Nora schlepped them out here on one of her regular business trips to Seattle. Huge thank you to both of them. A truly special gift consisting of Surly Darkness, Surly SeVIIn (which I reviewed awhile back here) and 2 bottles of New Holland Dragon's Milk.

Let's get to the reviews!

Surly Brewing Co. - Darkness 2013
Style: Russian Imperial Stout
ABV: 10.3%


Yep, that's a bottle of Surly's ultimate rare beer, Darkness. Yes, that means my father-in-law bought a ticket and stood in what I can only assume was a massive line just for the opportunity to buy a few bottles of this much-hyped monster beer. For that, I salute you, good sir!

Onto the beer. Well, I'm pretty sure this was the first time I've had beer that has score of 100 on Beer Advocate and I gotta say, it fully lived up to the hype. It has that typical Russian imperial stout kind of dry, malty feel to it, but then there's SO MUCH depth more to it. It rolls around your taste buds and just has a party in your mouth. There's chocolate, coffee, maybe some vanilla, and what sort of tastes like chocolate covered fruit in there, too. And the alcohol is hidden very well, even at 10.3%. The only other Russian Imperials that I've had that come close to being this good are Firestone Walker - Parabola and the barrel aged version of Old Rasputin. Darkness takes the top spot, though, no doubt about it.

Rating: 5/5


New Holland Brewing Co. - Dragon's Milk
Style: American Imperial Barrel Aged Stout
ABV: 10%


New Holland is based in Michigan and is one of those hyped Midwest breweries that us West Coasters get jealous about like Founders, Great Lakes, and well, Surly. So I was pumped to try this, especially since it's a barrel aged stout in a 12 oz bottle, which is the perfect amount of a strong beer for when you're just having a beer at home and not looking to bust open a 22 ouncer of some 12% monster beer and fall asleep on the couch by 8:30....ahem. Mr. Dufresne described it as similar to chocolate milk, and that pretty much nails it. Super smooth mouth feel, lots of chocolate, oak, vanilla, and then a big ol' hit of bourbon. Awesome beer.

Rating: 4.25/5

Surly Brewing Co. - Smoke 2012

Style: Baltic Porter
ABV: 8.2%

I brought this bottle back with me from my trip to Minnesota last December and it aged gracefully for a year in my cellar aka kitchen cabinet. I cracked it open a couple weeks ago and it was worth the wait. Just another fantastically layered and complex beer from Surly. Beer Advocate calls it a Baltic Porter, but it says Lager on the bottle. I'd say it's a mash up of both styles, a modern take on the classic German Rauchbier style. The smoked flavor, which practically tastes like smoked meat, is more of a compliment to the chocolate, roasted malt, and brown sugar flavors that are in the forefront of the beer. As the beer warms a bit in your glass, all these flavors come out even more robustly and the effect is kinda like drinking a delicious porter in front of a campfire while eating maple bacon. Something like that. Great, now I'm hungry.

Rating:  4.5/5

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