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CynicAle - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

1,215 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 1,215
Reviews: 582
rAvg: 3.99
pDev: 10.28%
Wants: 230
Gots: 114 | FT: 4
Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company visit their website
Minnesota, United States

Style | ABV
Saison / Farmhouse Ale |  6.70% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes/Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: tavernjef on 06-02-2006)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,215 | Reviews: 582 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of franksnbeans
4.8/5  rDev +20.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Pours hazy golden amber with some nice tan head that disappears with little to no lacing. Smells of citrus, earthy undertones, tea, little hop and many different nice spices. Smells like a tasty saison! A burst of spicy malt, citrus, butterscotch, molasses and lemon. Everything shows up quite nicely and nothing is overdone. Very light in the mouth, little carbonation and a very subtle bite at the end that sits on the tongue. I think this brew is underrated since it’s so different from the hop filled siblings from Surly but to be honest it’s still a one of kind brew. Could drink this for days. Well done Surly, after tasting your three mainstays I’m considering moving to Minnesota.

franksnbeans, Aug 15, 2007
Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.68/5  rDev +17.3%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

"Cynics regard everybody as equally corrupt. Idealists regard everybody as equally corrupt, except themselves."

--Robert Anton Wilson

Softly glowing coppery orange with bold lemon edges. The good-sized crown is the color of a freshly cut pear and has a wonderful firm creaminess about it. A jagged necklace of lace (with more on the way, I'm sure) only adds to the beer's attractiveness.

I'm fully onboard with this whole 'canned beer' thing, but it's still strange to experience a great saison from a metal container. An IPA or a brown ale? Sure. No worries, though. Cynic Ale is the real deal if the nose is any indication. Whatever spice melange was used, and whatever yeast strain, it's fandamntastic! Ripe fruit, white pepper, cardamom... I'm in olfactory heaven.

How the hell does Surly do it? How do they brew such off-center beer that is so different from the usual way of doing things, yet is still identifiable as a beer of the target style, that is so mind-blowingly delicious? Sheer genius.

My expectations were that Cynic would be good, but that it wouldn't be much like a Belgian saison. Wrong again and happily so. The malt is beautifully bready and is as firm as crust. In fact, the entire beer is the equivalent of a freshly-baked loaf of rustic French bread brushed with herb butter and dipped in rosemary and black pepper-infused olive oil.

I'd like to take credit for identifing 'apricot and peach notes', but it says so right there on the can. The fruitiness is easily the equal of the intriguing spiciness. This is a well-balanced beer that still manages to provide an amazing amount of complexity. I originally thought that I would buy Cynic in smaller quantities than Furious and Bender when I make it up to the Twin Cities. Now, I'm not so sure.

Although the mouthfeel doesn't have the buoyant perfection of a world-class Belgian saison, it doesn't miss by much. It's medium to slighty full for the style (great!) and is energetically bubbled. My mouth is ecstatic and so am I. Was that really 16 ounces already?

Cynic Ale will turn even the most jaded cynic into a true believer. On the strength of four amazing beers, Surly has vaulted into a permanent place in my top-10 breweries of all-time. Believe the hype.

BuckeyeNation, Aug 14, 2007
Photo of TexIndy
4.83/5  rDev +21.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Re-reviewed on 12/1/08 - original review at bottom:
Got in a trade with pitmonkey - many thanks! Poured from a 16oz can (no dating info) into my NBB snifter. It was a hazy golden honey color with good carb and slight lacing. It had a massive off-white head that took a long time to settle into a foam with collar. This time I got a good pop out of the can when opening.

The aroma was excellent. It was peppery spice and fruity - classic saison. This time it didn't have the dry smell. The taste was a lot better since it didn't have the overly dry finish. Had the nice fruity start that was followed up with the spice kick. This time the spice was prevalent from start to finish instead of just the finish. The pepper flavor was outstanding and exactly what I want in my saison. Still a great balance. Mouthfeel was good (not watery this time).

Overall, an exceptional beer that I highly recommend especially if you are into saisons. Glad I was able to get a 2nd try as this one was even better. One of the top saisons out there and another stellar effort from Surly. Beg, borrow or steal but get yourself one (or two and make me a trade offer)!

Original 8/13/07 review
Got in a trade with Faro - many thanks! Poured from a 16oz can (yes a can - get over it) with cool artwork and a blurb about the beer into my NBB snifter. It was a slightly hazy golden honey color. It really didn't have much of a head but I think I poured it a little too cold still since not used to judging temps in a can by touch like I can with a bottle. What little there was settled into a thin collar with no lacing. One thing I did miss with the can was the pop of the cork that you usually get with a saison due to all the carbonation. This one didn't pop at all and really no carb visible in the glass. Not sure if that is due to the can or maybe the sample was off a little. Either way it still smelled and tasted great. The aroma was spicy with black pepper and fruity with apricot and something else I couldn't identify. You could smell the dryness that was to come in the taste. The taste was classic saison with a fruity start that is followed by a sharp bite of spice. Great balance between the two. Mouthfeel was just a tad watery for a saison but still good. Overall, a really great beer that I highly recommend especially if you are into saisons. Glad I was able to acquire it and will have to seek out some more. (4.5, RR, T, Y)

TexIndy, Aug 13, 2007
Photo of brewcrew76
3.63/5  rDev -9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Golden orange with a big fluffy white head that lingers with patches of lace clinging to the glass everywhere. Slightly darker than a lot of saisons I have had.

S - Big bready yeasty aroma with a good amount of spice, black pepper & lemon.

T - Big bready maltiness with a mouth drying spice and black pepper. Big bold flavors in this one that tend to be a little overpowering at times.

M - Medium bodied with lighter carbonation than other saisons. Feels somewhat heavy on the mouth.

D - A good beer that just seemed to be a little overpowering at times. I am having a hard time describing it but it just seems like there is too much going on.

brewcrew76, Jul 27, 2007
Photo of westweasel
3.53/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to ryantupy for a chance to try this beer!

The beer was poured into a Sam Adams tasting glass. Its appearance is a cloudy but bright orange/amber color with a thin beige head. The smell is mostly honey and biscuits. I was also smelling a little pepper and a very weak tangerine scent.

The taste was dominated by strong biscuit and clove flavors. I could also taste a little bit of honey. The mouthfeel was medium with a fairly dry finish.

The drinkability was good, but that strong clove flavor is not my favorite.

westweasel, Jul 25, 2007
Photo of slyke
4.22/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Cynic Ale pours a yellow-orange with a white/off-white head. The aroma is very reminiscent of Belgian beers like Duvel Golden Ale. The taste also reminds me of Duvel, but with a subtle smoothness found in beers made with oats. Hops are present, but much more noticeable at the end of the taste. The mouthfeel is good with the oaty-smoothness mentioned above. This beer is very drinkable, but at 6.7% abv, I wouldn't drink more than two at a time. Cynic Ale is definitely a beer to try if you can get your hands on it.

slyke, Jul 18, 2007
Photo of KarlHungus
4.45/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This brew pours a clear reddish-bronze color. The head is small, but long lasting. The aroma is of peppers, spices, yeast, apricot, and pears. I really like the abundance of pepper. The taste is a lot like the aroma; pepper and spice rounded out by apricot and pear. Bitterness is moderate, but firm in the finish. The mouthfeel is medium bodied with lively carbonation. Overall, this is another fine beer from Surly. I cannot say I like it as much as Furious or Bender, but I would certainly drink it again.

KarlHungus, Jul 14, 2007
Photo of ZAP
4.1/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Another top notch Surly brew. The thing that is unique with Surly is their beers really transcend styles. So while their beers may not fit a particular style perfectly they are definitely very tasty and interesting.

This one is billed as a saison and has many characteristics of a saison but stretches the boundaries at the same time...

Nice deep peach color...white head on top....very spicy aroma...peppery and yeasty.

The taste begins with the spicy characteristics but also has fruity peach/apricot notes....Note hoppy but it definitely has more hops than most in this style...or at least different hops...also I get a mild black licorice flavor and aroma to this....

Medium bodied...finishes mildly dry....I enjoy this because I hate overly dry saisons....this to me is pretty easy drinking but at the same time has depth and character....another winner...

ZAP, Jul 12, 2007
Photo of BeerTruth
3.95/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to umustdrink for this treat.

16 oz. can poured into my Excelsior Tulip Glass.

Pours a burnt foggy orange with nice fluffy two finger head that slowly dies down to a nice lacing. Stickiness is here and there, pretty good. Smell is of mild yeast with a nice spice zing to it. A good pepper scent tingles the nose as well. Decent, but I've smelt very similar. Taste starts off with a powerful carbonated bang of a metallic yeast and is quickly overtaken by an acidic coriander spice. Ends with a bready malt that pleases the tongue. Good, but once again...not unique. Mouthfeel is light bodied with a good amount of carbonation, perfect for the style. Pretty good drinkability, I could follow this one up with another.

BeerTruth, Jul 11, 2007
Photo of boochmonkee
4.38/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Couldn't wait to sample this on tap. It was a one week wait as it sat in the keg cooler until we had a line for it. The wait was well worth it. Poured in a pint glass from the tap is a must try for anyone. It has good appearance, and a great aroma. That little peppery taste I get is something I have grown to like.

boochmonkee, Jul 10, 2007
Photo of Windigstadt
3.8/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

A: Pours an opaque yeasty orange with a thin head.
S: Sweet, yeasty (must be my word of the day), spicy--I'm not good with my spices, but perhaps some coriander and grains of paradise?--with a hint of pepper.
T: Bitterness up front that seems out of place for a Saison (though totally appropriate for a Surly brew); after the initial bitterness, the malt comes through, though it's not very dominant; the thin malt profile competes with some pepper notes along with honey and lemon; nice bitter finish of citrus rind.
M: While it seemed light on first taste, subsequent sips seemed much fuller; adequate carbonation without being fizzy.
D: The 6.7% ABV is hardly noticeable.

Overall: If you're judging this to style, it's not even close. That being said, this might be my favorite Surly offering to date. Where the hoppiness in their other brews can be overwhelming, here it seems to balance the spiciness of the Saison. I would've never thought of it, but it works. Go figure.

Windigstadt, Jul 08, 2007
Photo of Grundle20
3.8/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I would like to thank WankerWeasel for a grand trade and the other members of the Brews-N-Tunes BIF for making this all happen.

With solid haze to the beer, the color shifts from brown to tangerine under different lighting conditions. Clumpy and sticky white head crowns the beer and displays good lacing. Looks like a saison.

I'm surprised I must say, this is my first experience with "good" canned beer and so far this brew is pretty much on point. The scent is that of overripe bananas, nutmeg, and a touch of cloves. There's some underlying peppery spice but it plays a minor role. I guess stylistically speaking the nose could use a tad more funk but overall I feel the smell is nearly spot on.

Taste and Mouthfeel:
Up front the beer drinks a tad smooth but this almost immediately disipates to a lifting dryness at the back of my tongue. In the smooth beginning a mix of overripe banana, banana peel, and bitter citrus rind start this beer off. These flavors then segue is to a mild sweet strawberry like flavor with a good earthy undertone that leads in to a sharp rind bitterness at the back of my tongue. The finish brings the funk, but it's quick to leave making for a relatively aftertaste free brew. Again, I think a little more funk would be in order if this were to be true to style but something tells me Surly don't give a f*ck.

Generally speaking the Brett character in Belgian beer takes away from the drinkability of them for me because you get an overwhelming build of the funk and after a few beers it becomes unpleasant without proper palate cleansing. So to this beer's merit the American spin has made for a slightly more drinkable product.

Bottom Line:
I'm in awe. I truly thought the Surly hype was just that but lo and behold this is a pretty fine beer. I greatly look forward to the Bender and Furious compliments of WankerWeasel and the Brews-N-Tunes BIF.

Grundle20, Jul 02, 2007
Photo of surlyseth
3.7/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

In a Weitzen glass...

Appearance is light, lively and carbonated with a light amber to golden color.
Smell is sweet and flowery.
Tastes like a wheat beer with a decidedly apricot distinction.
Feels light and over-carbonated and unfittingly bitter.
Drinkability is okay considering that I am admitted hophead.

It's up there with other summer-type brews. I've bought it a couple times.

surlyseth, Jun 27, 2007
Photo of Chaz
3.88/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a slightly-hazy pale orange (dull brass?) in color. Topped with a creamy off-white head of two fingers, with good duration and better lacing. Bright, pungent yeast on the nose . . . bready, like sour-dough. Notes of clove, white pepper, and dried apricots, and light peach. A sharp, sour-sweet fruity taste leads to a creamy mouthfeel in the middle and some light astringency at the tail end of the first sip. Nice lingering bitterness (and much better than I was expecting, even with the rating on the can). Mouthfeeel is medium-full, although it's not quite that full in body. Carbonation seems at once soft and yet perfectly ample, leading to a brisk and cleansing effect on the palate. Lightly sour/astringent, with plenty of citric bite and rind-like bitterness. As far as the "spice" component there are notes of white pepper, lemon grass, and orange peel. It's fruit-forward, but with as many distinct notes I detect (honey dew, tangerine, peach, and grapefruit) it's fairly undifferntiated, to say nothing of the effect of the spicey yeast component! The alcohol is no means "low" in this brew, and yet it barely registers until the can (or glass as it were) is most of the way through, making for very good drinkabilty. Plenty of dry, biscuit malt in the finish. An aggreeable summertime sipper, with a sharp package design, as always.
Served chilled, in a tall cocktail glass.

Chaz, Jun 26, 2007
Photo of Phyl21ca
3.78/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Can courtesy of Stine: Poured a medium amber color ale with a big foamy head with good retention and some lacing. Aroma of light pepper, medium sweet malt and some ester and yeasty notes. Sharp note of pepper are noticeable as well as some medium toffee sweet malt and a nice yeasty finish. Body is quite full with some medium filtration and some good carbonation. This beer was well done and I am getting to be more and more impress by the quality of the beers brewed by this brewer.

Phyl21ca, Jun 26, 2007
Photo of barefootbrewer
3.5/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This beer poured a cloudy orange/gold with a one finger head – decent lacing, but not persistent. The aroma is sour and a bit yeasty. The taste is spicy and floral. The mouthfeel is thin and carbonated. This is a refreshing beer that is easy to drink.

barefootbrewer, Jun 23, 2007
Photo of Westsidethreat
3.7/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to JeffKrenner for this beer.

A: Cloudy apricot colored brew is poured, with a thinness to it. A conglomeration of fairly large bubbles have nestled at the bottom of the glass. Overall, the carbonation is on the low side as the head died quickly leaving a fine film and a really small ring of off white bubbles around the glass. For the most part, the body is quite still except for the occasion large bubble dislodging from the bottom of the glass. Ultimately the cloudiness dies down and clarity ensues.

S: Rose water, peach, banana, kiwi, spices and some strawberry.

T: Starts off with a soft blend of pear and banana, really on the basic side and not sweet or sour. Little bit of vanilla, jasmine and honey are some of the underfoot flavors that flirt behind the scenes. Interesting peppery sensation that is then followed by a wallowing bitterness which ads much needed extra dimension. Next came the traditional sort of saison flavors encompassing dried hay, grass clippings and floral/pollen like flavors. Finishes hard waterlike…with limestone and other mineral flavors.

M: Thin mouthfeel with a hard water

D: There just wasn’t enough flavor in this one for me. Seems sort of watery. Although I’d imagine this would make a great session brew while grilling.

Westsidethreat, Jun 22, 2007
Photo of Bighuge
4.47/5  rDev +12%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Slightly hazed deep golden hue. Thin and bubbly dirty white head. Carbonation is active in the body of the beer. Very nice aroma. Big lemon notes. Some honey. Some other fruits in the background. (Apricot?) Fresh yeastiness. Intriguing... Very unique taste. Peppery spicy. Mango like fruitiness. Dried apricots. Slight hop bitterness. Leathery finish. But also dry, hoppy and as quick as the crack of a whip. Nicely carbonated and refreshing feel. Light-medium body. I could see kicking back of a few of these tall boys on the golf course. Or with some grilled salmon steaks.

Bighuge, Jun 19, 2007
Photo of Gueuzedude
3.9/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

What a total transformation (see my review from a couple days ago below). This time the beer was my first of the day & I had not yet had dinner. The aroma is considerably dried out compared to my first go at this beer. This plays up the earthy, spicy phenolic aromas, but all of the components I first noticed are still there (even the orange zest note, still plays a noticeable role). This includes the sweet malt aromatics, but they now play a background role that you have to dig for.

The flavor is also quite dry compared to my first experience with this beer. It still has a medium heft to it, but without the omnipresent sweetness it is much more subdued. This is a really interesting experience, I would almost say that these were two completely different brews; this just goes to show the drastic change ones palate can undergo over short periods of time. The light sweetness that I now experience really drives the spice character to new levels. All the spice components are here, they are just a bit more pronounced (except for the citrus notes, which I find are usually amplified by sweetness); the beer has a much more present pepper note as well as a sharply herbal & ginger character. The finish is noticeably phenolic, though not too the point of off-plastic notes, instead it just adds some cutting sharpness to the flavor profile. The more noticeable phenolics make me think of an earthy, green, coriander flavor that I did not get last time. The dry malt notes of toasted grain, and biscuit-like flavors is also a bit more present.

I could still wish that this finished a bit drier (my preference is usually for a bone dry Saison), but I feel this is well within the well-made-commercial level. The thing that this really brings home (something that I already knew, but hadn't experienced so drastically in the recent past), was how much ones palate can change in a short period of time.

Gueuzedude, Jun 19, 2007
Photo of supercolter
4.47/5  rDev +12%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Wow Surly, really you are slowly becoming my favorite brewery... When I feel like a beer is outmanning me, its good beer.
Appearance is the least strong factor, don't get me wrong it was good but the rest was great. Between this and Ommegang Hennepin I am also growing quite fond of the smell and flavor of saisons.
Smell and taste are packed with tons of spice, loads of hops and a good malt balance.
Mouthfeel is medium in body.

supercolter, Jun 18, 2007
Photo of mnstorm99
4.15/5  rDev +4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I have not tried many Saison style beers. But, I will drink anything that says Surly on the package (or tap handle for that matter). I will be trying more Saison's in the future after this one.

Dark golden brown color with a white head that lasted to the end of the glass. Aroma was a hint of belgian hops but toasty malts were the star. The taste at first gave me the same toasted malts (bread like) with a touch of apricot at the end. This beer will be in my fridge all summer long right next to the Furious and Bender (my Surly triple play) extremely good, extremely drinkable. Another home run for Omar, Todd and the rest of the Surly crew.

mnstorm99, Jun 15, 2007
Photo of umustdrink
4.35/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Served straight from a 34° fridge into a tulip.

A - Lovely opaque dark orange color. Rocky, bright white head fades to thick patches. Lots of lacing, in thin sheets.

S - Sweet, spicy bubblegum yeast. Fragrant lemon aroma, more like earthy lemon zest than sour lemon juice. Bready, spicy malts.

T - Starts spicy and sweet, leads into a sugary yeast flavor. Finish is very lemony and again spicy.

M - Medium to light consistency and medium carbonation.

D - Very nice drinking brew, enjoyed this one more than Hennepin. I'm very glad Surly decided to can this one and I hope they do it with more of their beers. Surly rules!

umustdrink, Jun 12, 2007
Photo of ballenc
3.95/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

While I've also had the pleasure of tasting the Cynic on tap, I prefer it from the can. The spiciness of the Belgian yeast seems to come forward more in the canned version - not sure why. But either way, it's another fine beer from Omar, Todd and the good folks at Surly.

A - Crystal clear and golden in color with a tinge of orange. Small head initially that disappears shortly with no retention.

S - Swirling brings forth a pleasant Belgian spice aroma with some yeast undertones. Also a complex mix of citrus (lemon/lime?) and pepper along with a breadiness from the malt.

T - Mirrors the aroma with a lighter, crisper spiciness of black pepper and coriander. Very noticeable Belgian yeast on the front end, mellowing into a mid-level maltiness. No citrus taste on the fruit level - more apricot or even kiwi.

M - Lighter than what I expected from the smell and taste. I'd consider it a mid-to-light bodied saison with a decent level of carbonation. I'd prefer a notch up on the body.

D - Very easy drinking beer. A Belgian saison with a Surly twist - interesting and refreshing. Definitely worth drinking a couple in one sitting. Not overpowering but more sublime. I'm happy that they've added this to their canned beers - I can see myself drinking many of these in the upcoming hot summer months.

ballenc, Jun 10, 2007
Photo of mcallister
3.4/5  rDev -14.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Happy to be trying another Surly brew as the Bender and Furious are ggggrrreat.

Pours a dull copper/gold in color, honey orange hues, and slightly cloudy. Head is pure white thin, yet full. Good retention with a thin lace left around the glass.

White pepper aromas with other spicey qualities and an obvious belgian yeasty ester. Very floral bouquet and semi sweet hop gatherings. Dripping honey over a lemon cough drop. Peach and nectarine with a hint of alcohol.

Hmm seems a little thin on flavor and one dimensional. Nice hoppy backbone melds well with the chewy malt mid palate. Dominated by belgian yeasty quality, white pepper, honey suckle, and other spicey, herbacious qualities, some fruit backing of lemon and peach but not much else. Mouth is thin and bitter on the finish. A little dissapointed in this brew as the others I've tried have been top notch.

mcallister, Jun 10, 2007
Photo of IntriqKen
3.98/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A Saison in a can?
No...can't be.
Poured a medium golden orange with a nice half finger white head that melts quickly to a ring of white bubbles in the glass.
Aroma is spicy grains and bready yeast...some bright fresh oranges in the background too.
Taste is lots of bready yeast and citrus hops...funky oranges and lemon peel.
Very dry on the tongue and easy drinking with nice carbonation.

IntriqKen, Jun 09, 2007
CynicAle from Surly Brewing Company
89 out of 100 based on 1,215 ratings.