Smoke - Surly Brewing Company

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276 Reviews
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Reviews: 276
Hads: 847
rAvg: 4.18
pDev: 7.42%
Wants: 330
Gots: 277 | FT: 16
Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company visit their website
Minnesota, United States

Style | ABV
Baltic Porter |  8.20% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 12-05-2007

Ebony-hued, Smoke wafts out of the bottle and into your senses, borne on the wings of European traditions, wrapped in American innovation. Lager-brewed, like any true Baltic Porter, with smoked malts from Bamberg, Germany, the home of Rauchbiers, then mellowed by oak-aging. Black malt flavors mesh with notes of raisins, plums, figs and licorice with the subtle smoke on the side, for a complex and luxurious, yet silky smooth drinking experience. It's a sipper at Alc. 8.2% by VOL., but everyone knows you can't have Smoke without fire!
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Reviews: 276 | Hads: 847
Photo of travloh
4.28/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

On tap at Darkness Day, 2008. Poured into brand new Surly Goblet. Straight outta the big steel beer-makin' tanks inside the Surly brewery.

Yummy dark dark brown appearance, glimmers of scarlet on the edges break out in the October sun. Head is resilient and oh so yummy looking.

Taste and smell are of course smokey, but in a smooth, fine cigar kinda way. The aftertaste actually reminds me of the taste of a very good cigar. There is something else present, as well. I have heard it called burnt bacon, but I don't quite get that. I get more of a maybe, slowcooked bbq type of essence. Not bbq sauce, but the smokiness.

So far this review makes it sound like something out of a bonfire, but I am just glazing over the moniker. There is actually so much more present. Slight twinges of sweetness, spice and bitterness thrown in right where it needs to be. Back it up with some alcohol burn and you are in business.

After the glass is gone there is sticky spider webs of lacing left over the whole inside of the glass.

I could have had about 3 more of these, highlighting the drinkability. Its good stuff. (1,117 characters)

Photo of DarkerTheBetter
4.52/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Found at the Blue Nile. (reviewed from notes)

This beer pours a dark black with raisin highlights and a creamy ring of irregular cola-like head.

Smells of sweet, rich rauch smoke with a nice and subtle ham. There's some dark fruits and a dry dark chocolate, but it's sweetness holds back.

Tastes thick and creamy like chocolate milk with a sour snap of smokey grain. This is oddly reminiscent of a garden salad. There's a sour sting or tingle to this too of pungent rye bread.

Feels big, slick and frothy, but far from sticky. Nice.

It's really easy to forget this one's 9.5%. Watch out! (593 characters)

Photo of dfried
3.98/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Quite dark with a little brown at the edges and a tan head. The aroma is of charred malt, anise, and quite a bit of smokiness, peaty but not obtuse or obnoxious. Some sweet chocolate as well. The taste comes in quite a few layers with each sip. Right away you can tell its a big, chocolatey porter, but then quickly the peaty, smokiness shows up, reminiscent of smoked bacon and other meats, but that unfolds rather quickly to chocolaty-ness again, tannins and vanilla notes from the oak aging, along with some anise and fruity plums and raisins. Rather full bodied and there is some quite noticeable alcohol, but with all of the flavors going on its really quite unoffensive.

Overall: I am not the biggest smoked beer fan, so I am not gangbusters over this beer. But you have to respect the quality or this beer, and all the flavor juxtaposition going on. The smokiness was toned back enough that I could really enjoy it, especially when having one with a meal, rather than as session ale. (991 characters)

Photo of RockyTopHeel
4.25/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Tasted at The Map Room.

Dark, dark brown in color -- nearly black but not quite -- with a thin brown head. Aroma is almost all smoke, with some bitter chocolate and espresso notes.

The taste follows the nose, with a lot of smoke (but not too much) accented with dark chocolate and espresso touches. Nicely drinkable and creamy in the mouth.

Very good quaff. (362 characters)

Photo of kajerm
3.77/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

On tap at Map Room. Pours murky brown with a slight reddish cast and a thin tan head.

The aroma is dominated by malts, with scents of dark chocolate and some residual sugar. A faint suggestion of salty smokiness is present in the background.

The flavor opens up similarly, chocolate flavors predominant, with a smokiness that grows quickly and overtakes but does not completely wash out the malt flavors. Some black patent bitterness appears in the finish (along with the slightest hint of hops), but smoked sausage is at the forefront. Alcohol is detectable only as warmth.

The beer is medium to full-bodied with low carbonation and some stouty viscosity.

Drinkability is all right for such a big, smoky beer, but I really couldn't handle more than a full glass of this. (777 characters)

Photo of emerge077
4.1/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Served in a 12 oz. tulip.

Color was the darkest shade of brown, nearly black. A ring of crimson highlight was visible at the very edge, once the foam had settled. Tight, compact head of khaki foam that left spotty lacing.

Slight sweetness in the nose, some yeast esters producing a vague cloviness, without much smokiness.

Flavors of smoked malt, some chocolate, fairly subdued. It has a slight lactic feel to it, but not especially creamy, just enough to make it medium-bodied. Clean feeling with a residual taste of hop bitterness and char.

Overall good, easy to drink, could use more smoke aroma and flavor. (617 characters)

Photo of GbVDave
4.35/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served in a tulip glass at Map Room 1/13/08. Thanks to HeatherAnn for the assist!

A: Pitch black. Tar black. Black as the pits of hell! Capping this glass of evil is a tight and dark-khaki head that left interesting looking lines of wavy lace in the glass.

S: Huge aromas of smoked malt, campfire, dark fruit, dark chocolate, espresso, and applewood smoked bacon.

T: See above with a healthy dose of hops. One of the flavors reminded me of dark chocolate covered bacon.

M: Quite peppery and bitter, true to the style. The bitter mouthfeel backed off a little as it warmed and turned decidedly creamy.

D: Proper serving temp is the key with this. This drank like a porter with half the abv. Excellent. (707 characters)

Photo of edbeered
4.31/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served on tap in a tulip glass at Stub&Herbs, this pours a beautiful opaque black color, with a minimal white head and scant white lacing on the glass. The smell is faint. I detect an alcoholic, brandy-like smell. The taste is wonderfully complex, with a cherry brandy flavor, along with a smoky toasty chocolate malt presence, as well as a slight taste of vanilla. There is just enough hop presence to balance the other flavors. This is a terrific tasting beer, with rich and lingering flavors. The high alcohol content is the only thing marring the drinkability. This is another exceptional beer from Surly. (609 characters)

Photo of rudylaw
3.98/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap @ Chef Paul's

I thought this would be a good way to venture out into the world of smoked beers. When my chalice arrived, it looked like 12 oz of night was put down in front of me... the head has dissipated by the time it arrived.

It smelt of burnt leaves and overdone corners of chocolate cake. The taste was a little off-putting at first (it was if I was standing over a pile of burning leaves while drinking) but it's high drinkability factor and creamy mouthfeel made this a winner.

I'm not sure if I like smoked beer or not but I could tell there was a lot at work here and I would love to try this again if given the opportunity. (645 characters)

Photo of DavidEddie
4.18/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

On tap @ Chef Paul’s

Appearance - Black as night. Minimal tan head.

Smell - Slightly roasty and burnt brownies.

Taste - Burnt chocolate, black old coffee, and smoked meat. As it warmed, a hint of vanilla came out as well.

Mouth feel - Creamy and slightly thick.

Drinkability - Damn Good! ABV is hidden well. The smoke flavor was there, but was not overpowering. Recommended! (380 characters)

Photo of jjfancybeers
4.67/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

draught @Firkin (Libertyville, IL)



Lingering, tan head. Opaque. Yep...grillsmoke and roasted malt in the nose. Creamy chocolate/+/hops upfront. Subtle smoke in an otherwise warm finish. Strong. Tasty. Want to pair it with ...smoked venison summer sausage. (282 characters)

Photo of KarlHungus
4.62/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I had this on tap at Cafe Twenty Eight. This beer is an opaque black color. The head was small when the beer arrived, but a nice cap of lacing lasted until the beer was gone. The aroma is immense. Smoke bacon, maple syrup, burnt caramel, and bitter chocolate. The taste is as large as the aroma. The smoked flavors are prevalent, but are well balanced with the beers other attributes. The mouthfeel is full bodied, silky in texture, and has light carbonation. Overall, this is a beer to contemplate. I would certainly drink this again. (535 characters)

Photo of objectivemonkey
4.33/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Pours a dark dark brown, near black, with a generous dark tan head, good staying power, nice lacing, quite lovely. The aroma is a little more mellow than I'd imagined, smoked malts more chill, some nice bacon (yum!), smoked salmon, some chocolate and faintly earthy hop notes. The taste follows the same lines, but better, more complex perhaps, the chocolates and caramels and toffees peeking out. The smoke is still understated, any meaty connotations well balanced. The body is delightful, silky smooth, a little warmth is all the warning you get from this strong brew. In all, I had to keep switching from this to another brew, but I kept coming back, and back, and back, and back... (686 characters)

Photo of Graham21
4.58/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Had this one on tap at the Blue Nile and Surly. Went up to Min. for some Darkness, wish I woulda brought back a growler of this bacon grease.

Rustic black in appearance, with a nice creamy brown head that left small lacings. Smells of smoked ham and campfire.

Definitely had characteristics of smoked fish or bacon, but not over the top. Nice malt balance. Bitter chocolate is also mixed in with the flavors.The smoke flavors are light and not abrupt and thats what I like about this beer.
The alcohol is high, but well hidden.

This was a well balanced, medium bodied, well rounded beer. (593 characters)

Photo of tempest
4.2/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at the Blue Nile (How's it going Al?)

I feel like with a Surly, I have to start by being wary of the hype. Sure, everyone will say this beer rocks, but I have to make up my own mind.

I was a little disappointed by the lack of head, but there are more important things. The smell doesn't tell me much of what's to come, I just get faint chocolate-lager aroma like you'd get from a good black beer or a baltic along with a touch of maple syrup.

That said, my first sips were enigmatic. What the heck am I getting here. The fog cleared, however, as my chalice warmed. There's an unmistakable sweet-porkchop and bacon taste backed up by a big smooth roasted cocoa flavor. The dark grains linger long into the aftertaste, making me wonder if I should just sit and enjoy or go for another sip. The lager yeast also makes an appearance with a standard, but balanced doppelbock-like taste of silky black licorice.

This is a thinking (wo)man's beer. Plenty to ponder and more to enjoy. Go find some before it's gone. (1,018 characters)

Photo of Bighuge
4.01/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Inky black. Soft looking creamy brown head. A full sheet of lace is laid down as I drink. The aroma is quite subtle. Smoke is subtle. There are nice roasty and chocolatey malt tones as well. But reserved as a whole. On the palate, there's a bit of that phenolic smokey stuff going on. Bacony in nature. Nice roasted bitterness. The phenolic (slightly medicinal) nature is a little strong for my personal taste. But it adds some character. The beer is medium bodied. Slightly alcoholic. Flaccid feel. Not particularily creamy or velvety. O.K. though. This beer reminds me of my own smoked porter, which garnered 2nd overall at the NHC this year. And as with mine, I feel that this is merely good...not great. (707 characters)

Photo of hero27
4.8/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

On-tap @ the Darkness release..

For a beer titled very blatantly "Smoke" I expected this to taste like a charcoal briquette wrapped in bacon... Needless to say, I was surprised at my first sip to find that this is one very eloquent & well-thought out beer. The smoked malt flavor is subtle and provides lingering notes rather than the punch-in-the-face that most smoked brews offer.

I had no idea of the abv when I was consuming this nectar by the glass...but I assumed it was in the 5-7% range...I find out now it's nearly 10%...amazing. That being said, it's so delicious and easy-to-drink. The soft woody flavors & smoked malts are complex and make this unlike any beer out there. I need another chance to pick apart the flavors a bit more...hopefully this will be widely available to the public soon.

there's just one thing I'd like to say to the folks at there anything you can't do?? (903 characters)

Photo of pheggeseth
4.29/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Sampled at the Darkness Release Event

A: Opaque black, looks really thick

S: Surprisingly subdued. Faint smell of hickory smoked sausage

T: Hickory smoked sausage, but quite pronounced. Some hop bitterness. The smoke flavor blends terrifically with everything else

M: Smooth, slightly thin perhaps

D: Despite the abv, could also drink it all day, though the distinctive flavor could get a little old after a while.

Another home run from Surly. Try it if you can. (468 characters)

Photo of Duffman
4.7/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

From the Surly Darkness Release Party. Small plastic sample cup.

Appearance: Minimal toffee-brown head. Dark black in color.

Smell: Smoke and coffee overnotes, not overpowering yet formidable all the same. Warm and inviting in its subtlety.

Taste: Extraodinarily smooth and pleasingly sweet. The smoke is prominent, though not as much so as was expected (as with the O'Fallon's Smoked Porter) and along with the coffee notes dominates the flavor. Lubricious maltiness, reminds me of the lingering taste of a quality scotch, Glen Garioch 8 Years Old perhaps with its smooth smokiness, but maltier. Teasing notes of alchohol flavor near the end. The body is smooth and broad.

Drinkability: With its smoothness and surprisingly subdued alcohol taste this is an incredibly drinkable beer. I could drink this all day as inviting as it is. Unfortunately time and a full stomach kept me from fulfilling all of my 5 sample drinks at the surly event.

A phenomenal brew from Surly. Delightfully drinkable and versatile. A departure from the traditional Surly style, though more than welcome. hoppinessI would welcome this beer anytime time of the year. (1,149 characters)

Photo of Strix
4.25/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

On tap at the Washington Square Bar and Grill

Black with dark red edges and a head that disappeared fairly quickly.

Smells, dark, strong, woody. Hard to put my finger on it. It does smell like smoke in that good smoked meats on a campfire kind of way.

Taste is dark, smoky and complex. Reminiscent of wine, and dark fruits, with a malt backbone. The smoky sensation pervades this, but is not overpowering.

Excellent mouthfeel, with warming alcohol present.

Drinkability tastewise is nice, sessionability slowed a bit by high abv. and strong strong flavors. (564 characters)

Photo of ndolover
4.3/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Black, thin, oily head that faded within a minute

Aroma: I drank this beer at a bar that already smelled of lunch. However, I was able to pick up smoked aromas

Flavor: A complex malt flavor consisting of mostly dark chocolate, with a detectable yet a bitterness that stays in the background, the flavor of my meat smoker comes through in the end.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with an oily warmth that falls quickly to the upfront carbonation...The kind of carbonation sessions beers are made of.

Overall Impression: I had 2 and am glad I went home when I did. 3 would have been too much for being 3PM and I would have had to go to bed. With that said, I loved the beer and believe it is another classic Surly beer...not true to the style, but damn good none the less! (777 characters)

Photo of mtullius
4.62/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Had it on release night at the Muddy Pig, and a couple days later at the Happy Gnome.

Black and intriguing in appearance.

You'll want to take your time and really smell this one: yep, that's a bit of bacon, mixed in there with port wine, and general dark malty goodness.

You should take your time drinking it, too, though that's hard to do-- it gets better as it warms (and it was served quite cold both times I had it). Definite smoke character, but it's subtle (thank goodness). Dark fruit, dark chocolate, all kinds of dark and mysterious flavors happening in this beer.

I found the mouthfeel very satisfying-- appropriately chewy for such a high-alcohol, high-complexity brew.

This is highly drinkable, dangerous even. Another triumph for the geniuses at Surly. Bring on the "two"!! (792 characters)

Photo of Mdog
4/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Black, thin head that faded out pretty quickly.

Smell: Mostly smelled sweet, but asking me to smell a bar in a bar is not good.

Taste: Very good, mostly dark chocolate, moderate bitterness, and the smoke flavor comes through on the aftertaste.

Drinkability: I don't taste any alcohol so I'd have more than one if I didn't have to drive.

Quite tasty, kind of reminds me of Bender, but with a smoky aftertaste. Good stuff, too bad they don't can this, otherwise I'd buy more! (489 characters)

Photo of feloniousmonk
4.65/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

On tap, (at the Blue Nile) in a Big Ass Tripel Karmeliet glass, why the hell not...
Black as it gets, with a roasty tanned head. Looks absolutely perfect for the style.

Smoked malt from Bamberg in this, and it wafts out slyly, but confidently. There’s bacon down there, but I get salmon as well....mmm, smokey!

Taste: mmm, a beautiful mix of the roasted chocolate malts, the deep, dark fruits, like raisin and plum, but so smooth. The smoke aspect is just sliding along in the flavor, not a dominant aspect at all, but it hangs in there and never lets you forget it. The strength is sneaky, too, you don’t get hit on the head, but it creeps up on you, and invades your mind with stealth. Delicious stuff, and so easy to drink, though you have to pace it...too strong for sessioning! But you want to, you really really want to!

I have to wonder if other American brewed "Imperial Porters" are as faithful to the style and actually made as a lager, as Todd did here. How do you get this dark and this deep, with a lager? But it's a wise choice, as the flavor is there aplenty, and the mouthfeel is so smooth, so clean, so sumptuous, as well. This is one of my favorite styles, though the smoked porter variety isn't, exactly. So glad that the smoke is not intrusive, and merely in the end, a side characteristic, ...maybe the oak aging aided in the mellowing of the flavors? Whatever, it really came together in Smoke!

Really magnificent! This needs to go in bombers and blow some minds out there! Til that happens, I'm happy to drink it down on tap right here! Ahhh!!! (1,576 characters)

Photo of zealot
4.72/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Release party at the Muddy Pig. I live ~4 miles from the bar, and getting there was still an adventure. Kudos to the Surly staff for actually getting there.

This beer was served way too cold. In order to really appreciate it, I had to let it warm it in my hands for a good 5-10 minutes.

Appearance was certainly dark, but not as dark as one might expect. I had Darkness the night before, though, so perhaps my radar is a bit off. There was a small head that stuck around like it was doing someone a favor - there for a minute, but leaving way too early. This may have been a function of how cold this was.

Only good things from here on out: Smell was a subtle, but definite smoke. Not an over-the-top Rauchbier, but a slight woody campfire aroma, mixed with some excellent toffee, roasted aromas that made this an exceptional brew.

The taste was similar to the aroma, but I was surprised at how restrained the Smoke flavor actually was. Wow! Again, maybe because it was so damn cold, the smoke flavor didn't come out until the back end. Up front, it was much lighter than I had expected. I knew going in about the 9.5% ABV, but if I were to guess, I would have pegged it at 6-7%. Silky roastiness with toffee and mild chocolate, and, again, the back end with a truly elegant smoky finish. Not as much hops as I would expect from a Surly brew, but it was so well balanced.

This was a phenomenal brew. This is probably the best Surly brew behind Darkness. I polished one of these off easily and I could have pounded more, but I felt compelled to try the TeaBagged Furious cask. (1,582 characters)

Smoke from Surly Brewing Company
93 out of 100 based on 276 ratings.