CynicAle | Surly Brewing Company

611 Reviews
no score
Send samples

Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States

Style: Saison / Farmhouse Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 6.70%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by tavernjef on 06-02-2006

For Trade:
View: Beers | Events
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 611 | Ratings: 1,476
Photo of oberon
4.06/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours into an oversized wine glass an oranged tinged lighter golden with a fluffy white head atop.Overripe tropical fruits stand out in the nose with a bit of a creamsicle element to it,some toasted grain in there as well.Tropical fruits and spicy yeat on the palate with more toasted grain notes,a shot of white pepper hits the throat in the finish.Another bigtime beer from Surly...thanks Eric!

 396 characters

Photo of Barnoloid
4.18/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Lots of depth here to this saison. Plenty of spice and yeasty notes with a little bitterness. As mentioned by others there is a sweetness here, almost a dried fruit element.

 173 characters

Photo of AgentMunky
3.98/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

On tap at Mikkeller Bangkok.

Hazy-clear. It smells like fruity-sweet Belgian yeast. Hints of coriander and sour grain. The taste is full, rich, and surprisingly sweet. The aftertaste smacks of a traditional saison, but the maintaste is white grapes and pluots. Interesting and compelling. I like it! Recommended.

 314 characters

Photo of cambabeer
4.04/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Funky farmhouse smell, not off-putting. Heavy in the malt sweet smell. Taste is somewhat citrus but a lot of black pepper spices and dry malt finish. This is good beer.

 168 characters

Photo of StonedTrippin
3.5/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

a real generic saison for a brewery i know to be one of the most distinct of all, so this was a real letdown, not that i expected much from their saison, its not their game, but still, this was disheartening. a flat looking hazy blonde beer, thick with sediment and hardly holding a quarter inch head. its all belgian yeast esters, very little real grain character or funk to this, and without that, it needs to be elegant, but unlike the lively belgian or french versions, this one is just heavy with spent yeast and wheat malt, and never gets anywhere. there is a grassy hop thing to it, which is its only real unique feature, but the mouthfeel is dense and sweet, and it really doesnt work all that well. against all saisons on the market, its not at all bad, above average even, but by surly standards, its pretty poor. stick to what you are good at here, because you are SO good at it!

 890 characters

Photo of SerialTicker
4.09/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

$3.69 single canned 8/8/14 and poured 9/4/14.

Appearance: A deep yellow/golden color with a very slight haze to it. Despite an aggressive pour, there was no head at all. Really, it kind of looks like apple juice. Mediocre looking beer. (3/5)

Smell: Smelling like a Saison. Has those Wit/Hefe characteristics as well. A moderate yeast "funk" with a cherrywood kind of aroma. The can notes apricot and peach aromas, but all of it together smells like something along the lines of cherrywood. Not super wild on the nose, but very nice. (4/5)

Taste/feel: A very, very drinkable Saison. While some are incredibly funky and probably off-putting to many, this one's fairly tame when compared to others in the style. Despite that, distinctively a Saison. The cherrywood kind of flavor comes through in the flavor, as do the peach and especially apricot tastes that are described on the can. Finish is very slightly tart with a biscuity malt flavor and maybe a liiiittle bit of the black pepper that's described on the can, though it's very slight. The finish just has me wanting more. The feel is very good -- moderate body with a moderate/high carbonation. The alcohol's nowhere to be found. (4.25/5, 4/5)

The price is preeeetty steep on this beer (no doubt cheaper per can in a pack), but it is a very good Saison that hit the spot, since it's been awhile since I've had one. Certainly not the most wild Saison I've had, but it's a very, very good example of one and one that is super drinkable. If it weren't for the price (and the fact Surly doesn't distribute to Michigan...), I'd make this a go-to Saison. Delicious.

 1,619 characters

Photo of mjpolzin
3.75/5  rDev -6.3%

I just started getting into Saisons this summer and although I don't have a huge sample size to go off of, this was one of the better saisons I have had. I know Surly is known more for their IPAs but this beer was very refreshing on a hot summer day.

 251 characters

Photo of TMoney2591
3.85/5  rDev -3.8%

Served from the can in a tumbler.

Gotta thank VDubb for allowing me to finally try this stuff out. It pours a mostly clear brass-gold topped by a finger or so of white foam. The nose comprises mild clove, black pepper, Belgian yeast, light sourdough, and a touch of dried honey. The taste brings in more of the same, along with a bit of grass and flowers for the sake of it. The body is a light medium, with a light moderate carbonation and a drying finish. Overall, a pretty solid saison (or whatever they're calling it nowadays), especially from cans. 'Nuff said.

 572 characters

Photo of robear
3.61/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pint can poured into taster. 4-6oz.

Appearance: Golden ale, decent amount of head. Can't complain about how it looks in the glass.

Smell: This was the highlight of the beer for me. Tantalizing Belgian aromas, some malt underneath, what you'd expect.

Taste: Spotted Cow on steroids. A farmhouse ale for folks who haven't jumped full-on into the Belgian beer camp.

Mouthfeel: Average, not going to do anything crazy to your palate. Where Spotted Cow shines with a touch of corn, Cynic goes for a more straight-forward mid-level ale feel.

Overall: Alrgiht. Probably wouldn't spend $10+ on a 4-pack, but would like to try this on tap sometime. A decent lawn-mowing beer, a bit more Belgian than I was expecting.

 715 characters

Photo of Flatlands
4.4/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

The Belgian yeast really comes on strong with this one and that's a good thing. Great balance between the malt and hops. This one comes on slowly and leaves you thinking, "dam, that's an awesome farmhouse style beer." If you like this style, this is one of the better examples.

 277 characters

Photo of juanny
4.12/5  rDev +3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Surprisingly clear golden farmhouse ale. The aroma was mildly phenolic, but also a bit sweet and earthy. The taste was wonderful and complex. There was a gentle malty flavor with earthy/green components, but a great finish that defines the beer. A sweet honey flavor, with some banana esters as well as yeasty earthiness, not as pronounced as a hefeweisen though. A zest of lemon and possibly pepper is present throughout, but a nice sweet finish really balance it out and made me want another sip. The saison has a light feel and was overall very drinkable, complex but light and sweet, worthy of a summer drink on a patio as we enjoyed it.

Surly Cynic is a light, enjoyable drink that keeps you on your toes with a complex, sweet finish.

 740 characters

Photo of Nugganooch
3.85/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

16oz can provided by Allen - Cheers friend!
Into my FW Imperial Nonic glass

Notes from 05/02/14

A: Goldenrod colored body with a hazy glow in appearance. Thin layer of ivory fizz sets across the top with too much activity to hold together for very long. Light dotted stick on the glass.

S: Smells mostly of Belgo yeast with some dried banana peel and light bubblegum. I get a bit of stale bread and malted barley coming through. Finishes out with a good amount of peppery spice. Not bad at all and more on the subtle side.

T: Tastes very much the same with mellow yeast notes taking form in banana, lemon peel, pepper, and clove. Has a light bready malt action with a modest amount of earthy bitterness. A decent bite for sure that brings in a touch of garden herbs as well. Definitely more than your standard Belgian fare which I am cool with. There is no alcohol found here and the beer finishes out with more peppery spice and fruity bubblegum. Overall this is a fairly understated brew. Light, crisp, and refreshingly easy to drink.

M: Lighter body with a nice frothy feel from the carbonation. Moderate upper bitterness on the palate. Touch of drying crisp in the finish. Nice balance between wet and dry.

D: Probably my first Belgian style from a can and a tasty one at that. Flavors are rather restrained making this good but not particularly great IMO. Perfect for warmer weather affairs. Light and refreshing with a nice crispness. Surly doesn’t make a bad brew. Would have again.

 1,497 characters

Photo of paladinjoe
4.66/5  rDev +16.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

This beer hits the spot! Cynic Ale is often referred to as something you'd want on a hot day in the summer, while that is very true, I do think this one is worthy of it's year round availability, and I'm glad for that!

This a very unique very enjoyable Saison, I like this style of beer, and wow... this stuff is good. As for why it's good, it's refreshing, but not boring at all, the black pepper flavors are flat awesome, I've never tasted that in a beer before. Apricots, pears, and some other light fruits are present in this one, but what's great about this beer is that it's NOT sweet, it's kinda peppery! Just so cool, so good, so refreshing, a very underrated beer, even at the 90-Outstanding rating you see above, in my humble opinion.

 745 characters

Photo of KFBR392
4.02/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Canned 11/29/13

Appearance: Pours with a finger of bubbly light head. Straw yellow with some darker orange accents. Light random lacing. Very low active carbonation, especially for a saison.

Smell: orange peel and lemon grass jump out on the front. A slight, peppery yeast backbone with solid bready undertones. Easy, fruit forward aroma.

Taste: Spices and pepper are surprisingly present on the front. Rustic, earthy tones continue into the body. Lemony zest with some brighter fruit tones as well pick up on the back end. Finish is dry but refreshing.

Mouthfeel: Carbonation is dialed back, yet still has the feel of a saison. Bright fruits mix well with spice tones.

Overall: No surprise Surly brings another high quality brew. Really enjoyed the carbonation in this brew which really made it an easy drinking saison. Excellent balance of fruits and spice.

 867 characters

Photo of Jparker37
4.34/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Poured into an oversized tulip. Canned on 11/1/13.

A - Nice haze to the golden beer. Fizzy white head holds up strong. Plenty of lacing.

S - Mild bubblegum phenols. Powdery yeast. Unique citrusy hop character (tangerine).

T - Complex base maltiness. MIld acidity. Has a little bit of sweetness but dries up. Big herbal/grassy hop flavor. Here's where the pepper hides, toward the back. Finishes almost like sucking a orange rind, perhaps sharpness from the yeast.

M - Medium body, medium-high carbonation, semi-dry.

O - Tons of unique flavors that are not found in any other style. This is a great rendition.

Recommendation - A must try for belgian drinkers.

 667 characters

Photo of magictacosinus
3.48/5  rDev -13%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to amerak for sending me this alongside other awesome Surly offerings. Poured into a tulip glass out of a 16oz can. At the time of consumption (late December), this was about 2 months old.

Orange amber in color, in the same similar vein as other saisons, but when held against the light, this produces a golden hue that reminds me of Belgian pale ales, as well as slightly more generic ones that are produced around the country (as well as in Belgium). Contains a frothy white head that dissipates rapidly over the course of consumption, and leaves behind minimal stickiness. This is a pretty modest effort overall from a brewery that's known for pretty oily, concentrated beers. Something tells me that this will be pretty light on the hops, for whatever reason.

By golly, I was right - most Surly beers are pretty hoppy and dank in their own special way, but this is among those that are not. This isn't to its detriment, however - the beer produces a lot of nice crisp, grassy, and spicy yeasty notes that good saisons are known for: pears, apples, and white grapes. At the same time, it also embodies lots of aromas that many generic saisons made in this country showcase: bananas, clove, and candy sugar. Finishes quite grainy, with minor notes of toffee. Not a chore at all to wade through, and it's good to see them tone things down a bit. It smells refreshing and down to earth, but it's extraordinarily underwhelming given what I've seen this brewery churn out.

The flavor is far more mild than anticipated, however, and I suppose I should have seen that coming given the simple, nearly anemic profile in the aroma, as far as saisons go. Tastes a lot like a run-of-the-mill Belgian pale ale, with crisp toasted cereal grains, apples, pears, and some raisin notes at the finish. Brief pepper, vanilla, and toffee (as well as candy sugar) finish it off, with a light grassy hopped element that cleanses the palate. Medium bodied, although it does get progressively thinner as time goes on. Definitely really easy drinking, but doesn't embody any of the dry, pungent, or spicy yeasty aromas that I tend to drink saisons for. Still, as far as the style goes, it's really unique to see a canned saison, and see it work out.

I really think that Surly decided to make a pretty easy going Belgian-style pale ale when they made this, and rebranded it as a saison due to the grassy hoppy profile, as well as the spice and funk in the yeast. Don't expect anything super complex, however - this drinks far more like a Belgian pale ale or a lowly pilsner, at the end of the day. It definitely wouldn't be a bad option for me if I had it at a bar or something, but with so many far more complex and intriguing saisons out there, as well as those that are equally refreshing, this does feel a bit lost out at sea overall.

 2,826 characters

Photo of maxcoinage
3.97/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Poured 16oz can (12/05/13) into tulip - huge fluffy white head took time to settle Color is a medium golden with a slight haze.

Aroma of fruity esters, citrus and floral notes

Taste has some slight malty sweetness / a touch of honey, pepper spicyness, the belgian yeast definitely noticeable.

Mouthfeel - highly carbonated , medium body, crisp

Overall this is an enjoyable saison will def pick some of this up for warmer weather. Binnys had a $2 off coupon so I had to try it

 482 characters

Photo of 4DAloveofSTOUT
4.16/5  rDev +4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

16oz tall boy can. canned on 11/01/2013

poured into Duvel tulip glass.

Appearance: translucent pale yellow bodied beer with 2 fingers of bone white head that slowely drops down to a thin cap. Minimal spotty lacing.

Smell: bready wheat malts. Lots of bright floral and citrus hops. Hint of fruity yeast. White pepper bomb.

Taste: Malty, bready, and peppery are the prominent flavors of this brew. Just the right amount of sweetness from the malt profile. I want to say that I taste some clover honey in this beer as well, but I dont think that it was brewed with any honey. Nice fruity yeast(pears, red delicous apples, white grapes) and white pepper notes in the middle of this beer. The finish mixes the yeast notes with some hops. Mildly bitter hops that are floral and earthy with a slightly spicy peppery finish. I really like all the "subtle complexities" found in this saison!

Mouthfeel: light bodied beer with moderate carbonation levels. Crisp, refreshing, crushable beer.

Overall: This is my first saison in a can! I have drank a beer that tastes exactly like this, but I can not put my finger on what that beer is... This beer is a well made sasion that does not have too much wow factor, but it is a nice straight forward saison thats true to it respective beer style. I would call it effortlessly good. I would consider this my personal lawnmower beer since I dislike "flavor less light beer" aka BMC beers. Bonus points as always for beer packaged in a can!

 1,478 characters

Photo of dar482
4.29/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

The beer comes in a dark golden color.

The beer is very much saison, but very clean. There is citrus, grass, floral, spice, some farmhouse character, some yeast character. A light crackery malt in there to balance out the beer. It’s a lively fresh beer.

A surprisingly delicious beer.

 289 characters

Photo of Axnjxn
4.05/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

can into a FW tulip. 11/14/13

pours a darkish yellow with a inch and half thick head. very crisp aroma...lemon... reminiscent of a pils. the taste is much more like a saison. crisp..farmhouse slight. just super easy drinking. light body honestly. good carbonation.

overall just super easy drinking. ABV absolutely undectable. recommended!

 340 characters

Photo of Fcolle2
4.37/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Pours slightly hazy burnt Golden in color with a big two finger fizzy head that has good retention.

Smell is great. Nice peppercorn phenols fade into a mildly sweet malt with fruity and floral hop aromas.

Taste is nicely balanced very light Belgian phenols are forward along with a semi sweet malt and a light orange rind Belgian tang. Floral herbal hops are on the back end and are nicely balanced.

Mouthfeel is great. Crisp but good bodied. Carbonation is spot on for the style. There is a creamy finish from the oats that is really nice.

 544 characters

Photo of Pahn
3.91/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

16oz can into a tulip. Thanks to BA morningthief for picking this up for me in the windy city of my grad school days.

Appearance: Nice 2 inch fluffy white head, but no lacing. Semi-translucent gold.

Smell: Booming aroma that's flowery, excitingly effervescent, slightly lemony. The hops and the yeast are in full force in the aroma; exceedingly pleasant.

Taste: Very peppery up front--I like it very much. Transitions to a nice white bread undertone, but finishes with too much yeastiness for my taste. A lot cleaner than a cookie cutter American saison, but still wish it were fermented more cleanly. The thick yeastiness tastes almost tinged with peppermint, and the oppressive solidity of the yeast flavor (if that makes sense) clashes with the delicate hops, light body, high carbonation, and beautiful pepperiness they got out of this beer.

Mouthfeel: Light to medium bodied (more light), appropriately high carbonation, reasonably dry finish. I would prefer bone dry, but maybe with the slight IBU presence (unusually noticeable for this kind of beer, but not at all unwelcome) and heavy peppery flavor, more dryness would be a minus (would definitely require you drink the beer with cheese or something, like some BSPAs that just destroy the mouth on their own).

Overall: This is a really good beer. Not world class, not even "great," but it illustrates greatness; you don't make this beer without a lot of brewing talent. Absolutely an example of a beer held back from 4.5~5.0 territory by outright flaws amidst other elements that were nailed spot on. It doesn't help matters for me that the flaw is this heavyhanded yeastiness, a real pale beer pet peeve of mine these days, but the better elements are so good that I'm enjoying it thoroughly, regardless.

Another really impressive beer from Surly. Their brewing is a lot more sophisticated than the average well respected American brewery's. Furious, Abrasive, Darkness, all these beers are in big, bold, popular American styles, but they are all very multifaceted and subtly crafted. CynicAle is no exception to the trend of fine work from Surly.

 2,115 characters

Photo of VelvetExtract
4.07/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A-Pours a lightly hazy orange color. The pour yields a frothy, bleached head that maintains its heights. It leaves long clouds of lace.

S-Peppery aroma with some Belgian yeast. Euro-hops. A bit of clover spice with some fruitiness. The pepper is a playful element to the aroma. Maybe a little banana.

T-Flavor is fresh and lively. Floral and grassy European hops. A moderately zesty yeastiness. Some fruity flavors as well. A very nicely put together Saison. Lingering, light peppery flavor. As it warms, the apricot and peach notes come out (as stated on the label) more.

M-Shocked at the ABV, would have pegged it at around 4.5%. Dry and refreshingly crisp. Really bubbly. Light, inviting feel.

O/D-A supremely drinkable, refreshing Saison. Nothing too inventive or crazy here, just a fun can of beer.

 807 characters

Photo of FondueVoodoo
3.91/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Huge thanks to papat444 for this beer in a great in person trade.

A: Pours an exceptionally clear gold with 1 finger of off-white head. Small amounts of lacing cover the sides of the glass.

S: Belgian yeasts with notes of spices, pepper and cloves, together with over-ripe bananas.

T: Follows the scent with yeasty bread, light spices of pepper and cloves, and sweet malts of over ripe bananas together with hints of citrus fruit.

M: Medium bodied and dry with noticeable carbonation.

O: An easy drinking saison that will pair with any meal or on its own.

 560 characters

Photo of beagle75
3.74/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Poured from a 16 oz. can into a tulip pint glass.

A: Slightly hazy, pale golden color with over one finger of white foam head. Moderate lacing remains on the glass.

S: Belgian aromatic malt is restrained in the presence of complementary yeast esters. These qualities combine to produce an effect of mild mixed fruit, although with a sharp metallic edge.

T: Begins dry, with pale malt that is very yeast-affected. Qualities of light tree fruits, particularly white nectarine and pear, tend to dominate early. The transition to the middle is easy, where some clove and pepper phenolics are detected. The finish retains the pepper quality late on the palate, and although bitterness is minimal it is tinted with an authentic thread of stale hops.

M: Thin to medium viscosity, balanced and substantial on the palate, with low carbonation.

D/O: A satisfying and approachable saison; this beer has just the right amount of Belgian yeast influence, not to mention the other detectable continental ingredients. Surly's Cynic is something of a black sheep for that brewery, and probably worth a try even by those that do not favor ales such as Furious or Bender.

 1,158 characters

CynicAle from Surly Brewing Company
4 out of 5 based on 1,476 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • BeerAdvocate Microbrew Invitational

    Join us June 2-3, 2017 in Boston, Mass. for beer, cider, mead, kombucha and sake from over 70 small producers.

    Learn More
  • Subscribe to BeerAdvocate Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.