CynicAle | Surly Brewing Company

very good
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 Overlord
3.92/5  rDev -2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

I'm going on a serious Surly session this Thanksgiving.

Pours an orange-ish yellow. Not much head, but great lacing. Surprisingly thick mouthfeel given the light color.

Super-interesting flavor. Not the most drinkable beer, but there's tons of wheat, grass, and ... hay? ... loaded into a background of yeast, spices, and light citrus overtones.

Incredibly fresh tasting, it's like someone pulped up these flavors right next to my table.

 443 characters

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

a: pours a deep amber color with light brown hues, about two inches of white fluffy head that dissapear fast leaving a lot of which sticks to the sides of the glass throughout the entire beer
s: the sweet, yeasty malt aroma dominates the aroma, hints of fruits and better hops, flowry hints as well, alcohol is not present in aroma
t: sweet fruity flavor with lots of yeastyness nice hop flavor towards the finish kind of dry in the finish
m: medium bodied beer with average amount of carbonation

 496 characters

Photo of Viggo
4.38/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Big thanks to oakbluff for sending me a can of this stuff.

Pours a hazy golden, thin sticky white head forms, big lacing, great retention, certainly looks like a saison. Smell is sweet, oranges, caramel, spice, marmalade, citrus fruits, some vanilla, apricot, floral, excellent aroma. Taste is oranges, wheat, spices, marmalade, bread and yeast, spicy caramel finish, solid bitterness. Mouthfeel is medium to light bodied with medium to high carbonation, very refreshing with a great dry and spicy finish. Awesome saison! Thanks Scott.

 536 characters

Photo of WeisGuy
3.9/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Big thanks to Pitmonkey for this can.

a - pours a deep golden amber color, two-finger fluffy white head, not a whole lot of retention, but good lacing, nice haze

s - yeasty/bready maltiness, big notes of black pepper and some fruit, very slight alcohol

t - apricot and black pepper up front, big yeasty maltiness in the body, finish is very spicy, lots of black pepper, not much alcohol

m - medium-bodied, lots of carbonation, somewhat dry finish

d - not overly drinkable, the intense spiciness, mostly black pepper, is tasty but not easy on the palate

Another very solid beer from Surly...a good first shot at a Belgian style. Well worth seeking a can of this out.

 671 characters

Photo of tpd975
4.03/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Another Surly brew from Objectivemonkey.

A: Pours a beautiful golden yellow color with a nice froathy white head. Lacing yeah, lacing with a Saison, I love it.

S: Nice aromas which are somewhat typical of a Saison. Nice ripe sweet fruits like apple, apricot, and peaches. Black pepper undertones with hints of yeast.

T: Very flavorful. The sweet fruits come thru. Dried apricots, peach nectar and black pepper. What you taste is basically what you smell.

M: Nice and light bubbly almost.

D: Loved it. Sooo drinkable.

Overall: Surly knows what they are doing there is no doubt about it. Their brews are so expertly crafted it's just sick. I love this one, when you think Saison, you think of the best sent over the pond from Belgium, but this one stands up to all of them.

 777 characters

Photo of Winter
4.03/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a clear reddish copper with a dark foamy head. Malty aroma with yeast, caramel and alcohol. There's a fruitiness to it that renders aromas of plum and candied raisins also. The mouthfeel is medium-bodied. The taste is complex and thoroughly enjoyable. Plenty of malt here that's supported by a spicy yeastiness. Black pepper underscores the flavor in the finish.

Another example of how it's possible for a fine beer to exist in a can. Plus it's a Saison no less! Special thanks to Bighuge for the sample.

 511 characters

Photo of MuddyFeet
3.63/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a pale gold color. Thick white head that never truly went away. Lots of layered lacing. Nose is malty and heavy--bits of spices around the edges as well too.

Taste is mild and would make a great summer beer. Not too citrusy but more in the way of spices.

Oddly, the can felt wierd. I was able to squeeze it and push in the sides. Wierd for a carbonated can. Some flower like flavors and a sweet honey or syrup flavor. Actually perhaps more of a honey flavor. Light body that does not bear down on me as I finsih my glass.

 529 characters

Photo of jackorain
4.22/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I pick-up a 4-pack of these babies, along with bender, furious and a growler Townhall Masala Mama, on a trip to the minneapolis recently. BTW: Iactually reveiwed this back in August but am just now entering it from notes.

A-Straw gold, ever-so slight chill haze. White 3/4 inch head with good retention that fell to nice thin coat that rose up the pint glass nearly to the rim with lace.

S-Bananas, clove, yeast, floral and spicy hops, doughy malts.

T-Fruit and spice up front, bananas, lemon, clove and nutmeg. Doughy malts and more citrus along with yeast in the middle. The finish is a spicy lemony bitter hop smack. nice!

M-light body, nice fizzy carbonation, perfect for summer day out on the deck.

D-Very surprised by this beer. I reviewed the 1st from the pack, which is not common for me, becasue I thought the other might sit because I wouldn't love it. But it is certainly really awsome.

 902 characters

Photo of grub
4.2/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Viggo was nice enough to share this one. thanks eric!

16oz can.

pours slightly hazy orangey amber colour with a small dense white head. the head drops slowly and leaves spotty lace behind.

aroma is great. bit of alcohol. great orange and tangerine citrus character. touch of spice, but not prominent enough to pick them out - just the way i like it. bit of grain. cracker malts.

taste is great. medium bitterness level that comes across as an interesting floral bitterness. orange and tangerine. light caramel sweetness. bit of grain. cracker malt. again, very light non-specific spice.

mouthfeel is good. medium body with a fairly dry finish. medium carbonation level.

drinkability is great. balanced and very interesting. excellent restraint on the spicing. overall a great example of the style. definitely hoping i can get my hands on more of this one.

 861 characters

Photo of NoLiberty
3.78/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to GrassrootsVT for this, another treat, from Surly.

It pours into my Saison Dupont glass with a thick, white, two-finger head that lasts throughout the drink at about 1/4 inch. High lacing and good retention. Color is a slightly cloudy orange to gold.

The smell is correct for a saison, but not quite at the right degree. Dominant aromas of honey and an herbaceous hop character. Subtler notes of barnyard, earthiness and further down a warming alcohol tone. Yes, this is a hoppier than normal saison but still considered "traditional." But there's a level of inviting aroma that's missing.

The flavor characteristics equally match the aroma, but again, the full flavor of a good saison is missing. Front leads with a active hops and carbonation, followed by a smoother floral and honey flavor and finishes with an empty dry and slightly bitter ending. The aftertaste is almost non existent.

The beer is light to medium bodied with a good crisp carbonation that reaches everywhere. Maybe a result of the canning?

I like where they were going with this but feel the execution is a bit lacking. It's not quite the full-flavored, exceptional beer that I've come to expect from Surly.

 1,198 characters

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

Many thanks go out to metallitone1 for giving me a can of this beer as an extra.

Served into my Duvel tulip glass.

Cynic pours a golden, dried apricot color with two fingers of foam. Large bubbles form around the edge of the glass.

Aroma is very yeasty, and also peppery. Some apricot and sweet aromas come through after the spiciness. Some hop, pine aromas round it out. Good malt presence as well.

Malt sweetness upfront with the spice and yeast flavors in the finish. There is also some bitterness on the tongue at the end, very interested to have on a saison.

Mouthfeel is very good, the beer has a good dose of carbonation and it is easily a beer one could drink all day.

IPA meets Saison, and it’s a good marriage.

 728 characters

Photo of Imstillthegman
4.57/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Thanks go to Darkerthebetter for this can. I appreciate it, Ed!

Pours a shade darker than fizzy yellow beer. Fingers worth of white head leaves some lacing behind.

Aroma is fruity with some black pepper, honey, floral, and pine. The earthy floral and pine scents come through like a forest scented candle or air freshener. It's almost like being on a walk in the woods. Very nice.

Black pepper up front, followed by the fruit and honey. A spicy, piney flavor at the finish is a treat. Very fresh tasting.

Medium body beer with a nice light feel to it. Very active carbonation mixed with the yeasty bite adds a nice prickly feel on the tongue. Extremely enjoyable saison. My favorite, so far, by quite a ways. Thanks, Ed. When can you get me some more?

 755 characters

Photo of dogger6253
4.57/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Fairly clear body, golden orange in color. The head is light tan, pretty decent size with excellent retention and nice lacing.

The nose is huge on this, I can smell hops from far away. Slightly fruity up close, sort of like green grapes and grapefruit. There are notes of apricots, almonds, vanilla and a slight pine smell.

The taste is much similar to the smell: hops, yeast, peaches, oak, cloves, apricots and vanilla. Overall, sort of a spicy taste, but also sort of nutty and very earthy - kind of what I imagine tree bark tastes like, but in a good way???

Medium body, lightly carbonated, dry finish, awesome taste, easy sips, refreshing, all around great to drink!

 673 characters

Photo of bennetj17
4.27/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Deep gold with an orange tinge. Full head with nice retention. Slight haze, light carbonation. Citrusy aroma, grapefruit-like with a sweet breadiness. The hops come though fairly strong giving it nice balance. Not alot of spice to be noted but I do get a bit of a musty characteristic of some Saisons.

The flavor has a fruity mix of orange and other citrus plus some peach/apricot notes. The Belgian yeast notes aren't well defined but are somewhere in the mix. Dry, grassy finish with a decent bitterness. Overall the hops are more potent than they should be for the style but I seem to enjoy it anyway. Light mouthfeel, but not thin, the carbonation is not too forceful and it goes down pretty well.

Throw style out the window and you have a great summer beer here with a hop kick that can match up to most Pale Ales. Don't expect a typical Saison here and you will enjoy this beer very much...

 900 characters

Photo of morimech
3.95/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a clear golden color with a creamy white head that leaves a good amount of lacing. Smells of spice and fruit. It tastes like mother's cupboard. Very peppery and many spices mixed together. It tastes somewhat like a ginger-snap cookie. Very unique and unusual with it's blunt spice flavor. It is light bodied and finishes clean with little aftertaste. Maybe too spicey for me to enjoy many of these. Another Surly beer that assaults the taste buds. Nothing boring here.

 474 characters

Photo of BattleRoadBrewer
3.5/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Served at cellar temperature into a Hennepin pint goblet.

Pours delightfully thick and golden, generating a nice 1" off-white head with an aggressive pour. Color in the glass is darker, orange, and a bit hazy.

Aroma is sweet with a strong clove note.

Flavor is caramel sweet and peppery, complex.

Mouthfeel is oily and heavy, coating the mouth. Peppery on the tongue and salty on the lips.

Drinkability is pretty good. This is a heavier beer than I'm used to for the style, interesting though. Recommended.

 511 characters

Photo of jaxon53
3.58/5  rDev -10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to tavernjef for another Surly brew. Poured a pretty clear golden orange color from a sixteen ounce can. Beer was capped nicely by a dense, bubbly, bright white two finger head. head dissipated on the slow side , and left sticky streaks of thick lace behind. Noticed a good amount of carbonation bubbles streaming up from the bottom of the glass. The nose on this one was a bit different. Had a somwwhat strange fruity, spicey, earthy aroma with a bit of hay in the mix. It's like nothing I have ever smelled before. Taste was about the same. Lots of spice, cinnamon, yeast, bread, and a nice thick malty flavor. Just a bit peppery. A very earthy feel to it. Somewhat bitter, but, with a sweetness to it. Nice smooth medium body to it. Above average drinkability. An aquired taste in my opinion.

 802 characters

Photo of TurdFurgison
3.8/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 1 pint can into a Delirium Tremens glass (it took a few pours). The beer is golden colored and clear, with a spitty head which leaves some fine celled lacing on the glass. The aroma is just a tad funky, barnyard odors and such, but not quite as much as I'd like. Likewise, the flavor had a bit of grass, a hint of bubblegum, but mostly just a dryish bitter taste that was pleasant but not robust. This was my second of the 4-pack, I remember liking the first a lot more (3 weeks ago on a boat in the Mississippi river). Oh well, this is nice but not as style-defining as Furious.

 593 characters

Photo of Tballz420
4.07/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours out a somewhat hazy, copper/gold color. Pillowy white head tops it off, leaving behind some lace trails. Some fruity elements on the nose, some earth tones as well. Somewhat spicy taste, backed by a floral hop mix. Some grassy elements, with hints of fruit mixed in as well. A pretty dry brew, medium bodied. I've been hearing some good things about this brewery, and this beer leaves me wanting to try the rest. I'm sure everyone else has talked about the can, so I will spare you.

 488 characters

Photo of DarkerTheBetter
4.62/5  rDev +15.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This beer pours a lively bright straw color with a creamy white film that left a fair bit of lace.

Smells rather fruity with peach and green grape with a touch of honey that fades into a spicy black pepper. This has an odd freshness much like a forest right after the rain that one seldom finds in a saison.

The flavor begins with a black pepper punch that hints of cardboard and birch bark but then transitions into a smooth and creamy milk, honey and green grapes. This is again surprisingly fresh and clean. Finishes off with a turn to the dryness of the peppery yeast.

Feels light, clean and silky smooth. There’s enough viscosity there to make it worth drinking, but the dryness leaves my mouth refreshed.

Wow. This is the easiest sippin’ saison I’ve ever had.

 780 characters

Photo of genog
4.17/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

First taste of Surly, and I am excited to try it. Pours from the 16 oz can into my pint glass a hazy orange color with thick white head that dies down to leave a thin white covering on top of this one. Smell is of spices, pepper, and coriander come through strong. Taste is remarkable smooth with pepper dominating followed by the other spices and a slight hop punch. Carbonation is slim, so the flavors are able to be enjoyed sip after sip. First taste is a good sign of great things to come.

 493 characters

Photo of franksnbeans
4.77/5  rDev +19.3%
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.

 691 characters

Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.69/5  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.

 2,247 characters

Photo of TexIndy
4.8/5  rDev +20%
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)

 2,423 characters

Photo of brewcrew76
3.65/5  rDev -8.8%
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.

 659 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.