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CynicAle | Surly Brewing Company

601 Reviews
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Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States | website

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

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Reviews: 601 | Ratings: 1,432
Photo of seaoflament
4.4/5  rDev +9.7%
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.

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Photo of Imstillthegman
4.57/5  rDev +14%
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?

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Photo of dogger6253
4.57/5  rDev +14%
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!

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Photo of bennetj17
4.27/5  rDev +6.5%
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...

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Photo of morimech
3.95/5  rDev -1.5%
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.

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Photo of BattleRoadBrewer
3.5/5  rDev -12.7%
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.

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Photo of jaxon53
3.58/5  rDev -10.7%
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.

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Photo of TurdFurgison
3.8/5  rDev -5.2%
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.

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Photo of Tballz420
4.07/5  rDev +1.5%
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.

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Photo of DarkerTheBetter
4.62/5  rDev +15.2%
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.

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Photo of genog
4.17/5  rDev +4%
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.

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Photo of franksnbeans
4.77/5  rDev +19%
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.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.69/5  rDev +17%
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.

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Photo of TexIndy
4.8/5  rDev +19.7%
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)

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Photo of brewcrew76
3.65/5  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.

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Photo of westweasel
3.53/5  rDev -12%
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.

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Photo of slyke
4.2/5  rDev +4.7%
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.

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Photo of KarlHungus
4.45/5  rDev +11%
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.

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Photo of ZAP
4.12/5  rDev +2.7%
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...

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Photo of BeerTruth
3.93/5  rDev -2%
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.

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Photo of boochmonkee
4.37/5  rDev +9%
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.

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Photo of Windigstadt
3.78/5  rDev -5.7%
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.

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Photo of Grundle20
3.83/5  rDev -4.5%
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.

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Photo of surlyseth
3.7/5  rDev -7.7%
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.

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Photo of Chaz
3.85/5  rDev -4%
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.

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CynicAle from Surly Brewing Company
90 out of 100 based on 601 ratings.
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