Smoke | Surly Brewing Company

286 Reviews
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Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States

Style: Baltic Porter

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 8.20%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
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!

Added by BeerAdvocate on 12-05-2007

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Reviews: 286 | Ratings: 897
Photo of 1000lbgrizzly
4.22/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A: Deep brown body, tan/grayish head. Kickass bottle art, good solid wax top.

S: Toasted malt/dark chocolate, good smoke, but as the namesake of the beer, I could use a lot more. A faint metallic aroma pops in, which I would consider a (tiny) flaw.

T: The taste is much improved from the nose, plenty of smoke throughout taking center stage, with all the caramel-dark chocolate-malt-husk flavors to support. No metallic flavor here, but an unexpected sweetly fruit-resembling flavor on the front, like plum/strawberry. Straight dark chocolate and smoke comprises the finish, with a good burn in the throat (either from the smoke or the alcohol, probably the former) to accompany it.

F: Light-medium body, not even moderately carbonated but not still either.

O: I was hoping all my clothing and the room I drank this in would smell like a campfire for a week after drinking this, but sadly, the smoke was really well balanced. This beer still blew me away with the range, clarity, and balance of all the flavors, the perfect not-too-heavy feel, and all-around enjoyability.

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Photo of Cannibalgasm
4.06/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Poured from a 22oz. bottle into a Surly pint glass.

A: Pours a rich black with an off-tan head. Fades to a thin layer of bubbles that linger on the top of the brew. Little lacing is present.

S: Roasted malts, oak, smoke, tobacco, molasses, and some dark fruit.

T: Roasted malts, chocolate, oak, tobacco, plum, raisin, and then the smoke comes through without overpowering the other flavors.

M: Medium bodied, moderate carbonation, thick on the back end with a slight pleasant burn.

O: A very well done smoked porter. Unlike a lot of smoked beers out there, the smoke actually takes somewhat of a backseat. Instead of overpowering it serves as the backbone of this brew. I tip my hat to Surly for this enjoyable brew.

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Photo of stortore
3.77/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

750 ml 2015 bottle, half into a snifter, half into a pilsner glass.

Dark, thick looking pour with a medium head, not much residual lacing. Smells mostly of malt, then smoke, some chocolate. Hint of black pepper at pour. Taste follows the nose on the strong malt and the smoke. A little more chocolate in the taste, some oak and vanilla. Smooth, but thin for the style and ABV. Leaves a bit of a salty aftertaste that I've not noticed in other smoked- type beers.

This is ok, but it's not as good as I was expecting. Didn't make a strong case as a Baltic Porter or as a smoked beer. Price point is a little high for what you get, in my opinion.

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Photo of OStrungT
4.44/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This beer pours a very dark brown with a ruby mahogany tint when held up to the light. It is nearly black. The brown head fades quickly, leaving minimal lace.

This beer has a smoky aroma. Go figure with the name "Smoke" I also detect some coffee aroma. Sweet caramel as well.

The beer tastes great. Smokey flavor mixes in with some tobacco, molasses, and coffee.

This beer is carbonated nicely, and goes down surprisingly smooth, leaving a smokey aftertaste.

This beer wouldn't be the best session beer since it is a little high on alcohol, and the smokey flavor may become cloying after a time.

Overall, this beer is really good. Hands down one of the best smoked beers I have ever had. Thanks to Sarah for hooking me up!

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Photo of ARoman
4.02/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

On tap, poured into an english tulip pint glass. The beer is dark and oily dark woth a rich cola hue and a light tan colored soap head that has a moderate retention and very light lace. The aroma is a smokey, charred note with roasted coffee beans, and a cookie dough hint with late developing aromas of vanilla and raisin. The taste is a medium high roasted sweet with a complimentary medium slick bitter. The beer is syrupy smooth with a soft fuzz carbonation and a medium full body with flavors of coffee and smokey grilled meats with some undertones of chocolate. It finishes sticky with mostly a spicy clove and coffee that carries to the aftertaste that's mostly clean with a smokey charred quality.

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Photo of Hookstrat
4.19/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Surprisingly subtle beer. Aroma opens up into clean smoke as it warms, alcohol present throughout. The flavor is the winner here. Dry, clean, well-balanced with a moderately bitter, smokey finish. I wish they could pull this off at 6-7 %ABV, but I'll take it!

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Photo of Alieniloquium
3.82/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

750 mL bottle poured into a snifter.

Appearance - Black, but a little transparent. Small khaki head.

Smell - Nice smokey aroma. Sweet chocolate. Kinda nutty.

Taste - Mirrors the nose. A little less smoke and more sweet chocolate. Sweet caramel in the finish.

Mouthfeel - Medium heavy. Medium low carbonation.

Overall - I really like this. Very nice smoke and chocolate combination.

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Photo of CraigP83
4.17/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

BLACK brew, solid tan head. Smells of smoky malts not unlike a campfire. More liquid smoke flavor. Good lager base is not overly objectionable. Mellower than other smoky beers

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Photo of Phocion
4.31/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2010 vintage bottle poured into a tulip. Black with just the slightest mahogany hues when held up to a light. Finger of short-lived foamy khaki head and minimal lacing.

Aroma is a good balance. Traditional beechwood-smoked malts are assertive but mellowed by a soft oaky flavor. Wood and smoke join big, robust, black malts. Anise, coffee, molasses, dark fruits, and dark chocolate are all trying to make themselves known.

The flavor is primarily mellow roasted malts. The smoked malts actually take a backseat to a bittersweet chocolate flavor. Soft barrel flavors and raisin, plum, and fig (malty, not estery) are all more powerful than the smoke, which works as a wonderful accent rather than overpowering. Clean yeast flavors and a dry finish. Alcohol very well-hidden.

Full body and low-moderate carbonation. Thick, chewy mouthfeel and very dry but little bitterness. The alcohol flavor is fairly well-hidden, but it still definitely feels very hot (even after a hair over four years).

I haven't had Smoke in several years, but this is far better than I remember. Maybe age has toned it down or maybe my memory is hazy. Either way, this is an excellently balanced beer. Still hot, but not overly smoky like a number of similar beers out there. Excellent base Baltic Porter. Worth a try.

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Photo of Nugganooch
3.93/5  rDev -5.1%

750ml wax capped bottle – split into a couple tumblers
Notes taken on 07/26/2014 – Big thanks to Allen once again!

A: Dark brown coffee bean color that settles closer to black in the glass. Thick creamy taupe colored suds forms over top and holds for a few good moments. Some light sticky cling remains to the glass after each sip.

S: The nose is very chocolaty with dark roast malts in abundance. I get some dark caramel sweetness with a mild dark fruit presence and a touch of earthiness too. Finishes out with a faint but easily distinguishable smoked malt character. Gives off a light campfire aroma. Nice but strangely this is not nearly as smoky as I was anticipating.

T: Dark roasted malt with dark caramel, coffee, and chocolate notes meld into an earthy green hop bitterness midway. The finish delivers a few whispers of beach wood smoke however it is fairly tame with no harsh charcoal or ashy presence. This is a really nice Black Lager but I am kind of missing the Smoke here. Not really complaining since the balance and flavor is great. Alcohol is well incorporated into the other flavors as well. Just not the aggressive smoke bomb I was expecting this to be at all.

M: Moderate heft in body with great frothy cream like texture and a nice drying lift at the finish. Touch of hop bitterness however void of any harsh astringency which is nice.

D: I found this to be a very tasty Dark Lager and would definitely have again. Extremely subtle use of the smoked malts here however. Actually had me wanting for more intensity. I mean why else would you wax the bottle. For those who may have shied away from this one should not fear the Smoke.

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Photo of vette2006c5r
4.04/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Smoke pours a black color with a nice lacing tan head. There is a strong smokey aroma; much like a smoked meat. The taste has a nice mellow, but pronounced smokey flavor, very meaty flavors. The body feels a little watery, but a nice warmth. Overall its a nice easy drinking smoking beer.

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Photo of reebtaerG
4.36/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Had on draft 4oz pour into snifter at churchkey on 5/8/14

A-Pours a dark brownish black with tan head.

S-Aromas of smoke, tobacco,and chocolate. Feels like you are at a campfire.

T-Tasting notes of smoke, roast, malts, tobacco, light chocolate.

M-Mouthfeel gives a medium-full body with a dry finish. Decent carbonation

O-Overall quite surprised loved the smoke aroma and flavor.

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Photo of Carb-Overlord
4.04/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

This is a very well made smoked porter. The smell is simply wonderful; soaked hickory on your hot coals smell! Sort of makes me hungry when I get a whiff. The smell is appetizing, but the smoke flavor is subtle and in no way overpowers the porter, what I feel is a big danger in smoked beers.

A: A rich dark black with an initial tan head that foams down to a crisp thin line.

S: Like my grill when I throw a handful of soaked hickory chips on those hot coals with a splash of yeasty chocolate in the back of the sinus.

T: Very interesting progression of flavors; initial bitterness (interesting for a porter) but it quickly mellows into a more chocolate smoothness and finishes with a smoky after taste. Again, when you breath deeply from your glass there is such a rich smoky scent, but the flavor itself doesn't overshadow the rich flavors comprising the base of a very good porter. Well done Surly.

M: I personally like my porters a little more smooth, the carbonation was a little too in my face to make this aspect outstanding.

O: Great smoked porter. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys the pleasure of smoke flavor in their food or drink. Quite enjoyable.

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Photo of Chasmill70
4.62/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

a- Thick, tan head persists well. Black color.

s - Smoke and dark fruit. Malty sweetness. Really nice aroma that starts by overpowering smoke but moves to the Baltic porter character.

t - Taste is similar to smell...on first sip I thought it was WAY too smoke forward. But each sip after seemed more and more balanced. The smoke perfectly compliments the dark fruit, roast, and malt.

m - The highlight of the beer. It's rich and velvety.

o - This is a darn good Raucbier! It really hides the 8% alcohol, which could be dangerous in a bomber. I'm glad I gave it a chance beyond the first sip...each sip has been better than the last!

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Photo of jbaker67
4.05/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Deep, dark cola brown pour with khaki head. Nose is a nice mix of salty smoke and sweet cherry-type smoke along with refined roast malt, cocoa powder, and faint fruit esters. Flavor is a gentle salty/sweet smoke mix, bittersweet chocolate, soft roasted malt, and some mild dark fruit. Lingering bittersweet chocolate, and to a lesser extent, charcoal.

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Photo of VelvetExtract
3.1/5  rDev -25.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3

A-Pours a very dark brown. Head bubbles up and fades. The head was also quite dark. Lighter lacing.

S-Obvious smokiness. Campfire. Rauchbier. Salty, cured meat. Struggling to acquire much else behind the smoke...I know there's a Porter there somewhere.

T-Flavor is exceedingly smoky, of course. More of the Porter elements come out here. A bit peaty as well. Pretty one dimensional.

M-Surprisingly light in body. Alcohol hidden well. The smoke coats the tongue a bit.

O/D-I wasn't enamored with this beer. Over the top smokiness. I was expecting a bit more diversity in the flavor profile.

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Photo of falloutsnow
3.88/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.75

From: France44 dot com
Date: 2012 edition (available in 2013)
Glass: Founders snifter

Surly's Smoke was a good baltic porter, definitely taking the smoke-caramel-raisin flavors as the main inspiration and dropping most of the roasted malt and cocoa elements in some other versions of the style. While I enjoyed the beer and certainly would not hesitate to have another, I don't think I'd go out of my way to purchase this fairly expensive ($14) 750ml bottle again, as I can find nearly the same flavors in the darker Aecht Schlenkerla offerings.

Pours a 1cm tall head of grey-beige-colored foam, made up of small and large-sized bubbles. Retention is average, the foam lasting about one minute in decline to a thin ring around the perimeter of the glass and a small island of filmm drifting atop the beer. Lacing is minor, with a few small dots and lines clinging to the glass' walls. Body is a dark brown to black color, with light bringing out slight burnt orange hues around the perimeter of the beer. Carbonation visible along the sides of the glass as the body is opaque, fairly low in number and activity.

Aroma of smoke that is substantially mellowed by oak aging, with attendant scents of raisins, dark caramel-like sweetness, and faint charred toast and cocoa.

Front of palate experiences dark caramel sweetness with notable smoke and a bit of charred toast. Mid-palate of smoke atop a heavy and dark caramel sweetness, raisins, prunes, and modest cocoa. Back of palate tastes diminished smoke, increased charred toast and cocoa, raisins, prunes, and a bit of anise and ethanol. Aftertaste of dark caramel-like sweetness, charred toast, lingering light smokiness, raisins, and ethanol.

Beer is medium to medium-heavy in body with carbonation of medium-low to low intensity, resulting in a smooth (4/5), somewhat foamy (1/5) mouthfeel that makes it easy to sip this fairly substantial beer, as it should be. Ethanol can be felt as a light burn on the back of the throat and a little heat in the nostrils, a bit disappointing for an 8% lager beer. Closes dry, with medium to medium-light stickiness clinging to the palate.

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Photo of Vonerichs
4.26/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Dark cola, almost black color. Minimal head with a persistent surface coating.

Light smoked malt, black licorice, cocoa, sugar plum aromas.

The sweet and smoke meld well. Cocoa and black licorice play with earthy tobacco and dark fruit.

Phenomenal mouthfeel. Smooth and creamy, mild carbonation. Soft.

A great smoked beer. The smoke doesn't dominate and gives all the other layers a chance to shine.

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Photo of mfnmbvp
4.05/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

750 ml bottle, with 2013 vintage date. Bottle #8834 it appears. Snagged this guy from the local beer store about a month or so ago and have been holding it down for a little while. My first big bottle from Surly, and I'm excited to have it.

Poured into a clear balloon snifter.

A - Pours a dark cola color; opaque black in the glass with three big fluffy fingers of tan head. Hardly any lacing aside from a few streaks. Looks pretty nice.

S - Smell is of chocolate malt, some dark roast, cream, subtle smoke / char / bacon fat aroma, hint of woodiness, some lager yeast / mustiness, and some underlying dark fruitiness on the finish reminiscent of dates or black currants. Pretty pleasant aroma.

T - Tastes very nice, also. I have to admit I was expecting a ridiculous smoke bomb based on the name, but the smoked malt / char notes take the backseat. Smooth creamy chocolate malt, some dark bitter roast, hints of vanilla, subtle smoke / char, and some mild alcohol warmth on the finish.

M - Feel is smooth and creamy. Medium bodied with good carbonation. Not too thick, heavy, or bloating. Finishes with light stickiness and dryness. Very good drinkability.

Overall, I thought it was very nicely done. I haven't been a big fan of the smoked beers I've had in the past, but this one was nicely done. The smoke was well integrated with the rest of the flavors and wasn't overpowering or distracting. Good drinkability, and even on the lighter side of things, especially for a dark beer for an 8.20% abv. Recommended.

Surly Smoke Lager ---4/5.

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Photo of Jparker37
4/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750ml bottle poured into a

A - Opaque black. Tight tan head holds a solid two fingers. Lacing is pretty minimal.

S - Nice raw traditional rauchbier smokiness. Blended inside are some soft chocolate aromas. Great balance to the dimensions.

T - Porter like roastiness. Caramel sweetness midway along with smokey flavors lead into a bittering effect later from those burnt tannins.

M - Medium-full body, semi-sweet, medium-light carbonation.

O - Looks great. Drives home those aromas. Flavor shows much more complexity and the bitterness is derived from smoke and burnt malts. Body is adequate and drinks with a little bit of enjoyed sweetness.

Judgement - Absolutely worth a try and if smoked porters are your thing, pick up a few.

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Photo of kojevergas
3.78/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

750ml brown glass bottle with silver wax over a standard pressure cap acquired in Minneapolis and served into a Guinness stem-goblet glass in me parents’ gaff in high altitude Castle Rock, Colorado during my annual Christmas tasting. Reviewed live. 2012 vintage. Expectations are very high given the brewery. 8.2% ABV confirmed. Reviewed as a baltic porter because the label identifies it as such.

Served cold – straight from the fridge - and allowed to warm over the course of consumption. Side-poured with standard vigor as no carbonation issues are anticipated.

A: No bubble show forms as it’s poured.

Pours an one finger wide head of khaki colour. Nice thickness and creaminess. Smooth even consistency. Soft complexion. Little lacing clings to the sides of the glass as the head recedes. Head retention is pretty good - about 5+ minutes.

Body colour is an opaque dark solid black. No floating yeast particles are visible.

Overall, it’s an appealing appearance for the style. I’m really looking forward to trying it.

Sm: Heavy smoke character. Dark malts. Smoked malts. Caramel. Light ash. None of the smoked meat or pork notes of a rauchbier are here. Smoke is dominant, true to its epithet.

No hop character, yeast character, or alcohol is detectable. No spice.

A pleasant if somewhat chaotic aroma of moderate to high strength.

T: Smoke is very well integrated into the dark malt base. The smoked malts really shine here. There's no harshness, but there is some ashen character. Good depth of flavour. Average duration and intensity of flavour. Caramel. Faint cocoa/chocolate. Nice complexity, but there's room for improvement. It's certainly well balanced; the smoke doesn't overwhelm the other notes, which is impressive and hard to accomplish. A nuanced build, but not an intricate one. It's quite cohesive, but not quite gestalt.

No hop character or yeast character comes through. Alcohol presence is quite timid.

It's one hell of a lager. Very approachable for a smokey beer.

Mf: Smooth and wet. A bit ashy/rough in brief patches. It has a light coarseness which helps coax out the smoke a bit more. Unrefreshing. Good presence on the palate. Quite approachable. Good body.

Not oily, astringent, gushed, hot, or boozy.

Dr: A very drinkable brew for the high ABV. If you fancy you some smoke, this is a good brew to try. Surly continues to deliver quality beers. I could kill this bottle alone with ease. Very likable stuff. I'd definitely get it again. I'm not sure if the smoke faded with age, but there's plenty of smokey character here even after a year.

Low B+

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Photo of Stir-the-pot-guy
3.99/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A- Dark with a creamy white head(with an agressive pour)....not quite a stout darkness but darn close

S- Smokiness that does not dominate but compliments roasted malts and dark fruit notes of the beer

T- Vegans might be conviced someone slipped some slow cooked ham or thick cut bacon into your beer...with that and the complimentary dark fruit notes of raisen, fig and prune this beer burst with complexity as is warms

M- silky smooth with no detection of the 8.2 abv. Aftertaste that lets you continue to enjoy the complex flavors of this beer without it leaving you the feeling you need to rinse, spit and then repeat

O- I had a bad experience with a smoked beer from a macro brew so I came in skeptical....but again Surly shows why they're the pride of Minnesota Breweries. A smoke beer that can be completely miss handled and they are able to balance the smokiness with the rich flavors of raisen, fig, licorice, and that slight molasses sweetness.I recommend you let this beer begin to warm before you are really able to enjoy the full flavor experience of this beer.

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Photo of PHBoiler
4.29/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Dark brown almost black with a fairly agressive brown head. Roast, dark chocolate, and light smoke on the nose. Really balanced beer. Tastes primarily of roasted espresso and dark chocolate. Smoke level is minimal and actually helps round/sweeten the beer a bit. The base is very well made and has the exact lager mouthfeel that a baltic porter should.

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Photo of JamesMN
4.28/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2012 vintage.

Appearance: Clean black body with a one finger light tan frothy head.

Aroma: Soft dark malt. With a year of age on it the smoke is barely detectable and yet still there.

Taste: Explosion of toasted malt and mild hop bitterness upon the first sip. Great dark malt flavors edging on milk chocolate and iced coffee but without any immense sweetness or harshness to the taste. The smoke is quite tame here compared to drinking it fresh but does a great job of keeping a balance among the flavors. Nice oak flavor in there. The 8.2% ABV is unnoticeable but packs the right amount of robustness. No off-flavors, which is rare to say about a mid-range ABV beer that went unopened for over a year.

Mouthfeel: Just above medium in body and slippery smooth. Very drinkable.

Final Thoughts: Having had both the fresh and aged version of Smoke it's hard to say which one was more enjoyable. The solution would be to buy two bottles every year for further drinking--analysis. Would I drink it again? Yes, I've never understood how this beer does not garner the same reputation as Surly's other seasonal releases.

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Photo of pourmeadrink
4.38/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

The first sniffs out of the glass are heavy with smoke. You get that burning wood aroma, like being around a meat smoker. The color was a dark brown that was moderately translucent. A thin tan head capped this beer off and dissipated quickly.

I have never really found a smoked beer that I am hog-wild over. Mostly, I think they taste like liquid Slim Jim's. I found this bottle at a store on clearance and knew well enough to just buy it without asking. I was pleasantly surprised.

The first taste is filled with that woody smoke from the aroma. As it washes over the pallet, the more complex flavors begin to shine. First was that meaty jerky flavor. Next came a warm boozy wooden taste. As it warmed and I continued to drink, the nuance began to become more noticeable. The bottle claims a fig, raisin and plum taste. They weren't kidding. There was a very earthy date and fig taste with the mild sweetness of raisins, mostly on the finish.

I was happy with this beer, though it is one I only wanted a bit of and not often. I would love to see this in smaller bottles so that I didn't feel like I wasted so much of something that had such a complex tone to it, overall. It was sippable, not drinkable. Smoke was a beer I will keep an eye out for in the future. As for the rest of the bottle? It just got used to make some beef jerky. Yep, I said it. Stay tuned for that post next week. Never let a good beer go to waste.

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Smoke from Surly Brewing Company
4.14 out of 5 based on 897 ratings.
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