Surly Brewing Company

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American Imperial Stout
4.17 | pDev: 13.43%
Surly Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States
Retired (no longer brewed)
Notes: Oak-aged cranberry stout.
View: Beers
Reviews: 57 | Ratings: 108 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of DoubleSimcoe
4.04/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

On tap at POPE, July 2016. Likely a leftover from their Surly event during Philly Beer Week. The BA listing says this is an "oak-aged cranberry stout".

Really? I get very little oak and only a faint note of cranberry/cherry tartness...

Nice grassy hop aroma going around, and yummy roasty-toastiness.

Not terribly complex, not sour as I expected... but damn delicious and mighty poundable!

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Photo of MattyG85
4.5/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

On tap at Surly’s Beer Hall. 10 oz. serving in a chalice. 2016 rebrew.

Appearance: Color is jet black. Moderate amount of bubbles and a solid finger of beige head that settles into a thin creamy layer.

Smell: A sweet and roasty dark malt driven aroma with a scent of chocolate and cranberries. Dark roasted barley malt with a scent of chocolate, cocoa, coffee, toast, biscuit, caramel, toffee, and slight smoke with some yeast. Big sweet scent of cranberries. Also some sweet hints of lactose, creamy vanilla, and brown sugar. Very light on hops. A pretty solid rich aroma.

Taste: Like it smells, a sweet and roasty dark malt driven taste with notes of chocolate and cranberries. Dark roasted barley malt with notes of chocolate, cocoa powder, coffee, biscuit, toast, caramel, toffee, smoke, and yeast. Sweet and juicy notes of cranberries. Sweet taste of creamy milk, vanilla, and brown sugar. Subtle earthy hops. A really nice sweet taste.

Mouthfeel: Medium to full bodied with a carbonation level on the higher side of medium. Creamy, silky, and pretty smooth. Alcohol is hidden very well.

Overall: A really good fruit infused Imperial Stout. Nice balance of dark malt and cranberry flavor.

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Photo of ucis
5/5  rDev +19.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Darkness Day 2012 Big Green Tent bottle #169. I can't say that I really wanted to wait this long. What I can say is that this was an amazing brew. The mouth feel was consistently thick and a bit chewy. Those four years have been kind. The cranberry is just tart enough and smooth dark malts cascading in my darkness glass. the nose is chocolate covered cranberries. looks like a big cup of mud with a slight crisp head. I am going to go ahead and say that I am glad I have another bottle, but wish it was another twenty. To the guy who was supposed to share his Cantillon that had an extra serving -- I hope you die. Cheers.

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Photo of joshuaseresse
3.9/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Had this on-tap at ABR 2011. Served in a small taster glass:

A - Dark brown/black with lots of good carbonation. Some head at the beginning but it dies quite quickly. Light lacing on the sides.

S - Tart cranberries and dark roast. Little bit of lacrose. Little bit of light chocolate.

T - Tart cranberries and bits of cherries and strawberries. Only just a little bit of light roast. More sweet/tart with a bit of sour rather than the stoutness I expected.

M - Pretty good carbonation with a tingle. The tartness leaves the mouth a bit dry.

O - I was really excited to try this brew but it wasn't really what I expected/wanted. Really interesting, and the rarity factor kicked in (since this is said to be the last keg in existance) but I'm wouldn't try trading for a bottle. Great to try though.

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Photo of tewaris
3.76/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into ABR 2011 glass.

Very dark and rich brown with a good head and good retention. Aroma is some berry and sweetness. Tastes a little too tart for me but that should be expected for a cranberry stout! As others have reported, the cranberries are alive although I have no idea how it was fresh.

Not quite chewy but still good on the mouthfeel. I am glad to tried it although there's no way I am going after it.

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Photo of Chriscrundwell12
4.37/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured on tap at the Great taste of the Midwest 2011. 5 oz pour into a tasting glass.

A- Pours a dark black color with red tints mixed in, one finger brown head that dissipates pretty quickly, nice lacing and retention.
S- The aroma is very nice, sweet chocolate, nice roasted malts, really nice cranberry aroma, very surprised the cranberries have held up so well, for how long this beer has been ageing for.
T- Very tasty, roasted malts, chocolate, coffee, really nice taste of cranberries mixed in, really surprised by this beer. Still pretty sweet, perfect dessert beer.
M- Medium/big mouth feel, well carbonated, smooth finish.
O- I’ve wanted to try this baby for some time when I saw it on Surly’s tap list I made this one of my priorities to try at this year’s festival. This beer is three years old and the cranberry flavor is still holding up, very tasty and well balanced stout, wish I would have gone back for more pours.

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Photo of stakem
4.37/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Big thanks to Dunt for generously sharing this brew with us the night before DLD '11. Much appreciated my friend. Bottle #263: a stout made with cranberry...well this should be interesting.

Poured into a snifter, this brew appears dark brown in color with lighter brown around the edges. When held to the light, a bit of light fights it's way through the solution. A half finger of tan head forms and fades fairly quickly to a lacing pattern across the surface and on the glassware accented with spots.

The smell of this brew includes a fruited aspect like cranberry that mixes with chocolate, coffee and some nutty quality. There is a faint licorice note and roasted grain scents that blend well and are very pleasing. The cranberry is much more evident than I was anticipating. It is evident completely through the nose and gets accented in the back once the alcohol comes through.

The taste of this brew includes chocolate malt which has a nutty flavor that mixes with trace amounts of coffee. The fruity cranberry flavor at times comes across sweet tasting as it blends with the malt and bitterness of the roast. However, other sips yield more of the expected cranberry tartness that really pulls forward the chocolate quality of the malt. The aftertaste includes more of a fresh grain quality which is surprising considering this brew is pushing 4 years old.

Think chocolate covered there such a thing? This beer is the liquid version of that. It is medium bodied and lightly carbonated. An interesting experience with a faint oxidized touch. Complex enough that you could spend hours picking it apart. But enjoyable enough that my glass emptied quicker than I would have liked. I don't know what the abv was in this brew but it was well surpressed. Thanks again Ryan for sharing.

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Photo of mothman
4.28/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

On tap at Great Taste 2010. Multiple servings of this one as it was worth the wait in line.

Pours 1/2 finger of tan head with good retention. Color is a mahogany brown, near black.

Aroma: Cranberries that are still fresh shine out up front. Chocolate with roasted malts. Very sweet and dessert like.

Taste: Tart cranberries, chocolate, caramel, and sweetness. The cranberries stood out enough to taste them but didn't take over this beer.

Mouthfeel: A bit tart, but in a good way. Also creamy and smooth. Medium to full bodied with a good amount of carbonation. Ends a bit roasted.

Overall, this beer was awesome and one of the highlights of the Great Taste. The cranberries have held up well and really made this beer unique. Glad I got to try this one.

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Photo of kbutler1
4.37/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Tap. Got to try this beer at Great Taste of the Midwest this past weekend. What a treat. This beer poured a maroon reddish black color with a slight head. Surpirisingly the aroma was still very much of cranberries along with the traditional IS notes of dark roast. The taste is well balanced between the cranberry and dark stout flavors. No hop presence to speak of really. Medium mouthfeel. Not sure why but at this point I thought this beer would have gone down hill, not the case at all. Still very good and delicious. Do yourself a favor and never pass up a chance to try this beer.

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Photo of ccrida
3.82/5  rDev -8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Two is dark black with a small off-white head that leaves very light lace.

Smell is intense, prunes open up to cranberry raisins, really nice.

Taste is very similar, a nice, sweeter RIS with craisins, which I really enjoy, the tarty fruit adds nice complexity without overwhelming. Perhaps inspired by the blends of draft stout (such as young's double chocolate) with Lindemans Framboise.

Mouthfeel is smooth, with a decent viscosity, satisfying without being overly thick.

Drinkability is pretty good, in that's it's an enjoyable beer that I'm glad a got to try, particularly considering it's a rare one-off. However, it's pretty intense and not to complex, a two-note song.

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Photo of treyrab
4.37/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

After having a bottle break in transit, my man Derek showed his generosity by surprising me with one of these! I can't thank you enough! Brought this out to share with some Pittsburgh folks last night...

A: Pours a dark brown/black with a nice, creamy, sticky mocha head with a hint of red hues. Looks nice and viscous and very sticky! As I swirl it around, the beer really sticks to the side of the glass!

S: Cranberry tart galore! Amazing cranberry tart and sour notes blended with sweet caramel, sweet and burnt toffee, rich, dark roasted barley, some brown sugar, and again, fresh cranberry. The sour notes are clearly from the tart fruits and not the yeast. Simply Sublime.

T: Truly remarkable and like nothing I have ever tasted before. The cranberry is just comes to the forefront and blends with the thick, sticky malts so well. Tart, luscious cranberry blended with sticky sweet and burnt caramel and toffee and topped with some bitter roast.

M/D: Nice and sticky thick, yet so creamy.

Thanks again Derek, this was a hit!

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Photo of brdc
3.5/5  rDev -16.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

On tap at the Great Taste of the Midwest, poured into a sample glass.

Dark brown color, tan head, good retention and lacing.
Interesting aroma, roasted malts, vanilla, cranberries, caramel.
Full bodied, the taste is strange, to say the least. It starts acid and sour, closer to cherries than anything else, evolves into a more stout like dominion with roasted malts, coffee, but the acidity and sourness, that did not blend all that well, keeps coming back.
Interesting, but coming from Surly when I always expect brilliance, it is just OK.

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Photo of LilBeerDoctor
2.47/5  rDev -40.8%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

On draft. Pours brown with a tan head. Aroma of bourbon or some type of liquor and also maybe putrid vomit. Yeah, this smelled pretty bad. Flavor of very sweet malt and roasted notes with a tart, lactic finish. This was very odd and very bad. People liked this???

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Photo of drgonzo3705
4.37/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Wow I forgot I ever took notes on this one! Had this courtesy of Miketd and his crew at a tasting a few months back.

A: Pours a solid black color with a thin mocha colored head

S: Nice deep roasted notes with a very nice counterbalance from a deep cranberry and cherry smell.

T: Splash of roasted chocolate and a blend of cranberry/cherry/vanilla. It all melds together very nicely here. Interesting flavor combinations going on.

M: Thick full bodied with light to moderate carbonation.

D: I think I could get through a bottle no problem. After that I'm not so sure. This is definitely a tasty beverage and I'm glad I had the chance to try this as I probably wont again!

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Photo of rudylaw
4.05/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

On tap @ Sheffield's

A beautiful reddish/black look with a beautiful, sticky head that remained the entire time. Smells of cherries and cranberries. Lots of cranberries in the taste.. would have gone good with a turkey sandwich! There's roasty cocoa, plenty of sugar and vanilla present too, but the red fruits are the attraction here. It was pretty light and tart and went down nice on a spring evening. The style only dictates the lower drinkability as I don't think I could have more than one in a sitting. But this glass was much appreciated.

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Photo of MasterSki
4.5/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Had this on-tap for Phil's birthday at the Sheffield's Beer School Bar. Year-old keg. Served in a Bell's tulip glass.

A - One finger of dark mocha foam with excellent retention and solid lacing as well as a nice thick cap. Black as night (although light was low), with a bit of brown showing up as I worked my way through the glass. The only thing I was hoping for was more head volume.

S - Roast malts, chocolate, cranberry, candy, dark fruits. It's a very potent smelling brew, particularly as it warms up. It actually slightly reminded me of Black Albert in that it has a slight sour note that accompanies the figs, prunes, and black cherry.

T - It's almost as if someone blended a kriek and a Russian Imperial Stout. Tart, yet roasty, with plenty of chocolate maltiness. Starts sweet but ends with a tart sweetened cranberry juice flavor that lingers well into the aftertaste.

M - Medium bodied, low carbonation, smooth and creamy. Totally appropriate, and not really sure what else I could ask for in a cranberry stout (not that I've had many).

D - The tart fruitiness never gets to be too much or out of control. Very well hidden ABV as well.

This one was a real treat - I definitely preferred it to Surly Three, and it was miles better than the wretched Cherry Two I tasted at FOBAB (which was evocative of hamster cage and soap).

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

Got this in a trade with Zealot, thanks Michael Jack style. #360 out of 400, just made it in.

Pours dark with cranberry red highlights when held into the sun. If this were a play it'd be called cranberry in the sun.

Very complex smell right away, chocolate, caramel, dark sugars with a mix of sour and cranberries.

Sour, tart cranberry tastes dominate this beer with the malt backbone of a good Imperial stout hiding underneath. This beer has an oily coating on the glass that makes it have longer legs than Rita Moreno.

Just a solid beer, I laughed, I cried, it was even better than Cats.

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Photo of weeare138
4.2/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Much thanks to hopdog for unleashing this rarity. This is bottle # 163 out of approximately 400 bottles(thanks to TomDecapolis for finding out via chacha).

Appears a deep black with a small tan head that quickly fades into a mild cap and collar. Scattered spots of lacing are left around the glass.
Smell is of cocoa, vanilla, nougat, dough, sugar, fresh sugar coated donuts, dried cranberries, and caramel.
Taste is of the mentioned aromas with more dried cranberries coming through in the flavors.
Mouthfeel is medium bodied, tart, cocoa, caramel, sugary, semi dry with tart fruit, and bitter cocoa running along the palate.

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Photo of hopdog
4.37/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Big thanks to footbalm for answering my call out for this one. 750ml bottle marked on the back '163'.

Poured a dark black color with an averaged sized off white head. There was also a reddish tint to it. Aromas of chocolate, caramel, lighter cranberries, roast, and cherries. Tastes of chocolate, the same light cranberries, vanilla, and roast. Lighter sweet start with a light tart finish. Alcohol content well hidden. A very drinkable and refreshing beer.

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Photo of Kegatron
4.32/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750 ml wax topped bottle into a snifter. This was marked as bottle # 382. Thanks go to Jw347 for this trade.

Pours a deep black with a finger or so of creamy mocha colored tan head. Retains nicely with a thin layer of foam, which gets a good frothy flare-up going when swirled, leaving thick cascades of lace behind. The aroma is Wow! Delicious smelling tart cranberries up front with some underlying notes of roasted chocolate, molasses, smoked meat, soy sauce, and a touch wet tobacco in the back. There is a touch of warmth to the bouquet as well. Also, I didn't hear anything about this beer being barrel-aged but I'm definitely picking up some rather prominent oaky character that mixes with the cranberries up front to form quite the pungent pairing.

The cranberries are even more prominent in the taste, with a crisp and tangy tart bite right up front that just lingers long and proud throughout the profile. A bit of tannic feeling oak character is also present, that while not being quite as noticeable as it is in the aroma (thanks to all of that cranberry tang) it's definitely there. Underneath lies the Stout flavor, with chocolate and caramel sweetness mixing with the cranberries to impart a nice tangy base that also included notes of roast, smoke malt, and a bit of soy sauce. Man, that cranberry just kills in the finish with a dry and lingering pithy feeling bitterness that just sticks to the palette. The mouthfeel is quite interesting. It feels medium-fuller bodied at first but a moderately creamy carbonation that combines with the flavors (maybe it's the fruit tartness?) gives it a slicker and viscous feel that makes it feel a touch thin. As this warms and works on the palette though, the body really starts to come together for me and it starts to feel right considering everything that is at work in this beer. I'm not sure what the ABV is on this (edit: it's 9%) but it's extremely well hid. It definitely makes its presence known with some light heat elements in the aroma and taste but the only real hint of it comes courtesy of a light flush in my face as I work through this bottle. Very nice!

Wow, I honestly didn't think that a "Cranberry Imperial Stout" would quite work out as well as it did because I REALLY DUG THIS! The cranberry character was really strong and lingering and was more than a match for the underlying Stout character that was present. There was just a ton going on with this but it was somehow all brought together into a wonderfully flavorful and easy sipping experience. Nice job Surly!

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Photo of badbeer
4.06/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Black color, with a beige head that had good retention and spotty lacing. Smell of cranberries, though I don't know that I would have said cranberries over sour cherries, had I not known cranberries were used. Smell was also pretty hoppy; which somehow worked well with the rest of the character of this beer. Taste had tart cranberries, tannins, plums, and just a bit of roast. Medium bodied and light on the carbonation. I rather enjoyed this and wish I had another bottle of it.

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Photo of largadeer
4.32/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Got this one from scoobydank quite a while back. Thanks, man.

Appearance: Opaque dark brown, slightly turbid, hints of ruby red around the edges. Pours with little head, an inch at most, and leaves little lace.

Smell: Chocolate covered cranberries, molasses, slight fruity sourness. Really unique and a lot more appetizing than I was expecting.

Taste & mouthfeel: Light tartness meets roasty bitterness. Semi-sweet, this one has a great balance of sweet, sour and bitter. The bottle doesn't list the ABV, but I'd guess it's fairly high from the viscous texture. The finish is dry and somewhat tannic, presumably from the cranberries. This beer surprised me quite a bit - another unique and enjoyable offering from Surly.

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Photo of Scrumtralecent
4.42/5  rDev +6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle #27. Poured a very light brown with a tinge of burgandy in the color. Very light, creamy colored head. I had this beer during Christmas time and it was perfect both in taste and smell. The smell was a strong aroma of cranberries with a stout background. I tasted this through various temperatures. When quite cold, the cranberry was very tart and a little biting in the front of the taste. As it warmed, the cranberries mixed in very well to make a very pleasing and delightful beer. More malts came to the front and a very slight hop presence could be felt. Overall, this was a perfect beer for a cold wintery night and I'm sad that I have only one bottle, but a wonderful present to myself this Christmas. Keep it up Surly!

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Photo of Georgiabeer
4.32/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750 ml bottle #167, graciously shared by RustyDiamond with me. Very interesting beer that I'd been quite interested in trying. Thanks Rusty! Poured black with a brown head, and appeard somewhat cola colored whrn held up to the light. Unusual aroma that seemlessly blends cranberry with chocolate roastiness and sour tartness. Remarkably intense sour followed by roasty chocolate followed by vibrant cranberry and long, rummy chocolate bitterness. Not sweet, more savory and tart. Quite tannic in the mouth, but this beer is surprising, complex, and a bit challenging. The combination of flavors is unusual and delicious, and sophisticated. I liked this very much.

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Photo of BeerTruth
3.7/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Got this from incutrav a while back, thanks a bunch man!

750 ml red waxed bottle poured into a snifter, #385.

Pours a cola black with a quick one finger light khaki colored head that fades to an outter ring with a few bubbles here and there. Some spotty lacing remains on the sides of the glass. Smell is definitely unique, sour cranberries, booze, and some charred oak. Underneath the powerful sour aroma is some chocolate malts, toasted coconut, and rich smokey cofee beans. Powerful nose to say the least, I could smell it across the room. Sour cranberries, crab apples, and rhubarb up front on the tongue that seem to linger all the way to the end as well. Midway some of the stout characteristics emerge on the tongue with smoked malts, chocolate and caramel, and some earthy hops. Aftertaste is sour with the previously mentioned fruits/vegetable with bland dark roast coffee. Not the taste I was hoping for, but decent. Mouthfeel is pretty sad; light body and soft in the mouth...I want my stouts full and chewy, even if it's brewed with fruit. This beer is different, nothing to trade away your cellar for though. Definitely glad I had the opportunity to try this one.

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Two from Surly Brewing Company
Beer rating: 93 out of 100 with 108 ratings