De Proef Flemish Primitive Wild Ale (Surly Bird) | De Proefbrouwerij (bvba Andelot)

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110 Reviews
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De Proef Flemish Primitive Wild Ale (Surly Bird)De Proef Flemish Primitive Wild Ale (Surly Bird)

Brewed by:
De Proefbrouwerij (bvba Andelot)

Style: Belgian Strong Pale Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 9.00%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by Todd on 06-14-2005

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Reviews: 110 | Ratings: 253
Photo of gameface23
2.46/5  rDev -38.3%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

A: From a 750 mL bottle poured into a brandy snifter. It was straw colored, but had a bit more of an amber hue than I was expecting. Chunky yeast sediment was abundant.

S: Not much in the aroma. I was expecting at least a little wild tang, but there was none. I picked up grassy and vegetal notes with some hops.

T: Again, nothing in the tang department. Lackluster, with a bready blanket overshadowing everything else. Pretty bitter finish.

M: Decent. Medium-bodied.

D: I definitely wouldn't buy this again, especially at the price.

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Photo of rpstevens
2.63/5  rDev -34.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Poured from a bottle into a tulip.

The beer looks promising to start, pale straw color with a thin white head that leaves a little lacing. Very active carbonation.

The smell is slightly funky and sour with nice notes of lemon and hay. There is a bit too much malt present in the nose for my taste though.

The bread and malt really take over the taste of the beer. There are some notes of hay, citrus, lemon, grass and there's a mild hop as well, but the bready undertone kind of ruins those flavors. The funk and sour from the nose are also not present in the flavor at all.

There is a slight alcohol burn and sweetness that are not very pleasant. The beer is well carbonated and very light-bodied, but the malty/bready flavor is unpleasant and the aftertaste is awkward and indescribable.

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Photo of bronzeside
2.66/5  rDev -33.3%
look: 2 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Picked up a 750 of "Surly Bird" expecting the same type of tasteful yet adventurous experience I've had from the other De Proef Flemish Wild Ale products (Pig Nun, Spoon Whacker, etc.)

A little difficult to get the synthetic cork out--as I poured into a chalice, I found why-- pretty darn flat. Little to no head, like amber water.

Color a dark amber. Massive amounts of sediment as I reached the bottom of the bottle.

Smell was quite tart--before the first sip I braced myself for the sharp bite the Gueuze offerings I've tried--not there, though.

Nor did I catch the smooth dynamic barnyard flavors I expected. Yes, the grass, hay etc. were all there, but with a slightly off slightly sour bend.

Am really wondering, as many of the other reviewers noted a good head on the brew, if I did not get a bad bottle?

Hate to risk my money on another, though, as there are so many great (and consistient) Belgians out there.

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Photo of bobhits
2.89/5  rDev -27.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3

Pours golden cloudy body with a HUGE white head with some staying power. A lot of lace left even in an absurdly dry beer.

Musty with citrus notes, and hop mixed malt finish.

Wild ale is rather open but I hoped for a bit of sour notes, instead I got a lot of musk, funk, hints of citrus, followed by old sitting funk I dunno. It isn't bad, it's actually decent but not for me. There's just not enough bite from the citrus side for me.

Well carbonated but too hard to finish.

I worthy beer but split multiple ways.

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Photo of erica
2.99/5  rDev -25.1%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

This was a strange beer, and my scores might not make sense at first glance, with great aroma and not so great taste, but I can't score it any other way. It'd be a lie. I split a 750ml of this, not really knowing what it would be like, since I'd never heard of it before. But I was willing to try it, as the bartender said it was more sour than he likes... So I thought Oh good, sour. I'll love it!!


Appearance was nice enough, it was a cloudy dark yellow/straw colour, with perhaps a slight tinge of orange. It had a lively white fluffy head that soon diminished into a thin layer of bubbles which coated the entire top the entire time.

It smelled fantastic!! Really great. Very sour like a gueuze (while writing my notes I couldn't figure out the correct way to spell gueuze/geuze/gueze, so I crossed it all out and just put Cantillon. Self-explanatory.) So anyway, it smelled like a Gueuze, mixed with a funky French cider apples and spices too. Very wild and fresh. It got me all excited. And then... the first sip. I actually thought it tasted very good, some sourness, apples, grapes, maybe a bouquet of wildflowers thrown in, along with just a hint of oak in the background. However, after maybe the 2nd or 3rd taste, I began to get more of that bitter Orval-like taste, the brett. I guess it is. And from there on, all I could taste was this overpowering non-hop bitterness. And the aftertaste lingered way too long and didn't disappear even after some big gulps of lemon water. It began to give me a stomach ache, so I ended up dumping about 1/3 of what I had into Francis's glass. I couldn't take it anymore.

So, moving on, mouthfeel was fizzy and light, that was nice. But drinkability, not so nice, considering I couldn't even finish what I had. I would have to say to my fellow beer-drinkers:

If you like Orval, drink it all!
If you're not a fan of Brett, this isn't one to get!

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Photo of cujocon
3.16/5  rDev -20.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

750ML Brown Bottle $12 State Street Northampton MA
Appearance: Golden with champagne bubbles and Giant Foamy head like meringue
Smell: funk like fruity mushrooms
Flavor: surprise - not at all tart or sour, little to no bitter up front, some in the aftertaste
Like a really mild beer. No alcohol flavor at 9% Not a lot of any flavor except that bitter aftertaste threatening
Overall: 3/5 Incredibly drinkable, like an Intro To Beer class.

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Photo of ptykozoon
3.16/5  rDev -20.8%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3.25

Hazy yellow, sticky head and lacing.

Orange peel, unripe fruit, barnyard funk.

Taste is mostly floral, grass and dry straw. Very light fruit.

A lot of sediment, not a lot of sourness.

Perhaps a good representation of the style but not my favorite beer in the world.

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Photo of mdfb79
3.16/5  rDev -20.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

From 06/25/11 notes. Picked this up at a store in NJ, but unsure of the vintage. The place has random Belgian vintages going back to 1991m so I'm guessing this is an older bottle. Poured from a 750ml bottle into my Bruery tulip.

a - Pours a cloudy dark amber color with one finger of fluffy white head and light carbonation evident.

s - Smells of sweet fruit, bready malts, and cardboard. Seems like it may be a bit past its prime.

t - Tastes of sweet fruity malts, cardboard, msuty notes, bready malts. Again, past it's prime.

m - Medium body and low carbonation. Pretty smooth and easy to drink.

o - A bit disappointing as it is definitely a shell of its former self; I'm guessing it is a pretty old bottle. Would like to have fresh sometime.

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Photo of sulldaddy
3.19/5  rDev -20.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

SAmpling a cellar temp 750 ml bottle with my friend Stopper. Bottle has been cellared for 3-4 years. The beer is poured into a snifter.
The beer pours a very hazy copper hue with minimal eggshell white head that foams up about1 cm and fades to a wispy edge layer and a large island.
Aroma is funky wet blanket, musty straw and a little band-aid phenol. The last part worries me a little, but it is very mild.
The first sip reveals an average body and very fine carbonation. The carbonation rolls across my palate with a gentle action.
Flavor is actually not as funky as I anticipated from the nose. SOMe tart notes show through with a little grain and some wet straw husky notes. Finish is a little dry and I dont get any hints of the booze on this one.
The beer is interesting but I find myself thinking that I am glad to be splitting it and not consuming a full bottle on my own. I wouldnt try this one again, but that is personal preference, I suspect many folks would love the beer.

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Photo of mmmbeer
3.38/5  rDev -15.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

750 mL Belgian bottle, with F0108 on the synthetic cork. Pours a lightly-chilled medium gold, with lots of carbonation and an inch of ivory head that leaves nice lacing. It has a strong aroma, with phenols, orange, pear, light hops, a bit of acidity, and some earthy/funky yeast notes. Tastes of oranges, pale malt, floral noble hops which impart a medium bitterness, and a touch of sweetness. This is all pierced by strongly phenolic yeast and an alcohol pungency. Light, a little tingly, dry with a long spicy finish. Drinks like a big and pungent saison, and it's a bit harsh when cold, but mellows a bit as it warms. An interesting beer for sure, but this could use a few more years in the cellar I think.

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Photo of BEERchitect
3.4/5  rDev -14.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Ripped straight out of the pages of history, I can easily imagine a day when the individual flavors found in this Primitive Ale would have been as good as it gets. Equipped with a plethora of refinement, raw, rustic and clumsy pieces and parts. But together, a beautiful medley of accidental chemistry and microbiology come alive to entice and satisfy the tastebuds.

Inside its surprisingly pale gold hues lie an earthen-sweet wisp of fruit, grain and pungency. As honey, raw barley, hay, melon and apple greet the olfactory senses, a distinctive collection of earthiness evolves- opening up to sweat, briny parmesan, horse hair, and stale bread.

Its tangy zinfindale flavors open up on the tongue, highlighting the fruitiness of green apple, lemondrop, honeydew, cantaloupe, white grape and orange peels. Its countering taste is of dull peppercorn, cumin, mild clove and sandalwood. Its curious melange of flavors is moderately spicy to add tepid balance to the beer's doughy sweetness.

Despite such brine, acidity and peppery quality; a grainy-sweet taste keeps the lead even in its modestly warming finish. Certainly, the beer's wild side shows but those sour tendencies, drier spice and earthen complexity typically frames the final impressions of a beer- not so much in this case.

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Photo of NCSUdo
3.44/5  rDev -13.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

750 mL bottle

A: Beautiful clear golden, huge bubbly head

S: Big apple nose but not a sweet apple, some pear, yeast and bread that eventually gives way to a big, big hay/barnyard like aroma, really loses me here

T: Yeast and bread, with a bitter finish, good but nothing to write home about.

M/D: Excellent mouthfeel, light body and low carbonation, drinability is low for me as this beer just did not impress me overall

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Photo of sweemzander
3.45/5  rDev -13.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

750mL bottle poured into a tulip.

(A)- Pours a goldenrod color. Produced a nice tall cap of white froth. Great retention and lace.

(S)- A bone dry horseblanket, earth, clay, and a lemon-Brett funk. Bits of biscuit and tartness at the end. Quite nice and funky.

(T)- Very similar to the smell. A heavy Brett funk with lots of earth, clay, and spice. Far more Brett than the smell led me to believe actually.

(M)- A good carbonation level. A decent balance, though very Brett-forward with earthy bits. Not a whole lot else taste-wise.

(D)- Its easy to enjoy well enough, though nothing to write home about. The Brett is just too dominating for me to get more out of this than just a Brett funk. The smell was quite nice though.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.45/5  rDev -13.5%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to wethorseblanket for sharing this one at jmgrub's birthday tasting.

Pours a hazy honey orange with a foamy tan head that settles to wisps of film on top of the beer. Small streaks of lace form around the glass on the drink down. Smell is of malt, honey, and some cardboard aromas. Taste is much the same with a Brett flavor on the finish. There is a mild amount of hop bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp mouthfeel. Overall, this is a pretty good beer that seems to be showing a bit of oxidation compared to the other beers in the series.

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Photo of thepenguin
3.51/5  rDev -12%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2012 vintage

L: Pours a mostly clear medium gold with chunks of sediment and a billowy head that retains extremely well. Very active carbonation and nice lacing. Carbonation is so lively that it sends the sediment chunks shooting upwards from the bottom of the glass, creating almost a whirlpool effect.

S: Leathery brett off the bat, with some faint mango, honey, and oxidized notes. Some cleaner bretty fruitiness, mild spice and a somewhat soapy character.

T: Pretty rustic and dry – a bit grainy with some nondescript hop bitterness, oxidized cardboard notes and a mild metallic aftertaste. A lot drier and blander than I remember it being fresh.

F: Medium body, active carbonation, mild warmth in the finish.

Thoughts: This beer really dried out over those years in the cellar and lost much of its character.

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Photo of Sammy
3.52/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A barnyard musty smell greets you. Nice creamy head and pale colour. The taste must be acquired, and I have had better, such as recently in Vermont. Some lemony citrus. It will surely scare off most beginners. Creamy and drinkable. I think this should be had with a meal.

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Photo of goodbyeohio
3.52/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

also known as "Flemish Primitive Wild Ale #3", 750 ml bottle split with my lady.

pours golden.. somewhere between clear and cloudy. what a nice, thick foamy head on this beer. weblike lacing, belgian thru and thru.

smells distinctly of a sharp cheese. lots of bacterial farmhouse fermentation present in the nose as well. pungent and savory aromas.

taste is very intense in its upfront bitterness and extreme carbonation. 'burly', a word used by the bar to advertise it, is dead-on in its representation of this beer's character. spice and alcohol dominate. nothing extraordinary about the flavor.. more like a dry champagne than a bitter hoppy beer. harsh side of the alcohol presence is well hidden by a sourness.. aftertaste is overwhelming at times and burps are lambicy. wild! true dat.

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Photo of shbobdb
3.54/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Holy horseblanket!

This beer is like Orval, only grown up and ready to kick ass and take names.


We are talkin' some serious brett funk here. It's like drinking a barnyard. The 'wild' in this brew is pretty much wild yeast, not bacteria. Sure, there is a nice crisp finish from the lactic acid bacteria, but man, this beer is anything but clean!

There is also the unwelcome bitterness that others have mentioned. I can't really say I dig it. A 45 IBU wild beer was something best left thought about, not brewed. There is a reason why lambics use old hops and this beer is a showcase for that.

All that said, this is still a pretty drinkable brew. The way it looks man, this is how beer is supposed to look. A beautiful golden body with a head that just won't quit no matter what you do. Wonderful.

The taste is also a wonderful showcase of what Brett can do. I'm not a big fan of brett, but if you like the flavours it produces this is definately the beer for you! Just don't expect any moderation what-so-ever.

Definately a beer worth seeking out. I'm inspired to seek out the rest of the series. A masterfully done beer.

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Photo of TenHornsProud
3.61/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a clear straw yellow with a huge, white rocky head, almost Orval like.

Smells of some funk, diacetyl butteryness, and notes of brett barnyard.

Taste is up front green apple, sweet, with earthy funk that goes into a more bitter middle and ends on a slightly metallic, sharp, floral, and funky end. Surprisingly bitter but balanced. Still, somewhat one dimensional and boring.

Lighter to medium body with medium to high carbonation. Alcohol is surprisingly well masked.

A hoppy, somewhat fruity and floral funky beer that lacks something, maybe more malt or more funk would help. This WOULD be great with some slightly spiced/herbal food though.

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Photo of crossovert
3.63/5  rDev -9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

750ml bottle.

Upon uncorking it is a slow gusher. It pours a murky gold with a TON of sediment. It appears to be yeast particles. The head is ivory white and holds surprisingly well though it doesn't give much lacing.

This one has a definite must to it, along with Jolly Pumpkin's Lambicus Dexteris, this is one of the funkiest intentionally funky beers I have smelled. Candied vomit anyone? At any rate is smells both highly acidic and sweet and the same time with some funk to make it "primitive" so to speak.

The flavor is much less funky than the nose. It has a nice yeast blend in it though. It has a mild tartness and some definite bretty character. The hops are surprisingly noticeable adding a nice little bitter note. The malts are really noticeable here, they are very-honey graham cracker-like.

It is a nice ale with a lot of depth, but it is a bit sweet for my liking.

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Photo of mverity
3.64/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Bottle from Proof. Pours a golden straw color with an inch and a half of bubbly white head. Sticky lacing from the very beginning. Head settles into a thick collar of differing size bubbles, clumps of head across the surface, and thin head where the clumps aren't present. Aroma is apple and grape sweetness, lots of yeast funk, and lots of dry grass. Taste is the grass and funk playing fairly well together. Light carbonation and medium body, slightly creamy mouthfeel.

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Photo of confer
3.64/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Looks great in a glass. A little darker than pale yellow. Big white creamy head, Big time carbonation. Plenty of sediment.
Smells like a big old sour with a sweet touch.
Taste seems to be missing something, That sour smell isn't there in the taste . The alcohol is completely hidden. The funkiness is there all throughout.
Very light almost champagne like lost of bubbles.
I guess I expected a little more wild in the wild ale. Not bad though.

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Photo of StonedTrippin
3.64/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

a very unique beer, mainly for how downright weird the yeast is, but i appreciate it for what it is, even though it isnt my favorite wild ale. the color is pale yellow, still bright, but washed out just a bit. a ton of chunky yeast tears around in the glass under a multiple inch pure white head brought on by active carbonation. its nose is one of the weirder in beer for me, a combination of sweaty girl, covered in some sort of floral lotion, and dry dog food. i know it sounds weird, but both are unmistakable smells, and both are strong in the aromatic profile of this beer. the sweaty chick part fades off after a few minutes, but the dog food feature remains. it didnt turn me off enough to not want to drink it, but i could see some people having that reaction once they identify what they smell. the taste is better though, still wild as anything and yeast driven, funky and not sour at all, like sourdough bread going just off, it has that five to it. it also has some decent hops, which brighten it up and are welcomed. the malt bill is light and simple, and doesnt add much more than fermentables here. an old world style beer, expressive in feel and one of a kind, but not a beer i am overly enthusiastic about drinking again. something about the nose...

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Photo of TurdFurgison
3.65/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Presentation: 750mL bottle, poured into Watou chalice.

Appearance: Deep orange, hued slightly yellow. Decent head, dissipates quickly to a thin white layer.

Smell: This smells very much like Orval to me. Horse blanket is maybe the correct word...

Taste: Tastes like Orval, but was much more reasonably priced.

Notes: I liked this, and will buy it again. Unfortunately I haven't found this in Columbus, I had to buy it at Cloverleaf in Detroit during a business trip.

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Photo of darklordlager
3.73/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Picked this one up at Blue Max three or four months ago. Second De Proef beer of the week--this brewery really puts out some good stuff.

A: Pulled from the cellar, popped open, and thrown into a snifter. Pours a gorgeous clear-golden colour with a volumptious 1" slighty off-white head. Marks the sides as it dies down a bit. Looks great. Second pour is a bit more hazy, with some floaties--despite my efforts to decant it (or balance decanting with wasting as little as possible).

S: Funk, hay, barnyard. Lots of fruit--apple, pear, grape. Smells very acidic.

T: Funky, but not nearly as sour as I was expecting it to be. More of an acidic funk to it. Lighter fruits lead in, with a bit of hay/earthy barnyard flavour. Smooth for a beer of this style. Dry, not tart at all, or sour (like I was kind of expecting). Earthy/peppery flavour lingers on the tongue. Slightly chalky. Even more earthy with the second pour, with a slightly intensified tartness.

M: Light-to medium with high carbonation.

D: While good, this one had me wanting a little bit more. A solid wild beer, but not something I would drop the cash on again. A bit too earthy without a sour/tart element.

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De Proef Flemish Primitive Wild Ale (Surly Bird) from De Proefbrouwerij (bvba Andelot)
3.99 out of 5 based on 253 ratings.
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