Beer Review 0401: Surly Overrated West Coast IPA

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It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that IPAs are all the rage these days — one trip to a bottle shop should turn you onto this breaking news, especially when you see that the IPA section is about four times the size of the comparatively lowly Porter or Stout.

Perhaps we’re guilty of the IPA fetish here, too; a goodly portion of our classic beers (a rating of 95-100 points) are IPAs, but there’s plenty of other stuff in there, too…

Anyway, enter Surly Brewing Company (Brooklyn Center, Minnesota) and their, well… SURLY take on the IPA style, entitled OVERRATED — a West Coast IPA. As it says on the back of the can, “It’s easier to brew an extremely hoppy beer than an extremely balanced beer.” And while that might be true, people really dig ultra-hoppy beers. Surly have made this brew playing to the hype of the hop monsters, but they also say that “it’s just beer, if you like it, great, so do we.” We couldn’t agree more, and I know I was personally excited when I saw the idea behind this brew, and the rejected can artwork:

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Surly Brewing was founded by Omar Ansari, who traces his brewing roots back to 1994, when he received a basic home brewing kit. His friends loved the beer he made with the kit; fast forward to 2002 when he and his wife celebrated the birth of their first child, and things started to get serious.

Ansari moved to all-grain brewing, which led him to enroll at the American Brewer’s Guild, through which he took apprenticeship at New Holland Brewing and took a journey to nearby Rock Bottom Brewery, where he would meet Surly’s future head brewer, Todd Haug. After some equipment wrangling in the Dominican Republic, Surly were in business, three years later.

Overrated uses Columbus, Cascade, Centennial, and El Dorado hops, registers at 69 IBUs (International Bitterness Units), and clocks 7.3% ABV (alcohol by volume), floating the line between regular and Imperial IPA. This beer is canned occasionally throughout the year, making it a seasonal offering.

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Pouring from the can gave up a large, soapy and foamy head, long lasting, and stark bright white atop a golden-orange beer. The body was slightly hazy, as most heavily-hopped beers tend to be; there were no particles or sediment and the liquid was translucent. Lacing was good right from the first signs of head diminish, leaving behind sudsy, frothy bits of foam down the glass.

The aroma featured tons of hops and little else — the main players are grapefruit and lemon, along with a very resinous pine. Malts are here, but very understated (in comparison to the flavor, which you’ll read about in a minute) — simply some earthy grains, which get lost in the hop astringency. The resin notes here are huge; dank, dark, and sticky. As Overrated warmed, I noticed a little bit of peach present itself.

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Surprisingly, the malt backing is first up in the flavor department, issuing up grain and caramel, but that doesn’t last and the hops come out to smack your palate around. Big, fresh, and juicy notes of grapefruit and general citrus wash over the tongue, leaving behind a bit of tart lemon and bringing on a pine tree middle of the mouth. This is where the hops turn a bit floral, and turn on the bitterness, which starts in a slow wave; mild at first, but building over the course of the glass, becoming on the far edge of moderate to almost heavy. The finish is exceptionally drying and turns a bit soapy, leaving grapefruit rind and bits of pine. Overrated is medium-bodied, with a medium, super creamy mouthfeel.

Overrated is a highly tasty and drinkable beer. I shrug my shoulders at this being called easy to brew; I can’t make it in my backyard, and more often than not, the most tasty of food and drink is the easiest to make, with the most rudimentary of ingredients. I know if Overrated were available in my area, I’d be downing this like it was going out of style. Hype?! What hype?!

Surly Overrated West Coast IPA, 94 points. Price: $15.99 US for a four pack.

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