What We’re Drinking: Surly Abrasive Ale

The fresh hops practically jump out of this aggressive, highly coveted double IPA.

Double IPAs are a hop head’s dream and a beer newcomer’s worst nightmare: all of the acquired tastes of the style’s namesake are turned up to 11, resulting in intensely hoppy flavor and deceptively high ABVs. Beer nerds go crazy for the stuff, and the best versions of the style are some of the most sought after brews around.

The good ones are packed to the gills with blends of fresh hops, which have a much more intense flavor (usually like grapefruit-y citrus or pine, depending on the variety used) than their non-fresh brethren, and are meant to be enjoyed as soon as possible once they’re bottled, canned, or kegged before the hop flavor decays.

Surly Brewing in Minnesota makes one of the best examples around, alongside a strong lineup of critically acclaimed brews. Sadly, they don’t distribute outside of the state, but they are in the middle of constructing a massive new brewery that will be well worth traveling to. And in the meantime, you can easily order their offerings online if you're inclined to pay the shipping costs. That makes their seasonal (it's available December through March) double IPA, Abrasive Ale, a rare cult favorite that you don't need to go on a road trip or delve into the black market of beer trading in order to drink.

Appearance: The bright amber pour is hazy and clouded, with a sticky white head that laces the glass.

Smell: After a good swirl, the aromas explode with mango and grapefruit. If you’re lucky enough to be familiar with Heady Topper, the nose is incredibly similar.

Taste: It’s surprising how floral this tastes given its citrus-y aroma. The fresh and abundant hops are in full force with a pine-heavy bitterness that hits you right away, and continues with waves of resiny flavor that stick to your palate and don’t let go. There’s also a little bit of citrus flavor along with a caramel backbone from the malts that make it surprisingly easy to drink, but the hops are mostly pine-y.

It’s very bitter, to be sure, but it’s balanced enough so that you can drink a full pint can or two without your taste buds being drop-kicked too badly. You may want to take it easy, though: it doesn’t say so anywhere on the label, but it packs a 9% ABV that’s incredibly well hidden.

Mouthfeel: Medium carbonation, with a slightly thick and sticky feel that lingers in your mouth.

Overall: If you don’t like IPAs, this one in't going to change your mind; it’s just too aggressive (or abrasive, we guess) unless you’ve already got the acquired taste. If you’re a fan of the style, though, you’ll love it. It practically explodes with hoppy goodness, but doesn’t wreck your palate after the first sip. It’s not quite as balanced, and the pine notes are a little more harsh than in other highly coveted DIPAs, but it’s still a terrific beer that’s well worth seeking out.


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