Tuesday, May 1, 2012
After last month's barnburner of a duel review featuring Pliny the Edler and Younger, I decided to continue with that line of thinking and do another two-for-one review. This month however, instead of two seperate beers, I tried a 50/50 blend of two brews from one of Southern California's newer breweries.
Early last month, I was able to procure a growler of Surf Brewery's Black & Rye. It's an even mix of their Surf Patrol Black IPA and their County Line Rye Pale Ale. Similar to my review of Lagunitas Fusion, this a beer that can only be had by those who actually visit the brewery. Or at least in theory, it can only be attained this way. Surf has very recently started bottling their beers and distributing them across much of Ventura and Los Angeles countries. So, I suppose, one could make this themselves by combining a bomber of each. But where's the fun in that? Ironically, this particular beer wasn't my first or second choice to take home in a growler. But choice number 1 was only available on cask and choice number 2 wasn't available in growlers at all. I guess that's part of the deal when you're a small, but growing, brewery. You can't offer everyone everything all the time. Fortunately, the server on hand suggested one of their blended beers they regularly serve, the Black & Rye. Not wanting to go home completely empty handed, I tried a taste and had him fill me a growler's worth. About a week later, I opted to break open this baby and enjoy it over a night of Walking Dead episodes.
The beer itself was pretty interesting. While the growler held it's corbonation well, the first few sips were remarkably smooth almost like that of a good porter or stout. But there was certainly a bit of kick to the overall taste as well. I assume that came primarily from the rye portion of this blend. I'm not typically a big fan of rye beers, they have to be done exceptionally well for me to choose one over another available style. I know that rye is a common brewing ingredient, but its not just beer where I pass on rye. I'm one of those obnoxious bastards who asks for patty melts to be served on sourdough instead, and I almost never buy ruben sandwiches for that very same reason (and don't EVEN get me started on pumpernickel...uhhhggg). Back to the beer though, the Black & Rye hid its spice well and mixed nicely with the strong hops-forward flavor of the Black IPA. My palate wasn't overwhelmed like it can be with double IPAs and it wasn't lacking definitive flavor that I've experienced with some pale ales. There was definite "taste" to this blend and the texture that resulted either from bottling it in a twist-off growler or due to the unique mixture of the two beers made it remarkably drinkable for the first pint or so.
The drinkability of this beer easily continued into the second pint. At 6.2% abv, its neither a session nor a big beer, but sits nicely in that range of weighty alcohol without being overwhelming. I find that the 6-8% abv range has been the most successful for me in these tests. They produce a nice, noticeable buzz without too much of a detrimental hangover. And they allow me to remember accurately the events of a zombie-infestation on a small southern farm that I watch throughout the night. Towards the end of the second pint, however, things began to turn for the Black & Rye. I can't quite be sure if it was the beer itself or the fact that I had tried some Himalayan food earlier in the night in the form of Yak Chili. While, the Yak was indeed a tasty meat, the chili was more akin to a stew. And although I ate it all and enjoyed it very much, washing it down with a few pints of blended beer from a growler may not have been the smartest of ideas. My stomach began to fill quicker than I had expected and finishing beer number 2 took some time. Additionally, the taste of the rye began to come forward and the hops of the black IPA receded. Carbonation still held strong with the pour of pint 3, but it took a good nursing to finish it for the night. The mild spice from the rye continued assert itself in the palate, and mixed with the lingering yak (as well as visually digesting images of zombie corpses on screen), I wasn't chomping at the bit to pour myself one last drink.
After 3 solid pints of Black & Rye, 2 excellent episode of The Walking Dead, and 1 quality serving of Yak Chili, my stomach felt exactly like the sum of those parts the next morning. As with many beers (and many chilis), the gas internally produced from too much consumption is often less than desireable. Still, I have a decent stomach and with enough water and an antacid before bed, the results the following day are never too harsh. This time however, no amount of Tums were going to quell the beast that was raging inside me. When my wife came in to the bedroom to wake me after she had been up for a few hours, I didn't even try to hide my shame in the foul odors that I had created. There would be no blaming this on the dogs, for no canine could replicate such stench. No...this was mine to claim! And yet, unfortunately, this preview of gastronomical unease only grew as the day went on. While my hangover was not in the "red alert" phase of debilitation, that was merely because I did not have the 1-2 punch of stomach and head aches. Rather, all the pain and discomfort rested solely on the former. Worse, it lingered for almost the entire day. Neither water nor bread, fresh air nor medication helped ease my intestinal ails throughout the day. And though I probably can't nail down which party was most guilty of bringing this pain to my body, I think it's safe to say that had I not consumed the Black & Rye, I would have at least felt 50% better.
Oh irony, you are quite the potetic bitch! Surf Brewery was a place and collection of brews that I had long been interested in. The location, the lineup, even the artwork they use for their beers all spoke to me long before I had even tried any. And once I did, I was pleased but still yearned to vistit said brewery to enjoy that beach town vibe of a small but hopping taproom. And once I did that, I was still pleased with the overall experience. Yet ultimately, their blend of Black & Rye just didn't do it for me. Sure it was good for a taste...even a pint. But more than that? I don't know if it's something I'd recommend over another of their offerings (I'm looking at you Oil Piers Porter on nitro!). I suppose however, that it's almost karmic that unless a local bar has both components on tap, you can't really suggest it to someone anyway. Unless you bring them to the taproom or mix some at home I suppose. But if you do, and you enjoy it, whatever you do, don't pair it with yak chili...you'll be sorry.