Brewery: Surly, Brooklyn Center, Minnesota
Style: India Pale Ale
Rating: 5 stars
Wet hop/fresh hop beers were all over the place this year, especially this fall, and though I may be a bit biased, Surly's was the best. For reference, here are the others I had and how I rated them:
Minneapolis Town Hall Fresh Hop 2009: 3.5 stars. Needed more balance, though I realize that's a difficult task for a fresh hopped beer. Tasted sweaty.
Two Brothers Heavy Handed: 4 stars for both Cascade and Willamette versions. Cascade had delicious burps. Willamette was a bit creamier.
Founders Dry Hopped Pale Ale: 4 stars. Lighter hops, metallic backbone.
Avery Dry Hopped IPA: 3.5 stars. Incredibly bitter. Smelled like clover.
Boulder Hazed and Infused: 3.5 stars. A good beer. As you can see, most of these are solid. But not that memorable.
Left Hand Warrior IPA: 4.5 stars. Easily my favorite beer from this brewery. Round flavor, lasting bitterness.
Great Divide Fresh Hop: 4.5 stars. "Better than Surly Wet? Close, but not quite. Delicious Delicious."
Deschutes Hop Trip: 3.5 stars. Sweetest of the bunch.
Like I said, fresh hopped beers were everywhere. So what separates Surly's effort from the rest? I don't know. Maybe it was because I was on hand for the beer's release. Everything tastes better when it's being unveiled for the first time. And accompanied by spring rolls. Maybe it's because I love that Surly touch; the grapefruit, the huge roof-of-your-mouth pull you get after every sip.
Perhaps, though, it was because this wet hopper, as opposed to most on the list above, improved as I emptied it. These beers have a tendency to wear me out after a full 12 or 16 ounces. This one had just the right amount of balance to accompany the big hop pulse. Don't get me wrong, I love my hops as much as the next guy. But this one didn't have the 'eating a hop plant' bluntness that many do. At the time of my first tasting, I called it a triumph. And I stand by that statement.