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Belt's Beer Garden: Going Rogue (and getting Surly)

I bring you two new beers from Rogue and Surly that are sure to make this winter a bit better.

This week I decided to head North to find some beers. I came back with one from Oregon and another from Minnesota.

The first beer reviewed this week is from the Twin Cities and is also the first brew from Surly to be featured on BBG.

bender

As I said, this is the first Surly we've featured on Belt's Beer Garden so let me tell you a little about them...

Minneapolis, Minnesota had a lot to be proud of way back in 2004. The Twins won their third straight AL Central title, the Vikings made it to the NFC Divisional round; the Golden Gophers were ranked in the Top-25 for most of the season and even beat Toledo (63-21, ha!) and Alabama...oh, and the idea for Surly Brewery began.

However, it wasn't until December 30th of 2005 that they had finished brewing their first beer - Furious - and it took another two months (February of 2006) before they sold their first keg. Things took off after that first sale though and, just over a year later, BeerAdovcate named them the Best Brewery in America.

Today, they're in a huge new brewery, have a second location about 15 miles away from their original, and are available in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois. Expect them to continue to expand their distribution and be out by you shortly.

Surly's Bender is an oatmeal brown ale, so it was no surprise to me that it poured a dark opaque brown...almost like it was a soda. Atop the beer was about one finger of thick tan foam that builds and dissipates quickly.

The aroma is subtle and well balanced but you can pick up on a few things. There is a nice roasted nut scent as well as some spices, caramel and some chocolate as well.

By now we all know that I prefer lighter, fruity/hoppy IPAs so I wasn't sure how I was going to fell about this beer. However, my first sip was not was I was expecting.

I was figuring this beer would be too malty or nutty for me but it wasn't at all. Bender starts with some nuttiness but the sweetness of the malts make a nice chocolate and vanilla flavor that really steals the show.

There was a slight nutty and piney aftertaste that lingered for a moment or two on my tongue between sips; but even that was better than most brown ales I've had. The small amount of head that was left did a nice job of lacing my glass with thick cloudy splotches that would slowly slide down my glass.

It's a creamy, smooth brown ale with a very, very slight hoppy undertone - which could explain why I like it - but it's not bitter by any means (it only has 25 IBU). The 16-ounce can contains 5.1% ABV, so it won't hit you too hard. Nor will it kill your wallet either. The four-pack of cans runs at about $9.99.

This is actually one of the best brown ales I've had. It's flavors combine into a nice, easy to drink ale that I would get again. Surly continues to grow on me. Everything I've had by them is tasty...and this is no exception. 8/10

8 beers

Next up, a beer from one of the OGs of craft brewing, Rogue.

yellow snow

Rogue has been around longer than most of our readers (probably), opening in 1988 in the Pacific Northwest...Ashland, Oregon. They are one of the biggest craft breweries in the United States and are available pretty much everywhere. Somehow, this is only the second beer of theirs we've featured, behind their Brutal IPA.

This marks the 14th year that Yellow Snow has been released. It originally debuted with the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and is, according to their website, Rogue's "tribute to winter sports everywhere." It has since become a seasonal mainstay for them.

Yellow Snow, like its name might suggest, pours a pale golden/yellow color with about two fingers of sticky white head that sits for quite some time...much like the snow in the Midwest (usually).

There is a huge tropical fruit aroma released by this IPA - grapefruit, orange, pineapple - as well as a yeasty backbone with a hint of pepper in there. If I could get an air-freshener made from this beer's smell, I would.

I was hoping the beer would taste even half as good as the scent it gave off. When I finally tried it I was not disappointed!

The smell carries into the taste; with a plethora of citrus and fruity notes up front that fades into a piney, peppery hop finish. I will say (for those of you that don't normally like IPAs) the beer can be a bit bitter, especially on the back end, as it clocks in at 82 IBU.

As I drank down the beer (rather quickly due to its deliciousness), the remaining foam laced my glass with every sip, marking each intake with clearly defined lines...like tire tracks cutting through snow.

Yellow Snow carries a 6.6% ABV which is completely hidden behind all the citrus and pure hoppy-ness that is inside the bottle. And, at $6.99 for the 22-ounce bottle, it's even priced pretty well.

The one drawback...it's only available in the winter. So grab it now while you can!

I normally don't suggest drinking yellow snow; however, this might be the one exception. This beer was fantastic. It had a great citrus flavor with a nice hop background, a slight peppery aftertaste, and is affordable. Rogue has done it again! 9/10

9 beers