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Belt’s Beer Garden: Red, Wheat, & Blue

Surly’s #Merica! and Odell’s Easy Street


With Labor day being last Monday and the anniversary of 9/11 (which also happens to be my birthday!) coming up this Monday, I was feeling a little patriotic. So I reached for one of the most American cans I had...Surly’s #Merica!.

This marks Surly’s fourth appearance on BBG so, between that and their massive success in the past five years or so, you should know who they are. But just in case, here’s a quick recap: they opened up in Minneapolis, Minnesota back in 2006 and have done a lot of great things since then. You can find them across the Midwest (Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Wisconsin) for now but expect them to expand their distribution soon.

I’ve had a lot of ales from Surly but never a lager which is about to change. I have their #Merica!, a North American adjunct lager made with flaked corn. A four-pack of pints costs a very reasonable $7.99 with each can coming with a 5% ABV.

This pre-prohibition lager poured a crisp, bright golden color and was topped by just over a finger of airy white head. The foam quickly fizzled away in to a mere dusting across the top with some light build up around the edges.

On the nose, this had all the qualities you’d expect from an adjunct lager: light hops that gave off an earthy and grassy aroma (the flaked corn was noticeable here), pale malt, and a slight skunked scent reminiscent of Heineken or Grolsch or any beer than comes in a green bottle.

My first taste started with a nice rush of carbonation that lasted almost the entire sip. It was much more than I was expecting based on the modest amount of head that originally built up.

From the bubbles the flavors rose. Up front there was a slight hoppy bitterness that imparted some light citrus flavors like lemon and orange. Then, as the citrus quickly faded, the mashed corn added a semi-sweet taste to go along with the spice and earthy qualities the German yeast imparted on the beer.

Due to the high carbonation level, #Merica! ends on the dry side of things with some lingering skunky bitterness that is very much like Heineken.

I will say, despite how it ends, it’s actually pretty easy to drink this…and, if you’re like me, it will probably disappear quicker than you expected. And, at 5% ABV, it’s like drinking a light beer but with more alcohol in it!

It’s perfect for tailgating in September and October (before the weather gets too cold and you need IPAs and dark beers to keep you warm) as this is a beer you can drink multiples cans of really easily.

I’m not a huge lager fan (ales all the way!) but this is a solid, easy to drink adjunct lager. Yes, it tastes a little like Heineken on the backend…but, you know, a much better version. The light citrusy hops add a great characteristic up front that really adds a lot to this beer.

Overall, it’s a solid lager perfect for day drinking, tailgating, and mass consumption.

Next up, I end an old “feud” I have with a Colorado brewery.

Odell has been around a long time by craft beer standards. They opened up way back in 1989 in Fort Collins, Colorado…it was so long ago that they were actually Colorado’s second craft brewery! Over the years they have continued to grow and expanding/adding on to their brewery in 1994, 1996, 2009, 2013, and 2015. Today they are distributed in 15 states: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming.

As much as I had enjoyed their beers, I put Odell on hiatus a few years ago after they sent my favorite Chicago brewery a cease-and-desist order for a name (yes I know that’s childish...). They wanted Mercenary Brewing to change their name because it was too similar to their Myrcenary DIPA.

Well, after two years I’ve decided to let bygones be bygones since Maplewood (formerly Mercenary) is still doing really well…regardless of their name.

So, to bury the hatchet, I grabbed a few Odell brews; one of which might be the perfect summer beer. With summer quickly coming to a close and the weather already turning cooler (at least in Illinois) I bought a few wheat beers to enjoy before the weather fully turns cold.

Odell’s Easy Street was one of those. Easy Street was recently put into cans (in addition to being in bottles) and has a very light 4.6% ABV and just 21 IBU. The six-pack costs the usual $10.

This year-round wheat beer poured a really light amber, almost straw colored when held up to the light. Two fingers of sticky, dense white head topped the liquid and slowly fizzled down to a dusting, all while leaving some nice lacing on its way down.

Easy Street has the typical wheat aroma – Belgian yeast with some light spice and a nice helping of bready/crackery malt. There is a very tiny hint of citrus to it but it can easily be overlooked by the malt.

My first taste began with a creamier, medium body and very little carbonation…which I was surprised by. Then the flavors began to flow over my tongue in a smooth and subtle way.

There are some earthy notes from the yeast that lead off the drink but it’s the bready malt that really stands out for most of the sip. In the middle, and towards the backend, the tiny amount of citrus I got in the aroma really come out in the taste. The crackery malt is balanced really well by the lemon and orange flavors that pop up mid sip. As the flavors fade from my palate, Easy Street ends cleanly and with just a slight dryness.

I can certainly see where this wheat beer got its name from…it’s so easy to drink. All the different flavor components blend incredibly well into a smooth, sessionable beer. And I really like that this one doesn’t assault you with a massive amount of carbonation like some wheats can. Odell did well with this one!