The entire Drunkspin staff believes very strongly in taking an ethical approach to beer journalism. If there is one topic that comes up over and over again at our weekly meetings, it’s meatball subs, and if there is another, it is how best to maintain the high moral standards that have made Drunkspin one of the most trusted beer blogs currently open on your work computer.

We are mostly in agreement that meatball subs should be toasted and provolone’d, but there’s some difference of opinion when it comes to more ephemeral matters like integrity. There’s a unanimous understanding that we should try not to deceive the reader unless it is for money, glory, or extra cheese, but the consensus breaks down when we try to define “deception.”

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For the most part, I try to keep things on the up and up (or at least the up and only slightly sideways) by remembering to disclose any potential conflicts of interest I may have regarding the beer in question. For instance, since most beers aren’t distributed to most states, I often have to rely on free samples mailed my way by out-of-market breweries. Free beer naturally tastes better than regular beer, so I try to account for that in my reviews of freebies by either mentioning their provenance or keeping that mum while capriciously deducting points in an exquisite display of 360-degree hackery that simultaneously hides the pertinent fact and also denies the beer a fair trial. Today we’ll go with the former: Surly Brewing Company sent me a bunch of free shit last week.

Another recurring conflict is that I have neither the travel experience nor the total recall necessary to declare something the definitive “best” of any category broader than Beers I Have Drank So Far This Week. Yet I do it all the time! Why? Hey, we’re all adults here. Let’s move on to one more of the prejudices that undercut my credibility as a reviewer: I like some states more than others, and that predisposes me to like their beers.

So there’s ethical strike two for this review of Surly Furious: It’s from Minnesota, a state toward which I am very positively predisposed. However! I have never been to Minnesota and have no personal connection to the state; I’m pretty sure I love Minnesota because it rules at beer. Grain Belt Premium is America’s finest cheap beer, and Schell’s Pilsner is our fourth-best of its kind. That means they’ve got the lower and middle price (and exclusivity) tiers pretty well covered. And I have recently had the great pleasure of learning that expensive, hard-to-find Surly gives Minnesota a solid claim to top-end supremacy, as well.

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Surly sent a few different beers—all good, a couple great—and today I’m going to address their IPA/British ESB hybrid, Furious. It’s 6.2 percent alcohol-by-volume and generally categorized as an IPA, but the strong malt presence backs up their claim of dual heritage. It’s brewed with five malts and five hops, leading to a complexity uncommon in even the most ambitious American IPAs. It costs somewhere around $12 per four-pack of 16-ounce cans, which is not cheap, but also no more than the going rate for beer of this quality.

Furious opens with a strong blast of floral grapefruit before a deep, nutty caramel aroma shows up to make things interesting. A couple of other kinds of citrus emerge on the palate—orange most prominently—but the malt never disappears, keeping things balanced and approachable despite a strong, resiny bitterness that gets more assertive with time. The all-American hop blend of Warrior, Ahtanum, Cascade, Simcoe, and Amarillo eventually takes the lead, but a malty British character is evident throughout.

Sure, I’m biased toward free beer and Minnesota, because who isn’t? I’m still quite certain that Surly Furious is an outstanding beer by any measure.


This is Drunkspin Daily, the Concourse’s adequate source for booze news, reviews, and bullshit. We’ll be highlighting a beer a day in this space; please leave suggestions below.

Image by Jim Cooke.

Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and some of his closest friends have met Certified Cicerones. Find him on Twitter @WillGordonAgain.