Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Surly Pentagram Review

Name: Surly Pentagram
Style: Wild Ale
ABV: 6.66%

Earlier this year, Surly Brewing released Pentagram which is a Wild Ale. For those of you not familiar with Wild Ales or Sour Ales, they are viewed as an unusual style and for good reason. For starters, it's typically brewed with a type of yeast strain called Brettanomyces or "Brett", which is sometimes used in winemaking. It usually gives the wine/ale it's in a sour funk smell, which could understandably turn off many beer & wine drinkers.

It generally isn't used in beer-making because it's viewed as an "infected" yeast strain. It is used on occasion deliberately in a certain styles of ale, like say Lambics, Flemish Reds or in this case, Wild Ales. I like to compare Brett to Nuclear Power: when done correctly it can do wonderful things but if it used isn't intentionally used or left unchecked, the results can be bad.

I'm personally split on the issue, because I've had extremely awesome Wild Ales and ones that made my stomach hold a grudge against me for about 4 hours after I had it. I had wanted to try Pentagram out when it first came out but I never really got around to it. Up until last week, I had all but forgotten about Pentagram until last weekend while getting some beer for a bonfire. As I was making my way to grab some Miller Lite for the occasion, I strolled past the cooler and saw it sitting there. I figured since it was one of the last bottles in circulation, I would just go ahead and grab it.

On the websites and bottle, Pentagram's ABV is listed at 6.66%....Oh ho ho, I see what you did there Surly; Trying to be cheeky with me, are you? Hmph, we'll see about that. My first assumption is that it's just a chance to be clever but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. It's also hard to believe that Pentagram comes from the same people who gave us this....

An innocence lost!

Pentagram pours a dark mahogany/brown color with a filmy head that vanishes fairly quickly upon being poured. You can see a little bit of carbonation along the sides of the glass and it finishes rather clean.

With the nose, I'm getting raspberries, oak, malts, sour funk and Chianti wine. This doesn't come as too much of a surprise knowing that this was aged in Red Wine Barrels prior to bottling.

The flavor is a mixture of tobacco, oak, grapes, red wine, sour yeast and malts. Not too different from the aroma and has that barrel aged taste to it. The one difference I've noticed between Pentagram and other Wild Ales I've tried is that Pentagram is a tad more sour as opposed to the other ones I've had, which have a more tart characteristic.

The body is moderately light and the carbonation is rather mild, and makes this an easier ale to drink. With that said, Wild Ales are not meant to be chugged in 2 minutes.

It's a solid offering from Surly but Pentagram isn't quite the best Wild Ale I've ever had but it's definitely up there; It's a little rough around the edges mainly because the sour & tart flavors are not as balanced as I would like. With that said, it's still a great tasting beer and with a little more age, it'll be even better than it is now. Since it's a Wild Ale, Pentagram is not a beer for everyone but fans of Flemish Red or Wild Ales in general will be pleased with this beer.

Surly Pentagram - 9/10

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