Beer On My Shirt: The Axe Man Cometh

J. R. Shirt, August 12, 2015

A few weeks back, at the Philadelphia BeerGraphs meetup, I had a conversation with a man that Eno Sarris refers to as Minnesota Nick about Surly Brewing. Minnesota Nick (or Mighty Mipples, which is how I address him due to my poor ability to decipher and pronounce Twitter handles) was quick to bring up Todd the Axe Man, the American IPA that started as a collaboration between Surly and Amager from Denmark that is now being released in 16 oz cans.

A few weeks later, which would bring us to a few days before right now, a can of Todd the Axe Man arrived at my door. The whole experience of opening a package with something awesome inside had me immediately singing Plow United's “85 E. Cleveland,” a minute long catchy as all goodness pop angry punk pop song that starts out “I got it today, it came in the mail.” It goes on from there with more words that don't apply to this scenario but I just listened to it again, and the song after that on the Narcolepsy album, and I AM PUMPED UP. Also, I made myself an after-dinner green tea. So there is that.

Todd the Axe Man, named after Surly brewmaster Todd Haug, is a west coast style IPA brewed with a single malt, Golden Promise, and hopped with Citra and Mosiac. Why a single malt beer? And specifically why a malt that is typically used in authentic Scottish and English ales (Golden Promise is a barley variety from Scotland)?

Well, it just so happens that Golden Promise is not only good for Scottish ales. In fact, Surly uses Golden Promise in the malt bill for Furious, the brewery's second highest rated beer on the BeerGraphs leaderboards after Abrasive Ale. So when Amager and Surly first met, Amager had a lot of questions about ingredients, particularly the ones they couldn't get their hands on. Here's a quote from Todd regarding the collaboration, from Jeremy Voss's Growler article, "The Secrets of Surly":

“We went to the Copenhagen Beer Fest and met some awesome brewers like Amager. They really wanted to know about some ingredients that they don’t have access to. One of them is Golden Promise, the malt we use in Furious. The popular thing now is a single hop beer. This is a single malt beer. It’s all Golden Promise. And two trendy American hop varieties, Mosaic and Citra. So it’s a single malt, West Coast American IPA. We’re going to brew that too, so you should be able to find it here.”

And so MightyMinnesotaMipples Nick – this would work much better if his name was Mick, found it and sent one my way and I am grateful. Perhaps he found it at Surly's Destination Brewery in Minneapolis – a new production facility, beer hall and garden, event center, and restaurant. But I can't be sure. I imagine the Destination Brewery is awesome. But again, I can't be sure. Because I'm in Pennsylvania. At the mercy of kind-hearted Midwestern souls. To send delicious beer. And to tell me how awesome Surly's new place is.

Todd the Axe Man, Surly Brewing Co. (6.5% ABV)

Appearance = 3.5/5

Hazy brownish orangish goldish (those are all words). Thin layer of off white, almost hints of pinkish grey head.

Aroma = 5/5

Holy wet pineapple juice. Or wet pine and apple juice. But no, it's tropical, so we'll stick with wet, maybe dank, pineapple juice. Blank spaces are important. T Swift was right (assuming that's even what she said because I don't actually really listen to her all that much, but, you know, my daughter got the album as a gift). Someone should brew a beer called Dank Spaces.

Taste = 4.75/5

Not as tropical as the aroma at first – more of a powerful citrus rind bitterness with some earthiness. There are tropical, orange, and pineapple notes on those first few sips but more as a compliments to some serious bitterness that I was not expecting based on the aroma. However, after the fist few sips, that bitterness settles a bit on the back of the tongue and frees up the rest of the tongue real estate and then the citrus and pineapple start to take a more pronounced role – becoming more of a dank citrus flavor with pineapple. All while having big bitterness behind more delicate and juicy flavors. Gets better with every sip. Thank God for 16 oz cans.

Feel = 4.25/5

Medium feel. Almost a tiny hint of salt character at the end of the feel – that crisp slickness.

Overall = 4.75/5

If I had more I might be able to say 5 for taste and then 5 overall. This beer smelled and tasted like tropical fruit juice and gave me cotton mouth at the same time. No beer has ever done that before and it is amazing. It's like IPA worlds are colliding. In my mouth. For some reason I am compelled to say that Relationship George will kill Independent George. I'm not sure why, or how, but somehow it applies to what this beer has going on.  

Follow JR Shirt on Twitter and Untappd @beeronmyshirt. Listen to the latest episode of the Drinking With Shirt podcast, hosted by T-Bone and I, right here at BeerGraphs or on iTunes