Surly Brewing began in 2005, led by Omar Ansari and founding brewer Todd Haug. It began in a portion of an industrial abrasives factory owned by Ansari’s parents, Nick and Dorit. Along with their blessings and the help of Omar’s wifem Becca, the first beer was produced: Bender, an oatmeal brown ale. In 2014, after and a continuous and profitable period of growth, the brewery moved into a 50,000-square-foot facility in Minneapolis, hosting a brew house, beer hall and garden, a company store, pizza restaurant, event center and concert venue.
Today’s beer is Dark Phase stout, a milk stout that was originally released last year and is now available in Surly’s Frost Pack sampler. Brewed with Warrior hops and a wide array of malts that include Golden Promise, Aromatic, Crystal, Chocolate, Black Malt and Roasted Barley. It uses English Ale yeast, has very low IBUs and comes in at a 5.5 percent ABV.
Poured from a 12-ounce can, the color is pitch black with a hint of dark golden brown along the extreme edges and a frothy deep tan head that rapidly disappears leaving a small ring and spotty filming on the top of the beer; zero lacing.
Aroma is roasty malts, raw sugar and a bit of dark chocolate and is cooling to the nose. The taste is lighter than expected but still yields flavors of dark chocolate, lightly roasted coffee beans, caramel, sweet creamy sugar and a light aftertaste of earthiness. Although all flavors are subtle, the balance is fairly good, although a touch more boldness from the ingredients would have allowed me to analyze it a bit more in detail. The mouth feel brings forth a little more bitterness, almost charred taste but the lactose addition for the most part keeps it in check.
Warming of the stout doesn’t kill Dark Phase, but it definitely does not improve it as the char seems to move up the ladder seeking more dominance in the flavor profile and bringing with it a light cocoa powder feel along for the ride. The finish still allows most of the previously mentioned ingredients to still be there, but they become less and less of a player to the bitter finish.