One of acclaimed brewer Todd Haug’s most stunning offerings bears his name. Surly Brewing Company’s Todd the Axe Man IPA was brewed during Haug’s decade-plus run at Surly in Minnesota. Despite Haug’s abrupt exit to another Midwestern powerhouse in 2016—Indiana’s 3 Floyds Brewing Company of Zombie Dust and Dark Lord lore—Todd the Axe Man remains a fixture in Surly’s year-round rotation. It is easy to see why, Axe Man finds the balance between East and West Coast IPAs, leaning on a winning combination of Citra and Mosaic hops as well as malt bill featuring solely Golden Promise and a neutral English ale yeast strain.
Todd the Axe Man pours a vibrant golden color with a hint of hazy orange. It features a dense white head that pulls away from the glass, looking more like a disc floating on top of the beer than a typical head of bubbles. The bright color is in direct contrast with the red and red black can. An ominous viking-horned skull and assertive font make for an aggressive package for this largely fruit-forward IPA.
Double dry hopping brings massive tropical and citrus fruit notes together to form a ridiculously enticing aroma. The strength is immense, yet the aroma is dense, hovering largely above the glass instead of filling the room. Mango, pineapple, orange and grapefruit all intermix with no interference from the barely present malt.
Tropical and citrus fruit-forward hops, plus double dry hopping with minimal malt complexity, and light drying yeast equals a stunning IPA.”
As if the aroma wasn’t clue enough, the first taste reveals why Todd the Axe Man has achieved such recognition. Each sip is a tropical fruit assault with mango and pineapple coming through from the aroma, there are also hints of guava and passionfruit. The citrus flavor roars through the back end in the form of pithy orange, providing enough bitterness to balance out the sweet tropical fruit. The rind-like citrus bitterness is complimented by a bone-dry finish. This finish is feeling like a signature quality of Surly beers, one I attribute to the English-Ale yeast they use in other hop forward brews like Xtra-Citra and Overrated.
In Todd the Axe Man, Surly follows a time-tested recipe for IPA success: Tropical and citrus fruit-forward hops, plus double dry hopping with minimal malt complexity, and light drying yeast equals a stunning IPA. What elevates Axe Man even further is the precise timing and quantity of hop additions as well. It is an excellent beer, and its “best of both worlds” flavor profile should allow it to remain on its throne regardless of what is en vogue in the land of IPA.