Middle-America is brewing some great beer. Three Floyds, Half Acre, Boulevard and Toppling Goliath all pump out consistently solid offerings from no-coast USA. Yet, there’s another fly-over state-based powerhouse in Minneapolis, Minnesota that gets less attention. That player is Surly Brewing Company.
Known best for flagship IPA Todd the Axe Man, Surly also produces a whale of a session pale ale, Xtra-Citra. This citra hop showcase defies the laws of session beers. Despite clocking in at 4.5% ABV, Xtra-Citra boasts the flavor of a much stronger beer.
Xtra-Citra is bright even before you crack the can. Orange rays shoot out from the Surly logo on a yellow background, with bright green hops fit together like a puzzle on the bottom of the can. Once poured, Xtra-Citra is a vibrant straw yellow that is mostly clear and active. A big white head quickly gives way, while still clinging nicely to the glass.
Naming a beer after a hop challenges a brewer to make full use of it, and Surly certainly does that with Xtra-Citra.”
The aroma is—as you would expect—all Citra, with citrus and tropical fruit dominating every whiff. Notes of passion fruit, grapefruit, lime and melon all emanate from the glass. Xtra-Citra boasts a complex and pleasing aroma, but it is isn’t a room-filler, likely due to the session nature of the beer. Even still, it is a smell that pulls the glass to your lips.
The first taste makes it abundantly clear that Xtra-Citra is top of class. Huge waves of citrus are complemented by tropical fruit and dried out by the English-ale yeast Surly uses to ferment Xtra-Citra. It’s a great progression on each taste from fruit--grapefruit, melon, passion fruit, lychee—to a hint of crackery malt and honey and ultimately a super clean dry finish from the yeast. Xtra-Citra is one of the rare session beers to feature a progression of flavor at all, much less one with this level of complexity.
It’s tough to find a session IPA—much less a session pale—that so well features a specific hop. The nuances of the citra hop are coaxed out and left alone to shine over a light feel, low malt profile, easy ABV and neutral drying yeast. Naming a beer after a hop challenges a brewer to make full use of it, and Surly certainly does that with Xtra-Citra.