Immerse yourself in all things beer
Last night I got to experience three of my favorite things:  beer, music and free stuff.  I know, heaven on earth right?  My girlfriend won a pair of free tickets to see Stars from our local public radio music station The Current so the night started with as a trip to the Triple Rock (think local hipster, punk dive bar/small music venue). I had no idea who Stars were and we’ll get to that later just for fun but the real star of the night was the unexpected availability of Surly Darkness on

For those of you not familiar with it Surly Darkness is a  seasonal Russian Imperial Stout which has adopted a bit of a cult following here in the craft beer world.  People line up the night before and camp outside the brewery to get in line for Darkness Day.  I have never gone but a limited amount of tickets are given away allowing people to purchase up to six bottles before it goes on sale to the general public. With this cult fandom in mind and my reluctance to go out of my way for a beer I wasn’t expecting to get a bottle or to find it at the bar so you can guess my excitement when I realized it was on tap.  
I’m writing this from recollection but the main thing to take away is not the details but rather the fact that this beer is fantastic.  It’s everything a gigantic stout should be.  It lives up to the name and appears as dark and evil in the glass as the dead horror monsters drawn up for the art work on the can.  It smells out of this world with toffee, caramel sweetness and roast malts.  The first sip is pure bliss with a heavy sweetness that actually balances out well with the hop bitterness so they each mesh together into an extremely
intense yet pleasant combination.  For a ten percent beer this is insanely drinkable yet being a huge ten percent beer on a Monday evening I could only bring myself to have one which is a decision I am already regretting.  In our society today things are often hyped up beyond how good they actually are but Surly Darkness is not one of them. 

So, with a Darkness warming my belly and a somewhat lighter beer in hand the band I’ve never heard of started.  If you have to generically lump Stars into a category I’d say they are somewhat of an indie rock band (whatever that means?) with a heavy mix of synthesizers, bass and a mix of both female and male vocals.  Of the six members only the drummer and lead guitarist held their instruments through the whole show while the other four members swapped between keyboards, bass guitars, an assortment of synthesizers, acoustic and electric guitars and even some kind of odd keyboard/harmonica.  The resulting music was a collection of heavily layered danceable rock tunes that seemed to alternate from synth to guitar heavy between every song.  Not always my bag of tea, but Stars were well worth it for a free show at which I had one of the best beers I’ve ever  had.

I know there are a lot of homebrewers out there who love their Simcoe hops so when I stumbled upon this brew at the store the other day I couldn't help but pick it up.  

The first thing that hits you is the smell.  It's terrific like any good IPA needs to be.  Grapefruity, citrusy, piney awesomeness!  I think my beer rolled around in the car a bit on the way home so I got a yeast infused, hazy brownish orange color which was pretty dark for the style. 

When thinking of an IPA I think of hoppy and crisp so this beer, while it was very good, had a bit too much body and sweet malty flavor for my preference.  That of course is just one mans opinion and should not be counted against it because it is well balanced for an IPA and drinkable for a 9% beer.  With all that malty sweetness and Simcoe flavor this could be drank and enjoyed young for all the Simcoe hop-heads out there or could probably be aged for a while as more of a barleywine type ale.  Either way, moderately priced and good with a cool bottle.  Go get one.