Just got back from Comox where I was visiting with friends and family, as I periodically do. I was hoping very much to find a sample of Surgenor’s latest beer – In Seine Pale Ale – and instead came away with a dire piece of news. It seems that Surgernor, Comox’s own brewhouse, has closed down! Naturally, I wasn’t too surprised, there were rumors that this upstart brewery – just a few years up and running – was falling on hard times.
After experiencing a setback with their aluminum bottling – which I still think was brilliant and made their beer taste fantastic! – it seemed they had encountered some problems with government regulations and distribution. Naturally, there’s only so many setbacks and frustrations and upstart business can stand, and so its owners decided to close up shop and move on.
However, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t find the announcement both sad and deplorable! Its always sad when a great microbrew closes down, but when it’s a hometown operation that also makes a damn fine product, you got to take it personally! I tell you, I haven’t been this disappointed since the Hart brewery shut down in Ottawa. The world of craft brewing is always diminished when one of its own succumbs…
So it seems only fitting that I dedicate this next review to Surgenor’s line of signature beers. Not only were they tasty, creative choices, they were also a truly local operation, making beers that were named in honor of Comox Valley’s history and heritage.
Steam Donkey Lager: This beer takes its name from the steam powered winch which played an important role in Comox Valley’s historic timber industry. Since it was the workhorse of west coast logging operations, its understandable why the folks at Surgenor decided to name their own workhorse in honor of it. Having enjoyed several, I can attest to its authenticity, solid flavor and drinkability. It’s color is a rich, orange-yellow, the taste is malty and has a nice hop finish which lingers nicely on the tongue. 4/5
Red House Ale: Named in honor of the Surgenor brew house, the Red House is my personal favorite of Surgenor’s lineup. Rosy red in hue, this beer combines a strong malt profile with crisp hops and a touch of citrus. The nose is especially nice, sharp, floral, and with a touch of effervescence. 5/5
#8 Shaft Black Lager: I take full credit for this one! No joke, when the brewery was first starting up, they were taking suggestions from the community on what beers people would like to see them make. Given the fact that they were naming their beers in honor of Comox Valley’s heritage, I thought a dark lager or ale named in honor of the Cumberland coal mines was a good idea. A little over a year later, at Nautical Days, what do you think they’ve got on tap at the beer tent?
Okay, I can’t take full credit (or any in all likelihood). After all, it’s kind of obvious when you think about it. Dark Lager, coal mining, it’s just a matter of time! Glad they came up with it though, and enjoyed the flavor even though I only got to taste it once. Light, but tawny and smooth, this black lager is reminiscent of Vancouver Island Hermann’s or Sleeman’s Dark, both fine dark ales in their own right. A little weak for my taste, but still enjoyable. 3.5/5
In Seine Pale Ale: Another name that is one part Comox history, one part delicious pun, In Seine honors the fishermen of the West Coast. Unfortunately, I have yet to sample this one, and now that the breweries shutting down, I will scowering the island looking for some. Expect to hear about it soon!
Rest In Peace, Surgenor’s. And if you get the chance, get back in business! See what you can do about bringing those aluminum bottles back, that was lighting in a bottle!