SurlyFest - Surly Brewing Company

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351 Reviews
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Reviews: 351
Hads: 805
Avg: 4.04
pDev: 16.34%
Wants: 230
Gots: 65 | FT: 1
Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company visit their website
Minnesota, United States

Style | ABV
Märzen / Oktoberfest |  6.00% ABV

Availability: Fall

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: feloniousmonk on 09-03-2006

Brewed with three different types of Rye and a single variety of American Hops. Malted Rye, Flaked Rye, and Crystal Rye impart a distinctive biscuit flavor to the lush Vienna Malt body, and dry-hopping with Sterling Hops adds bright, floral hop aromas.
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Reviews: 351 | Hads: 805
Photo of smakawhat
3.63/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Poured from the can into a Libbey style pilsner glass. Can dated August 27th 2015.

Very clear and light for a marzen, faint copper and mostly a reddish brown edge but highly orange and almost glowing. Good classic streams of thin pinhead rising carbonation reaching to a classic head. Head is frothy and billows up nicely on the pour, but settles quickly with good retention. Light colored off tan nearly white and managing an easy one finger puck.

Aroma seems to go more hop forward than malt. Nice interesting tea like aromas, black tea oolong like hop qualities in favor of herbal spice and green earth tones. Crispness seems to lack a bit, and there's really not much toffee or malt presence going on here. This is a nice bouquet but it seems totally out of place for a marzen, I would certainly like some sense of malt sweetness at least.

Palate manages to get more into the realm of an Oktoberfest. Mid palate gives a good but light slick and full malt body. The malt angle on this incredibly neutral and if anything the least thing adding to the flavors of the beer. Once again the hop angle and tea leaf like qualities fill the mid palate, with a bit of neutral sweetness coming. Aftertaste has some old school lager sticky and pasty yeast qualities. Doesn't quite finish clean and doesn't really have that lager crispness either, but more of a juiced up body. Clove and spice angle is more replaced with a faint banana like ester as well, and a bit of spice bitterness on the finish that seems to be from the rye.

Hard to score this one it's a very different marzen, it's a well made beer, but it has too many qualities that I want to have in a marzen that are missing for me to really get into it.

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Photo of KeithS
4.54/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

As it says on the can - this is not really an Octoberfest. Saying that it is a very tasty and creative beer. Nice simple hoppiness to complement a slightly sweet rye. An excellent fall flavor addition.

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Photo of mjpolzin
3.64/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Excited to have Surly in Wisconsin and still working my way through a lot of their beers for the first time. This one was good and a solid representation of the style.

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Photo of JohnGalt1
4/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

16oz can provided by BitterBeerGuy.. Thanks George!! Poured into my trusty slim tulip so I get a 2nd pour... foamy white head.. the brew is clear light amber.

Big toasty maltiness with some slight cocoa notes in the nose.. hops are light and floral.

Flavor mirrors the nose with a sorta dry maltiness... rye malt is there (I guess) but I would not pick it out in the crowd.. again a little toasty on the finish..

Body is light/medium... carbonation seems light... small bubble...

Interesting... Not exactly right, but down the right street..


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Photo of RJB66
4/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Oktoberfest taste test between 4 of the Top 5 on Beer Advocate has the SurlyFest just a bit below the Sierra Nevada collaboration. I like it it drinks really easy and finishes super clean. The next go around I'll try the SurlyFest first and see how they compare. Great Lakes really missed the mark for me.

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Photo of jzlyo
3.94/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Aroma is citrus/fruit, very light pine and malts. The flavor is citrus/fruit, mild hops/hop resin, malts, a hint of grapefruit and a slightly odd mix of bitter and smooth in the finish.

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Photo of Czequershuus
4.56/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This beer pours a light amber with a modicum of head. The aroma is disticly un-marze like. If fact, my thought on smelling it is, is this and IPA. I get tangerine, pine, and mango. The flavor, however, leads with malty tones, toast and caramel leading the way, followed by the hoppy pine and mango. The feel is surprisingly fizzy but also coating. This is certainly as far from traditional as possible, but it says that on the can. As an American hop-fanatic take on an Oktoberfest, this is really cool.

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Photo of Bshaw22
4.04/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

One of my favorite Octoberfests. Smooth all over with a nice hop kick. Classic for Surly I guess. Definitely not a typical fest beer Marzen style which make it a nice change of pace. Very crushable. I could drink these alllll day.

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Photo of Stevedore
4.1/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

16oz can, served in a Hofbräu half Maß. Pours a dark orange-caramel body, three finger white head with very good retention time, lots of lacing. Looks much the part of an Oktoberfest lager. Smells of bread, honey, floral notes, a bit of earth, toffee. Robust nose. Flavour is bread, toffee, mild earthy notes, sweet grain with a toffee and floral finish. For the most part, a very tasty lager that doesn't deviate from the style at all. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, about right for the style. Toffee sweetness on the finish that is cut slightly by a mild floral bitterness. Overall, just about right for an Oktoberfest, and glad to be drinking this again on a cool September afternoon.

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Photo of DabblinWiscCraft
4.11/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Picked up a four-pack of pint cans at the Trig's Cellar 70 in Rhinelander last week. The canning stamp says this one is good for another three months. Poured right from the fridge into my Samuel Smith pint glass.

L: Pours a clear, bright orange blossom honey color with about two inches of very dense off-white head that sticks around for a very long time and leaves considerable lacing on the glass. Profuse visible carbonation--like a whirlwind of bubbles--is present.

S: Caramel and bread-like malt notes are at fore, with grassy hops spicing things up. Just a bit of earthiness and floral notes, as well. At least at the initial pour, the bouquet is very pleasant but unassertive. As it warms, it takes on a more robust aroma.

T: Bread-like malts are there at the outset--more cracker-like than sweet. There's a tartness immediately lent to the malts from the hop presence--it's citrus, grassy, and floral in flavor. The middle retains the malt notes and brings a heightening of the hop flavor, with the citrus especially gaining some punch. An earthiness emerges here, as well. The back end has more of the nice malt bill showcased, an increase in the earthiness, and a nice level of citrus rind and slightly resinous hop bitter to close things out.

F: On the lighter side of medium-bodied, this one drinks just a touch more watery than the carbonation implied. It has a bit of astringency at the front, some creaminess to the middle, and a nice level of bitter at the close. There's just a bit of stick, as the hop bitter lingers on the palate for a short while.

O: Well, this one probably shouldn't be categorized as a Märzen; if we're gauging this one on those grounds, then it definitely misses the point/mark. However, as far as hopped-up lagers go, this one is impressive. Surly has deftly handled the competing flavors in this one and delivered a beer that should appeal to the both the lager and pale ale camps. I recommend giving this one a try.

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Photo of Wer34truh
3.56/5  rDev -11.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.25

Strong notes of grass in the smell. I was surprised by how hoppy the smell was for an Octoberfest. There are also quite a bit of rye in the nose.

Once again, incredibly hoppy for an Octoberfest. Can't quite think of another beer of its 'style' that tastes remotely like this. If given a blind test I would have guessed an IPA rather than Octoberfest. Anywho, what is here is excellent. The hoppy flavor is explosive, and resolves slowly. The aftertaste is subtle, but with shades of various herbs. Otherwise, the spices are quite lacking.

Quite an interesting take on the style, so much so that I'm sure that hardcore Octoberfest fans might say
its a bastardization of the style. While I'm definitely able to enjoy this beer, I'm probably going to go for something more conventional next time. I feel like SurlyFest occupies a greyzone between styles which I don't necessary find compelling. Like a previous reviewer said, if I want something that tastes like an IPA I'll get Furious or the Axe Man, not an unbalanced Octoberfest.

It is possible however that I am being to harsh on this beer for that very reason, my expectations were so out of line with was being offered. A 3.56 is still quite high though.

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Photo of maedhros09
3.84/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Look: Amber with a bit of tan head
Taste: Bready, malty but not sweet, spicy, caramel. A pretty substantial spicy herbal hop finish with a lingering caramel essence.
Feel: medium body with lots of fine carbonation.

Overall: Without knowing the märzen style too well (and knowing that Surlyfest does not strictly adhere to the style) I have to judge mostly on enjoyment. Surlyfest is notable for it's spiciness and hops kick as well as its tendency towards maltiness without being terribly sweet. I thought it was enjoyable though frankly i was glad I didn't buy a 4-pack of it.

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Photo of Evilyak
4/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Copper in color with a white head and no lacing. Biscuit and jam dominate the nose and mouth here, with a little spiciness and bite at the end. With all that jam, I thought it would be a little sweeter, but no. Rinsed clean afterwards.

It's OK. I liked it week enough, but it's enough to say I've had it and move on.

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Photo of kbwalters
4.02/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured cold into a pint glass; canned on 8/18/15, consumed fresh.
Look = 4.25 Pours a golden/amber color with orange highlights and 2 fingers of light brown head; great retention and strong lacing. Lighter color than most OF style beers.
Aroma = 4.0 Hoppy aroma; citrus and tropical fruits notes, mild herbalness. Toffee and bready sweetness and a hint of rye spice.
Taste = 4.0 Hops upfront but more malt forward than the nose. Fruity notes on a bready, biscuity malt backbone and a hint of rye spice comes in on the backend. Low bitterness.
Feel = 4.0 Medium bodied with medium carbonation, substantial feel to it.
Drinkability = 4.0
Overall = 4.0375 Fits the description on the can well; a hoppy lager without much in common with a typical Oktoberfest.

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Photo of CraigP83
4.3/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Neither light nor dark, almost a vibrant red. Smell is sweet hops, apricots jam spread on a sweet biscuit. Delicious taste similar to the smell, as it warmed it had a taste similar to the inside of a fresh cut pumpkin. Fades into a hop bitterness that I wouldn't expect in the style.

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Photo of pat61
4.5/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Had on tap at the Bryant Lake Bowl and from a can – it was better from the can. L: Pours copper tinted amber under a pillowy 1” cream colored foam collar that mounds up over the rim of the glass. S: Bready malt aromas seasoned with hops. T: Brisk, bitter hops dominate rich malt flavors. F: The body is a little thin for the style and the carbonation is above average. O: If you like hops this is your Oktoberfest, the hops are really king here and they are really well done.

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Photo of Laxadaisical
4.24/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

This gorgeous, slightly hazy amber-orange beer wafts sweet biscuity, bready notes, pastry sweetness, rye spiciness, and plenty of hoppy mandarin, lemon, mango, pineapple, and grapefruit. The flavor follows well, with the sweet bread notes balancing with zesty, more robust rye. The hop character is less pronounced than in the aroma, but the tropical and citrus notes come out well, along with a little zesty grassiness. This beer, true to the lager character, finishes cleanly and crisply, with only moderate dryness in the finish. This beer goes down really easily, with each sip closely following the last.

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Photo of MartzMimic
4.3/5  rDev +6.4%

Pours a deep orange with a finger or so of bubbly white head. Bready malt aroma with a touch of piney hops. The taste is of biscuits, caramel and toffee, with a nice piney aftertaste. Medium mouth with decent carbonation. As Surly admits on the label, this isn't your traditional Oktoberfest, but it's freakin' great.

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Photo of Taybeh
3.9/5  rDev -3.5%

Bier from a can, keep it kalt!
A: Pours a bright copper, with a 2 finger head
S: Smells like a marzen, though less sweet. A little spicy hops and rye bread. The hops beckon.
T: The nose is toasty rye bread, followed by a little honey, some earthy/herbal hops, and then more grain. Nice combination of bitterness and rye, and both linger. I get that its a lager from the taste, but its a strange one.
M: medium, carbonation is okay.
Overall: I like it. As it says on the can, it isn't intended to be a classic Ofest beer. Nonetheless, it is close in some intriguing ways, and it delivers on the rye, which is always appreciated. In the right mood and on the right day, I find this beer to be awesome. Other days, its an oddball, but one I appreciate. This year like every year, its gone too soon.

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Photo of oberon
4.11/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured into a becker a clear rich copper/bronze with a thick creamy white head atop.Grain and light toast in the nose along with mild spicy rye.Dry on the palate wich I liked alot with German malts toasted bread notes,a good shot of spicy hops and light lactic rye in the finish.I could drink this from a stein all day,a great O-fest beer.

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Photo of homebrew311
4.15/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours a brilliant clear orange with dense white head, terrific retention, and some nice sticky lacing. Nose features biscuity malt up front with that trademark marzen character that I can only describe as the smell of fall or freshly raked wet leaves. The nose also has a noteable hop presence which I'm not used to for the style, but I must say that it is welcome. The taste is malt forward with notes of biscuit, honey, and bread. This is followed up by slight herbal hop bitterness. Mouthfeel is light with appropriate carbonation. Overall, one of the more enjoyable oktoberfest beers that I have had.

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Photo of EeeCeeTee
2.5/5  rDev -38.1%

First Surly beer I havn't liked. I had hoped this would be a more conventional lager. Does everything have to be flavored like an IPA?
I love both Surly Furious and Cynicale, so I'll stick with those Surlys.

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Photo of Brams17
4/5  rDev -1%

Poured into a half liter dimpled stein

A: Nice copper/light amber beer. Poured with good head. Many reviews said their beer poured clear, but the can I poured had a slight haze to it.

S: Slight spicy hop flavor, grainy malt aroma

T: Clean and crisp malt taste with a pleasant bitter hoppiness that pushed the boundary of the style. Some spiciness from the rye. Clean lager taste

M: Crisp and easy drinking. Medium body and carbonation. Very drinkable

O: Not a typical Oktoberfest, but these guys love pushing the style guidelines so thats no surprise. I really liked this beer and it lived up to my expectations and excitement to try it.

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Photo of BeerSnobRobinson
5/5  rDev +23.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Surly's take on the Octoberfest brew. Sometimes a brewery produces an Octoberfest just because... However, Surly rarely does anything "just because." Surly Fest is made with the same gusto as Abrasive, Furious, Darkness, and pretty much every other brew they make. Fest tastes like no other Octoberfest out there. It is unmistakeably hoppy, yet not too much so it takes away from what it is. I'd hate to call it an IPA-esque Octoberfest, but that's a fairly accurate description. Very attractive red-bronze color and a fairly thick head, agreeable aroma, and a smooth mouthfeel with a pleasant hint of carbonation. Of the dozens of Octoberfests I've had, this one is by far the best. If you have a chance to get it, do so. Your taste buds will appreciate it.

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Photo of macrosmatic
4.22/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Thanks to Cyclone8 for sending this one! Reviewed from notes. Poured from 16 oz. can into an Upland pint glass.

A: Pours incredibly clear - nice light bronze with some faint reddish highlights. Forms a half-finger of off-white head with lots of small bubble visible carbonation.

S: Bready malts and clean lager yeast with no discernible sulfuric qualities – a very restrained aroma but nice. Perhaps a touch of oily hops lurking in the background.

T: Bready malts with some rye spiciness and just a bit of husk, extremely clean lager yeast character – no fruity esters that I can find. Mild resinous and earthy hops with maybe a touch of citrus bitterness near the end. The hang is mostly residual malt sweetness but with a bit of hop bitterness.

M: Medium body for style, good carbonation sensation, and the alcohol is essentially nonexistent.

O: Really digging this beer – it's not always my favorite style, but this example is well-lagered and enjoyable. I do wonder what yeast strain they used because it comes across very well in this beer, and the rye addition with restrained American hops (don't know which one, also curious about this) create a very drinkable and tasty beer. I feel like this is a beer that needs to be in my fridge every fall.

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SurlyFest from Surly Brewing Company
90 out of 100 based on 351 ratings.