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SurlyFest - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.

Educational use only; do not reuse.

355 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 355
Hads: 831
Avg: 4.04
pDev: 16.58%
Wants: 228
Gots: 69 | 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.
View: Beers (55) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 355 | Hads: 831
Photo of Bighuge
1.66/5  rDev -58.9%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 1

This beer is a bit of a conundrum. I'm not sure if anybody has touched on this yet, but this beer tastes nothing like a marzen. It's more like an IPA or actually more like a DIPA. The blue and white checkerboard background on the can reminds me of a German Oktoberfest banner (like the ones in "Strange Brew" eh?). But the beer inside is not even in the same ballpark. I understand it's a lager, but this has to be the most hopped up lager I've ever tried. Not that there's anything wrong with that...

Well actually, in this case there is.

Hazy, tarnished copper. Thin coating of beige head. Lace is moderate in amount. Sickly pungent pine needle aroma. It's like smelling the gooey sap straight out of a pine tree. And then licking it. The flavor is all hops. And in truth, these hops don't appeal to me. My belief is that they're 100% Sterling. If that's the case, Sterling is one hop I'll avoid when homebrewing. I get garlic and onion and clove. And an astringent tannic presence that muddles everything up as well. Ouch. This is not good. And my ratings are not due to the nonconforming style. I rated this as if it were an IPA/DIPA/Rye lager.

This is the first beer from Surly that I have not enjoyed. I see others have, so drink up. But I will pass on this next fall. Unless they try a new hop, like Columbus or Palisade or Simcoe. My opinion is that Furious is 10 times better than this.

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Photo of DaPeculierDane
2.09/5  rDev -48.3%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1.5

Many thanks to Mike for the 4-pack.

Great Appearance. Dark orange body with a huge white froth.

Aroma: Huge citrus hops aroma. Touches of rye. No toast. No caramel. I know that this is a Surly hi-bred rypafest but honestly I’m not impressed. This smells nothing like an Oktoberfest.

Taste: Hops, Grapefruit. Virtually no malt. No toast. No caramel. No toffee. Rye? Maybe, but that’s a bit of a stretch.

Mouthfeel: Blistering. Unbalanced, overwhelming bitterness. Medium to light bodied. Aggressively carbonated. Not creamy or smooth as an Ofest ought to be.

Drinkability: Null. Hop heads will love this but I had a very hard time consuming half a can let alone a whole pint.

This beer really disturbs me.

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Photo of Proteus93
2.31/5  rDev -42.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

Shared with CrellMoset and dkachur

A: A golden blonde hue. Head is a little short, white. Not a whole lot going on.

S: Not much of a rye scent going on here at all... rather vegetal, a little metallic. This is not starting off very well.

T: I am hoping that there is something wrong with this can, and presuming that it would be the case? It tastes, quite literally, like overcooked greens. Asparagus, brussel sprouts, collard greens. Oh Lord, it's not a very pleasant taste.

M + D: Feel is alright... medium bodies, but the flavour doesn't go over with it very well. I have been fond of the other rye beer I have had, so I'd be willing to give it another go based on that, but I'm not too interested in getting another any time soon.

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Photo of slaintemhor
2.36/5  rDev -41.6%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Got to try a can of this courtesy of a friend from Minnesota. The colour was golden straw with a thick head. The aroma was nearly nonexistent. I mean, maybe there were some hops and malt there, but I couldn't detect any. On the palate, there were faint hops and faint malt but generally it seemed quite watery. I guess I expected more form the folks who make the Darkness!

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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 womencantsail
2.66/5  rDev -34.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Thanks for sharing this can, Bobby.

A: The pour is a fairly opaque dark amber/light brown color with fairly minimal head formation.

S: There's a really weird aroma to this beer...some nutshells along with peanut butter. A mild breadiness as well as some misplaced acidity. The one redeeming factor is the touch of earthy hops that comes in toward the back end.

T: Lightly bready with a fruit character (white grapes?) that doesn't really seem to belong. Again, mildly acidic with some faint nuttiness. Really all over the place.

M: The body is medium with the carbonation fitting the same description.

D: A rare miss for Surly and this one is way off the mark. I know they're trying to put a different spin on the Oktoberfest, but this just didn't work at all.

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Photo of argock
2.87/5  rDev -29%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.75

Poured from a 16 oz tallboy into a clear glass 20oz mug. Canned on 08/18/15 on bottom of can. Lugged by my parents from IA -- thanks M&D.

A; Slightly hazy light amber with 1/2-finger of off-white head with average retention but no lacing.

S: Minimal maltiness with a little bit of doughy, bready maltiness but none of the active aromas. Minimal to no hop aroma. No yeasat aromas. Bland.

T: Bland also with a bit of musty malitness. I will admit that I had a Bells Oktoberfest lage on tap this evening beforehand and it was not even close. The Surlyfest is very flavor-shy as a comparison.

M: Light bodied with moderate carbonation and clean finish.

O: Easily the worst Surly beer I have had. It was below average for the style and tasted like an average brown Munich Helles at best. This beer is overrated really badly -- not even close to 90.

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Photo of drpimento
3/5  rDev -25.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

ahhhh, I don't know.... Right now the overall score here is really good, but I can't go with it. I really like Surly stuff, but this isn't one a their best imho. So so head. no lace. Slightly hazy orangish amber color. Hoppy nose. Flavor picks up malt, a bit of roastiness. Helps make it more drinkable. Sort of an Oktoberfest. I guess. Finish is ok. I could drink a few more of these, but don't know if I'd go out of my way to do so.

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Photo of AnalogErik
3.17/5  rDev -21.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

watery this year. no hop presence, lower carb. not thrilled with this, especially given the track record for their previous iterations. I hope they figure it out next year!

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Photo of weeare138
3.2/5  rDev -20.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Appears a transparent, light gold with a mild, light white cap that quickly fades into a gentle collar.
Smell is of yeasty, sourdough, and light caramel.
Taste mirrors the aromas with the yeast coming through and a touch of spicy hops found in the flavors.
Mouthfeel is yeasty, medium bodied, and spicy.

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Photo of sugit
3.21/5  rDev -20.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: Deep orange amber color. A good one finger of off white head, which disapeared quickly leaving a bif a cap. Leaves some lacing behind.

S: Pine and citrus hops. Some nice caramel malts. Given the sytle, I thought the hops were too aggresive. Almost like a IPA with a good malt backbone.

T: I haven't had many Rye's so I did a bit of research on what I should be tasting from this style. I pick up a little of of the sour and spicy taste associated with a Rye beer, but not as much as I would have though.

Much like the smell, I taste citrus hops with a malty backbone, with the spice and sour very faint. As it warms I get a bit more of the spice, but still not as much as I was expecting.

Not bad tasting, but not what I was expecting.
M: Low to mid carbonation and body.

D: I could put quite a few of these away given the low ABV. Not something I will crave more of though.

This is a tough one for me to grade. For the style, I don't think it hits the mark. Too much like a malty IPA. Not sure if that was what they were trying to do with a Rye, but it didn't work.

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Photo of Chaz
3.22/5  rDev -20.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours a lightly-hazy/dusky golden copper in color, and is topped with a nice, medium-tan head. Head falls after a minute or so but leaves plenty of sticky lace as it falls.

The nose offers up a blast of fresh hops --and I'm no expert when it comes to the newer varieties that are used-- but this strikes me as a very contemporary American-style hop profile (is that safe to say? If I were ever to become King of All Beer, my first motion would be to dispense with the qualifier "West Coast" with respect to the word "hops" when reviewing American-style ales -- and now lagers. American Craft brewers' collective love of hops and native varietals is pretty clear-cut by now, eh?)

Aside from the almost heavy-handed use of a single hop varietal I am not getting much by way of rye or base malt character. A touch of the spicy rye character perhaps, but I'll be sure to dig deep into this one as it warms.

Lightly-sweet, grainy, and just a touch spicy on the first sip, and with a smooth mouthfeel (medium-full bodied... quite drinkable for its weight). I'm not catching much in the way of hops on the first or second sip -- so I take it the focus is on up-front aroma? As this one warms it seems fairly subdued, rather 'sessionable' as it were. Rye notes seem muted; I seem to recall hearing that Surly uses oats in all of its beers, and indeed there's a kind of 'house character' coming through with respect to mouthfeel, body, and drinkability. On the one hand I can respect that in terms of consistency and such, but I wonder a bit if it doesn't play foul with the rye.

Not bad . . . pretty easy to drink . . . hmmm.

Although SurlyFest isn't really my cup of tea, but it would be downright uncharitable to fault the brewer and brewery for coloring outside the lines here with respect to release date ("Oktoberfest" lager season), as plenty of Craft and True Micro breweries are known for 'harvest ales' and such, so they are not totally out of place in terms of the sort of creative efforts made by American Craft breweries these days.

On the other hand, I feel like tempering my review a little, just to keep it honest. On the other hand, oh hell, maybe I should just join the crowd and quit giving Surly a hard time? Nah.

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Photo of Atron67
3.28/5  rDev -18.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

I like it, but its definitely got some rye kick to it. a tasty maltiness to it and a definitely nice rye and spice charachter from the yeast. however i do have a slight problem with this beer. however tasty the individual characteristics are it doesnt come together all that great and it gives a 'lemonade-y' type flavor as a part of the combination. its brief between the rye spiciness at the start and the yeast character at the lingering finish. It hurts the drinkability alot.

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Photo of Popkas
3.3/5  rDev -18.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pour is a light amber with virtually no head.

S: Sweet and malty with a bite from the rye.

T: Flat malts and just a touch of rye.

M: Very light. Think I'd love one of these after a few hours in the yard in mid-summer.

D: Not my favorite style, but very drinkable.

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Photo of xpdrinker
3.32/5  rDev -17.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Thanks to @ShawnBGP for the hookup. Tried this 16oz. can in the Surly pint glass he included with his box of trade goodies.

A- Poured a brown-ish amber with thin, off-white head and was very filtered and crystal clear - I could see right through it past the opposite side of the glass.

S - Expected very little as it's labeled a lager, but it had a surprisingly pleasant hoppiness in the aroma, reminding me very much of a pale.

T- Hop notes in the aroma were a tease, as they did not translate to the flavor. Very malt-forward without being sweet. Well balanced, though I picked up no rye in the taste or aroma.

M- Medium-bodied, which is perfect for me when it comes to this style. Any lighter and I'd feel like I'm drinking macro. Carbonation is average and just right for this style as well.

O- Solid for the style and although the hoppy aroma teased my expectations for the flavor, it's a decent beer and worth a try.

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Photo of birchstick
3.38/5  rDev -16.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A - pours a chestnut amber with a pretty large, fluffy head off of an aggressive pour

S - smells of grainy malts with a nice amount of grassy and grapefruity hops

T - starts off with a lot of grain malt that are swept aside by an earthy hop bitterness (light citrus, resinous, pine). The rye makes its entrance just as the beer leaves, leaving a spicy grain flavor. Pretty solid rye beer...I am not really making the Oktoberfest connection that the can advertises, but that's okay. Pretty good beer.

M - goes down with a medium body and a perfect amount of carbonation. Really nice mouthfeel on this one.

D - Pretty solid rye beer here. The hop profile wasn't my favorite of all time and I was hoping for a bit more rye, but that's okay - you can't win them all. Another solid beer from Surly - their praise has started to become validated to my taste buds.

Thanks to surlytwins fan for the opportunity!

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Photo of DaveAnderson
3.42/5  rDev -15.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

This is one poorly named beer. It reminds me of no Oktoberfest whatsoever. Then again, the can proclaims it a dry-hopped rye lager.

That's pretty much where it lines up. The rye spiciness is front and center, perhaps to excess. I would have liked a fruitier finish to back all of this rye. Still, it's clean-finishing, if a little heavy.

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Photo of jmarsh123
3.43/5  rDev -15.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours a pretty clear red hue with a 3 finger sticky tan head. Lots of lacing down the glass.

Some sweet caramel malt in the aroma with a subtle hint of rye spiciness. Not a ton of hops.

Starts off with a touch of spiciness. A touch of biscuit in the middle. Finishes again spicy and somewhat dry.

Mouthfeel is a touch thin for me. Carbonation levels are good.

I appreciate a different take on the Oktoberfest style and there's nothing off about this one, but the flavors really aren't complimentary. Doesn't have enough of the good meladoinin malt for an Oktoberfest or to support the rye spiciness.

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Photo of supercolter
3.43/5  rDev -15.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

It's decent, but nothing to get too excited about. Appearance is nice as all Surly's are, looks clean and well put together. Smell and taste are very similar- a decent amount of rye but also kinda woody and hoppy. Mouthfeel is medium with medium carbonation. Drinkability is ok.

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Photo of harrymel
3.47/5  rDev -14.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Canned 14SEP11 A: Rusty orange with a transient sheet of off-white foam which quickly founders to a broken surface of the same with strengthened rim bubbles. Excellent clarity. No lace. (3) S: Hops up front, nice earthy and herbal hops. Then some sweetness from the munich style malt additions. To be honest the hops dominate and while I like the nose, it’s far from an appropriate marzen. (3.5) T: Sweet bready and slightly oxidized malts come together in a true oktoberfest profile. Again, the hops are strong and belie the tradition of marzens. Nice beer, not a good marzen (3.5) M: Thin with hi carb, semi dry finish and some nice lasting aromatics. (3.5) O: Drinkable beer, if I’m in the mood for a marzen, I will not reach for this one, but if I wanted a unique amber lager with hops, here is where I would go to. (3.5)

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Photo of Phyl21ca
3.5/5  rDev -13.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle courtesy of Oakbluff: Poured a deep slightly hazy amber color ale with a thick foamy head with good retention and some lacing. Aroma consists of big semi-sweet malt rye with some dry hops. Taste is also dominated by big rich malt with the typical rye taste and some light dry hops at the end. Full body with good carbonation and no apparent alcohol. Very refreshing beer but also very filling which mean I wouldn't have that much in a session. Also, I was expecting a hop bomb as this brewery is quite good at those but this is somewhat close to the original style.

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Photo of PEBKAC
3.52/5  rDev -12.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Forgot about a can of this in the back of the fridge that I received from Pitmonkey in a trade last year. Only remembered it once I got my hands on this year's batch. Short arms & the fact that I haven't changed the bulb in there in a long time means there are always surprises. :)

Pours out ugly from both cans. Sediment-y, hazy, & greasy-looking, it saves itself a bad score with a strong cascading effect that builds into a nice bit of fluff topping off the glass. A little stiffer in the vintage stuff, which looks a touch more grainer & dirty after it settles.

More caramel in the nose of the older one, but both are dominated by dry-hopping. A little more resiny in the elder, where the newer stuff is more sharp with citrus.

Touch more rye twang in the fresh stuff, maybe some honey-ish notions, but both have a considerable talcum drying effect leading the way to zesty juiciness. A feels more grainier then B, but both powder on the hops. Not an intense bitterness, but very constant after the brief unfamiliarity in the beginning. All left turns once you get past the intersection of rye & malt. My tongue is a bit numb to boot.

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Photo of dpnelson1978
3.52/5  rDev -12.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

16 oz. can into glass pint.

$10.49 / 4-pk.

A: Hazy copper body with an enormous loose head that quickly dissipates leaving moderate lacing and a moderate and bubble cover. The haze could use some work, but otherwise solid.

S: Floral hop aroma sticks out with bread and spice showing up later and lingering to the end. Some say the aroma is muted, but I feel the strength is right on the mark.

T: Sweet bread and a rye character that borders on sour. A tad sweeter than I am used to, but enjoyable. Just enough hop character to prevent a cloying flavor, and very little aftertaste.

M: Medium body and medium carbonation. Smooth on the palate and finishing the same.

D: Sessionable, but a tad too sweet overall. A drier version would be preferable.

O: Surly never disappoints.

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Photo of Another6Pack
3.53/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Canned in 9/2010; opened on the date of this review. Thanks to mnbearsfan for sharing this one with me.

Perfectly copper appearance with a finger of dirty tan head. Decent lacing. Smells like a well-hopped lager.

Nice but slight hop presence. I can tell this one would be different when fresh. Hops in this one have faded to the point that I pick up faint organic flavors similar to iced tea. Nice caramel malt flavor provides the foundation for each sip.

Mouthfeel and drinkabilty are good. Will update this review when I get a chance to try another within a month or two of canning.

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Photo of errantnight
3.53/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

I had really been looking forward to this, and am SLIGHTLY let down. That said, I could drink this by the pint, and how, given a closer locality. Thanks, mothman, for the extra.

Pours a hazy deep orange with a note of amber.

No real head or retention to speak of on this one after a nice initial cap of foam. Surprising, considering the rye in the bil.

Aroma is punchy tangerine and onion with just a hint of grain in the backdrop. Damn you, summit hops!

On the palate this is exceedingly more pleasant, one of the few times that works out. This is mainly punctuated by a superb body. Medium bodied, soft, rounded, with an excellent mid-palate grain complexity and some spice and resiny bitterness towards the finish.

Overall, I find myself able to keep taking nice, full swallows and enjoying them while I do. But the oniony, citrus quality of the summit hop is doing absolutely nothing for this beer. Some herby, earthy noble hops would be infinitely preferable and turn this from something I'd be fine to drink, into something I'd love to drink.

Ah well.

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SurlyFest from Surly Brewing Company
90 out of 100 based on 355 ratings.