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SurlyFest - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.

Educational use only; do not reuse.

334 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 334
Hads: 744
rAvg: 4.05
pDev: 9.88%
Wants: 226
Gots: 45 | FT: 0
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

No notes at this time.
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Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 334 | Hads: 744
Photo of bertram
3.88/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

pours a nice, rich copper with a tremendous amount of white head that is slow to drop.

the smell is sweet - sweeter than I expected.

the taste was a great mixture of sweet and bitter with a crisp finish.

overall a solid Oktoberfest beer that I'm glad I grabbed a 4-pk of and look forward to enjoying again! (309 characters)

Photo of LiquidBread219
4/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A= Poured a dark cooper/amber color nice white head that provided some spotty lacing.

S= Really liked the nose on this one it basically consisted of carmel, bready, pine, some spices. Really nice nose.

T= Taste was sweet at first and then you get the bready notes and spices that balance it out the pine notes are more in the background. Really like this one.

M= Medium bodied, great carbonation.

O= Overall, I thought this was a great beer in this style. I really enjoyed this beer it's a above average beer for this style (Rye/Octoberfest). I would diffently try this one again and it's a perfect fall beer. (613 characters)

Photo of harrymel
3.47/5  rDev -14.3%
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) (829 characters)

Photo of kmatlack
3.97/5  rDev -2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 16oz can into, of course, a large 24oz Oktoberfest glass. Canned on date 9-8-11

A- Pours a relatively murky orange- brown. A creamy off-white head about a half inch tall sits atop the beer. rings of lacing all down the glass.

S- A solid piney hop profile jumps out at first, upon further sniffing, clean lager yeast, bread, fresh biscuits, oats, rye, more hop aromas. Smells great.

T- Mildly sweet on the tongue, bready lager yeast, plenty of hops. Very good malt profile. No real bitter aftertaste, but there is one there.

M- Thin, good carbonation, almost a little creamy. Awesome for the style, could drink this all day long.

O- A great representation of the style. Wish i had more of this beer. Not a big style of lagers, but this is delicious. (768 characters)

Photo of jmarsh123
3.43/5  rDev -15.3%
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. (603 characters)

Photo of inlimbo77
3.65/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Fest Lager
Alchemist pint

A: Pours a really red orange color. Two finger off white head. Carbonation bubbles trickling off the bottom of the glass.

S: Smells really malty as to be expected. Maybe some pine hints from the hops. Smells like it should. Burnt carmel malt? Home brewers would know the smell off fresh grains on the boil. Definitely get the rye.

T: You do get a little hop bitterness on the tip of the tongue. I was surprised. But really this is an Octoberfest beer. A malty bomb. Spicy really. All the malt comes in during the mid mouth sip. The finish is nice and clean. Rye finish.

M: Medium

O: B in this one. I like more hops and I have never loved the seasonal lags but this is much better than most. (735 characters)

Photo of angrybabboon
4.05/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Consumed 11/8/11

Appearance: Mostly clear, amber/brownish orange color, nice beige head, keeps a nice ring, above-average lacing

Smell: Nicely malty - bready, cooked biscuits, a touch of herbal rye aroma - vaguely sweet, doesn't smell like a lager - some citrus, floral hops

Taste: Such a nice combination - interesting malt profile, complex - bready, biscuity, grainy, toasty, with a touch of the characteristic rye twang - not fair to call this a rye beer though, it's really not the main focus - it's a balanced combination of malts - and there are some interesting hops, too - citrus, kind of oily - kind of sweet, but not really, some hints of lager yeast

Mouthfeel: Medium body, nicely carbonated, nicely dry, ridiculously drinkable

Overall: Well, it's not really a märzen, but it doesn't try to be

This beer throws style out the window and the result is pure win. It's a lager that tastes like some kind of hoppy rye ale? It's extremely drinkable, and I could drink this year round. I'll have to remember to get more next fall. (1,041 characters)

Photo of slentz
3.8/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Canned date 9/14/11. Thanks to Dan for this can. 50 degrees into Sam Adams perfect pint glass.

A: Smooth pour down the side of the glass produces about a finger and a half of off white head. The head stays around a while but ultimately dissipates to a thing ring. Beer is a ruby orange color. 4.0

S: Smells a bit like a lager and a bit like a pale ale with hop sweetness. Pretty good smelling beer. 4.0

T: Nice smooth beer. Tastes lagerish, but with a nice sweet hop flavor. As in the smell this is almost a cross between a lager and a pale ale. This is definitely not brewed in the normal oktoberfest style but I still like it. Like I said it drinks more like a pale ale than oktoberfest beer. 3.5

M: Not really much to say here except that mouthfeel is appropriate with nice carbonation. 4.0

O: Overall I really like this beer however it doesn't hold true to style. Either way its a good beer and I am glad I got to try it. 4.0 (934 characters)

Photo of litheum94
4/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Amber body with a thick, light tan head. Consists of big bubbles that fall very slowly. leaving a sea foam like structure. Nice lacing.

Tons of caramel malts with some tropical fruit to add to the sweetness. Floral hops and rye. Some orange zest as well.

Good dose of malts, bready and toasty, with some caramel sweetness. Citrus and floral hops, with a slightly oily mouthfeel. Rye bread with all the spices. Finish has some hop bitterness, with a tart citrus flavor.

A Fest beer I can get behind. Rye and malts mix well with the single hop profile. Tasty. (560 characters)

Photo of InspectorBob
4.02/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from can into my Duvel Tulip. Hazy amber in color with about one finger of off white head. Head retention was good with lacing throughout.

Bready, malty, yeast and rye.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied with some slight carbonation.

There is some bitterness on the finish.

A very tasty and drinkable beer. (309 characters)

Photo of Thickfreakness
3.91/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Received in a trade with hopscrazy. Thanks again Brian!

A- Deep copper/pumpkin autumn color. Thick and fluffy tinted head that leaves a ton of lacing dripping slowly away.

S- Spicy, sweet rye bread! Molasses and caramel malts. Notes of pumpernickel bread, sugar glazed nuts, and German bakery! Really gets bready and yeasty on the nose as it warms.

T- Nice bready, sweet malts. This one is all about the malts! Spicy rye, a hint of pumpernickel bread and a wonderful yeastiness. Sweet, but not overly so. This is what I picture Germany tasting like!

M- I love the way the sweetness and spicy rye sit on the tongue. Has a nice drying bitterness that evens out the malty sweetness.

O- This brew just screams fall, harvest season, and drink me with a beef/pumpkin/barley stew! In fact... I think I'm gonna do that tomorrow night for Halloween! (848 characters)

Photo of warnerry
4.03/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Canned 9/14/11

A - Pours a clear red-copper with two fingers of dense off-white head. Head has great retention and leaves some lacing. Looks fantastic.

S - Nice amount of herbal hops, some bread malt, and a bit of spicy rye. Pretty unique aroma.

T - Definitely has a Marzen character, though hopped-up and with a nice spicy rye character. Pretty complex and enjoyable.

M - Medium mouthfeel. Finishes pretty clean and with a bit og lingering bitterness and spice.

O - I don't know that I would drink this in place of my favorite Oktoberfests, but it is a very enjoyable and unique lager that I would definitely get again. (625 characters)

Photo of Mississipping
3.8/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pours a slightly hazy copper/amber color with no head at all.  A small ring is left behind with almost no lacing at all. 

S: Really hoppy up front with a touch of orange and rye.  Not at all what I expected for the style, yet considering it's Surly, it's not completely surprising.  A pretty decent caramel and bread malt profile that creates a solid backbone for the beer.  

T: The taste doesn't follow the aroma at all.  Grainy and slightly sweet up front.  Hops are subdued in the background which is more along the lines of what I would expect from an marzen lager, but it's throwing me off a bit.  The rye malt is not very evident at all and takes some time to pick out of the rest of the characteristics.  I think I was hoping for a bit more. 

M: Medium-bodied with a decent amount of carbonation that is really nice for this beer.  It is velvety and smooth, yet still crisp.  

D: This beer threw me off in a couple of places, but it was still pretty pleasant and tasty.  Not at all what expected, and somewhat out of style in my opinion, but it's good for what it is and I'm glad to have had the opportunity to try it.  I think I'll stick to other marzen lagers next year, although I can't get this regularly, so it doesn't really matter ... (1,269 characters)

Photo of n2185
3.64/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: pours a clear copper with two fingers of off-white head that recedes into a thin layer with little lacing.

S: some Munich malt-like aromas up front with some sweet biscuit aromas. Sweet citrusy aromas follow with just a hint of pininess.

T: light grapefruit and pine notes on the tongue. There are some light bread notes and very slight bitterness as well.

M: medium-light body with spritzy carbonation, this beer is pretty light and quite crisp.

O: overall, a decent beer. Not very complex, but still enjoyable. (519 characters)

Photo of aasher
4.55/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

A single hop, dry hopped, rye lager beer? Yes please! I picked up a four pack of this over the weekend in Minneapolis after enjoying Darkness Day.

Upon opening the can I instantly get a whiff of dry hopped goodness, perfect! It pours a light bodied and creamy light hazelnut brown in color, very translucent, with a creamy beige head that laces my snifter. It looks like a creamy marzen. The aromas are very hoppy, featuring the traditional Surly hop profile, despite being dry hopped I get more fresh wet hops from the nose with light German malt and an interesting yeast strain. The flavors are a near perfect mix of fresh hops and malt. The rye is subtle and it does drink like a light lager. The hop presence is really nice. It is VERY complex period, and especially for the style. Like most of their beers, this one was built for a can and has a perfect mouthfeel. It is overly sessionable and really surprised me. The complexity is unheard of for the style. I'd say this is a must try, and a nice upgrade over traditional "festbier" that you'll find this time of year. (1,075 characters)

Photo of backfat
3.83/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Big thanks to my boy troopscoop for the can. Great artwork and color on this can. Pours with brilliant clarity. great lace and retention. aroma of yeasty malts, a bit of fruity esters, and some earthy and slightly citrusy hops. taste is light and clean. a bit of light malts, rye, caramel, with a touch of carbonation. not really complex or bitter, but still an easy drinking brew. (381 characters)

Photo of Redrover
3.53/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I was glad to see this offered as a seasonal at the Crooked Pint in Minneapolis.

Poured into a standard pint, the beer is a hazy copper/bronze with a skim of beige foam.

It has a nose of nutty malts and some caramel with a bit of spice.

It is slightly sweet; malts lead the way followed by a touch of hop bitterness and light brown sugar.

The mouth is decent but a touch over carbonated. It is an easy beer to pair with food. (431 characters)

Photo of tjkinate
3.8/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to Humulus85 for this one.

Not quite up to par with other Surly offers, but still enjoyable.

A: Orange, amber bodied brew topped with a 1 fingered khaki colored head that exhibited good retention.

S: Caramel malts with nice pine note and spices.

T: Very drinkable beer, smells led me to believe the flavors would be more bold. Slightly sweet front, followed by some semi bitter hops.

M: Medium light, well carbonated.

O: Good beer that I enjoyed drinking, doesn't live u to the hype like other Surly offers. (520 characters)

Photo of Chaz
3.22/5  rDev -20.5%
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. (2,231 characters)

Photo of claspada
4/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a light clear copper, almost light brown color with a nice inch or so of fluffy white head that leaves nice sticky lacing as it recedes.

The aromas begin with a light amount of herbal hops and bready malts. As I re-examine I get a more defined toasted breadiness, almost a nuttiness from the malts and/or yeast. There are some nice light citrus hops and slight spicy rye malts as it warms closer to room temperature.

The tastes begin with a great deal of that toasted bready malts and lighter spicy rye malts. The earthy and light citrus hops then join the party to balance out the flavor profile. A solid breadiness is really a great highlight here, but the rye and hop flavors linger on the backend into the finish. Crazy full flavor malt profile though for a beer that is only 6% ABV.

The mouthfeel is medium to full bodied with medium carbonation. Finish is nice and sticky and full flavored from the dry-hopping and the rye malts.

Overall this is one of the top 5 lagers I have ever had by far. The malt profile is so complex with the spicy rye and the toasted breadiness but the the ample hop profile and dry hopping also plays a huge part in making this a great beer. Once again Surly knows how to make a great beer; really drinkable, balanced and sessionable during this fall season but could be consumed year round although you would want it fresh to appreciate the fresh dry hop aromas and flavors. Highly recommended and should be on every beer geeks "bucket list" in my opinion; glad I was able to check it off. (1,534 characters)

Photo of SummitVA
4.2/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Crystal clear auburn mahogany pour. Spritzy carbonation puts up a fluffy white head that falls back to 1/2" and remains steady. Nice lacing.

S - Huge herbal hops, unfermented wort, with bready malt.

T - Big herbal, earthy hop character opens to bready malts. Rye adds fantastic complexity, always striking my palate with a sort of light molasses flavor, which is very subdued but present. The finish is wonderfully crisp and dry. Firm bitterness lingers.

M - Medium bodied, but carbonation and uber-crispness of the finish really lightens the perception of the beer.

O - *Very* happy to try this at last. Another fantastic brew from Surly. Not enough lagers in the craft brew world, so it's always nice to come across a fabulous example. Cheers to Todd and Omar, (771 characters)

Photo of TCMike
3.83/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a Surlyfest mug. It produced a 2 finger off-white head. The color of the beer is a medium amber.
The smell was good, but week. It was biscuity, with a hint of citrus hops.
The taste was of mostly a bready malt, with a hint of hops, and rye. It had a medium mouth-feel, and had medium carbonation.
It is a great beer, but I was surprised that Surly didn't give it a heavier rye taste. (395 characters)

Photo of Goblinmunkey7
4/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Clear deep copper. Head is off white and leaves a thin cap on the edges of the beer. Faint vestiges of lacing on the glass. Carbonation looks decent.

Smell: Citrus, pine, and just a touch of rye spiciness on the back. Big sweet caramel malts coupled with a chewy bready aroma make for a nice compliment. A touch of floral hops. Nice juicy and oily hop aroma. Very clean and well balanced. Toasted malts.

Taste: Spicy rye + citrus hops = a nifty combination. Sweet, just a touch bitter, with enough rye to keep things interesting. Caramel and biscuit malts add a nice depth. Everything blends together very well. Toasted malts too!

Mouthfeel: Moderate body carries a moderate carbonation. A little dry after a few sips, but nothing to write home about. Smooth with a touch of grittiness on the back. Easily drinkable.

Overall: Another Surly winner. It's a unique take on the fall seasonal and adds just enough rye to let you know what you're dealing with. Definitely a top fall seasonal for those who can get it. (1,028 characters)

Photo of Alieniloquium
3.6/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

16 oz. can poured into a pint glass.

Appearance - Clear dark amber body with a small, fleeting head. Lacing on top is nice.

Smell - Caramel malts and breadiness throughout. I think I get some rye in the back, but it could certainly be just from reading the can. Hardly a hop presence at all.

Taste - Sweet, then instantly bready. Very much a marzen at first. It moves back into a caramel malt base before finishing slightly spicy. Hardly a rye-forward beer, really.

Mouthfeel - Medium bodied. Tough to make these beers light, but it's just slick enough to keep the flavors and make you want more. Easily drinkable.

Overall - Solid beer, if a bit unconventional for an Oktoberfest style. I think this would fly better as a marzen with a rye kick rather than a rye beer on a marzen base. (790 characters)

Photo of cetherid
4.18/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

poured into a New Belgium globe glass


Beer pours a dark copper color with about two fingers worth of very frothy off-white head. Head dissipates rather slowly leaving some really nice bubbly lacing along the side of the glass.


First whiff is a nice balance of slightly sweet, slightly toasted malts with a decent amount of hops and spicy rye. The hops smell faintly like citrus but a little overpowered by the rye aroma. A pretty enjoyable nose on this one.


Sweet caramelly malts right up front along with a spicy flavor on the tongue from the rye..finishing off with a modest bitterness. The base of this beer is definitely similar to marzen, just a little hopped up with some spicy notes. Very enjoyable!


Mouthfeel is great on this. Medium bodied with great carbonation. The extra hops and rye make this not as sweet as you'd expect a "fest" beer to taste. Slight spice aftertaste which I find very enjoyable on the palate with each sip.


Overall a well done o-fest/rye beer...however you want to classify it. I'd say it leans a little more toward marzen as the rye is not as prevalent as in say, a Red's Rye or Cane & Ebel but definitely noticeable. Gives this lager a nice complexity to it, along with the the nice hoppiness it has. Will definitely seek this beer out again and would honestly probably buy a case of it if I lived in Minnesota. (1,371 characters)

SurlyFest from Surly Brewing Company
90 out of 100 based on 334 ratings.