SurlyFest | Surly Brewing Company

376 Reviews
no score
Send samples

Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States

Style: Märzen / Oktoberfest

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 6.00%

Availability: Fall

Notes / Commercial Description:
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.

Added by feloniousmonk on 09-03-2006

For Trade:
View: Beers | Events
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Reviews: 376 | Ratings: 906
Photo of Sammy
3.87/5  rDev -4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A lovely needed lager, with a rye edge. Pours yellow body with white bubbly head, and leaving a lace trail down the glass. Neutral to pleasant aroma with some graininess. Easy drinking, above average mouthfeel. Some hops
Had again 3 years later and it was fresh and it may have been tweaked. Got more toast, and hop aromas.

 323 characters

Photo of StonedTrippin
4.01/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

apparently surly makes only interesting and top quality brews. I love this one. its like a Oktoberfest, but is spiked with rye malt, and has a unique vanilla character im not used to in the style. the pour is more bronze than orange, mostly clear, with an inch or so of lasting white head. the nose is german malty, but with that familiar peppery rye kick and a finish of fresh vanilla beans cut open and scraped clean. yum! the flavor is a little less dramatic on the vanilla, and its more toward the front than the finish, but its still there. the malt balances out into a nice german traditional marzen style. this has characteristics of both an ale and a lager, its crispness is remarkable for its complexity, and its super sessionable. pint after pint kind of beer, perfect for the entire length of the fall season. strong carbonation lightens up a fuller medium body, and the 6% abv is just right for me in thus style. overall a very strong offering from surly, I really love the vanilla twist here.

 1,005 characters

Photo of metter98
3.85/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: The beer is relatively clear yellowish amber in color and has a light amount of visible carbonation. It poured with a short beige head that died down but left a large patch of bubbles on the surface and lacing down the sides of the glass.
S: There are light to moderate aromas of herbs and hops in the nose.
T: The taste is similar to the smell but also has some spiciness from the rye and a light to moderate amount of hop bitterness.
M: It feels medium-bodied and a little smooth on the palate and has a moderate amount of carbonation.
O: The dry-hopping and rye helped lighten up the maltiness that is usually found in Oktoberfest beers. I found this to be very enjoyable and easy to drink.

 696 characters

Photo of brentk56
4.44/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap at the Blue Nile. Thanks, Al.

Appearance: Arrives at the bar with an amber color and a moderate head that retains and splashes lace with some success

Smell: Huge citrusy, almost pithy aroma

Taste: The citrus from the aroma is readily apparent up front but the rye crispness cuts into it after the swallow, to provide a clean, slightly sour (in a rye way) finish

Mouthfeel: Medium body with moderate carbonation

Drinkability: I still can't get over that this is a lager; it is so fruity and lacks that lager twang

 524 characters

Photo of largadeer
4/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance - Ultra-hazy amber, almost opaque. The head retention is great.

Smell - The hop aroma is huge and immediately noticeable upon cracking open the can. It lends a ripe, zesty grapefruit character to the nose, with a slight bready note from the rye present underneath.

Taste and mouthfeel - The taste is quite a contrast from the aroma. Very up-front rye, bready and dry. A touch of malty sweetness appears briefly, providing a touch of balance before the tangy, citrus-flavored hops take over the finish. Mouthfeel is decidedly full for a lager, with a coating hoppy bitterness remaining on the palate.

Notes - Never thought I'd try a dry-hopped rye Octoberfest lager. Very creative stuff, and more importantly, quite good.

 734 characters

Photo of kojevergas
3.7/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

475ml aluminum can (by the way, they also claim it's 'one pint' which is quite inaccurate [even in terms of U.S. standards - consult wikipedia]) served into a Dick's Last Resort pilsner glass in me sister's gaff in low altitude Minneapolis, Minnesota. Reviewed live. Expectations are high given the brewery. No best before date.

Served relatively cold and allowed to warm over the course of consumption. Side-poured with standard vigor as no carbonation issues are anticipated.

A: Pours a two finger light khaki colour head of good thickness, nice cream, and good retention. Body colour is a delightfully vibrant amber. One of the better Amber colours I've seen. Transparent. Translucent. No yeast particles are visible. No bubble show.

Sm: Toasted amber malts, caramelization, a hint of cherry, and some cream. I don't get rye; call me crazy. A delightful aroma. Vibrant evocative malts abound. Some light spicing; even a vague hint of...ginger? Surprisingly fruity. I'm intrigued. A moderate strength, very pleasant aroma.

T: Toasted amber malts comprise the foundation. Hints of cherry. Some cream. Delightfully subtle caramelization. Malty and layered. The fruity notes blend well with the malty backbone, but it's never overly sweet. Again, I do not detect rye - either it's incredibly subtle or it's just a footnote in the grain bill. Evocative, rich, and delightful. I quite fancy it. Subtle, pleasant, and enjoyable.

Mf: Smooth but coarse enough to bring the flavour out. Good carbonation and thickness.

Dr: Quite drinkable and enjoyable. A solid Oktoberfest bier from Surly - even if they don't want to admit it. So you threw in a touch of rye - whoopty doo. This is a Marzen. Not a traditional one, but nevertheless a Marzen. And one of the better ones I've had, at that. I'd get this again. Dareisay sessionable (for those of us who aren't such nancies that we need our session beer to be 4% or less). Another solid offering from Surly.


 1,963 characters

Photo of Phyl21ca
3.5/5  rDev -13.2%
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.

 572 characters

Photo of emerge077
4.08/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Canned 8/18/16. Thanks Aaron!

Hazy dark amber with a compact layer of khaki foam. Minimal spotty lace.
Light clean lager yeast aroma with a dry grassy element.
Taste is firmly bitter, grassy hoppiness abounds. Rye earthiness and lager yeast.
Dry bitter aftertaste lingers. Light bodied with a substantial feel.
Overall very tasty and sessionable, far from traditional but a great beer.

 390 characters

Photo of zeff80
4.3/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - Poured out a hazy, light orange color with a fizzy, small, white head. Minimal lacing.

S - It smelled of malt, and cirusy hops. Some rye notes, too.

T - It tasted like an oktoberfest mixed with a rye beer and an IPA. O-fest maltiness with a citrusy hop kick.

M - It was crisp and sharp. A light to medium-bodied beer.

D - This is an excellent brew. Typical of Surly, it is completely unique.

 399 characters

Photo of oline73
3.61/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a can into a standard pint glass. I got hooked up with this as an extra in a trade.

Appearance: Pours a clear dark amber with two fingers of off white head. There is a good amount of retention and lacing.

Smell: Mildly sweet caramel malt with a good amount of herbal hops and some mild spice.

Taste: A good amount of bready malt with some herbal and mildly citrus hops. There is a rye spice in there as well. Easy to drink and pretty well balanced.

Mouthfeel: Medium body with very smooth carbonation and a dry finish.

Overall: An interesting take on an Octoberfest beer. Well balanced and very easy to drink. I would have it again.

 649 characters

Photo of Thorpe429
3.8/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to mikeyv35 for getting me a can of this.

A: pours an orangish copper with an off white head.

S: somewhat sweet bready malt combined with a bit of zesty herbal rye.

T: the rye doesn't come through quite as well here. Just faint hints along with some biscuity malt. Nothing terribly complex, but some nice flavors present.

M: nice dryness from the rye comes through on a light to medium body.

D: not my favorite Surly beer by any means, but fairly tasty and easy drinking.

 484 characters

Photo of mothman
4/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had on tap at stub and herbs.

Served in a pint glass.

Served with 1/2 finger of white head. Lacing wasn't noted. Copper gold color. Beer was clear.

Aroma: rye, malts, some fall spices. Basic, but very nice.

Taste: Rye, toasted malts, some spice notes, and a hint of grain.

Mouthfeel: Crisp, smooth and refreshing. Light to medium bodied with a good amount of carbonation. Ends nice and clean.

Overall, a good drinkable beer with a nice amount of flavor. I really want more for the fall season as it is a great seasonal and when the weather is right, I would love to have this around.

 591 characters

Photo of oberon
4.11/5  rDev +2%
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.

 339 characters

Photo of Kegatron
4.07/5  rDev +1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Procurred in a recent trade with Scoobydank. Thanks Bill!

16oz can into a Stein.

Pours a clear amber with a a huge foamy light tan head. It takes me several minutes to get it all into the Stein. It eventually settles down into a fairly nice sized retention that leaves huge sticky hop lacing down the sides of the glass. The aroma seems to be a big blast of Amarillo hops right off the bat, with some citrus notes, caramel sweetness, and a bready Rye element.

The taste is piney hops up front, caramel and rye malts, citrus, and a pleasant lingering bitterness in the finish. The overall flavor profile feels just a tad muted and makes me wonder what a fresh can would be like. The mouthfeel is medium bodied wiht a smooth, creamy feel.

Whether or not you call this an Oktoberfest Marzen, an interpretation of a Marzen, or just some strange abortion of the style, I think that is damn tasty for what it is and would keep this in my fridge full time during the fall months if I had access to it.

 1,002 characters

Photo of TheManiacalOne
4.72/5  rDev +17.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Acquired via trade from Scoobydank, so a big “Thank you” goes out to him. Poured from a 16oz can into a mug glass.

A: The beer is a dark orange color with a very thin white head that fades quickly and leaves a thin lace on the glass.

S: The aroma is pretty hoppy for an O-fest. There are also plenty of caramelized malts and spices in the smell as well.

T: Just like the smell, the most notable thing about the taste is the strong burst of floral hops up front. It almost makes you wonder whether you’re drinking an Oktoberfest or an IPA. There are flavors of caramel, spices and nuts to provide a good balance to the strong hops bitterness. At the risk of overstating it, this is by far the hoppiest O-fest I’ve ever had and I like it a lot. Hell, it’s hoppier than most IPA’s that I’ve had.

M: Smooth and very crisp, medium body, medium carbonation, finish is clean and dry.

D: Very tasty, goes down very easily, not too filling, good kick, decent representation of style while taking the style to the next level. This is definitely one of those beers that I could drink several of throughout a whole evening and not have the urge to drink anything else. I know that the fact that I like this beer more than any other O-fest I’ve had simply because of the hoppiness means I’m a Hophead, but I’m calling like I taste it. This is an excellent beer.

 1,374 characters

Photo of mactrail
3.87/5  rDev -4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Woodsy, mushroomy aroma is interesting start. Color is dark amber with a hint of brown. Decent head with carbonation lasting in the glass. Body is very light and watery.

A mouthful of flavors but not very malty in the usual sense. A mellow roasted grain taste, like buckwheat dominates. Unidentifiable prickly, spicy hints. Vegetable note, like butternut squash without the sweetness.

Hops become very strong after a few sips and leave an intense aftertaste. Whatever that hop is, it's a killer. A different beer for those who like unusual flavors, and worth a taste. The last half of the pint is the problem.

 611 characters

Photo of Rifugium
3.75/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

First had: can, as a trade extra

I went in expecting a typical marzen, but this was actually quite different: a tasty rye lager. A mostly clear, darker amber pour, with a small, foamy, white head that sank to a collar and left a few streaks of lacing on the glass. Aroma was sweet with malts, bready, toasty, herbal hops. The taste reflected the scent, sweet malts, bready, toasty rye--not too distinctive, but still apparent--light herbal hops. Crisp, clean mouthfeel, medium body, maybe light-medium, quite drinkable overall. A nice and unexpected treat.

 557 characters

Photo of dbrauneis
4/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pours a crystal clear dark amber in color with some very light amounts of visible carbonation. The beer has a finger tall creamy off-white that reduces to medium sized thick patch, a thick film covering the entire surface of the beer, and a thick ring at the edges of the glass. Moderate amounts of lacing are observed.

S: Light aromas of caramel malts and rye spiciness upfront with some moderate aromas of pine hops.

T: The flavors of this beer start out with some light caramel malt sweetness followed by moderate to strong flavors of pine hops with a light amount of rye spiciness in the finish.

M: Medium bodied with slightly heavier than moderate amounts of carbonation. Slightly coats the inside of your mouth.

O: I really enjoyed this hoppier take on an Octoberfest with the addition of rye - it is just enough different than others in the style but in a positive fashion. Easy to drink and sessionable.

 918 characters

Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.13/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bright coppery orange with sunflower trim and a blazing tangerine sphere indicating the rising sun on the opposite side of the pint glass. The lovely lid looks like a melted orange creamsicle and is starting to lay down a ridiculous amount of lace. This may be the best looking Oktoberfest ever.

The aroma would indicate that SurlyFest isn't an Oktoberfest at all. It smells like an APA with a hint of rye earthy spiciness. Dry-hopping a beer of this sort was a stroke of true genius.

This '08 version (Summit hops) doesn't taste like my memory of the '07 version (Sterling hops). Granted, it was only a short pour last fall and flavor specifics tend to blur over time. This beer tastes like it smells. That is... like a pale malt-dominant, rye-accented American pale ale.

There might be a little caramel/crystal malt in there... and a faint echo of toasted nuts that doesn't need to be any more prominent. The Summit hops taste especially orange-like and keeps things in near perfect balance. It's doubtful that the word 'balance' is uttered very often up in Brooklyn Center.

SurlyFest didn't knock my socks off on initial contact, but its sneaky complexity is... uh... sneaking up on me as the ounces fly by. Part of the reason is the perfect amount of rye malt. Sweet, bitter and spicy is hard to beat.

Drinkability is up there as well. Why does it always seem that 16 ounces of Surly beer lasts as long as 12 ounces of non-Surly beer? The mouthfeel is solidly medium, maybe even a bit bigger, and hangs on nicely. As is usually the case with these guys, the carbonation is perfectly calibrated.

Even though this beer isn't really in the same league as most of their other outstanding offerings, it's still light years better than similar lagers. Actually, there aren't any similar lagers. SurlyFest is both unique *and* delicious. Talk about a killer combination.

 1,874 characters

Photo of mikesgroove
4.62/5  rDev +14.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Big thanks goes out to the wonderful BA who sent me a good supply of this one to get through the season! Opened this box last night and immediatly put one in the fridge. Drinkin it as I type right now and waite for the pizza to cook. Served cold right out of the fridge and poured into a tall pilsner glass. This one was consumed on 09/27/2008.

The pour was very nice, rich copper colored amber beer flowed effortlessly out of the can. Hitting the bottom with a decent splash, it proceeded to throw up a nice one inch head of wite foam which quickly settled down to a thin layer, that never really left the top bare at all though. Lots of carbonation coming up from the bottom of the glass, really quite lively looking.

The aroma was damn spot on. I have never smelled a fest bier as god as this one. Rich candied malts, lots of green, vinous hops, soo fresh smelling with just the slightest of almost apple like aromas flirting down in the background. The flavor was more of the same, rich, caramel sweetness in the taste up front before fading back into a very nice grain like malt tht took up the middle of the profile, lots of hops in the finish, but very earthy with a huge and very healthy dose of frsh grass giving it just enough drying to let the sweetness come back for one more go round. Lots of little fruit hints in here as well, simply wonderful for the style. Great medium feel was a bit more then you would noramlly expect from the style, but the carbonation kept it flowing well. So smooth I wanted to drink like ten of the right away.

Overall I thought this was seimply excellent. By far the best fest I have had this year so far. SImply amazingly sessionable and just really a superb beer all around. Surly really is one of the best and this just goes to show it!

 1,784 characters

Photo of russpowell
3.98/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Cheers to Buebie for this one, thanks Brian!

Pours an effervescent amber with 3 fingers of cream colored head. Much lacing clings to the top of my crystal mug & above average head retention

S: A bit of biscuitty malt & a touch lemon & wet grains & a touch of coffee??? Did they mix a little bender in?

T: Big time rye peppery notes, dryness & coarse grainyness up front. Juicy grains & cereal notes as this warms, along with some astringency & a hint of smokeyness & leafy hops. Finishes with leafy hops, husky grainyness & a bit of grassyness, plus peppery rye. Almost gave this a 4.5

MF: Medium bodied & fairly smooth

Great drinkability, this works far better as a rye beer than an Oktoberfest to be sure

 712 characters

Photo of billab914
4.3/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a can into my Dogfish shaped pint glass. Pours copper in color with a small white head just covering the beer. Pretty good lacing on the glass.

Aroma has a little citrus hoppy presence but also a nice strong caramel malty presence with Rye being detectable as well.

You can definitely taste the rye in this one and it is a very good taste. There is a good balance of the bitterness of the hops and sweetness from the malts but the rye to me feels like the most pronounced of the flavors.

Mouthfeel is crisp, medium bodied and moderate in carbonation.

Drinkability is very good, this is an awesome Lager. I could drink a 4 pack of these easily.

After having a few Surly products now this is one of my favorites as I can't really compare it to much else I have had. Definitely something I would buy again if I could.

 832 characters

Photo of womencantsail
2.66/5  rDev -34%
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.

 765 characters

Photo of orangesol
3.77/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Got this in a recent BIF package. 16oz can poured into a standard pint.

A - Pours deep amber with a strong one finger off white head, dissipating to a light film, leaving a web of lacing down the glass.

S - Crisp citric hop aroma with plenty of breadiness from the chewy malt. Some spiciness from the rye is an unexpected twist but goes very well with the other aroma's. Good balance of spice, hops, and yeast.

T - This one is quite hoppy for being a bavarian type lager. Hops are citrusy and powerful but never really take over the beer. Plenty of breadiness from the cereal malt and some lingering spice from the rye help round this one into one crazy lager. Quite complex yet tasty to say the least.

M - Medium body and flavor with moderate carbonation. An almost creamy feel with a strong bready finish. The huge amounts of chewy malt become overpowering over the period of the can.

D - Decently high. I liked this one but the over the top chewiness got to me over the course of time. It was still very nice. I can't wait to try some of the other surly beers.

 1,068 characters

Photo of TMoney2591
3.77/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served in a Surly shaker pint glass.

Thanks to VDubb86 for sharing this BIFed can!

At least I'm having this in some partially appropriate glassware. It pours a hazy sunset amber topped by a finger of dirty white foam. The nose comprises mandarin oranges, peach, light cinnamon, wheat, and black pepper. The taste holds notes of light toffee, mint, black pepper, sourdough, and light pine. The body is a straight medium, with a light moderate carbonation and a sorta dry finish. Overall, a nice brew, though I think the rye goes somewhat overlooked/underused. Beyond that, I could see enjoying this on a regular basis in the fall. You lucky Minnesotans...

 656 characters

first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
SurlyFest from Surly Brewing Company
4.03 out of 5 based on 906 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • BeerAdvocate Microbrew Invitational

    Join us June 2-3, 2017 in Boston, Mass. for beer, cider, mead, kombucha and sake from over 70 small producers.

    Learn More
  • Subscribe to BeerAdvocate Magazine

    No fake news here. Get real beer content delivered to your doorstep every month.