Dismiss Notice
We're celebrating 10 years of BeerAdvocate magazine with $10 print subscriptions for US residents.

Subscribe now!

SurlyFest | Surly Brewing Company

Log in or Sign up to start rating.
367 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
Reviews: 367 | Ratings: 885
Photo of DabblinWiscCraft
4.11/5  rDev +2%
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.

 1,965 characters

Photo of Wer34truh
3.56/5  rDev -11.7%
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.

 1,214 characters

Photo of maedhros09
3.84/5  rDev -4.7%
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.

 585 characters

Photo of Evilyak
4/5  rDev -0.7%
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.

 317 characters

Photo of kbwalters
4.02/5  rDev -0.2%
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.

 755 characters

Photo of CraigP83
4.3/5  rDev +6.7%
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.

 283 characters

Photo of pat61
4.5/5  rDev +11.7%
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.

 480 characters

Photo of Laxadaisical
4.24/5  rDev +5.2%
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.

 613 characters

Photo of MartzMimic
4.3/5  rDev +6.7%

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.

 317 characters

Photo of Taybeh
3.9/5  rDev -3.2%

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.

 808 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 homebrew311
4.15/5  rDev +3%
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.

 611 characters

Photo of EeeCeeTee
2.5/5  rDev -38%

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.

 209 characters

Photo of Brams17
4/5  rDev -0.7%

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.

 655 characters

Photo of BeerSnobRobinson
5/5  rDev +24.1%
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.

 767 characters

Photo of macrosmatic
4.22/5  rDev +4.7%
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.

 1,264 characters

Photo of shadetree67
4.15/5  rDev +3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Appearance - Light Amber and almost clear. After a strong pour there was about a quarter inch of head which didn't last for long.

Smell - Caramel Malts, rye spice, and a faint hop aroma.

Taste - The rye is present but not overwhelming. A good balance of malts with a touch of hops. This is very drinkable and a nice variation on the Oktoberfest style.

Mouthfeel - Medium body with a decent amount of carbonation.

Overall - I always look forward to drinking this beer in the fall. One of my favorite Oktoberfest beers and the rye makes it stand out from the herd

 565 characters

Photo of jegross2
3.99/5  rDev -1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Reviewing the SurlyFest from Surly Brewing Company, out of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. This beer, one of the few Surly beers that I have not previously gotten around too, is a dry hopped rye lager; Surly's take on the Oktoberfest style.

Score: 89

September 2013 release. 16 oz can served in a Goose Island Chicago flag snifter and enjoyed on 10/03/13. Thank you for the can Brandon!

Appearance: Pours a caramel bourbon color that is clean in appearance, but not quite transparent, with a thin layer of head that quickly settles to a pencil thin ring around the glass. Good lacing, average retention. 3.75/5

Smell: Hops, spice (presumably the rye), caramel malt, grains and distinctive Oktoberfest-like lager yeast. Faint alcohol esters too. 4/5

Taste: For a Surly beer with a hoppy nose, the taste is pretty hop-devoid. Malt sweetness upfront, followed by whole/creamy grain flavor and a light spice character. Clean finish with a little residual malt flavor. There is only a minimal amount of that distinctive "yeah, you're drinking a lager, wanna fight about it?" yeast flavor that you get in other Oktoberfest brews, and it does not layer or linger which I really enjoy about this brew. 4/5

Mouthfeel: Thin bodied, but not watery. Good carbonation level. Very oily. Starts out with a light spice kick, but as the beer layers the rye/spice gains a more life on the front-sides of the tongue. 4/5

Overall: A very solid beer, and nice twist on the Oktoberfest style. I like the rye character here, and although I would have enjoyed more hops in the taste, I do like that the lager flavors I am not personally partial to are dialed down here. Definitely a beer I would drink again, but this is not one I would seek out specially.

Cost: $8.99 for a 4 pack of 16 oz cans.

 1,776 characters

Photo of arc3636
3.99/5  rDev -1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A - golden red color, fair amount of head. Beer is extremely clear

S - faint spicy aroma

T - rye is featured, but there is also a nice spice flavor I can't place

M - full bodied

O - solid and very drinkable, I had 2 pints and could have easily had 2 more. Only complaint is it was tough to find!

 299 characters

Photo of Ri0
4.1/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

poured 16oz can into Duvel tulip. Dated 8/28/13

A - Golden bronze and clear with an off white 1 finger head. Fair retention and thin patches of lacing.

S - Sweet roasted malt, caramel, lager yeast, and spicy rye. Some faint earthy hops round it out.

T - Sweet with a bit of rye and hop spice on the finish. A good amount of caramel and lager yeast, with earthy, light bitter hops and a touch of spicy rye on the finish.

M - Medium body with acceptable carbonation. There is a hint of bitter and spice that lingers on the tongue.

O - I really enjoyed this offering from Surly. Something different to drink in the sea of Oktoberfests.

 641 characters

Photo of davey101
4.16/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

09/04/13 can into a tulip glass. Thanks yamar68! Pours a clear dark amber/red body with a finger of tan foam. Aroma is a combination of sweet bubble gum, citrus, caramel malts and spicy rye. Taste is milder with the citrus and fruit working off of the caramel and spiced rye bread perfectly. A little lingering hop bitterness. Mouth feel is full and coating for a lager. This is a really interesting beer. It's really delicious and kind of perfect for the colder weather.

 471 characters

Photo of vette2006c5r
4.02/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4

SurlyFest pours a dark copperish color with a small lacing head. There is a mellow sour rye aroma. The taste has a slightly sour, but sharp rye like bite, with a nice hop bite. Very full body, yet very drinkable. Overall its a very solid and well crafted beer.

 260 characters

Photo of NickSMpls
4.24/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours a clear amber into a nonic glass. Canned on 27 Aug and quaffed on 1 Sept on the deck during a warm MN evening. Light head and low carbonation. Out of the can, the rye and barley malts hit the nose first. Well balanced and the dry hopped result produces a lighter and less sweet beer compared to others. A purist would say it's not true to style, but who cares?

 371 characters

Photo of DaveAnderson
3.42/5  rDev -15.1%
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.

 338 characters

Photo of AnalogErik
3.17/5  rDev -21.3%
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!

 172 characters

SurlyFest from Surly Brewing Company
4.03 out of 5 based on 885 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.
  • Extreme Beer Fest® Cometh

    February 3-4, 2017. Boston, Mass. Limited tickets available. Prepare for epicness.

    Learn More
  • Free Trial Subscription

    Reside in the US? Interested in a free 1-month trial subscription to the print edition of BeerAdvocate magazine?

    Yes! Sign Me Up!