Hell Lager
Surly Brewing Company

Hell LagerHell Lager
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Lager - Helles
Ranked #41
Ranked #22,473
3.84 | pDev: 10.68%
Surly Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States
Very Good
Hell LagerHell Lager
Notes: Not unlike a Zwickel Bier from Germany, Hell is not filtered and fermented with lager yeast. American hops takes a back seat to the Pils malt sweetness and fresh bread aroma. The color is well... hell (Deutsch for light). It's fiendishly drinkable, and you don't have to sell your soul to get another.
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Reviews: 365 | Ratings: 1,252 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of Slatetank
Slatetank from Pennsylvania

4.02/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

can poured chilled into willybecker
Golden with slight chill haze an pillowy white ample head with film of lace left clinging
Smell has a fresh grain and yeast in the aroma with subtle mineral odor
The feel and flavor are very good with slight bitterness and gently peppery hop flavor. The yeast imparts a dry aspect to the malt that is bready and lightly toasted. the finish is mostly dry and light lingering hop is noticeable.
I love this lager as it is more of an American take on the style yet still honors the tradition flavors in an expressive and enjoyable way

Dec 31, 2020
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Brutaltruth from Ohio

3.56/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

From the tall boy can in a snifter. This brew pours a
chill hazed cloudy straw color with a very nice head of
white foam that settles to a thick ring, thin light layer,
and displays some nice soapy lacing. Nose of soft grain
notes, honey sweet malts, and zesty hops. Flavors follow
the nose with soft grain, light honey, moderate breaded
malt notes, and zesty / spicy hop notes. Nice mouth feel;
medium light body, medium light carbonation, and a
zesty hop finish with subtle sweetness and lingering bitterness.

Overall, a new one for me from a new to me brewery, that said
this one did not hit the mark, but as a session brew for a hop forward
kind of crowd it would work!


Dec 29, 2020
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bluejacket74 from Ohio

3.46/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

16 ounce can, canned on 03/30/20, another brew from Brutaltruth! Served in a Rastal Craft Master Grand glass, the beer pours a mostly clear gold color with a couple inch frothy white head. The can started fizzing up as soon as I opened it, luckily I had the glass ready. Head retention and lacing are both good. The brew smells like bready/doughy malt, lemon and some sweet malt. Taste is pretty much like the aroma, but there's also a grassy bitterness noticeable that lingers around for a while. Mouthfeel/body is light/medium, it's smooth and has a high amount of soft carbonation. I thought this was OK, but I wasn't a fan of the bitterness in the finish. If I try this one again it will be fresher next time.

Oct 13, 2020
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DefenCorps from Oregon

3.18/5  rDev -17.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Can from Market of Choice. Canned 15 May.

A light yellow with a dense white head with excellent retention and lacing, this looks solid. The nose is soft, lemony and sweet, with dough, honey and a definite roughness, a little grainy. The hops are lemony and a little lemonade like. The palate opens sweet and doughy with a grainy, honey like flavor along with some sweetness, mildly like a simple syrup. Rough on the finish with honey and lemon hops present, this beer is decent.

Aug 18, 2020
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maxpower from Missouri

3.79/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Clear light golden in color with a small white sticky head. Flowery sweet bread aroma. Grain, cracker flavors, light bodied. Finishes smooth and crisp, Really nice

Jul 04, 2020
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Jwale73 from Rhode Island

3.56/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.25

Canned 03/30/2020. 16oz. can served in a tulip nonic. Pours a translucent straw gold with a fizzy, two finger, bright white head that slowly sizzles and pops as it collapses into a broken cap that coalesces around the edges. Nose expresses hints of bread dough, grass and a kiss of lemon. Taste expresses a heavy herbal bitterness up front that lingers from start to finish and between quaffs. The delicate aromas suggested by the nose do not translate to the flavor profile. Mouthfeel is light in body with a carbonation shy of assertive. Overall, too overly hopped for a traditional Helles lager. Not really my thing.

Jul 04, 2020
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jlindros from Massachusetts

3.54/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3

Canned 3/30/20
Pours a large frothy rocky almost 2 finger head with moderate retention, a bit of soapy lacing, crystal clear golden pilsner watery-straw color

Nose is hop forward, floral grassy and a bit fruity, a bit of lemongrass even, some crackery grainy-sweet malt, lemon almost eukalyptus like hop aroma, fragrant

Taste brings more hops out front, fruity with more lemony notes, lemon grass and lemon fragrant potpourri like, malts are very light, a little cracker and grain, mild sweet malt character, soft lager, dry finish, lower hop bitterness up front to a med almost spicy hop bitterness on teh finish

Mouth is med to lighter bod, higher foamy carb, a bit of soft lager

Overall this seems very Surly thing to do, almost no malt and plenty hop forward, just a light hoppy lager, not really a Helles, pretty far from a true Helles.

Jun 18, 2020
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CraigDeMoss from Kansas

3.96/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Lotsa head, ol rocky top atop golden straw.

Biscuit, bread, yada yada, tada!

Same as smell.

An AAL in craft form, hoppeOrr than its old world counterparts, which gives it points and deductions in who cares book. Best when listening to carcass.

Jun 12, 2020
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CDBeerDisappear from Ohio

4.4/5  rDev +14.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Look: Beautifully clear with slow rising carbonation. Two finger foamy head with moderate retention. Plenty of lacing
Smell: That great pilsner aroma of fresh mown hay … aaaaah. Some bready malt.
Taste: Bitter from beginning to end. BUT, it's the bitter that first drew most of us to beer. (Or was it alcohol)
Feel: Feels bright and sparkly. Clean dry finish.
Overall: Lagers are making a comeback if you are addicted to hops and are new to the pilsner party, try this, you will not be disappointed. It’s funny, pilsner was the flavor that made us all run to IPA’s 20-30 years ago and now after 20 – 30 years of hop madness (still addicted) a great pilsner is somehow much cleaner, purer and more satisfying than ever before. This is a very good beer. I will drink it again .. and maybe again after that!

Jun 12, 2020
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jrc1093 from Connecticut

4.08/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Canned on 3/30/20

Pours a clear, deep golden straw body topped with a finger and a half of soapy, off-white foam; good head retention yields a large, chunky cap/collar climbing the walls of the glass as thin veils of soapy lacing are left sporadically in its wake.

Aroma opens a touch on the sweeter side with crisp popcorn and bready malt before edging into burnt bread crusts and trending slightly floral; a consumptive, rounded bready tone marks the middle, bringing a tinge of rye with it; the close revisits sweeter tones of lightly-baked bread dough with a grassy accent.

Taste offers crisp, bready Pils malts guiding fresh-cut grass, grapefruit pith, and straw into a taut hop tone fading through the mid-palate into a faint finish of honeysuckle and brown bread; a light, awesomely executed bittersweet balancing act.

Mouthfeel presents a light body bolstered by a full, prickly carbonation spread evenly across the palate; a subtly stiff bitterness takes hold into the mid-palate before easing steadily into a flaky-crisp, almost weightless finish.

This one does well to maintain the delicate balance of clean, bready malts against the potent addition of increasingly bittering hops; maintaining authenticity to the style with touch and a coherent yet complex makeup, the result one of the finer, nuanced 'Americanized' takes on the Helles I've come across to-date, and drinks like a beer for all occasions.

May 28, 2020
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ChainGangGuy from Georgia

4.05/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

16 ounce can - $3.49 at Total Wine & More in Kennesaw, Georgia.

Appearance: Pours a relatively clear, gold body with a couple inches of airy, white froth. Puffy lacing on the descent.

Smell: Agreeable pils nose with a bready backing, a minute amount of floral undertones and a nice, clean lager yeast character.

Taste: Softly malty with some touches of bread, grain and cracker dough with a veneer of gently sweet honey. Faintly spicy, floral hops, showing a teensy bit of citrus and herb. Relatively low bitterness. Crispish, smooth, drying finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light body. Medium carbonation.

Overall: Tasty and altogether pleasant to imbibe. Certainly no trouble finishing this can.

May 26, 2020
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cbutova from Massachusetts

3.91/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

A- Pours from a tallboy can into one of those can glasses mostly clear golden body and a two finger foamy white cap. The head has great retention staying at a finger high for quite some time. Lacing is a mix of spots and small sheets.

S- Grainy and malty first with some hops supporting. The malts suggest some sweetness and also have notes of cereal, cracker, Pils grain and a light touch of bread. Spicy, herbal and earthy hop hints.

T- The hops and the bitterness, especially, pick up more on the palate and overshadow the malts a bit. The bitterness just feels a bit high for the style and for me the malts were the star of the aroma and not here, a bit of a shame, less balance on the whole. Earthy, herbal, spicy and slightly fruity hop notes with grainy, cereal and crackery malt notes. Slightly sweet.

MF- Light-medium bodied. The texture is somewhat creamy and a bit frothy as well and the beer is rather smooth for a Helles. Carbonation is high and it ends with a bitterness that just seems a bit too much and gripping for the style.

Malts are very nice in the aroma and for the style the aroma is very nice. The flavor the hops get a bit too bitter and block the malts from being as effective as they were in the aroma.

May 01, 2020
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defunksta from North Dakota

4.42/5  rDev +15.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Pours a surprisingly clear, light golden color with a huge rich and yeasty white head. SRM of 8. (4.00)

Aroma: Mild spring-lemon citrus, honeysuckle, prairie grass and dried wheat. Some grainy yeast and drying bread. Some sweetened bun or scone. Some fresh-cut grass and lemon dish soap. (4.25)

Flavor: Flavor follows the nose with lots of lemon/lime zest hops, yeast and dry grains. There is a good presence of honeysuckle and lemon flower hops. Similar to an American wheat in terms of lemon flavor, but more floral and hoppy. Then comes a big yeast presence in the middle. Bready malts with dried grains and ground flower.. It's more lemon and flowery than I expected. Finishes dry, but no bitterness. Just lemon and wheat on the finish. (4.50)

Feel: Medium-bodied. Great carbonation. Finishes full and billowing in the mouthfeel, while still very light and not much weight. No drying astringency that I'm used to in a wheat. (4.25)

Compared with Dakota Summit (Bohemian Pilsner): Slightly lighter in color. More lemony and citrus. More honey. Less salty and bitter. Slightly heavier body. Finishes sweeter overall.

Compared w/ Josefbrau Pils: Similar color. More orange yeast and salty flavors. Sweeter. Less dry, citrus, and bitterness.

Compared with Wonderstuff 4/13/20: Extremely similar. More sour airy lemon citrus. Less sweet honey and buttery lemon. A lighter body for sure and less heavy bread. Crispier, lighter, and more bitter. Hard to differentiate, but the body makes it easier than the lemon, because the Bahaus tastes fuller and often like it has more lemon.
11/29/20: Pours a similar appearance with a larger head. Lighter, dryer with more bitter wheat. Less salty bread and honey. Much more similar overall.

Compared w/ Dortmund Gold: Pours a lighter color. Larger head. Stronger aromas of lemon and dry grains. Flavor is more citrus lemon. Dryer grains. Lighter body, dryer, and more bitter. Overall, hoppier and lighter.

Compared to Surly's First Ave Golden Ale: Similar color, slightly darker. A larger head. The aromas are similar (hard to differentiate) but stronger lemon hops here. The flavor is similar (again hard to differentiate), but there is distinctive more bitterness. Slightly more buttery and less dry grains. Finishes fuller bodied with a stronger, bitter bite. Flavors are nearly identical.

Compared to Choice Pils 4/25/20: Pours a darker color. Milder aromas. More flower, wheat, and yeast. Less lemon and sweetness. Finishes, dryer and cleaner. Winner: Surly

Compared to Mankato Brewery Kato Helles 5/8/20: Pours a similar color with a stronger head. More lemon zest and yeast on the aroma. Flavor is more lemon, yeast, and more hop bittering bite. Less malts, bread dough, honey. Similar flower, but less frangrant. More flavor overall and complex.

Compared to Urban Chesnut Zwickel 7/4/20: Pours an identical color with a larger head. Stronger aromas of lemon and flower. Less cream, wheat, and authentic German earth. Finishes with more lemon citrus sweetness.

Compared to Surly's Warp Zone Pilsner 8/30/20: Pours a slightly darker color. More tart lemon and bitter flower aromas. Less aroma of pale malts and bread roll. More full body and dry. A fuller and foamier body. Overall, quite similar but the Surly Hell is rougher around the edges.

Compared to Oberon 9/11/20: Pours a slightly lighter color with a larger head. Milder aromas. More lemon/lime, and less orange. However, similar degree of wheat and bitterness. Both are excellent.

Compared to Dakota Soul 11/8/20: Pours a similar color with a larger head. More sweet lemon citrus, , and whole wheat. Less salty, dry, buttery grass. Overall, sweeter, smoother, and less bitter. A more summertime beer. Hard to call a winner.

Compared to Bahaus Ulfiltered Business 1/9/21: Pours a similar color with a larger head. More lemon, wheat, bread, and flower aromas. Stronger aromas/flavors.

Compared to Firestone Walker's Lager 1/10/21: Pours an identical color with a larger head. Similar, but stronger aromas. Slightly more lemonflower. Flavor has more lemonflower and dry wheat astringency. Less honey and white bread.

Overall: This drinks much like a Zwickel rather than a helles. Lots of lemon zest and grain. Similar to an American wheat, but more flower and a stronger, billowing body. Just more lemon and flower than other traditional Zwickel's I've had. But it maintains the wheat and drying astringnecy without going sweet. This is a beer that grows and grows on you until you're asking your friends if they've tried it.
(Final Rating: 4.42)

Apr 25, 2020
Photo of arizcards
arizcards from Arizona

3.93/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Picked up a single from the Kings Beer & Wine cooler 12-18-19 for $2.19. Canned on 10-28-19; consumed on 3-8-20. Cold stored since purchase.

Beer poured a light golden with a nice white head with the original pour.

Nose has hints of crackers and bread.

Taste follows the nose with some crackers and bread coming from the malt base. Finishes with a peppery enhanced hop bite that balances the sweet malt base nicely.

Mouthfeel is crisp and clean, nicely refreshing.

Overall this is a highly crushable beer, taste quite nice after my 8 mile hike on a chamber of commerce low desert Arizona morning earlier today!

Mar 08, 2020
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DoubleJ from Wisconsin

3.76/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

It's Halloween, and it's time for a scary beer. With a name like Hell, it must be. 16 ounce can, on to the beer:

Bright straw yellow in color and topped with a billowy white head that looks like it got scooped into the glass. Aroma is a somewhat astringent, although it still delivers those classic helles aromas of straw and grass, in generous quantities.

Strong taste for a helles. Could be mistaken as a Czech pilsner, as the hops are strong and provide plenty of bitterness, even into the aftertaste. Clean drinking and light bodied, it does go down, but more coarse per style.

Oct 31, 2019
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Mindcrime1000 from South Dakota

3.71/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Pours light, nearly straw gold with an excellent head and effervescence. Nearly crystal clear. The head has moderate retention. Plenty of big bubbles.

Honey sweet and crackery malts forward on the nose, with floral and earthy hops.

The flavor follows the nose, with more hop and yeast aggression. The malts are still there, but the cracker is stronger. Spicy yeast in midstream. Strong floral and earth hops. Skewed a bit bitter for the style, but still tasty.

The mouthfeel is excellent for the style. Crisp and well carbonated.

Overall, a somewhat bitter for the style but still very drinkable take.

Oct 05, 2019
Photo of BigGold
BigGold from Mississippi

3.92/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Had at the Level Five Café, Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis, on draft into pint tumbler.

Pours “hell” with a nice head, big lager aroma, and a pilsner and bigger malt backbone, with a nice, dry but not quite bitter finish.

Aug 15, 2019
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BucannonXC5 from California

4.19/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Type: 16-oz. can
Glass: Beer Nerd 12-oz. tulip
From: My cousin Sam
Price: N/A
Purchased: N/A; Received July 19, 2019
Consumed: July 20, 2019
Reviewed as: Munich Helles Lager
Misc.: Canned on June 24, 2019 at 6:02 p.m. CT

Thanks, Sam!

Got this along with seven other beers from Sam. I used to hate this style, but really have had some good Helles lagers lately. Being Surly, I expected it to be a good one. Description read, “Not unlike a Zwickel Bier from Germany, Hell is not filtered and fermented with lager yeast. American hops takes a back seat to the Pils malt sweetness and fresh bread aroma. The color is well... hell (Deutsch for light). It's fiendishly drinkable, and you don't have to sell your soul to get another.”

Poured a medium yellow-to-gold clear color with four fingers of rocky white head. Lots of bubbles coming up from the bottom of the glass at different speeds, but mostly fast. World-class uneven foamy lacing. World-class foamy retention. (Sight - 4.75)

Smelled pilsner malt, Noble hops, earthy grain, raw barley, sourdough bread, wet hay, grass, honey and corn. Much of the same from the can. (Smell - 4.50)

Taste wasn’t quite as good as the nose, but still solid. In order got earthy grain, Noble hops, wet hay, raw barley, sourdough bread, pilsner malt, black pepper, lemon grass, a hint of honey and cracker. (Taste - 4.00)

Medium body. Oily-to-creamy texture. Lively carbonation. Abrupt, dry finish. (Feel - 4.25)

An outstanding lager overall. Glad I got to try it. (Overall - 4.00)

4.19 | 93 | A-

Aug 09, 2019
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ty_in_ND from North Dakota

3.37/5  rDev -12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.25

Poured into a pilsner glass from a 12 oz can.

L - Very clear. Beautiful light yellow color. Plenty of bubbles. 1 finger head that laces well throught the drink.

Smell - For a beer that's supposed to be "malt forward", the hops sure hits you in the nose! It has a nice hoppy smell, though (spicy and floral).

Taste - More of the same. Despite the description from Surly, the hops are definitely not taking a back seat. It's not at all overly hoppy like and IPA, but the breast maltiness is in the background.

F - Nice and crisp. Light without being watery. Finishes dry (with the aftertaste of the malt barely there). Very refreshing.

O - Overall... I really do like this beer, but Surly does it a disservice by calling it a German Helles. If they had called it a Czech/Bohemian pils, that would be more spot on. So, if you're looking for a truely malt forward helles, pass on this one. If you're looking for a good tasting beer that's slightly leaning to the hoppier side of the spectrum that's a refreshing, easy drinker, pick this up!

Jul 15, 2019
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REVZEB from Illinois

4.19/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Was inspired by the "beers you somehow haven't had" thread and sought this one out. And I am glad I did! Nice golden pour with thinner finger of white foam. Smell is bready up front with lingering citrus and grains after. Taste features honey roasted malt, some pale hops, slight citrus, wheaty and grainy yeast and an expansive bready finish. Good bready texture, yet very drinkable

Mar 22, 2019
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mngermanshepherd from Minnesota

3.88/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A little hoppier than I'd like but one of the few Surly beers I like. Pours a solid gold colour with a head that refuses to leave. Taste is hoppy on the front, settling into a foamy, balanced finish.

Mar 03, 2019
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UlySA from Minnesota

4.24/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

A simply fantastic lager. The price tag makes all the difference... Why would you ever drink a shit light beer or generic pilsner beer instead of this? It's the best bang-for-the-buck beer from surly... And maybe from anyone. Cheap and cheerful, it goes down easy and fast and it's hard to hate it for anything it's trying to be. Very good lager... A staple for me...

Jan 15, 2019
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ghwolf from Illinois

5/5  rDev +30.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Like all beers from Surly, the Hell Lager is exceptional. A German-style, pale lager, this beer goes down smooth and fast. Great color, aroma, and a perfect blend of hops and malt for the discriminating lager drinker.

Aug 19, 2018
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jjamadorphd from Florida

3.77/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

I saved this Surly out of a variety 12er for last - glad I did...

To start my Sunday I decided to go light and reached for a lager. This has more of a pilsner taste to, as admitted on the can itself, but still has a lager look - so taking it all into consideration, it's pretty good. A clear yet slightly hazy brew pours a nice head with some lacing. The smell had hints of fruit and some wheat which actually worked well, surprisingly enough. Speaking of surprising, the taste was more tart than I would expect making it unique (at least in my book.) Tastewise - I think I've had better lagers and even pilsners but this still solid. I think the surprise on smell and taste really impressed me, so I graded along that thought...

May 20, 2018
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fitzy84 from Massachusetts

3.82/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

In Minnesota and had this at my hotel. The beer has a golden murky appearance with a slightly bubbly head and visible carbonation. The aromas are flowery aromas with a pretty sweet hit like honey or butter. The taste has a sweet Pilsner taste with a good mix of light hops. Really excellent refreshment. Overall, really nice lager.

May 09, 2018
Hell Lager from Surly Brewing Company
Beer rating: 86 out of 100 with 1252 ratings