Hell | Surly Brewing Company

very good
326 Reviews
no score
Send samples

Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States

Style: Munich Helles Lager

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 4.50%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
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.

Added by feloniousmonk on 08-26-2008

For Trade:
View: Beers | Events
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Reviews: 326 | Ratings: 1,125
Photo of exonthebottle
2.19/5  rDev -43.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

this beer is not fun it was hell to drink. the malts were heavy and syrupy seemed not very carbonated and flat. Yeast taste was very rough and gave me a headache. Not impressed with this beer surprised by the high ratings. Yokel was better than this a lot better from my memories and that is only other Zwickel I have had so far but that was a long time ago.

 358 characters

Photo of Overlord
2.44/5  rDev -37%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Huh. A new style for me, and one I'd never heard of, to boot. One of many splendid extras from mba. Thanks!

Pours a clear gold with a 1-2 inch white foam head. Okay. So far, looks like a typical lager. Uhhh... I looked up the style, and shouldn't this be cloudy?

Smells faintly of lemon zest, but mostly of a disappointingly grain-y cereal malt. Hurm. Is this going to be grainy and sweet, cause right now, I'm getting a malt liquor vibe.

Well, there's a bit of lemon zest and a crisp earthiness to it, but the grain malt sweetness makes me think malt liquor mixed with a pilsener. A bit of bready yeastiness to it, but just a bit. I just am not sure what they were going for here. Frankly, if I had this blind, Surly wouldn't be one of the breweries I guess made this. Even if I took 1000 guesses.

Mouthfeel is strangely flat, despite the big white head.

 860 characters

Photo of MNJR
2.71/5  rDev -30%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 2.75

Not great, and sold at a premium price - $10.99 for four pints. The math is not on their side considering the taste of this brew. Funky, sour, skunky, not clean and "bright" as the name would suggest. Actually, it is unfiltered and cloudy, so the name is totally misused. Thick, soupy feel, and a little flat. Flavors of wet cardboard and sour cream. Smells like a macro brew, PBR or equivalent. A very average beer from my standpoint. I think I had it one time before, and forgot not to buy it again. I will drink what's left, but not with much enjoyment.

 564 characters

Photo of kbuzz
2.75/5  rDev -28.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Poured from a 16 oz can into a glass. Date on bottom of can says 6/30/11...not the freshest. I am not a fan of lagers at all, so keep that in mind...

A: You know...fizzy, light golden straw/copper color. Half finger head that faded quickly. Fairly clear. Not a bad looking beer, but not overly appetizing.

S: Yeasty breadiness hits first...some detectible floral/herbal/grassy hop notes. A bit of orange rind.

T: Tastes like a lager. Sorry, but I don't really have much more to say here. Mild hops, mild malts, and just a dominant bready/funky lager yeast flavor. Kind of a mildly funky saison quality actually.

M: Not a bad mouthfeel...this might be the only thing that distinguishes this from an average lager. It's a medium-bodied beer and where most lagers are ultra-fizzy w/o any flavors to balance out that bite, this is appropriately carbonated.

O: Sorry folks, I'm just not a fan of lagers. This is definitely better than most, but that's not saying much - just take a look at the scores I gave it. If you like lagers, I'm sure you'll dig this...but I think there are significantly better beers on the market by this brewery.

 1,139 characters

Photo of steveh
2.98/5  rDev -23%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3

First Surly review -- is it really a Munich Helles? Or a U.S. micro version? Let's see.

A -- Sort of hazy* gold with a white head that settles quickly.

S -- Mellow hops with some grainy to bready malts trying to grab attention.

T -- Some mild citrus up front with very light, grainy malts in the middle and some very light spicy hop bitterness in the finish. Some lightly bready malts in the aftertaste.

M -- Light body with a crisp mouthfeel.

O -- Well, it's lacking a little malt character for a good Helles, and the mouthfeel just isn't soft enough to make me feel like Munich. At least the brewers didn't pile on the hops to create a beer for the new geek palate. It's a good drinker for a hot afternoon at the grill, but I probably won't look to it for a German-style lager fix.

*I see the can reports unfiltered, but I'd think there would be more yeasty breadiness because of that.

 893 characters

Photo of sonata2008
2.98/5  rDev -23%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A: Served in a 16 oz. pint glass. The color was a clear pale straw with a thin head.
S: Very faint hops, no malt aroma.
T: Not much maltiness to speak of, a slight sweetness. There is a hop bitterness and a somewhat unpleasant aftertaste.
M: Very thin mouth feel.
D: Not much at the temperature it was served at.

This is very disappointing coming from Surly. This is the second time I have had this beer, at a different location this time around, so no mistake in getting the order right. It reminded me of Japanese beer. Perhaps if it were chilled to ~34F it would be more palatable.

 585 characters

Photo of Wer34truh
2.99/5  rDev -22.7%
look: 2.75 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Golden appearance with a one-finger thick head.

Crisp smell with notes of cloves. I also detected what can best be described as grapes in the smell. Almost like someone hid a little bit of white wine in a can of beer.

The taste was surprisingly subtle for a Surly beer. Yes, it's a lager but I've been surprised by the attitude of pretty much every other Surly beer I've tried. Has a aftertaste of apple, and of malt - the later of which lingers for quite a while. I also picked up on quite a bit of sourness, which certainly did not work for me.

Carbonation is heavy to begin with, but dissipates quickly. Generally speaking, I enjoyed the feel of this much more than the subtle taste.

I probably won't return to this, but if I'm ever at the Surly Taproom and have to recommend a beer to someone who considers anything darker than Grain Belt an abomination - then this is the one. Otherwise, there are much better lagers from Minnesota.

 945 characters

Photo of THECPJ
3/5  rDev -22.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Reviewed from notes:

appearance: golden yellow with a 1 finger white head the dissipates quickly.

smell: hops, malts,

taste: grass, hops, bready malts,

mouthfeel: mild carbonation, thin to medium body,

overall: a very drinkable beer. just nothing over the top or special about this one.


 309 characters

Photo of Roland45s
3/5  rDev -22.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Almost like a pilsner, I think this is more of a wannabe oktoberfest. Poured with a rich white head and had a golden wheat colored body. Picked up from the mid-west, a standard pilsner style beer, not too much to write home about but not the shittiest beer I've ever had. Supposed to be a reminder of Germany, but I have had better.

 332 characters

Photo of cokes
3.03/5  rDev -21.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Lightly hazed yellow bodied with traces of white lace on top.
Doughy aroma spiked with peppery hops and crushed pill astringency.
Doughy again on its onset in the mouth. Wet bready and generally bland. More bread and more wet and more bland as it rests a while with no real lagered clarity. Hops bring herbs, florals, and, especially astringency, in a smashed Tylenol sense, twisted with lemon.
Doughy, wet, fatty, and plump through the gullet with no relief from the stunted CO2.
The astringency prevents an otherwise pedestrian brew from achieving its goals. If they tried to hop it up, it failed. If they're looking for mass appeal, look again.
This just isn't very good.

 677 characters

Photo of beagle75
3.1/5  rDev -19.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Poured from a 16 oz. can into a tulip glass.

A: Slightly hazy, pale golden color with one finger of diminishing white foam head. Scant lacing remains on the glass and a lone stream of bubbles rises lazily in the column.

S: Crisp and grassy, with a heavy pilsner malt presence as well. Carbon dioxide is detectable, making the beer smell a little metallic.

T: Begins dry, with intense bready and honeyed malt that is hoppy with Noble qualities. Carbonic acidity is moderate and lingering, but is felt more than tasted. Flavors sweeten in the uninteresting middle, where malt is bland and slightly chalky. Bitterness is moderate during the finish, going from green and herbaceous to dried hay.

M: Thin viscosity, wet on the palate but the lingering acidity burns, with moderate to heavy carbonation.

D/O: This does not seem like a beer that should fatigue the palate, yet it does so in capable fashion. The taste is authentic, losing some refreshment to the boldness of the early flavors and even more to the harsh burn of acidity. In its defense, it would probably go down more easily in the presence of savory food.

 1,120 characters

Photo of kojevergas
3.13/5  rDev -19.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

16 fl oz aluminum can served into a Dick's Last Resort pilsner glass at me sister's gaff in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Reviewed live. Expectations are above average given the brewery. Thanks to me sister for purchasing the can for me.

Served straight from the refrigerator 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 head of nice cream and thickness, and good retention. Body colour is a clear translucent pale copper. No yeast particles are visible. No bubble show.

Sm: Pale malts mainly. Cream. Full barley. Pleasant but simple. Appropriate for the style. Maybe a vague hint of lemon.

T: Pale malt body with full-bodied barley and minimal hopping. Traces of lemon citrus. Balanced but simple and pleasant. An effective Helles. No yeast or alcohol comes through. Balanced and enjoyable. There's nothing special or unique here, though.

Mf: Coarse and wet. A bit too thick. Good carbonation. Suits the flavours alright, and the style fairly well.

Dr: One of Surly's weaker beers, but nevertheless quite drinkable. It's certainly a tasty beer for the style; it's just not one I'd have again. A bit mundane, but worth trying.


 1,240 characters

Photo of korguy123
3.18/5  rDev -17.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

16oz can poured into imperial pint glass
courtesy of biglobo8971

A- Crisp looking. Clear straw hue. Two finger fluffy white head. Fantastic lacing.

S- Straw, grass, faint spiciness, lemon zest, slight yeasty smell.

T- Faint yeast, grass, lemon, green tea, slight metallic aftertaste. Semi bland.

M- Smooth, perfect carbonation, well balanced. Sustenance without being filling.

Solid on style but not really my cup of tea. Semi-bland but would be great after cutting the grass on a hot afternoon.

 500 characters

Photo of cjacobsen
3.2/5  rDev -17.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

(A) Pretty clear golden color with a frothy white head that dissipates down pretty quickly leaving only a coating on the top of the beer.

(S) Some light malt, some hops, possibly noble pilsner hops as it almost smells (and looks) like a pilsner. Has a slight sweetness to it. Kind of has a dry nut smell.

(T) Has a bit of a zest up front, maybe a little bit of lemon peel. Good amount of graininess on top of sweet, light malt. Hint of a little bit of biscuit followed by a slight metallic taste, more than likely from the hops and the lager yeast.

(M) It's a pretty smooth beer. It's got a full body to it and definitely fills the palate.

(O) Pretty decent beer. Been a while since I've had a straight up lager beer. This is a great lager style, but it's not something I would go scouring the land for. It's like a fuller flavor, bigger bodied MGD, in my honest opinion, which isn't a bad thing as I feel this is how a lager should taste, or how MGD wants to taste like anyway.

 982 characters

Photo of drpimento
3.2/5  rDev -17.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3

Appearance, body, and aroma aren't bad, but didn't care for flavor too much. The malt and hop combo clashed leaving me with off flavors. One time only for me.

 158 characters

Photo of pitasoup
3.21/5  rDev -17.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A: pours crystal clear yellow, very bmc like with a finger of white head.

S: a touch of noble hops, pils, corn, slightly alcoholic and dirt.

T: corn similar to taste, from pils or just how lots of lagers rub off on me? cant be sure.

m: light to light-medium body. clean finish and not very demanding

o: this is a marginally hoppier version of any bmc beer. i don't find this offensive, possibly because its a fresh can, but also perhaps because there is very little flavor. they've nailed the light lager style, which i hear is technically difficult to produce.

 568 characters

Photo of steve8robin
3.25/5  rDev -16%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 5

Got this on a trip to MN. Glad to get to try this brew. 16oz can...

A: Crystal clear golden yellow with a small half inch white head that quickly fades to a lace atop the brew. Decent.

S: Some breasy malt upfront with hints of sugary bubble gum, banana, and light fruits. Seems very belgium-esque here. Decent.

T: Very watery bread with hints of rye. Hints of bitterness on the backend. Hints of floral bitterness hidden in the middle. Very one dimensional. Kind of disappointing.

M: Very light bodied with very light carbonation. Eh.

D: Drinkability is perfect on this one. Goes down so very easy!

This was a disappointing brew. It's very 1-sided. What you taste initially is what you get, nothing else emerges as you drink. Don't bother hunting this one, not worth you time.

 784 characters

Photo of WoodBrew
3.3/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

The Surly Hell is ok....nothing spectacular in my humble opinion. The beer poured a clear golden with thin white head that is not leaving much of a lace. The scent is very faint if at all...maybe some bittering hops. The taste has biscuit with touches of grass and peat. The mouthfeel is medium in body with good carbonation. Overall this is a good session beer.

 362 characters

Photo of twiggamortis420
3.3/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

16 oz can courtesy of biglobo8971, canned on stamp of 07/08/11. Uber-fresh Surly? Yes please! Pours a fairly clear gold color with a small white head. Retention is average at best and lacing minimal.

Nose is very grainy, smells like the grain crusher at the homebrew shop with some floral hops in tow. Doesnt really have the yeast presence I noticed in the two other Zwickels I have had.

Taste is grainy, light and fresh. This reminds me more of a Helles Lager than a Zwickel...the yeast is just not there. Hops provide a nice bittering, clean finish and the beer is very drinkable but I am surprised that both of the German imports Ive sampled in this style were tastier than this. I think Surly is one of the best breweries in the country, but this one just does not really do it for me.

 791 characters

Photo of iabeerbaron
3.3/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

The style of this beer isn’t one that is often talked about currently. IPAs, barrel-aged, sours, are dominating headlines with most craft beer drinkers but if you want to try different styles and try them when they are done right, I think Surly can be proud of this beer. This could also quite possibly be a great transition beer for those looking to get into the craft beer world. Rumblings of Surly wanting to expand a bit continues through the midwest and here’s hoping that they make it south to the lovely state of Iowa.


Style: Hells/Dortmunder


Purchased at: France44.com

Pour: Golden straw color with a thick white head.

Aroma: Bread, yeast, light citrus.

Flavor: Lots of breadiness with lemon and bit of hops.

Ratebeer.com rating: 90/100

Beeradvocate.com rating: 88/100

Overall: B

My recommendation: A great beer for the style, extremely drinkable. Surly continues to do things and if you can get up north to Minnesota to get some, buy a bunch, or order from france44.com.

 1,014 characters

Photo of budgood1
3.3/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

16 ounce can.

pours out a hazed light straw colour with a thin fizzy head that reduces quickly. no real lace to be had. a sweet sourdough bread aroma from the malts. hints of grass and herbs, too. flavour profile is more doughy malts...a bit of sourness is present...more hay and grass...then an ever so delicate bitterness rounds things out. it's a bit yeasty but it adds another layer on the taste buds. nice body on this one, with an easy going lager like mouthfeel teeter-tottering between crisp and lush. decent enough. pretty drinkable...especially on a sultry summer day after being outside for a few hours.

overall...well this might be the first surly offering that i'm underwhelmed by. especially for the price. if this came straight from deutschland i could understand, but this is down the road on I-94 a few hundred miles. anyways...it's a delicate style and probably not my favourite in the grand scheme of things. i suppose i could recommend this, but i won't ever revisit it. too many other summer quenchers at much more reasonable prices.

 1,056 characters

Photo of mdvatab
3.33/5  rDev -14%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Received as an extra in a recent trade. (Cheers!)
Poured from 16oz can into shaker pint.
(No date to be found on the can.)

Aroma: Grain husk, a light metallic note, flour, and a vegetal corn note. Not saying this one's brewed w/ corn. Just noticing some possible DMS.)

Appearance: Almost crystal-clear (very impressive, as this one is unfiltered) golden body. Nice, white, two-fingered head falls slowly. Lacing is not present.

Flavor: Some good honey sweetness up front. Again, a bit of a corn-like vegetal note. Floral hop flavor and bitterness are pretty low. I, personally, could use more hops, and expected more in a Surly brew.

Mouthfeel: Medium carbonation. I would have enjoyed a little bit more to cut through the sweetness. Medium-light body. Actually, a bit more body there than I'd expected.

Overall: This one is pretty drinkable, as the can conveys. I could see the sweetness, though, getting to be a bit too much after a can or two. I would enjoy this one more if the sweetness were turned down a notch, and if more hops were thrown in. Not a bad one, just not my style.

 1,089 characters

Photo of rudylaw
3.35/5  rDev -13.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Huge thanks to mully for this extra!

Pours a clear gold with a two-finger white head.

Smells like a bakery in the morning. Freshly baked bread bombards the senses. There's a bit of citrus present... mainly lemon. Sadly, the aroma is the best part of this beer.

I get lemon and slight breadiness in the taste buds, though I'm not picking up as much of that bready malt as I thought I would. This is very refreshing, but I have to admit, isn't doing a whole lot for me. Carbonation is good and this is very quaffable, but I'm not floored like I have been with other Surly offerings. Perhaps this should have been paired with food? Happy for the opportunity but I won't be seeking any out any more down the line.

 712 characters

Photo of Bighuge
3.35/5  rDev -13.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Clear golden, even though I was expecting some cloudiness in this unfiltered zwickel. Looks good nonetheless. Medium sized white frothy head that has good staying power. Love the fresh baked bread pilsner malt aroma. A splash of ghostly lemon zest aroma makes a bit of an awkward appearance. The crackery malt base flavor is nice. But the citric hop accents, while light and even quenching, don't fit in this beer.

Personally, I'd like to see a solid german beer like this brewed with some german hops instead of american hops. And I'd like to see the malt featured even moreso over the hops.

 594 characters

Photo of sweemzander
3.36/5  rDev -13.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

16oz. can poured into an imperial pint.

(A)- Pours a mildly hazy golden yellow color. Produced a nice cap of white froth. Some lacing too.

(S)- A dry straw-like grainy aspect. Ever so mildly earthy with bits of clay-like yeast.

(T)- Very similar to the smell in every way. That dry straw-like, almost grassy earthy quality that finishes rather yeasty.

(M)- A crisp carbonation level. A nice balance too. Not overly bitter or dry but it does begin to get a tad heavy on the yeast as it warms.

(D)- Definitely crisp and refreshing during this heat wave we are having, but this is definitely NOT Surly's best stuff.

 617 characters

first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Hell from Surly Brewing Company
3.87 out of 5 based on 1,125 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

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.