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Hell | Surly Brewing Company

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very good
320 Reviews
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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

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Reviews: 320 | Ratings: 1,102
Photo of ClockworkOrange
4.1/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Part of my Secret Santa 2009 haul from Scoobydank. This is the only beer I was missing in order to have tried everything Surly has put into cans thus far. Poured from a 16 ounce can into my nonic Imperial pint glass. Appears a mildly hazed bright golden yellow color with around a finger of fluffy white foam. Nose and flavors consist of toasted grain, bread, nice fruitiness (apple, pear, grape), a touch of sweetness, light caramel, grass. Medium bodied with adequate carbonation. Dry, clean, and pretty drinkable. Nicely done. Keller are one of the few lagers that I truly enjoy, and this one hits the mark.

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Photo of vacax
4.25/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours rich golden with low cloudiness and a nondescript white head that displays fair retention and spots of lace. Aroma is primarily earthy hops with lots of straw and an easy malt sweetness. Tastes of straw with earthy hops that provide a pleasantly moderate amount of bittering, malt sweetness takes a background for a crisp finish with only the kiss of the hops. Light to medium in body with a good moderate carbonation--not too fizzy but plenty of bubbles. Overall a very pleasant pale lager on par with America's best examples.

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Photo of Pecorasc
4.17/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

16 oz sharp looking can split with rhinos00 and poured into a sam adams glass.

A- Straw colored with some haze, the can says the beer is unfiltered, so no big deal there. White head quickly dissipates leaving a thin film that stays for duration. Very little lacing, but where present: spotted. Very high carbonation probably caused by the etching.

S- When cold, this is a subtle beer. Dominated by the sweetness of the pilsner malt base, with a buttery background and very little hop character, if any at all. As the beer warms, a swirl and deep inhale reveal a tingle from carbonation and a pleasant spicy-floral hop aroma.

T- Very clean on the palate to start. The same malt sweetness is dominant like it was in the nose. After the palate has time to react, floral, earthy, and spicy hops character that is very subtle, but detectable. The beer wraps up with a slight tang and then hop bitterness, just shy of a pilsner.

M- Smooth and silky for a light colored lager. Thicker than expected. The carbonation in the appearance is deceiving.

D- If I lived near Surly, I would have a bunch of these in my refrigerator from April until September. Highly drinkable beer. I feel bad I only drank one.

EDIT: After reading up on keller bier, a style I admittedly new very little about before drinking this beer, I raised the appearance from 3.0 to 3.5. This beer is traditionally cloudy.

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Photo of rhinos00
4.05/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Thanks to pecorasc for sharing this one with me. Poured from a can and into a nonic pint glass.

A- Pours a straw colored, pale yellow. Clear, but has a decent amount of cloudiness. Produced a fingers width of white head. Dissipated into a thin, soapy film that sat on top of the beer.

S- The various aromatics were very subtle. Picked up a slight sweetness from the pilsner malts. Also noticed a bready character with a bit of hops presence.

T- Upfront getting a little sweetness from the malts along with rye and hops. Finished with a mild sweetness and a bit of spice.

M- Clean and pretty crisp, light bodied. Good carbonation.

D- Insanely drinkable. I could probably finish 6 pints of these no problem.

Overall, a very solid session offering from Surly. Definitely wouldn't hesitate to pick this up if were available to me.

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Photo of krisandajt
3.68/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A big thanks to jera1350 for hooking me up with some Surly, including this one, in a trade. Cheers!

Okay, so to set the scene a bit I should mention that I am not a fan of Christmas. That being said, I figure that a good beer to have on this day of festive hell is...Surly Hell.

Appearance: A cloudy, light golden, yellow-y colored brew. Lots of visible carbonation bubbles rising up from the bottom of my Sam Adams Perfect Pint Glass to meet a small bit of white foamy head. Despite the ample carbonation, retention isn't the greatest though there is some decent lacing.

Smell: Smell is slightly grassy and earthy with a very subtle yeast kind of tinge to it. Not really picking up much of a hop presence, I would have to say the smell leans a bit towards the sweeter side.

Taste: Refreshing immediately comes to mind. Taste remains somewhat earthy, and there is a nice hop bitterness that I didn't pick up in the smell. Not too bad here.

Mouthfeel: Great carbonation with a nice medium body. A very easy drinking brew.

Drinkability: This beer is a great example of an all night, easy drinking, sessionable beer to me. It has good flavor, but nothing too robust or extreme. I can see myself tossing back a few of these in an evening, however I will have to move on to something else since this is my only one.

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Photo of LilBeerDoctor
3.53/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Reviewed on 9/12/2009. Can. Pours a clear light orange with a small white head. Aroma of grainy malt. Flavor of sweet fruits, grainy malt, some bitter hops in the finish. Very solid, easy drinking. Palate is nice, not too sweet or too plain. Nice z/k/l!!

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Photo of rayjay
4.65/5  rDev +20.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

from kegatron

Rich golden brite beer with superb foam.

Rich fresh malts galore. Toasty, with some lager sulphur compounds. Simply delicious. Clean, just about as sweet as grainy bread. Zippy Saaz bitterness that lets the malts win in the end. Simple and to the point, I like it!

Mouthfeel is light crisp and refreshing. Great balance of lightness and simplicity with refinement and thought-provoking challenge. Another knockout from a great brewery. Cheers!

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Photo of br3wmeister
3.71/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a bright gold light copper color with a large fluffy white head. The head retention is moderate with some nice lacing. The beer smells of caramel, honey and nice citrusy orange hops. Good malt hop balance crisp and fresh smelling. This beer drinks really easy with a nice carbonation and great balance. Smooth on the tongue with a light hop bite. Caramel, light roasted malt, hind of honey and roasted nuts. Fairly dry finish with lingering bitterness from the hops. I really like the beer and could see myself drinking it often in the summer.

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Photo of millah
3.63/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 16 oz. can into an oversized pilsner glass. Golden color, thick white head that dissipated into good lacing all the way down. Sweet aroma, with a bit of hoppy shaprness at the edges. This had a pleasant sweetess all the way through and finished very clean. I can imagine a good go-to beer on a hot summer day -- I'll have to save one until it warms up a bit here!

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Photo of Lothore
3.61/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A- Pours a clear golden color with a nice, 2 finger head which leaves tons of lacing on the way down.

S- Sweet, grainy and slightly mettalic.

T- A strange sweetness throughout that I cannot quite put my finger on. Very smooth, malty and level from begininng to end.

M- Medium carbonation, low to medium viscosity.

D- This brew was pretty easy to drink. The sweetness really threw me off guard.

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Photo of JoeyBeerBelly
4.15/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I got this brew from pochman, Thanks Ed!

16oz can served in a large glass beer mug.

Clear and golden with a white head that thinned out but still left a fair amount of lacing.
Sweet, grainy, Euro malt aroma.
Taste is pretty sweet upfront and most of the way through with a light touch of biterness coming in before the finish.
Crisp, light and refreshing.
Very easy to drink.

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Photo of largadeer
4.18/5  rDev +8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A can of this crisp, refreshing lager beer was generously provided by bifrostguard. Thanks, mate.

It's clear and golden in my stein, topped by a thick white head that settles to a film with a thick ring around it. Lovely.

The aroma is honey-like and semi-sweet, hinting at cereal grains and apricots.

On the palate I get grain and fruit flavors and ample bitterness from hops and grain husk. It's light, clean, refreshing as hell (lmao) with a grainy, mildly bitter finish. Beyond a hint of initial sweetness up-front, this beer is quite dry and crisp. Another delicious canned offering from Surly; can this brewery do wrong? (The answer, FYI, is yes, they can, but not often).

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Photo of msubulldog25
3.91/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

Post-yardwork beer on a Sunday afternoon, a 16 oz. can emptied to a pint glass. Thanks to the ever-considerate unclejedi for bringing a can to Portland.

A: Glowing golden yellow, as bright as the name 'hell' suggests. An ultra-fine suspension of sediment, disturbed by relatively few carbonation bubbles. Fluffy white head, well over a finger, sits atop before falling to a short cream. Awesome lace, sparkling sheets of heavy cobwebbing.

S: Big malty-sweet nose: a sugar-pop corn cereal, meadow grass, biscuits, mild melon fruit.

T: Honey-sweetened biscuits, at times a cracker-dry counterbalance. Good dusty pepper spice, fruit comes across both as soft cantaloupe and white grape. Grassy bittering and drier in the end.

M: Least likable aspect, carbonation is a little dull, feel is on the slick side. Lighter body, mostly clean finish - thanks to enough hop bitterness.

D: Oh so easy to drink. Refreshing and perfect on a surprisingly temperate November afternoon. Low alcohol, definitely could have another. Gone too quickly. Thanks, Jim.

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Photo of Gtreid
3.51/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to mothman for a departure from the heavy DIPA's and RIS's I've been drinking lately. Review from notes. Poured into a pint glass.

A: Straw yellow color. The pour produced two fingers of fluffy white head that retained well and left sticky lace.

A: Grainy malts, corn, and sugar. Very lager like with a bit more sweetness.

T: Agian, mostly grain and sugar. Mabye corn syrup? I do get a little bitterness from the use of hops, but there's not much there. Finishes sweet and dry.

M: Light body, and aggressive carbonation. I little sharp on the palate.

D and overall impression: Drinkability gets high marks. With the low ABV and the light body, I could have quite a few of these. Overall, for what this is, this is a good beer. Very "macro" like, but with a fuller flavor. But, that being said, Surly makes much better offerings. Skal.

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Photo of koopa
4.1/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Can received in a trade with mothman thanks!

Appearance: Beautifully transparent golden body with a 2 finger off white crown that shows some retention and lace.

Smell: Very nice grassy hop coupled with pears and apple skins. Smells crisp if that makes any sense to anybody.

Taste: Sweet malt up front with a touch of orange citrus and bready yeast.

Mouthfeel: on the light side of medium bodied and quite crisp.

Drinkability: I'm not a fan of the style or the flavor profile but its a session beer all the way.

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Photo of ffejherb
4/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dispensed via 16oz. can on 11/9/09. Thanks to FooFaa for sharing.

A - Poured a crystal clear pale golden body with a thin white head that reduced to a patchy film and deposited stringy lace around the edge of the glass.

S - Fruity aroma suggests citrus and fleshy fruits (orange, apple, pear) backed by sweet caramel malt and a hint of light grassy hops.

T - Initial flavor is quite sweet and malty with a prominent fruity character, followed by slight herbal and grassy hop notes. Finishes with a light citrusy character accompanied by sweet caramel malt.

M - Light bodied with a mild syrupy texture and subtle carbonation. Finish is sweet with a very faint hop bite on the palate.

D - Easy drinking Helles that is well balanced and has a nice fruity aroma and flavor. I was expecting something a bit more extreme from Surly, but this was just a fine example of the style.

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Photo of csmiley
3.81/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A - Pours a medium gold color. The egg shell head tops out at about a finger deep and sticks around for a minute or two. The abundance of active carbonation keeps a thick layer of foam on top almost all the way through the beer. Some lacing is left behind as well.

S - Starts out with a clean grainy aroma. Midway there is some creamed corn and a touch of alcohol. Light hop spiciness is in there as well. Finishes off with a light smell of raw bread dough. I know Surly can make some pretty good smelling beers but this is definitely not one of them.

T - Now, that's better. The flavors that are present and accounted for here work well together. White bread starts it all off. Grain is present but not as much as in the nose. Alcohol is very hard to detect in the flavor. It's a little sweet with a spicy (almost peppery) hop presence. This beer makes a strong case for lack of complexity not always being a bad thing.

M - Lighter side of medium bodied with a healthy level of carbonation that keeps the palate tingling. This is a very smooth and creamy brew overall. Finish starts out sweet and ends up with the hops that gives it kind of a spicy twang.

D - Drinkability is pretty good for the Hell. Flavor is mild. Alcohol is low. It's very smooth. That's pretty much the trifecta of an easy drinking brew. The aroma could probably use a little work but that's really about it. I could easily see this beer find a niche in the concert / sporting event crowd. Given the current distribution, I probably wouldn't seek this one out again. If given the chance though, I'd probably never turn it down either.

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Photo of glid02
4.1/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Can shared by gford217 - much obliged!

Pours a clear straw color with a one-finger white head. The head recedes into a wispy layer on top leaving decent lacing.

Smells of crisp grainy malt with a hint of breadiness and very little hop influence.

Tastes very similar to how it smells. Crisp light malt flavors up front are backed up by light amounts of earthiness and breadiness. Lots of ess's here. Here's one more: the ending is crisp with a mild amount of bitterness.

Mouthfeel is good. It's got a solid thickness with moderately active carbonation.

Drinkability is very good. I finished my glass quickly and could have a bunch of these.

Overall this is a very clean lager that has a good amount of drinkability. Worth a shot.

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Photo of corby112
4.4/5  rDev +13.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Pours a clear golden yellowish orange color with pale golden banana yellow when held to a light source and a one finger frothy soapy white head. Very good retention, only slowly fading into a thin cap and lasting ring that leaves rings of soapy lacing in it's path.

Sweet pilsner malt aroma with nice bready yeast notes, light fruit, toasty biscuit malt and subtle hops. The pilsner malt provide a slight golden apple presence as well as a very nice toasty biscuity nose.

Lots of crisp light flavor but not watered down at all. Refreshing slightly creamy medium body with a nice amount of bready yeast and crisp light fruit. I'm picking up a lot of apple, first in the aroma and now in the flavor. There is a lot of sweet pilsner malt that is countered by a slight zest spiciness and an amazing crisp floral hop presence as well as a pleasant toasted biscuit malt character. This is an insanely drinkable, very flavorful session beer that I wish that I had constant access to.

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Photo of gford217
3.98/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Another Surly brew from buebie. Thanks Brian!

Pours an unbelievably clear golden orange with a huge fluffy white head that recedes very slowly to a small cap and leaves small hints of lacing.

The aroma is very clean with some light lemony hops and lots of light sweet malts and toasted bread in the background. I'm also getting some grain in the nose, definitely some corn. Kinda has a grassy character overall.

The taste has the same clean citrus hop presence up front which gives way to the toasted bread of the underlying malt base. The corn sweetness is more prevalent in the taste and lingers through the finish with a dry bready character as well.

The mouthfeel is medium bodied with good carbonation and smooth and slightly spicy in the finish.

This is a very solid lager from Surly and extremely drinkable. Not sure it's my favorite style, but this is a very good example.

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Photo of BeerTruth
3.68/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to younger35 for this one. He lost to me at something (what's new) so he sent this bad boy my way.

16 oz. can poured into my Surlyfest mug, once again provided by Dan the flaming Man.

Pours a clear straw yellow with a big three finger fluffy white head. A slow crawl down the sides of the glass leaves behind spotty spiderweb lacing. Smell is pretty mild; corn, honey, and some bready malts...nothing more, nothing less. After the first sip I realize the taste is exactly like the nose; corn, honey, and bready malts. The only difference is a slight floral hop flavor but it's very minimal. Pretty hefty medium body for a lager, I like. Good carbonation with a creamy feel. Drinkable for sure, but it should be, it's a 5.1% lager. I had two cans of this prior to my review and at first I really loved this beer. Now sitting down and reviewing it, I find that that love has faded, kinda like Dan-O's stone washed jeans. Nothing too crazy about this one. It's good, don't get me wrong...but A+ beer this is not.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
3.75/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

"Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company."

--Mark Twain

Kruggerand gold with bright lemon peel borders. Sparkling bubbles ascend to a two finger cap of alabaster colored creaminess that has loads of character. Lace that actually looks like lace puts the finishing touches on this lovely lager.

The aroma is simple and clean, but it too has plenty of character. White bread with a light muskiness and a hint of citrus is beginning to make my mouth water. Hard to believe that only 15 IBUs worth of Opal hops is making the beer smell this good. Maybe the German yeast strain is helping as well.

After watching beer exit can and giving it a few good sniffs, my expectations were on the high side for Hell. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite measure up. This would be better beer if it had a little more malt sweetness, a little more hop flavor and a little less hop bitterness. It's close to being good, though. Very close.

There simply aren't enough different flavors (and depth of flavor) to carry the day. The fresh grain and white breadiness that was expected never really materializes. The hops deliver a hint of lemon peel and white pepper... and slightly too much bitterness. Never have 15 IBUs been this biting. Must be a lack of malt sugars.

The mouthfeel flirted with the next lowest score for most of the can. In the end, however, it gains just enough 'oomph' for enjoyment to be had. The bubbles are sparkly early, pass through the ideal zone in the middle, and are lazy late.

Hell is neither eternal punishment nor eternal reward. It's much, much closer to the latter and might even get there with a few well-chosen changes. In the end, Surly Purgatory is probably a more appropriate name. I applaud Todd and Omar for 'going small', and hope they continue to do so... as long as the beers that made them famous continue to be brewed. Thanks to feloniousmonk for setting one aside for me.

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Photo of THORN
3.98/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Can poured into pint glass

A: Gorgeous honey colored. High amounts of CO2 releasing from bottom of glass. Little to no head retention.

S: Very faint floral and herbal, slightly sweet.

T: Crisp sweet malts, very smooth from start to finish Finishes with very light hops.

M: Very light on tongue

D: Very sessionable, easy to drink, and palette is still fresh.

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Photo of Onenote81
3.46/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Thanks to BDLbrewster for this little treat!

Poured this into a mug. Pours a very pale yellow with very few bubbles rising throughout. Big frothy white capped head. Good retention; leaves some nice sip rings on glass. Smells of grains, and light citrus, like orange zest.

The mouth was a tad wet and thin, but for the style that may be normal? Not sure. Very easy to drink though. The body was light with little carbonation play on the tongue. Flavor was pretty decent. Light citrus pop with hints of hop bitterness and a semi-sour finish. This is my first of this style. It reminds me of a Kolsch or something of the sort. This was refreshing. I'd have another.

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Photo of SykDoc
3.92/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a can into a pilsner glass. It pours a really light straw color and forms a 3/4 inch almost white head the reduces to a nice lacing. No sediment and mild carbonation visible.

The aroma is primarily that of yeasty bread. Some earthy hops and a hint of citrus.

The taste is quite citrusy with a dose of grainy malts that balances out fairly well.

This is a light bodied beer with a good level of carbonation that accents the flavor. It goes down clean and leaves a little dryness at the finish.

Overall, this is a drinkable beer as it is balanced and not overpowering in alcohol or flavor. However, that lack of intensity is also probably what keeps me from rating it a bit higher.

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Hell from Surly Brewing Company
3.87 out of 5 based on 1,102 ratings.
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