Hell | Surly Brewing Company

very good
326 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: 326 | Ratings: 1,125
Photo of paladinjoe
4.75/5  rDev +22.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

I know I'm in the minority when I say this, but this is my overall favorite Surly Beer. The taste is full, without being overpowering. The after taste has what they call a bread like flavor, and to me it goes well with anything from Pizza, to Steak, an absolute winner!! This is a Beer I could have everyday. If only Surly could bring the price down a buck or so.

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Photo of magictacosinus
3.73/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Hooray, yet another lager from one of my favorites! I always love a good craft lager. Sent to me by amerak. Poured out of a 16oz can into a pokal glass. Canning date is listed as "09/17/13."

Pours a good example of the style - yellow straw, with a frothy white head that rises in a foamy manner that eventually dissipates into a ring, leaving behind some stickiness. Contains a ton of carbonation, with bubbles aggressively rising upwards at first, followed by smaller scattered lines that kept rising no matter how long I let this sit about. Not sure what's up with the head, but we'll leave it at that for now.

Unlike other Surly offerings, where a hop dankness is immediately present, this provides, perhaps, the exact opposite of an experience. Wet, crisp grains, cereal, and toffee make up the predominant flavor, with a little bit of lemon zest and grass following afterwards. Very mild stuff, to be honest. Contains some notes of white grapes and stone fruit (maybe melons as well), but I can barely tell. Still, it's what I expect from the style, for better or for worse.

The flavor follows the exact path of the aroma, with mild bitterness, stronger emphasis towards the malts, and a crisp clean finish. With a quick barrage of toffee and cane sugar at the front, any sweetness is subdued with a bit of the crackly, toasted cereal grain notes, some wet, cracker-like texture, hop zest, and a little bit of indistinguishable fruitiness (I want to go towards apples, but I'd probably be making stuff up). Nothing too complex, as it finishes extremely clean and wet, with minimal astringency and dryness, but it's undeniably refreshing. This goes down like air! It does get even more malty as it warms up, but that provides a flavor profile that is still unique as far as an American take on this style goes.

Whether or not this is a tribute to helles lager or a Dortmunder, it's very curious to see more "definitive" American breweries (known for fruity, intense hop profiles and the classic 2-row caramel malt flavor) brewing THESE kinds of lagers when they are switching up their game from brewing ales. I tend to prefer lagers that are a bit more balanced, with an emphasis on the classic toffee malt/spicy and grassy hop profile, but I suppose this is a good change of pace for the brewery. This isn't a style that always leads to great things, and in this case, nothing is wrong with it. I'd love to have it fresh on tap someday, however, as I feel many of nuances that seem lost in this can would be far more present.

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

Poured from 16 oz. can into a willibecker glass

Pours a hazy straw gold capped by a bright white head, great retention. Plenty of grain and yeast on the nose. Bready lager yeast and herbal hops upfront, very light fruit accent. Finishes with bread crust and light honey notes. Light and crisp body, fairly smooth. Lively carbonation. Wonderful zwickel, very drinkable and a great pairing with almost anything.

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Photo of emerge077
4.18/5  rDev +8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Canned 10/18/13
Just arrived in Chicago this past week.

Straw gold with a pleasant unfiltered haze, topped with a finger of creamy foam that settles after a few minutes. Plenty of lacing in the glass.

Soft aroma of white bread, lager yeast, and subtle notes of grassy noble hops.

Clean and smooth, light apple and crackers, very mild grassy bitterness. Soft supple finish, clean and dry, well carbonated and not at all watery. This is a great Helles, very traditional and tasty when fresh, tailor made for warm weather in the Biergarten.

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Photo of Monkeyknife
3.83/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from the can a very clear yellow-gold color with a thin white cap. Not much lacing left behind.

Aroma of grainy pilsner malts, tart grapes and a touch of honey.

The taste was pilsner malts, honey, white grapes, lemon, and cracker. Finished with lightly spicy herbal notes.

Lighter bodied and crisp with a moderate carbonation.

A fine lager by the folks at Surly.

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Photo of guityler83
3.76/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

A: A modest one finger of tiny bright white bubbles formed and quickly fell when poured into a pilsner glass. Briliantly clear straw, pale yellow color just a hair darker than a light lager. Very small coating of lacing as the foam fell.

S: Slight fruity yeast ester aroma with a solid bready pilsner malt backbone, very simple yet affective.

T: Moderatly sweet bready malt flavor with enough clean hop bitterness to keep it from beeing overly sweet. Clean german lager yeast character (round?).

M: Crisp, clean with low carbonation and a light body.

O: A very drinkable that pairs well with pizza and is sure to please the average BMC drinker but give the craft beer guy something to work with. Not something i'd get regularly but solid.

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Photo of facundoCNB
3.72/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

A clean pale golden yellow, finger of head which dissipated rather quickly. Aroma of pilsner malts, grassy hops, honey-frosted cereal.
The flavor is very sweet up front, with a refreshing subtle citrus and bready malt backbone, subtle grassy bitter hops.
Light in body and high carbonation this is a very refreshing lager, and quite damn tasty as well!

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Photo of ISmith87
4/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Surly Hell Lager

Appearance – 4 – Standard looking lager, clear as hell, straw colored, exactly what I'd expect
Smell – 4 – Not much there, but then again there shouldn't be. Straw, bread, corn, rice, all light and easy to take in.
Taste – 4 – Clean lager taste. I don't think I've had a lager in a long time and this one is a great one to start up again. All the same stuff that's in the smell is in the taste. Better than Bud.
Mouthfeel – 4 – LIGHT, alc covered, aftertaste slight bitterness but almost non-existent. Anyone up for beer pong?
Overall – 4 – Great lager, better than the other AALs. Goes down like water

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Photo of Ri0
3.94/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

poured 16oz can into Duvel tulip. canned on 6/21/2013

A - Darker yellow straw with a 2 finger white head. Very transparent with a light stream of bubbles. Small retention and limited lacing.

S - Grain, grass, Pilsener malt with light floral and herb hops. Some cracker and bread sweetness.

T - Pisener malt and breadiness are the main players. Some grass, grain, and light floral/herb hops pop up.

M - Light, crisp and wet on the palate. Carbonation is right on for the style.

O - Very nice take on Munich Helles Lager. I enjoyed it on a 90 degree day.

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Photo of tectactoe
4.02/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to maximum12 for all the Surly love. The man is single-handedly accountable for sending me over 75% of the Surly beers I've had to date, and it is much appreciated. Surly Hell pours out with a straw-colored body; helles... that's Deutsch for "light" (thanks to the back of the can for that little lesson). Very pale, hazy, and squandering with a white head - cloudy, puffy, and crackling loudly like a box of Pop Rocks.

Surly Hell is far from hell on the nostrils. Zesty sweet grains, mound upon mound of bready malt, and the slightest hint of lemon peels and leafy hops. The hops are toned down and provide only a little aid, which really gives the bright Pilsner malts a chance to shine. It gets a bit sweeter and a little more amped up with warmth; a bit more citrus zest and some more sweet grains. The lager yeast is crisp, chunky, fresh, and certainly inviting.

Pilsner malt-y is the first sip, as well as lager yeast-y. A very nice amount of malt sweetness and doughy bread flavors envelope the tongue and show a nice sign of both balance and control, all at once. Earthy hops hang in the background, providing more of a musty, dry bitterness than actual flavor, which is fine by me... That said, the bitterness is still quite low, retaining superior drinkability in a very appropriate style.

The back-end contains some nice notes of orange and citrus zest; pretty light, just a nice spruce to keep things interesting. A faint musty hop note and bread-laden yeast flavors reign in the finish and clean your mouth of all other flavors (and moisture), begging you to take another sip. Thin bodied, as expected, with lots and lots of carbonation. The lager yeast definitely helps out with the clean mouth feel in the finish.

Superb drinkability, no doubt. I love a good helles lager, and one in a can, no less. This beer exhibits cosmos-level balance in the fact that it would be acceptable to BMC drinkers looking to turn to craft, while also being an excellent rendition of the style it represents, pleasing even people who have been in the game for while now. Far better than many of the other craft helles beers available in my area - why can't Surly extend their reach just a few states east?

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Photo of jhawth
3.38/5  rDev -12.7%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

Appearance: Poured into a stange. Pours a pleasant golden straw color, with visible bubbles. Head dissipates quickly, even with a relatively aggressive pour.

Aroma: Sweet malt and fresh bread notes. Pretty much nothing else.

Taste: Following the smell, lots of sweeter malt notes, lots of yeasty breadiness through the finish. Very little noticeable hop character. Finishes clean.

Mouthfeel: Light but lively carbonation, light bodied.

Overall: A pleasant, very drinkable lager. I could easily have a few of these back to back. Not particuLarly complex or mysterious, just solid and consistent.

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Photo of timmylange
3.53/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Canned 6/10/13, drank 8/5/13

A: A golden honey lemon color with mild carbonation

S: Fresh, crisp citrus with notes of pear

T: A very clean and refreshing taste of malts and pear; very light and almost watery but not watered down

M: Light, crisp, refreshing

O: Very much true to the style; I really enjoyed drinking this beer for it's light qualities and flavor. This is a great beer for summer because you can drink a large quantity and not feel bloated. I can definitely see myself drinking this beer during an all day tube float down the Quadalupe River in Austin.

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Photo of Stevedore
4/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

16oz tallboy canned 6/21/2013, poured into an unmarked pilsner glass today, 8/5/2013.

This beer pours with a beautiful golden straw-coloured body with a big, big fluffy head that dissipates, leaving a ton of lacing and a nice fluffy film on top. The lacing sticks as the beer goes down. Absolutely gorgeous.

Nose is mostly grassy and floral hops with a nice bready sweetness. There is a nice sweet yeast flavour that isn't spicy like the Belgian kind; it must be a different lager yeast compared to a lot of pilsners. Not a super pungent nose, but just about what I expected.

The taste of this beer is clean, crisp and brings a refreshing bready sweetness topped with grassy hops. It's a very smooth beer that does not finish dry at all, quenching any thirst I had before I cracked this one open. The aftertaste is a nice mild grassy bitterness that makes for a nice palate cleanser. It's a light bodied lager that's very well carbonated and very sessionable.

Very enjoyable lager.. I am starting to enjoy craft lagers and this is most certainly a very good one. Very refreshing and not off-putting at all.

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Photo of jreindl
3.86/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Pours a pale yellow into an Imperial pint with about an inch of soft white head, moderate lacing. Smells very bready and sweet, with a hint of spice and citrus hops. Taste is very clean, predominantly bready/crackers with subtle notes of spicy noble hops and citrus. Finishes dry, very little linger. Light mouthfeel, very clean with a fair amount of carbonation. Very drinkable. This is an excellent lager, although I tend to prefer ales. An excellent sessionable brew, very clean and easy drinking, plenty of flavor but light enough to have a few and not feel filled up.

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Photo of mwilbur
3.83/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from 16 oz can into pilsner glass.
A: Pours a clear pale yellow with high carbonation producing a 1/2 inch white bubbly head. Good retention.
S: Soft and sweet malt notes, toasted grains and bread, hint of pepper and funk...and something akin to 7UP.
T: Gently sweet malt, toasted grains, and soft citrus hops in the distant background.
M: Light body. Mild effervescence from the carbonation.
D: A solid example of style. A wonderfully sessionable brew.

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Photo of Powderhornphil
3.89/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Decided to go with Surly Hell on the first 90 plus degree day in MN of the year.

Not my usual style, but it is tasting pretty good today. Sessionable.

Pours light golden with a slight haze.

Smells crisp, slight breadyness. Some citrus.

Crisp mouthfeel. Quite easy drinking.

Nice change of pace for me and a great example of the style.

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Photo of BigBry
3.96/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Four pack of tall cans, brought back from my last trip to Minnesota, love the Surly and more cans for the collection.
Pours a straw yellow color, slight bit of unfiltered haze. Golden liquid is topped by half an inch of white head. Smell has a slight, grainy sweetness with just enough hop presence. Grassy and a bit herbal. Taste is very similar to the aroma, no suprises, just a crisp refreshing beer. Mouthfeel is light, crisp, dry-ish finish. Very drinkable, would pair well with most meals, and still great on its own.

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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.

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Photo of falloutsnow
3.71/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

From: France44 dot com
Date: Canned on 2013-01-03
Glass: Ayinger willi glass

Note: about four months of age seems to bring out a stronger peach-like essence in this beer, at least from the 2013-01-03 canned batch.

Surly's helles lager is a fairly solid representation of the style, crisp, clean, malty, with slight American hopping-style influence. That being said, there isn't much that separates it from fresh versions of its German-created counterparts, and the difficulty in obtaining this and its relative price make it likely I won't seek it out again.

Pours a 1cm tall head of white bubbles, small to medium in size, and of average retention, lasting about a minute. Fades to a thin ring around the glass, with a few flecks of foam lingering atop the center of the beer. Lacing consists of a few spots adorning the innser sides of the glass, nothing very substantial. Body is a transparent orange-yellow color, fairly bright, with carbonation that is visible, but sparse and somewhat sluggish. Light brings out brighter yellow hues.

Aroma is of light, sweet, grainy malt, lager yeast, slightly grape-like and plenty doughy with hints of a mild fruit ester akin to orange peel mixed with cantalopue. WIth age (four months), the fruit ester becomes rather like the scent from a mild, ripe peach, adding that pleasant component to the beer.

The overall flavor of the beer is sweet, somewhat grainy and bread-like, with slight grassy and vegetative aspects, but a fairly interesting mix of yeast-mixed peach and honeydew melon-like esters, either from hops or generated by yeast. Tasting opens with a front palate that is grainy, bready, and slightly grape-like, moving on to a mid-palate that is grassy and vegetative, mingled with mild hints of grapefruit, peach, and honeydew melon. Back of palate features continued peach and honeydew, mild graininess, and bready brewer's yeast. Aftertaste of malt sweetness, yeast-flecked peach-like esters, and slight graininess.

The beer is medium bodied with carbonation that is of medium intensity and feels "big" on the tongue. This creates a fairly full mouthfeel with some foamy nuances. Closes semi-dry, with little residual stickiness on the palate.

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Photo of macrosmatic
3.61/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to BubbaBeerMan for this one. Reviewed from notes. Poured from 16 oz. can into a CCB pint glass.

A: Light gold, fairly cloudy, with a thin white head that fades fast. Low visible carbonation.

S: Light pilsner malt, bready yeast, light floral and citrus aromas, and just a bit of wheat.

T: Light pilsner malt, light citrus, lager yeast flavors, and just a mild hop bitterness. Pilsner malt graininess on the exhale.

M: Light body, low alcohol presence, great carbonation sensation.

O: I'll likely never drink this again. But, it seems to be a decent example of a beer style I don't care for.

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Photo of Beerandraiderfan
3.94/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into my mouth during another one of the usual disc golf outings with cans. Nice vibrant yellow with a lot of clarity and carbonation running through it, pristine virgin white head on it. Aroma is lightly bready, grassy and floral at alternating moments.

Taste, wow, I'm going to have to give "zwickelz" another chance. This is enjoyable, its much like a good pilsner, thinking back to the old Czech Pilsner I used to drink in the Second Millenium. It is somehow a very good blend of smoothness, high carbonation, floral hops and crispness. Impressive. I wouldn't trade any Furious for it, but its probably one of my favorite lagers out there, in a style I don't completely understand.

In some ways, the mouthfeel is simple and clean, but it really has some delicate and appropriate touches and nuances. There's a little floral non hopped aspect, like some kind of literal flower petal in there, mild pepper notes, etc. . . Its kind of like an episode of the Simpsons, it can work on different levels, be it the simple punch in the crotch laugh or something a little more high brow at the same time (example, Duffman proclaiming in court while being sued by Duff Brewery for intellectual property violations: "Ever heard of 'Fair Use'? (hip thrust, OOOOHH Yeah).

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Photo of zeff80
3.94/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Poured a cloudy, golden yellow color with a one-finger, white head of bubbly foam. It left sudsy trails of lace on the glass.

S - It smelled of caramel and floral notes.

T - Sweet caramel, toffee and grains. Some nice spicy bitterness adds perfect balance.

M - It was crisp, sharp and smooth. A light to medium bodied lager.

O - This is a really good lager. Well done by Surly!

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Photo of DovaliHops
3.41/5  rDev -11.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a clear golden color with a medium white head. Scent is somewhat citrusy with a grainy aroma. Light hop aroma...very light. Probably the least appealing Surly beer I've tried (aroma-wise). Taste is a little bit better. Nice, light blend of hops, grain, malt, and lemon. Very light and easy-drinking. Mouthfeel is light and crisp. Drinkability is high. Overall, this beer does not have a lot going on. I could see this one being very user friendly to BMC drinkers. It is very refreshing and decent for the style of beer it is. Not my favorite Surly beer.

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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.

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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.


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Hell from Surly Brewing Company
3.87 out of 5 based on 1,125 ratings.
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