SurlyFest Dry-Hopped Rye Lager

James Norton / Heavy Table

The seasons are slipping out of whack. Temperatures are fluctuating more wildly, and the number of massive weather events has been spiking since 1970. Amid the chaos, it’s not surprising that we seem to cling to seasonal rituals more tenaciously than ever. Society embraces everything from the primal switch to warmer fall clothing to the unbreakable curse of pumpkin-spiced everything.

Included in the landscape of seasonal transitions is the ritual of Oktoberfest beer, rooted in Germany but by now native to Minnesota. Märzen beers (so called because they were often brewed in March to be consumed in October) are traditionally full-bodied and toasty, malt forward and mildly hopped. Surly (offering up surly attitude as usual) participates in the ritual, but with a bitter twist: The brewery’s SurlyFest beer is a dry-hopped rye lager, and it’s really the rye that carries the weight of the beer’s flavor, not the malt. The beer is intensely spicy, earthy, and deeply flavored, and while it’s supported by a robust malt body, SurlyFest is more like drinking an aggressively flavored pumpernickel bread than sipping liquid malt candy.

Surly seems to know its place in the firmament of Minnesota breweries — always throwing elbows with big flavors. While still jovial enough to invite to the party, the 2017 edition of SurlyFest is no exception.

SurlyFest is an event as well as a beer; tickets are on sale for the Saturday, Sept. 23 party.

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James Norton

James Norton is editor and co-founder of the Heavy Table. He is also the co-author of Lake Superior Flavors, the co-author of a book about Wisconsin’s master cheesemakers, and a regular on-air contributor to Minnesota Public Radio.

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