The fans of Furious, Hell, Bender and Overrated showed up early, some shivering around an outdoor fire for more than an hour before Surly Brewing’s new beer hall was to throw open its doors for the first time.
They hoped the food at this $30 million destination brewery in Minneapolis’ Prospect Park neighborhood would be tasty. Some wondered about summer events that could be held outside the sprawling, industrial-looking building. A few wanted to snag new gear in the large brewery shop.
But all of that, they said, was secondary. They had come — and would come again — for the beer. Many of the hundreds of people who showed up for the brewery’s Friday opening said they were devotees of the brews and the brand that helped to rewrite state laws and allow craft brewing to become a growing force in the Twin Cities.
“I wanted to support the local [brewery] that changed the laws in Minnesota,” said Jeremy Daus, a Minneapolis man who was one of the first half-dozen people in line. “In some shape or form, this is a way of saying thank you.”
Just before the brewery’s 11 a.m. opening, Surly founder Omar Ansari stepped outside, beer in hand, and surveyed the crowd. He introduced City Council Member Cam Gordon, who proclaimed Dec. 19 as “Surly Day,” in Minneapolis, thanked his wife, lead brewer and restaurant chief, and then briefly noted the long road to opening day.
In addition to finding the right space, gathering funding and developing a devoted following, Ansari’s quest to build a brewery had required him to get involved in state politics. Until Gov. Mark Dayton signed the “Surly bill” into law in 2011, breweries had been banned from selling their beer on the same site they brewed it.
In the time between Ansari’s initial push and the day the brewery opened to the public, other tasting rooms have popped up across the Twin Cities.
“We’re excited after 4½ years to finally welcome you to Surly,” Ansari told the crowd, raising his glass.
Once the doors were opened, the brewery’s 90-seat dining area filled up almost immediately. A line snaked all the way around the room, past the brewery shop and into the entryway.
Servers hustled back and forth between the bar and the kitchen.
Within minutes, one of them noticed an enviable problem; “We’re out of menus!” she told Linda Haug, Surly’s restaurant director and wife of the lead brewer, Todd Haug. She assured the server more were being printed.
With beer in hand, many people climbed the stairs to the brewery’s upper level, which offers room for larger events and a bird’s-eye view of the dining room and the brewery tanks behind a large glass wall.
The 50,000-square-foot facility, on Malcolm Avenue SE. just off University Avenue, can fit 275 people and has a brewing capacity of more than 100,000 barrels per year. That’s three times as much beer as the company could produce in its original facility in Brooklyn Center. A 1 ½-acre outdoor area will open in the spring.
Laurel Gustafson, of Bloomington, was second in line outside the brewery, arriving just before 10 a.m. She said she expected the food would be good — after all, she said, good food means people stick around to drink more of your beer — but was excited to be among the first to check it out for herself.
“Surly is a big deal,” she said. “I thought it would be fun to celebrate.”
Some of the Surly fans who turned up Friday morning said they were excited about the idea of pairing particular beers with the brewery’s food offerings.
Devon Grandbois, of Blaine, spoke for a while about the food-beer pairing potential, before stopping himself to note that he’ll be loyal to the brewery no matter what he found inside.
“Either way,” he said. “Even if the food was not so good, I’ll come for the beer.”