I had a chance to check out the new brewery on Thursday and chat with some of the Surly family. Check out my notes from media day at the new Prospect Park brewery.
On the origination of the new brewery:
I asked owner Omar Ansari if he thought when he started that Surly would be here after 9 years. “That’s just dumb, no that’s silly” he said. “Everything has changed so much in nine years.” He said the dream for this new “destination brewery” came about 4 years ago after Todd and Linda came back with a brochure from a brewery in Germany. When asked about the architectural design he said they were never going to build a historic looking brewery like Grain Belt in Northeast. Omar likes clean lines and he described the look of the new brewery as Danish Brewing Death Star. “Maybe you’ll love or maybe you’ll hate it” said Omar. “We hope people like it, we hope they say that’s why we passed the Surly Bill.”
On the future of their new neighborhood:
“The whole neighborhood is waiting for development. The whole thing is going to change because of the Green Line.” said Omar. He mentioned that breweries tend to take up home in parts of town that need some love.
On the brewery:
Brewmaster Todd Haug talked about the new digs mentioning that the brewing equipment came from the same manufacturer as the one at Stone Brewing.
It was interesting to see that they now have a Hopnik which is basically a dry hopping machine that the beer runs through via hoses. He explained that there is a lot of risk involved in dumping hops in the top of a fermenter such as the the beer blowing up in the brewers face—and this device prevents them from having to dry hop that way. Another tidbit worth noting was that BLAKKR will now be a winter seasonal offering from Surly.
On the food:
Chef Jorge Guzman was a busy guy but he brought out some food samples which included charcuterie, salad, brisket, bone marrow, some toasted bread, caramels, and cookies. “We wanted to create a menu that goes with the beer” said Jorge. He mentioned that he was humbled to join the Surly team and that beer pairs better with food than wine does. He would know after working at Solera prior to Surly. He mentioned that the reason they chose to have barbecue on the menu was that it pairs well with Furious. “There is no other place in the cities like this” said Jorge talking about the communal seating arrangement in the beer hall.
Hospitality Operations Director Linda Haug on the scale of the restaurant:
As you may know Linda Haug ran Cafe Twenty Eight in South Minneapolis for ten years before it closed whereafter she switched her attention to the new destination brewery. When asked what she thought would be different she pointed to the service and the quality. For example they now have plenty of employees including three people for the front of the house wheras they'd only have one at the small cafe. They also have an HR person, and a cleaning crew. So they have plenty more help here at the new beer hall as opposed to having to do everything at the South Minneapolis cafe. Linda mentioned that they brought over some people from Cafe Twenty Eight but that there is one very important person missing, Elyse Stearn who was tragically hit and killed by a car in 2013 while riding her bicycle. “It still breaks my heart that she’s not here. We can’t have the band back together.”
The new brewery will be open from 11 AM until 11 PM on Friday. Metro Transit is offering a free good from 6pm-3am on Friday, December 19 and 10am-3am on Saturday, December 20. Print your pass here.
Todd the Axeman
The much anticipated opening of the new Surly brewery is upon us. On Friday, December 19th at 11 AM the doors to the Prospect Park neighborhood will open and droves of people will flood the taproom floor eager to try the all new chef driven food menu and of course their beloved brews.
Omar Ansari’s dream is a thing of beauty featuring natural woods and plenty of shiny metal with all brand spanking new brewing equipment for brew master Todd Haug to play with. This will be a huge change for the brewery but don’t expect the quality or the attitude to change as these are what have driven the Surly brand from the very beginning. The past month or so I’ve taken some time to reflect on the Twin Cities craft beer scene since Surly arrived and it’s really quite impressive what has taken place around here.
Looking back I remember strolling through Hum’s Liquors on Lyndale when Surly first hit the shelves and upon spotting it in the store I wondered if it would be any good. At the time I was skeptical of craft beer found in a can as most everything worth drinking was sold in bottles. Surly proved me wrong.
The first Surly brew I tried was a can of Furious poured into a glass. The color was a deep red and the aroma of the hops was almost overwhelming. I’d considered myself a hop head but this was promising me something I hadn’t had before. I’ll never forget how that first sip punched me in the mouth and it definitely taught me never to trust the packaging before judging a beer. Ever.
The beer scene itself was changing. Summit and Schell’s had been making and packaging great beer but they were the only real local options on store shelves across the metro. Many stores weren’t storing beer properly and couldn’t turn over their inventory so you wouldn’t always be getting a quality product. That all began to change after Surly hit shelves.
Their beer was to be refrigerated and the demand for it kept all the available inventory fresh. At a time when PBR was “cool” and the economy was struggling, craft beer was suddenly becoming a hot commodity. A lot of this had to do with people needing to feel a sense of community and craft beer provided that. It gave people control of something in their lives (purchasing choices) when everything was going to crap. It was a hobby as well challenging people to try something new—similar to what foodies seek out on the restaurant scene. Since the Surly Bill passed in 2011 we have seen a huge growth in Minnesota breweries. We now have over 70 in the state, by far the most since prohibition.
Surly embodies all of these things. If one thing stands out about Surly it is the sense of community they have built over their nine years. Case in point they started Surly Gives A Damn where volunteers go out in the community and help build furniture, put together meals, donate blood, and much more. They have volunteered well over 9,000 hours and over 70 projects in four years. That is pretty damn impressive.
But what I’ve been most impressed with is the humble nature of the Surly family. These people will get out and talk to anyone despite their rock star auras. All of it comes from the heart. It’s authentic and the pride bleeds into everything that they do. I’m proud to know these people and the best part is that their story is just beginning.
The 7th annual Town Hall Brewery Festivus celebration takes place on Tuesday, December 16th at 5 PM on the patio at the Seven Corners location. Bring your grievances and submit them to the suggestion box as you sip complimentary mulled wine and whiskey apple cider by the bonfire. Owner and Seinfeld fan Pete Rifakes is the one who will be hand ladling the mulled wine which he prefers to the mulled ale served in years past. The show obviously inspired this event and he still sets the TiVo to record re-runs of the show every week.
Pete is used to hearing some grievances and this year he expects to hear about a hot topic on the Beer Advocate Midwest forum board. “I won’t be surprised if I hear about growler refills” he said. This is of course in reference to the fact that many breweries (but not yet Town Hall) are now considering filling growlers purchased from other breweries as long as they are properly labeled.
This is one of Pete’s favorite events (along with Blessing of the Maibock) that the brewery hosts pointing to the intimate setting of regulars and the relationships that are formed with brew master Mike Hoops. “They always put this on their calendar” says Pete. “Hoops is usually there and it’s nice to see them interact with him.” When asked about his favorite memory he reminisced about a couple of regulars he enjoys seeing Phil and Patty. “Patty makes these cinnamon crusted pecans and she always makes sure that I get some” said Pete.
The Festivus beer this year will be a Double Red completely void of hops, full of spruce tips, and aged on cedar. Hoops is typically not fond of “special” ingredients but knowing his history, he most likely nailed this one. It’s also worth noting that both Grinch’s Grog and Elves Elixir (the other two holiday brews) will be available on Tuesday as well.
If you go:
Town Hall Brewery Seven Corners
1430 South Washington Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55454
Tuesday, December 16th at 5 PM
The holidays are here and many of us still need to do some shopping. Here are some ideas for those beer loving friends and family members of yours. Prices are current as of the posting of this blog and are of course subject to change at any time.
BACtrac Vio Breathalyzer $52.02 on Amazon
This is one the better purchases I’ve made in recent memory. This device works with a free app via bluetooth using either Android or iOS. Guess your blood alcohol content checking it periodically and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you actually get to the legal driving limit. Be sure to drink responsibly and never drive intoxicated.
Wooden Six Pack Holder from B.Y. Arcand of Minneapolis available at The Four Firkins for $32.99
Tired of all those empty cardboard six pack holders hanging around the house? Check out this beautiful hand crafted wooden beverage transportation device available at The Four Firkins. The built in bottle opener is a nice feature for those sick of asking for one. These are available in both cherry wood red hue stain, and teak dark wood stain.
Spiegelau Beer Classics Connoisseur Gift Set available on Amazon for $45.99
One of the best beer related gifts I have ever received. I got this set at the Beer Bloggers Conference a couple years ago and I can’t get over how great these are. High quality and made of thin crystal, these four different glasses give you a unique beer drinking experience. The one and only Garrett Oliver (author and brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery) explained to us that the glass you use matters, especially when it comes to tasting beer. These vessels are designed for you to stick your nose in and explore the many aromas, flavors and colors that beer has to offer.
A Perfect Pint’s Beer Guide to the Heartland available from A Perfect Pint website for $25
About 4 years ago local/national beer writer, Cicerone, educator and overall good guy Michael Agnew set out to visit every brewery in the region and live to write about the experience. As he found out it was a tough task and after a few revisions it was finally published this year. I keep this well written reference guide on my coffee table and guests seem to enjoy paging through and checking out the local breweries. Michael offers his favorite choices at each brewery (over 200 of them) along with notes and brewery info such as contact information, hours, and nearby attractions. I don’t even want to see that four year credit card statement.
Brewed in MInnesota T-Shirt available at brewedinminnesota.com for $20
Surely you have see this shirt around town. First printed by CHUX Print shop in St. Louis Park, this classic bottle cap log shirt is now being made by the Minnesota Craft Brewer Guild. There is something iconic about this logo set against a black background and it’s worn proudly by brewers and beer geeks alike.
What are some items on your wish list? Share them in the comments below.
Cheers and Happy Holidays!
Surly and Doomtree (a local hip hop collective for those who don’t know) brewed up a partnership over the summer and on December 7th you’ll be able to celebrate by participating in a pub crawl curated by both parties. Todd Haug has brewed up a batch of beer called Surly Doomtree but the details of this brew are being kept under wraps.
Surly is in the process of opening their destination brewery and Doomtree is about to kick off a week long concert series called Last Blowout Ever so the timing is just right for both parties. Both Surly and Doomtree have always been about quality and doing things their own way so the marriage makes sense.
Details of this event are as follows:
On December 7th there will be a bar crawl spanning both Minneapolis and St. Paul. Surly and Doomtree will take two busses of fans, VIPs, and friends to these bars where fans can purchase merchandise and try the new and exclusive beer beginning at 2:30 PM. The crawl will finish up with an intimate show (invite only) at an undisclosed location. Don’t worry there will be a chance to win some tickets if you show up at any one of these locations and help them celebrate.
Minneapolis bar crawl:
- 2:30pm, Muddy Waters (2933 Lyndale Ave. S.)
- 4:00pm, The Depot Tavern, (17 N. 7th Street)
- 5:30pm, Red Stag Supper Club (509 1st Ave. NE)
St. Paul bar crawl:
- 2:30pm, Billy's on Grand (857 Grand Ave.)
- 4:00pm, Pizza Luce (1183 Selby Ave.)
- 5:30pm, Grumpy's Roseville (2801 Snelling Ave.)
- 7:00pm, Exclusive Doomtree Show (invite only)