Beer blogger and all around good guy Ryan Anderson over at MNBeer.com took a look back at the year in beer 2014. This inspired me to come up with some predictions for the year ahead of us—a year in which I expect to see even more breweries, some expansion projects, a possible law change, and a more consumer friendly growler system.
Sour and Barrel Aged beers become a trend. The Schell’s Star of the North Series has really taken off and I think we will see others follow suit. Indeed is beginning a sour program and Surly continues to impress in this category with beers like Pentagram. This is sure to continue as the old Brooklyn Center site is open for experimentation with new brews.
Steel Toe, Surly, and Lift Bridge continue to impress with their Barrel Aged brews and something tells me that we have only broken the surface in this category. Another brewery big on barrels is Town Hall Brewery who dedicates an entire week every February to the style and just won a big medal at GABF for their Barrel Aged brew called Buffalo Bock. Space and time seem to be the main deterrents but with the rate of expansion around here I am willing to bet we will see more of these on shelves starting this year.
A year of brewery expansion. After winning an awards at both the World Beer Cup and GABF I would suspect that Steel Toe Brewing is going to need to expand sooner rather than later given the size of their taproom and the excellent beer they have been putting out. The secret is out that great beer is flowing out of St. Louis Park and the demand for their beer is higher than ever.
Bad Weather and Badger Hill both have new homes in 2015 which means that they will be producing more beer. Indeed took on an expansion project recently and will now be distributed in northern Minnesota and into North Dakota soon.
Sunday Sales will pass this year in some form or another. Whether there are provisions or not I think that something gets done in 2015 if people continue to call and email their leaders. Consumers have been polled at places such as the State Fair where over 64% of people think that we should be able to sell liquor on Sunday. After all it is 2015, not 1920.
Growlers filling will become easier as proper labeling picks up steam. You’ve probably seen the forum topic on Beer Advocate calling for breweries to fill any growler provided that they are clean. This seems to make sense assuming that there is a proper system in place that allows for legitimate sanitation and quality control. I’ve heard positive feedback on this issue from a few breweries who are looking to start filling any growler that meets these standards. Who wants 20 growlers taking up space in their basement anyways?
Beer education on the rise. With demand for better beer comes a more educated group of beer drinkers and a demand for proper knowledge. Better Beer University is put on by Robin Shellman and crew (watch for a future piece on him) for a meager $75 per semester and is worth every penny for those who are curious about beer. Demand for these classes will rise this year and to further prove this point Dakota County Technical College is going to be offering classes on the business side of the beer industry. Who says you can’t major in beer?
Soon St. Paul will be home to yet another brewery. Bad Weather is planning a move from Minnetonka to a former tire shop at 414 7th Street West near Excel Energy Center in St. Paul. “That’s what we love about the space. We’re so visible from West 7th” said co-owner Joe Giambruno. Most new breweries are taking up residence north of 94 along the Green Line but Bad Weather will be just outside of downtown and close to the action. Joe along with co-owner Zac Carpenter are excited about the move and they anticipate that by June 1st they will be selling pints from their new taproom. Work on the space will begin soon with the roof being taken down this week.
The new space will be both a taproom and a brewery where the draft and taproom varieties will be made but their bottled varieties will still be made at the Minnetonka location for a while. “We’re happy with what’s coming out of the Lucid facility” said Carpenter. They got their start sharing space with Lucid and Badger Hill (now in Shakopee) and they like the relationship they have with those breweries. Canning is a possibility as both Joe and Zac are fans of canned beer but that would most likely be handled at Badger Hill’s new facility south of the river.
The taproom will sell 750 mL bottles along with growlers and the Cellar Series is very much alive so expect more of those in the future. The plan is to have 7-10 beers on tap at any given time and possibly add another year round beer to their bottle lineup. They expect to have food trucks on site and hope to be able to work with local restaurants (food delivery etc) as well.
What’s really exciting is that they plan to have a private event space to attract local business luncheons, homebrew clubs (both are homebrewers), groom’s dinners, and gamers alike. Both Zac and Joe stated that they would like to have a few arcade games set up in the space and possibly host some board game nights where people could congregate over games and brews. “If I wasn’t doing this now, this is what I would to see someone else doing” said Carpenter.
But more than anything else they are excited to be a good neighborhood establishment. “We’re in the heart of St. Paul but still in a neighborhood. We’ll be a neighborhood brewery” according to Carpenter.
Joe’s eyes gleaned with excitement talking about the location, “I don’t think you could ask for a better space.”
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