Many people who drove by the site of the new Surly complex before construction began in 2012 had the same reaction: Huh?
The 8-acre plot is tucked off University Avenue in a particularly un-scenic, dusty corner of Minneapolis within eyeshot of the “United Crushers” grain elevator. Patrons will judge for themselves how well the designers of the brewery overcame the setting, but here are the undisputable advantages to the Prospect Park site.
1 The outdoor areas. It’s hard to appreciate the grounds now, but the Surly crew laid out a 1.5-acre “yard” outside the beer hall that it intends to make full use of come springtime with food service, games and occasional music. No other local brewery has this kind of space. At the far end of the yard is an empty grain elevator that will make a cool backdrop for performances. The second-story patio above the beer hall is also large and impressive.
2 The food. The quality aims to be a big step up from other breweries that rely on food trucks. Surly hired Solera’s Jorge Guzman as executive chef. The restaurant won’t open until spring, but the beer hall menu includes charcuterie, “hog frites,” barbecue, fish and fried chicken. “Clearly, it’s not just going to be hot-press paninis,” said Surly founder Omar Ansari, who’s especially excited to host “beer dinners” built on the flavors in the brews.
3 Access to transit. It’s a block or two from the Green Line’s Prospect Park station, the U Transitway for buses and Dinkytown Greenway for bikes. Campus-area residents can walk there. “Obviously, when you’re in the beer business, it’s in everybody’s best interest to not have to drive here,” said Ansari, who pointed out: “The train can take you to Vikings, Twins and Wolves games in one direction, and Wild and Saints games in the other.”
4 The jobs. Surly is nearly tripling its workforce to 154 employees and plans to add about 20 in coming months. Said former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, who wooed the brewers to build in his city, “I love beer, especially their beer. But what I love even more is creating jobs. They not only created a lot of jobs within their facility, the [Surly Bill, which allowed breweries to add taprooms] has created many more jobs in this entire booming taproom scene.”
5 The beer itself. Duh. “At the end of the day, this is still about making our beer as best and efficiently as we can,” said brewmaster Todd Haug, who pointed to a lot more flexibility in brewing multiple beers at once, including limited-edition specialty brews. “Our old plant wasn’t made to make as much beer as we’re making now, and it’s showing the wear and tear. We won’t have to wait a week for something to be fixed here.”