Travelling around the nation, visiting new breweries, and making new friends in the process might sound like the dream job to some. I would be lying if I said that my position is without its merits, as there are few things that compare to entering a new brewery for the first time, trying new beer, and rubbing elbows with the fine individuals who work tirelessly to bring glassfuls of this precious liquid to our outstretched hands. I often know little about the breweries I visit before arriving at the main entrance but there is, however, one brewery I was fully aware of in spite of my not-so-close proximity to its greatness. That establishment is Surly Brewing located at 520 Malcolm Ave SE in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a brewery ranked near the top of my list of must- visit breweries in the Midwest.
Let’s Get Surly, Folks!
Surly Brewing is a large brewery. Originally opened in 2006, Surly outgrew its original location and expanded to this new facility, not far from the University of Minnesota. The brewery utilizes a 100 barrel system and has a 100,000 barrel capacity! These are sizes not often seen in an industry where the bulk of its members are less than one- tenth as large.
Surly Brewing features a large beer hall, large outdoor patio, and an extensive tour that takes you through the brewery and ends in a special tasting room. The tour guide talks about the history of the brewery before touching on the brewing process itself. Once the tour is complete, guest are free to wander to the beer hall or outdoors, sample some food, and try more beer if they like.
Food is an important component of Surly Brewing’s appeal. It comes as no surprise that the menu is built around beer; that is, it is food made to match well with malt beverages. Appetizers like sweet and spicy beer nuts and lamb meatballs; sandwiches like the Surly Burger and Chopped Brisket Burger; and large meals like the Oven Roasted Trout and Flank Steak are specifically prepared to make them all fine companions to your favorite brew.
And Now for the Beer
Surly Brewing has about 20 to 25 of its own beers on tap at any given moment. Here is a summary of the beers I tried when I visited, listed alphabetically by name, followed by the style and my Untappd rating on a five point scale:
- Alt- ernative Facts, Altbier, 4
- Coffee Bender, American Brown Ale, 4.25
- CynicAle, Farmhouse Ale, 3.5
- Hell, Helles Lager, 3.75
- Spice Boyz, Helles Lager, 4
- Todd- The Axe Man, IPA, 4.5
Overall Average Rating: 4.00
I liked what I tried at Surly Brewing but my favorite by far was Todd- The Axe Main IPA. The pine, the citrus, the caramel, and other flavors are blended in near perfect harmony for a truly delectable treat in a glass.
Minneapolis on Tap
Minnesota’s Surly Brewing is one of those places you know you must visit. It’s like going to an amusement park, bypassing the games and tamer rides, and heading directly to the biggest, baddest roller coaster in the park. I, too, knew that Surly Brewing was a must- visit place for me but rather that run directly to Surly Brewing after my plane landed at the Minneapolis airport, I decided to visit Surly Brewing later on. I went with the ‘save the best for last’ rule and in retrospect, I am happy I did, as I was able to devote more time to Surly and soak up the atmosphere.
As I stated above, I don’t usually know much about the places I visit and I don’t normally research much, preferring instead to be surprised by what I discover and not walk into the brewing establishment with any preconceived notions. But Surly Brewing is different. I already knew about Surly Brewing thanks in no small part to its public relations firms and the excellent exposure they provide. I already knew much about Surly, its brewing philosophy, its state of the art brewhouse and beer hall, and much more. So, in this instance, I already had preconceived notions, but they only served to heighten my interest and enjoyment, as Surly Brewing was every bit as incredible as I expected it would be.
My first information about Surly Brewing took place several years ago when the so- called “Surly Bill” was making its way through the Minnesota state house. As many beer lovers might recall, Surly gained national recognition for its efforts to overturn outdated laws in Minnesota that prevented a functioning brewery from selling beer on site. Through its own grassroots efforts, Surly Brewing helped eliminate these archaic laws, and in the process became a household name among the craft beer faithful.
Surly Brewing is a large brewery and many things stand out as noteworthy. First and foremost, the beer- it’s top notch in most ever way and there are several standouts in the bunch. Next is the cleanliness! I was quite impressed at the effort the personnel take to keep Surly looking presentable, both in the brewhouse, in the restrooms, and most every place else. Then, there is the food. This, in fact, is a trend I noticed as I toured other Minneapolis breweries. They are ever mindful of the importance of excellent food to match the excellent beer and they don’t cut corners in bringing the best food to the table. I loved my brisket sandwich and found it every bit as enjoyable as the beer I used to wash it down.
With Surly Brewing, you get an atmosphere that is metal/punk rock driven featuring tunes from the past 20 or so years. It can take time to get a table, depending on when you visit, and that is because the place is so damn amazing, everyone wants to visit here. I was impressed by most everything and that includes the ability of the staff to manage such immense crowds of people. I would bet there are upwards of 1500 customers at Surly Brewing each day, yet they still manage to keep everything running smoothly and get guests taken care of with minimal disruption.
The word “surly” is normally associated with someone or something that is menacingly rebellious. In the case of Surly Brewing, the term certainly fits as far as the brewery’s approach to beer making and its ability to shake things up legally and help eliminate laws that are completely senseless and stifling to small business growth. Other than that, Surly Brewing is anything but surly; a comfortable place where quality and service are second to none and camaraderie reigns supreme. Pay a visit to Surly Brewing the next time you’re in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area. And tell them Great Beer Now sent you.