While in Minneapolis, Sam and Jason took me to an awesome brewery – Surly Brewing Co. Tours are only offered Friday and Saturdays, and they fill up really quickly. Sam signed up a month before I went to visit and had to wait a while for confirmation, so I was really excited when Sam told me we got a spot. I love visiting breweries and hearing their story. And trying the beer, obviously.
Just the name of the brewery should tell you it’s different. The founder, Omar, started homebrewing after getting a homebrew kit as a gift. After brewing some batches and getting great feedback from friends he started to get more serious. Omar enrolled in America’s Brewers Guild and completed his apprenticeship at New Holland brewing in Michigan. A brewery was purchased, head brewer recruited (Todd, who had actually gone to junior high with Omar and ran into him at a conference), renovations made, and by the end 2005 Surly Brewing Co. was up and running. (read the full story of how the brewery was founded on the Surly website)
Tours are free, but the brewery asks participants to bring a food donation which supports a local charity, the Emergency Foodshelf Network. We got there, gave our donations, and got some drink tokens in exchange. As if drinking beer could be better, we got to support a worthy cause as well.
There were obviously plenty of tokens to go around and try quite a few different brews. On tap that night was Furious, CynicAle, Bender, and Hell. Best beer names ever. We each started off with a beer (I went with Hell for my first, their summer seasonal) and went into the brewery.
This is our tour guide, Clint. And he started off the tour with “Hey guys, my name is Clint, but you can all call me Ginger Bear.” And I loved him.
Clint gave us the story of Surly, showed us this contraption…
… which is what Omar first used to start doing test batches, and told us about some of the things that make Surly different. Unlike many craft breweries, Surly cans all their beer. But when they started, they wanted to be able to serve a proper pint to their customers, which lead them to create a new can to hold more. Surly Brewing and Surly fans also had a huge hand in getting a bill passed into law MN, which has become known as the Surly Bill. More about that here if you’re interested.
Surly cans make a nice backdrop for photos too. So many uses.
Throughout all of this we were free to go get more beer from the tasting room. Which we did. Frequently. And got through all the beers available on tap.
Then we switched over to the brewing process.
We got the full run through of how Surly brews their different varieties, asked questions, and heard about “5″ – a limited release brewed in honor of the brewery’s 5 year anniversary. We mentally noted to stop by a store on the way home to try and find some.
Visiting the brewery was a really fun experience. I love seeing different breweries and hearing how they came to be. Each has an interesting story to tell with some passionate people behind the beer. Surly was no exception.
The beers were really good. CynicAle was my favorite of all that I tried that day. It was light, perfect for late summer, and slightly fruity. I had a few of those… and all of them were delicious.
If you’re in the MN area, check out Surly!