By Nolan Arentz –
I am serious, and call me Surly if you want to, which after this weekend, I wouldn’t really mind it.
Surly Brewing got its humble beginning in Minnesota in 2006 and was the only craft brewer in the region besides Summit, which started in 1986. Looks like they hit a bit of craft brewing dry spell of about twenty years. This dry spell is the reason that they got started. There just was no good options for good brews in Minnesota. I mean the name, “Surly” originated from the feeling the owner, Omar Ansari, would get when looking for a halfway decent brew in town. You won’t hear anyone say that about their good ole friendly neighbors to the east, but I digress. This lack of brewing talent shown by Minnesotans however is just what Surly needed to get going. Surly now brews around a measly 29,000,000 pints of beer a year, are only coming out with 25 new distinct flavors this year, and are displayed in eight different states. Not too shabby for a local independent brewery just outside the Driftless.
I was excited to receive an invitation to attend a tour of the facility, a dinner in the beer garden, and concert at their popular venue. I was a little late arriving to the tour but Minnesotans sure are nice, and they still allowed me to tag along. Good thing too, because the tour ended up being fascinating. Tye, the tour guide, did a fantastic job in giving us a history, business, and chemistry lessons in this hour-long span. We followed him through multiple rooms of the fancy brewery, showing us towering pieces of exquisitely expensive brewing equipment. Tye informed us that they are looking to expand to 28 brewing tanks soon, a sign of how much growth they are expecting. As of right now they can brew about 187 cans and 2 kegs of beer per minute. Do whatever kind of math with those numbers as you will. My fellow tourists and I ended the adventure by sampling some of Tye’s wares: a fruity pale ale, an ironically light coffee stout, and a super smooth IPA. The names of them are Xtra Citra Pale Ale, Coffee Bender Brown Ale, and Axe Man. Just in case you find yourself at a bar or grocery store, have a taste for yourself. One for one so far on the day.
After the tour concluded, I traveled outside to the spacious beer garden for some grub before the big show. If I didn’t see the huge brewery right next to me, I would have thought I stumbled into some high end outside restaurant. The sun was beaming with a gentle breeze, and the beer garden was full of content and jolly Midwesterners, probably some outsiders as well, but they blended in seamlessly. I was hit with a sense of confusion looking at the menu; it was not what I was expecting from a brewery. From beer nuts to Mediterranean Kebabs! They even had vegan options for my photographer, aka “my sister”. The atmosphere, along with the cuisine, along with the tour, was a fundamentally sound warm up before the concert. I would venture to say that Surly is two for two and trending up as a smart, weekend destination for the people of the Driftless.
Get this, not only is the Minneapolis Beer Hall brewing kegs upon kegs of beer, and dishing out some of the best grub in Minneapolis, but it is also home to a lovely 5,000 plus capacity venue for concerts and other events. This place is pretty spectacular for being in Minnesota. Surly Brewing Co brought in Dr. Dog and Shakey Graves for this day’s concert, an exceptionally solid decision if you ask me. You already know what I’m going to say about this part of the day. It sucked. Just kidding, it was amazing! This was a surprisingly intimate 5,000 capacity venue, which the artists just absolutely killed. The venue looks upon a summer green grass field with a couple of low rolling hills where patrons can just roll a blanket and relax while listening to some Grade A music. Long story short, if you see someone you love or can just barely tolerate is performing at the Surly venue, I would be remiss to not tell you to go. You should absolutely go, even if it’s a country concert.
Is Surly only about brewing tasty brews, dishing up delicious dishes, and providing primetime performances? No, that just would not cut it. If you go to their website, you will find them hosting community service events throughout the months to give back to the Minneapolis community and environment. Surly claims to be about Beer, Food, and Community, and it pains me to say but I think Minnesota has got something special here. The only way Surly could be any better is if it was from Wisconsin sadly. So, if you’re in the area or even within three hours, I recommend giving them a visit even though it’s about twenty minutes outside the Driftless.
Where did I stay after this concert was over? Great question. It was at the Graduate Minneapolis. An impressive and cozy hotel right next to the University of Minnesota. This hotel is right next to Surly Brewing, making it the perfect stay for a weekend.